Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 226: Ronald Dworkin

One wonderful problem at Oxford is the many offerings to stimulate mind and senses. Many people who struggle to get work done here are only inhibited because they are so busy going to interesting seminars, bops, concerts, formal halls, and lectures.

Any student is able to attend any lecture offered by the University, undergraduate or graduate. I've attended lectures on America's Founding, constitutional theory, and, yesterday, on interpretation by Ronald Dworkin.

Mr. Dworkin teaches out of NYU, and is wildly famous for his contributions in the law to theories of constitutional interpretation, particularly originalism, a topic of great interest for me. Yesterday his lecture on 'Truth in Interpretation' made the topic more broad, as he talked of interpreting paintings and music, literature and poems in addition to statutes and constitutions.

Interpretation, he said, was an act which sought truth. It would do little good for the doctor if he was to provide an interpretation of the medical condition of his patient if he thought his interpretation was mere opinion and equally valid as against anyone else's. We believe when we interpret that we are attempting to find the truth.

There are many principles in interpretation, the most 'irresistible' of which is what he calls 'psychological state' interpretation, wherein the interpretor seeks to divine the intent of the person who created the object.

Other forms of interpretation, or the truth of the matter, are found in the experience of the reader.

Our method of interpretation depends on our value system. If we value the creators, we will seek to know why they created. If we value the people who interact with the object now, we will seek to know what they understand.

I wished I had been able to stay to ask questions, but I had another event to run to – formal hall.

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