Ronald Dworkin


2012 Balzan Prize for Jurisprudence

Research Project

Dworkin-Balzan Fellowship Programme

Ronald Dworkin † was Professor of Philosophy in the Philosophy Department and Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law at the School of Law, New York University, and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford University and University College London. Due to his unfortunate and untimely death, responsibility for the project was delegated to Liam Murphy (NYU), who elaborated Dworkin’s project to include more young researchers and a fellowship programme extending over three years. For the final year of the project, Jeremy Waldron (NYU) served as co-director.

New York University School of Law hosted and implemented the research project associated with Dworkin’s Balzan Prize. The programme had two main elements: five postdoctoral fellowships awarded over a period of three years in association with the NYU Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy (at the heart of Dworkin’s academic life); a conference held at NYU in the third year of the project to discuss themes from Ronald Dworkin’s work. The conference participants included the postdoctoral fellows, other young philosophers and legal scholars who had presented at the Colloquium during this period, and several more senior scholars with special expertise on Dworkin’s work. The programme focused on the following sets of interconnected themes that were of special interest for him: legitimacy, democracy, the rule of law, and the role of courts; international law and justice; the nature of rights; the relation between the moral life and the good life; philosophical foundations of substantive areas of law; legal interpretation; justice, equality, and the market economy; law and political obligation; the objectivity of value.

The world-renowned Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy, taught by Professor Dworkin and Professor Thomas Nagel for twenty-five years, introduced a distinctive format for discussion of unpublished work. It has been widely imitated, and has attracted many of the world’s most distinguished philosophers and legal theorists as guests, including John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas, T. M. Scanlon, Judith Jarvis Thompson, and Peter Singer. In 2014, the colloquium reconvened, led by Samuel Scheffler and Liam Murphy. In 2015, it was convened by Scheffler and Jeremy Waldron; in 2016, by Murphy and Waldron; in 2017, by Murphy and Scheffler. The colloquium will continue to be taught every year, by some combination of Scheffler, Murphy, and Waldron. As this colloquium was at the centre of Ronald Dworkin’s academic life, it is appropriate that the colloquium should have a central role in the research project associated with his Balzan Prize.

Successful applicants for the fellowships had a doctorate in philosophy or law, and were selected in part on the basis of their fit with the themes of the research project. Fellows were required to attend the colloquium regularly and participate in discussion. They were also invited to participate in the conference. The two fellows appointed for 2014-2015 were Jed Lewinsohn and Jacob Weinrib; descriptions of their work can be found in the 2014 edition of the Overview and on the Balzan Foundation website. For 2015-2016, the fellow was Hadassa Noorda. Candice Delmas and Katharina Stevens were the final fellows in 2016-2017. Descriptions of Noorda’s, Delmas’s, and Stevens’s work can be found in the 2016 edition of the Overview and on the Balzan Foundation website (

Conference - New York University School of Law, 7-8 September 2017
The conference anticipated in the research programme took place at the NYU School of Law on 7 and 8 September, 2017. It commemorated the Prizewinner’s work by celebrating the Colloquium in Legal, Political, and Social Philosophy, which he convened with Thomas Nagel from 1987 to 2011.
The conference comprised four modified colloquium sessions, with papers posted on the conference website in advance. Thomas M. Scanlon, Frank Michelman, Seana Shiffrin and Joseph Raz, all of whom had presented at the colloquium during the Dworkin/Nagel years, were the four distinguished speakers. Lawrence Sager, one of the co-founders of the Colloquium, was guest interlocutor. Sessions were chaired by Liam Murphy, Lewis Kornhauser and Jeremy Waldron. Samuel Scheffler, Lawrence Sager, Liam Murphy and Jeremy Waldron acted as commentators.

The full programme is listed below. As is customary for the Colloquium in Legal, Social, and Political Philosophy, the papers can be found on New York University School of Law’s Website:

September 7
4:30 - 6:30 p.m. Session One Thomas M. Scanlon (Harvard) “Contractualism and Justification”
Commentator: Samuel Scheffler (NYU)
Chair: Liam Murphy (NYU)

September 8
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Session Two
Frank Michelman (Harvard)
“Rawls’s Constitution-Centered Propositions on Legitimacy: A Friendly Interrogation”
Commentator: Lawrence Sager (University of Texas, Austin)
Chair: Lewis Kornhauser (NYU)
2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Session Three Seana Shiffrin (UCLA) “Democratic Law”
Commentator: Liam Murphy (NYU)
Chair: Jeremy Waldron (NYU)

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Session Four
Joseph Raz (King’s College London and Columbia) “Can Moral Principles Change?”
Commentator: Jeremy Waldron (NYU)
Chair: Samuel Scheffler
Discussion of the themes of the conference, with particular reference to the Prizewinner’s research, continued at two conference dinners.

Excerpt from the: The Balzan Prizewinners’ Research Projects: An Overview 2018