Historians and Rhetoric
Reynolds at LIBRA.LAW.UTK.EDU
Tue Jan 16 14:23:42 PST 2001
Myron Moskovitz wrote:
> Are law professors as reliable as historians on matters of history? In
> general, I dont think so.
> Ive always considered the term law professor somewhat of an oxymoron. We
> are advocates, either by disposition or training (Im not sure whether we
> went to law school because we like to argue or law school made us that way,
> or both.) It is quite difficult for a born advocate to be an objective
> scholar seeking the truth, wherever it may lead.
I sympathize with this view, but only up to a point. It is apparent
that Bellesisles does not regard his book as merely history in the
abstract, but also as a work of advocacy that should influence our
interpretation of the Constitution. He stands accused on this list
not merely of making interpretations that are debatable but -- not to
put too fine a point on it -- of falsifying his conclusions and
misrepresenting his data.
Now, this doesn't matter that much to me. Even if Bellesisles'
arguments are true, it doesn't seem to me that they really say
much about the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment --
just as the far lower degree of religious freedom in 1789 means the
free exercise clause is a dead letter. But whatever you think,
Bellesisles is really playing lawyer here, not historian, so a retreat
behind disciplinary boundaries seems inappropriate.
Prof. Glenn Harlan Reynolds
College of Law, University of Tennessee
1505 W. Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, TN 37996-1810
"It is a chief characteristic of the religion
of science, that it works." -- Isaac Asimov
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