New York University Law Professor Ronald M. Dworkin, who is widely considered among the most influential theorists on ethics and morality in law, won the 2007 Ludvig Holberg International Memorial Prize, carrying a cash prize of 4.5 million kroner (at press time, roughly equivalent to $870,000).
Dworkin, Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law, is the first to receive the prize for legal scholarship. He was cited for having “developed an original and highly influential legal theory grounding law in morality,” and having a “unique ability” to tie abstract philosophical ideas together with “concrete everyday issues in law, moral philosophy and politics.”
A faculty member since 1975, Dworkin is the fourth winner of the annual award—named for the Dano-Norwegian playwright and author of the Age of Enlightenment—which is modeled on the Nobel Prize. The committee highlighted six of his books, including Law’s Empire, Life’s Dominion and Is Democracy Possible Here?
“Many people, I fear, many lawyers, think of the law as a rather mechanical discipline,” Dworkin observed, accepting the medal from His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway at a November 28, 2007 ceremony in Bergen, Norway. The Holberg, he said, celebrates the view that the “intellectual breadth and moral depth of the law depends upon seeing it as drawing from and contributing to all the other domains, among them philosophy and the humanities.”
Dworkin argues that the legal system should be seen as having two parts: rules set by law and principles of a moral nature. But when the law is fuzzy, he asserts, judges must interpret the law using evolving principles of justice and fairness.
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