Yale-Law-Journal

Apr 30th, 2015
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Yale University
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Half a decade ago, pragmatist legal scholars were wont to regard themselves as voices crying in the wilderness. Robin West lamented the “demise of pragmatic liberalism,” [FN1] which had been displaced by a more theoretical version of liberalism founded on the ideal of neutrality. Anthony Kronman, writing in support of a “prudentialism” that partook of many of the characteristics associated with pragmatism, [FN2] was similarly pessimistic about the “rationalist ethos of our times.” [FN3]

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Yale Law JournalNovember, 1990*409 THE PURSUIT OF PRAGMATISMSteven D. Smith [FNa]Copyright 1990 by the Yale Law Journal Company, Inc.; Steven D. Smith Half a decade ago, pragmatist legal scholars were wont to regard themselves as voices crying in the wilderness. Robin West lamented the demise of pragmatic liberalism, [FN1] which had been displaced by a more theoretical version of liberalism founded on the ideal of neutrality. Anthony Kronman, writing in support of a prudentialism that partook of many of the characteristics associated with pragmatism, [FN2] was similarly pessimistic about the rationalist ethos of our times. [FN3] At about the same time, Ronald Dworkin was castigating legal pragmatism, but he evidently believed that the object of his criticism was virtually defunct already. Many readers must have been shocked, Dworkin speculated, by the very description of legal pragmatism; and such readers would be surprised that anyone would propose pragmatism as an eligible interpretation of our present [legal] practice. [FN4] Lest he be accused of brutalizing a straw man, Dworkin saw fit to attempt a modest rehabilitation of legal pragmatism [FN5] before he proceeded to demolish it. But history, as we know, can take sudden and surprising turns. Five years after West and Kronman offered their dismal diagnoses, leading legal thinkers are celebrating a Renaissance of Pragmatism in American Leg

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