Tuesday, October 31, 2006



Happy Halloween. This is a brief post about disguises, though neither as scandalous as the New York Times' recent examination of women's Halloween costumes nor as sublime as Judge Noonan's Persons and Masks of the Law. Instead, I ask a simpler question: Professor, who are you in disguise?

With the rise of empirical legal studies and other interdisciplinary approaches in the legal academy, many teachers of law have suddenly acquired a professional incentive to engage in a Walter Mitty-like quest for some identity, any identity, that distinguishes them from every other holder of an unadorned J.D. I count myself among those members of the legal academy who lack official sanction in the form of a "real" doctorate. In other words, I have to fake it. But, hey, it's Halloween. It's time to play dress-up.

If you need some excuse to engage in this exercise, remember that it's the week of the annual recruiting combine. It's not a bad idea at all to ask faculty candidates about their intellectual role models, both within the law and outside it.

I suggested a little while ago that Leibniz might make a good role model. There is no shame in wearing Leibniz's mask, since he did go to law school and managed despite that to ensure that his life wasn't a bankrupt evil waste. But I now wonder whether I'd rather dress as Rasmus Rask for Halloween. He worked on laws, after all, albeit of the sort that no court or legislature could ever dictate. And Rask recognized -- and rationalized -- patterns in speech that now allow us to glimpse the very "atoms of language," the intellectual building blocks by which we assemble that greatest of human accomplishments, spoken language.

So. Now that I've told you my Halloween plans, you tell me. What's your disguise?

Editor's note: Posted simultaneously at Jurisdynamics and at MoneyLaw.


Anonymous big red said...

I just looked at the Wik entry for Ramus Rask. An intellectual giant, but as a Halloween costume, a bit of a milquetoast. Jim, if you do dress up as a white dandyboy for tonight's ghostly doings, be sure to post a photo.

10/31/2006 9:29 AM  

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