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Law and the Humanities: An Uneasy Relationship



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Essay Law and the Humanities An Uneasy Relationship Jack M Balkin and Sanford Levinson I INTRODUCTION IS LAW PART OF THE HUMANITIES A TALE OF TWO SPEECHES1 In 1930 Judge Learned Hand widely regarded as one of the most distinguished judges in our nation s history spoke to the Juristic Society at the University of Pennsylvania Law School In his address Sources of Tolerance he told his listeners I venture to believe that it is as important to a judge called upon to Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment Yale Law School W St John Garwood and W St John Garwood Jr Centennial Chair in Law and Professor of Government University of Texas at Austin 1 We originally wrote this essay for a project sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on the current state of the humanities Other essays written for the project considered the state of contemporary history philosophy comparative literature African American studies and English literature All were recently published including a shorter version of this essay in Daedalus See Jack M Balkin Sanford Levinson Law the Humanities Spring 2006 D DALUS 105 2006 We thought it appropriate to focus on whether law merited a place in such a project that is what if anything made law one of the humanities in the twenty first century 155 156 Yale Journal of Law the Humanities Vol 18 155 pass on a question of constitutional law to have at least a bowing acquaintance with Acton and Maitland with Thucydides Gibbon and Carlyle with Homer Dante Shakespeare and Milton with Machiavelli Montaigne and Rabelais with Plato Bacon Hume and Kant as with the books which have been specifically written on the subject 2 Hand s remarks assume three points that form the central focus of this essay The first is that the study of law is either part of or is strongly connected to the humanities The second is that the lawyer or legal scholar called upon to discuss and analyze legal questions cannot do so by looking merely within the



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