Ronald Dworkin


Prix Balzan 2012 pour Théorie et philosophie du droit

Projet de recherche

Dworkin-Balzan Fellowship Programme

Ronald Dworkin [*11 December 1931 – †14 February 2013] 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 years 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); and two conferences held at NYU in the third and fifth years 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 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Professor Dworkin and Professor Thomas Nagel for twenty-five years, introduced a distinctive format for discussion of unpublished work.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; in 2018, by Scheffler and Waldron. 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 conferences. 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 One - New York University School of Law, 7-8 September 2017: The Conference for the Colloquium

The first conference 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 he 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.

Conference Two - New York University School of Law, 13-14 September 2019: Dworkin’s Late Work

The second conference took place at the NYU School of Law on 13 and 14 September 2019. It comprised four panels devoted to discussion of the Prizewinner’s late work. Ronald Dworkin’s work always spanned a wide array of topics, from the most abstract jurisprudence through the details of American constitutional law all the way over to political philosophy and theories of justice and equality. In the last decades of his life, however, Dworkin’s work flowered in ways that went beyond even this prodigious range. Though he continued his central work in the philosophy of law and constitutional theory, he also addressed issues in international law, human dignity, the philosophy of religion, the relation between ethics, morality and legal theory, and the unity of practical thought generally. The conference explored some of these themes in Dworkin’s late work. The four panels were devoted to his work on religion, legal integrity, international law, and the relation between law and morality. There were a total of nine presentations by distinguished legal academics. The papers were distributed in advance. Panelists made short, twenty-minute presentations, leaving plenty of time for general discussion. The conference was very well attended.


Panel 1: Dworkin’s Religion without God
Eric Gregory (Princeton)
“Confessions of a Religious Liberal: Ronald Dworkin’s Religion without God”
Moshe Halbertal (NYU and Hebrew University)
“Ronald Dworkin’s Religion without God: Morality and the Transcendent”
Lawrence G. Sager (Texas)
“Solving Religious Liberty”

Panel 2: Dworkin on International Law
Samantha Besson (Collège de France and Fribourg)
“The Political Legitimacy of International Law: Sovereign States and their International Institutional Order”
John Tasioulas (King’s College, London)
“Fantasy Upon Fantasy’: Some Reflections on Dworkin’s Philosophy of International Law”

Panel 3: The Idea of Integrity in Law’s Empire
Andrei Marmor (Cornell)
“Integrity in Law’s Empire”
Jeremy Waldron (NYU)
“The Rise and Decline of Integrity”

Panel 4: Law and Morality in Justice for Hedgehogs
Mark Greenberg (UCLA)
“What Makes a Moral Duty Legal? Dworkin’s Judicial Enforcement Theory Versus the Moral Impact Theory”
Ben Zipursky (Fordham)
“Jurisprudence in Justice for Hedgehogs: Metaphysical, not Political”

Many of the papers are available at the conference website: