February 14th, 2013

happy girl

A very sad day.

Ronald Dworkin passed away today.

I found out at the end of Jurisprudence class when Facebook notified me that one of my classmates tagged me in a post. Having discovered that it was news about his death, I was quite literally shocked and in a state of disbelief for a good couple of minutes. Six hours later and I still feel a deep sense of loss and sadness.

Granted, I have not read a lot of legal philosophy beyond what I had to read for Legal Theory in law school and the philosophers that Dr K assigned for his Theory class last term. Since I don't remember anything from law school, my point of reference is necessarily what I studied last term - and out of the buffet of philosophers that we talked about, Dworkin is undoubtedly my favourite. There is something deeply admirable about the ability of a philosopher to communicate complex theories and ideas in a highly accessible, highly readable manner that literally anyone can pick up, and yet does not water down or dumb down the central intellectual integrity of those ideas. I enjoy reading Dworkin's theories because of what an excellent writer he was (anyone that knows me should know that I always complain about bad writing when I read academic articles, and the style of writing matters a lot to me); reading his theories is almost like reading a novel (which is the highest form of praise that I can give to an academic writer).

More importantly, his theory of rights - that rights (in the negative, civil-political/constitutional sense) are trumps over trade-off arguments that are usually utilised to justify a political action that serves to sacrifice certain important individual interests for the overall benefit of society - has more or less shaped my understanding of human rights, having came across it in law school; that is why I was so resistent to the idea of balancing rights against collective interests when Dr K preached it in his classes last term, because, thanks to Dworkin, I was firmly convinced in my belief that rights are things of a special normative force, that act as trumps over political actions, that should not be balanced away. Because I hold this view, it necessarily follows that I found it really strange the way Europe approaches human rights - that there is a human right to even the most mundane activitiy on the planet and whether or not a claimed right should be given effect will be decided at the proportionality stage.

I am no longer as uncomfortable with it as I was at the beginning of last term, but I still prefer the Dworkinian approach to rights. It is premised on a conception of human dignity that consists of two principles: that every human life has intrinsic value, and that every human being has personal responsibility for realising the success of his own life. For me, that sums up what being human and being alive is about.


I am sick, and I going to Rotterdam to stalk Roger tomorrow morning, and I haven't packed, and I'm really tired, and today has just been a not very nice day because I am really sad that Dworkin is gone. I'm just going to post this lousy entry and pack for my trip.

I thought I was going to have to submit an essay next Thursday for Terrorism class but Prof Gearty nicely arbitrarily pushed back the deadline by one week. On the one hand, I'm so glad that I don't have to work on it in Rotterdam (though I probably will); but on the other hand, I have to submit an essay for Comparative Constitutional Rights in the same time. Yay!

Dr K's book launch ("Global Model of Constitutional Rights" - it's actually £50. I don't know how it's so expensive) on Tuesday was very interesting. He invited two people for the panel that totally disagreed with him and it was fun watching him defend his ideas. I didn't fully follow what they were saying because I haven't read the book, but at this point, I'm pretty sure he's used to people attacking him for it. Whenever he brings up the "global" model in class, someone is bound to say something sharp in reply. In fact, somebody was pretty rude to him in the first class when he advanced his "global" thesis (which I talked about in one of the previous entries when I questioned what we're defending when we defend what we know against seemingly ethnocentric claims, i.e. Singapore's consitutitional law...sorry, I mean "constitutional" """law"""). After talking to him a little bit about it, it seems to me to be a pure matter of semantics. His actual claim and what people think he's claiming are quite different (what I thought he was claiming was quite different from his actual claim too; I prefer my interpretation to what he actually means. Alas); unfortunately, I can't remmeber what he said, so I'll come back to this again when I get my copy of the book and complete this thought. Whatever the case is, I think he could've saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd chosen a less overly-inclusive word like "global" (he wanted to avoid people thinking that it's European...haha it's quite funny), OR if he had looked at some Asian jurisdictions that do have some semblance to the model that he's talking about. I know for a fact that Taiwan's constitutional court uses proportionality analysis, but it's quite tough for international people trying to access the decisions because the English translations of the judgments aren't as comprehensive as the actual judgements. Like two of my classmates said today, though, that's probably not an excuse for an academic not to engage with those materials.

Anyway, I'll end this by saying that I'm so in love with Prof Gearty. I forgot to mention this but I knew that this course was gonna be good in the first class when he slipped in a James Joyce reference. Last week's seminar on the history of terrorism, why people resort to terror, and the case of Palestinian terrorism was basically just him talking which I would usually find boring as hell, but it was so riveting, and I left the class feeling so sad for the Palestinians and groups/peoples that are similarly situated. He's increased my interest in this subject rather considerably. Obviously I thought this course would be fun when I signed up for it last term, but my area of interest has since been narrowly geared towards human and constitutional rights theory (and, I guess, some practice); as a result, when the term started, I was thinking, "Oh my god, why am I in a course about terrorism?" I'm seriously not a fan of politics and international law and things that involve the two and/or interplay between the two - and terrorism is one of them. However, his classes are just so. fucking. good. Sometimes he talks a bit too fast and during those times he'd be imparting a profound idea which I'd only catch half of and I'd be left wondering wtf did he just say and why didn't I catch it?!, and I had slight issues with his Irish accent at first, but all in all, he's brilliant. It's also extremely helpful that he's so funny. He made a joke about "an expert who has published one book" in an earlier class, which, for some reason, I remember really well. Anyway, he's just great.

I remembered that there's one last thing I want to mention. Apart from how it's so unsurprising that there are a grand total of 3 articles on the section 377A hearing today, I want to say that I fucking hate how scant the reports are. I want to know what arguments were made. When I read that the AGC made the public morality argument, I was all facepalming and wanting to die, but then I realised - that was the only argument that they could make. It was an argument that was advanced in ALL the sodomy cases I read for class, and it was rejected by the US, partially rejected but not really by the European Court of Human Rights (but this is due to the margin of appreciation that the court gives to states because it's not a domestic court), probably rejected by India though I can't remember if the court dealt with it, and upheld by...Zimbabwe.

If the High Court rules in favour of the government, then we are just like Zimbabwe. Wouldn't that be great?

I really have to pack so I'm gonna stop writing.