Friday, September 11, 2009

Conference on an Unpublished Book??

A student has called to my attention that a conference has been planned on Ronnie Dworkin's as-yet unpublished book, Justice for Hedgehogs. The conference will taker place at Boston University's Law School in two weeks.

I'm puzzled. As I mentioned, the book has not been published. It's not even available for pre-order on amazon. If memory serves, Dworkin gave the Dewey Lecture at Columbia a decade ago, and this was his title. But those lectures have not been published, either. What's the point of having a conference on a book that nobody has read?

Oh... I get it now. Some people-- certain well-chosen and very lucky folks-- have read it. The conference is for those fortunately selected to be in the inner circle. In short: If you have to ask the questions I just asked, the conference is not for you.

More puking....

19 comments:

Thomas Gregersen said...

Various drafts have circulated on the Internet. A paper from 2006 with excerpts is available here (49 pages):
http://www3.law.nyu.edu/clppt/program2006/readings/RDpaper.pdf

Ben said...

I've seen similar conferences in honour of G. A. Cohen and Derek Parfit, amongst others. Both I believe would have made the book manuscript freely available to pretty much anyone with an academic interest, especially in association with the conference. So in fact going to the conference is a good way for those not in the 'inner clique' to hear about the book before it gets published.

Meno said...

Spiros:

Why isn't your "puking" just sour grapes?

Spiros said...

TG: Yes, I know. I have a draft of what looks like the whole thing from last year. But the conference organizers do not offer to make even the 49 pages available to interested parties (they don't even mention it).

Ben: Yes, this has been done before, but the MS was made available in advance. And I don't go to book conferences to "hear about" a book, I go to participate in a discussion of the book...

Meno: Duh. Here's why: My complaint is not that there is such an event devoted to Ronnie's book; in fact, there's no doubt in my mind that the book /deserves/ this kind of attention. I'm likely to go to the event, too. I just don't see why the organizers don't address the issue of the book's official unavailability.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to read this post, because I had thought Spiro was one of the cool kids. Now that I know he's not, I don't have to keep up with the blog any more!

More seriously, though, it seems plausible to me that the book was expected to be out before the conference took place and then was delayed for some reason. It's a symposium issue for a law review, and those are often planned a year or so in advance, so it seems quite likely to me that they expected the book to be out by now. This is a guess, of course.

Spiros said...

Anon 11:12:

Sounds plausible to me. But why should we have to be guessing about this?

w said...

Spiros:

Don't people refer to your unpublished books too? I seem to recall a post on this a while back. Whatever happened with that?

Meno said...

Spiros:

I meant: sour grapes over the fact that you aren't in the inner circle. Duh.

Anonymous said...

Am so glad you have raised this. It makes me puke too.

Try being a grad student in this world, trying to break into the inner circle. Journals devote special editions to discussing the as yet unpublished work of certain Big Name Philosophers, conferences too. How are we mere mortals supposed to claw our way in, when by the time we get to see the works in question, all the inner circle have already had a bite of the cherry, and published thoughts about it that we might too have managed to have, if only we'd been able to read the damn book?

The Brooks Blog said...

The attention that Parfit's still unpublished book has received has been something else. Before this book has appeared in print, there have already been a special issue of a journal (Ratio) on this unpublished book -- which will appear as a book with Blackwell. This must be the first time there was a book published before the book it was about was published....no?

Spiros said...

Meno:

Oh... I see. Sorry to have misunderstood. Sour grapes for not being in the Ronnie inner circle? Nah...

Spiros said...

Brooks:

Didn't that Norm Daniels *Reading Rawls* collection appear just a few months after TJ?

A Fox said...

Spiros: I don't see that this has anything to do with being in an inner circle. I'm a conference participant in this case, but I'm not a Dworkanite (far from it), and neither are most of the other participants, so far as I can tell. I would have thought that discussing unpublished work is de rigueur in philosophy, and all for the good. Have you sent an email to Dworkin politely requesting a copy of the manuscript? I might agree that there is a problem here if neither Dworkin nor the conference organizer were prepared to email the manuscript to people who are thinking about attending the conference, but no one has provided any indication that this is the case. I know that Parfit, for example, has always been happy to provide his unpublished manuscript to anyone who asks for it. And isn't that to be expected, since we all like receiving comments on our work? Furthermore, once a book is published, it is unusual to receive a *free* manuscript! Writing a polite email is hardly as expensive as buying a book, or even tracking one down in a library.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it relevant that Parfit is actually a good philosopher, while Dworkin is a dilettante?

A Different Anonymous said...

Isn't it relevant that reasonable people can (and do, clearly) disagree about whether or not Dworkin is a dilettante?

Anonymous said...

Even Rawls famously thought Dworkin was a hack.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, where did Rawls think so, the event being famous and all?

I share the irritation over these pre-release inner-circle-type of conferences. You want a conference before the book is out? Fine, just post the pdf on the conference page for anyone to access.

Anonymous said...

WHAT inner circle? The speakers are not part of a circle. Some of the above comments sound like conspiracy theory. As was said, it's easy to just ask for a copy of the manuscript!

Forged documents said...

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on this topic.