I’ve spent my career so far teaching philosophy of law, constitutional interpretation, civil liberties, and political philosophy to undergraduates and graduate students in the arts and sciences. From time to time, I’ve been offered teaching positions in law schools, and on a few occasions I’ve been approached to be a law school dean. Until three weeks ago, however, I had never actually taught law students. I’m doing that now as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. I’m grateful to Dean Martha Minow for her kind invitation to do so, and to my old friend the Dean of the Faculty at Princeton for granting an exception to Princeton’s rather stringent rule against teaching for other institutions, even when on unpaid leaves of absence.
I wondered if the experience of teaching law students would be a lot different from the experience of teaching graduate students in philosophy, political theory, religion, and related fields. So far, I’m finding that it’s not. Of course, I expected Harvard law students to be bright and hard working. But I guess I didn’t expect that there would be a lot of enthusiasm for the rather “impractical” courses I teach: philosophy of law and philosophy of civil liberties. I had a concern that all but a few students would be narrowly focused on preparing for the practice of law, and that the students who did sign up for my classes might be impatient with my admittedly rather abstract approach. I needn’t have been concerned.
In addition to the courses I’m offering for credit, Mary Ann Glendon and I are running an informal weekly luncheon seminar on social issues. Participants include faculty and students from across the University, from the Divinity School to the Business School. (No jokes, please, about trying to serve both God and Mammon.) Of course, it’s a treat to be working with Mary Ann, with whom I am also serving on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and with whom I previously served on the President’s Council on Bioethics. Our theme song for the year is the Buck Owens classic: “Together Again.”