Author: Marc Spindelman

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“Human Nature”??

Thanks, Danielle, for organizing this conversation and to the others at Concurring Opinions for hosting! And, of course, to Robin for this new gift of a book. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this conversation.

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To read Robin’s Normative Jurisprudence and hear its call for a new and different turn to a deep, normative scholarship about justice, including the common good, feels like nothing so much as an exhortation to make what we, as legal academics do, matter and matter profoundly. It’s not that the descriptive work that many of us are doing—whether as our work’s sum or as part of larger normative projects we are pursuing—or even that what Robin calls the “faux-normative” work that broadly defines normative scholarship in law isn’t worthwhile. It’s that this is not as much as we can and should make our scholarly work be, or at the least try, in the spirit of an ideal. In this sense, there’s something wonderfully insightful in Brian Bix’s impeccable humility: We mostly live and work in the shadows, not just sit atop the shoulders of the greats of the past—and present. But what’s useful about Robin’s own embrace of a new, deeply normative turn in scholarship—and her encouragement to others to embrace it—is that it can serve as a catalyst, reminder, or question to ask ourselves: Have we achieved and surpassed our own limits when doing our scholarly work?

Traditionally, as with other crafts, this question arises during apprenticeship, and informs what junior scholars experience in many respects. In this vision, junior scholars work with more senior scholars to master the scholarly arts, striving to enhance their scholarly abilities and achievements, to gain and grow while thinking and doing, not to produce work, or produce it against a deadline, but to define and expand the horizons of what can be achieved. In line with this tradition, various critiques of it aside, this book may be especially important for junior academics and soon-to-be-junior academics. Not only does it map out and put Robin’s considerable academic authority behind the view that deeply normative scholarship about justice, including the common good, should count as scholarship, indeed, should be its measure, but this move opens up possibilities for junior and soon-to-be-junior academics about what is thinkable as scholarship, as well as worth giving a life to doing. As importantly, if there’s going to be a future that’s written in the directions that Robin’s work describes, it may practically be up to junior academics and those of the next generation as much as, if not more than those already deeply in the game, to take the larger body of legal academic scholarship decidedly in these directions.

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