Ronald Dworkin, Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree earlier this month at Harvard University's 358th commencement exercises. Dworkin, who previously graduated from both Harvard College and Harvard Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar, joined the NYU School of Law faculty in 1975 after teaching at Yale Law School and the University of Oxford.
At the Harvard commencement, Provost Steven Hyman enumerated the quandaries of legal philosophy that Dworkin has tackled, including the role of morality in constitutional interpretation, the core principles citizens share in a polarized democracy, and how to determine an individual's political rights, singling out for particular praise Dworkin's conception of the integrity of law: "These are large, consequential questions, and perhaps no one in our time has had a larger, more consequential influence on how they are discussed and debated.... It has been said that his impact on the philosophy of law is such that over the past three decades nearly every contribution to the field is either directly or at least indirectly an engagement with his work.... A profound theorist, he is also one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals."
In conferring the degree, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust also addressed Dworkin, succinctly delineating his role in the world of law and philosophy: "Venturesome explorer of law’s empire, learned expounder of equality’s virtue, he draws constitutional meaning from the wellsprings of morality, insisting the law be respectful of all."
Past recipients of honorary law doctorates from Harvard include John F. Kennedy, Frankin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Dwight Eisenhower. Among the awardees of honorary doctorates from other Harvard schools this year were U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, writer Joan Didion, and musician Wynton Marsalis.
Posted on June 26, 2009