Religion Without God
by ronald dworkin
harvard, 192 pages, $17.95
When he died last February, Ronald Dworkin had been a towering figure in legal philosophy for more than forty years. His most important work was Law’s Empire, in which he argued that in interpreting the law we are necessarily inquiring into what the law ought to be, with the correct interpretation being the one that makes the law best from a moral point of view.
His understanding was thus diametrically opposed to the positivist view that it is one thing to say what the law is, quite another to say what it should be. I thought Dworkin was mistaken about this. In my view, interpreting legal texts, whether the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 or the United States Constitution of 1787, is no more a moral inquiry than interpreting the works of Plato or, for that matter, those of Hitler. But Dworkin’s influence in the philosophy of law was immense, and his arguments were always challenging. On particular legal issues he often provided some of the most sophisticated arguments for the invariably liberal positions he defended.
Religion Without God is Dworkin’s last book, and the text is based on his Einstein Lectures at the University of Bern in 2011. Dworkin fell ill before revising the lectures for publication, however, and this may account for the book’s extreme brevity: This is a tiny volume of less than thirty thousand words.