On Wednesday, April 22nd, five students from the yearlong Undergraduate Research Symposium course had the opportunity to present their work directly to the subject of their research, the constitutional law scholar and political philosopher Paul Kahn.
Professor Kahn is the Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities, and Director of the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, where he has taught since 1985. Before beginning his career as a Professor of Law, he first clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court and for a short time practiced law in Washington, DC, and was on the legal team representing Nicaragua in a case against the U.S. government before the International Court of Justice.
He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale in 1977. As he explained to the students in the course during the fall semester, he felt like he was still too young to “do philosophy,” so he went directly from graduate school to Law School, and received his J.D. from Yale in 1980.
So in language that is dear, but still contested, to many of us here at LVC, he is the model of liberal learning: a philosopher who is also a trained lawyer. Even more, he is one of the nation’s leading constitutional scholars who brings his interests and expertise in cultural theory and philosophy to bear in developing a distinctive approach to the study of law and politics.
His work offers a comprehensive critique of modern liberalism for failing to provide an adequate theory of “the political.” The student presentations help to explain the full implications of this insight as it applies to questions of revolution/reform, equality, criminality, environmental justice, and civil religion.
The video links for the student presentations and Kahn’s critical responses are below. You will see each of the students develop a critical and constructive thesis of their own with regard to the significance of Kahn’s work as a political philosopher. You will also see how they are not shy in raising critical questions about their own reservations with his work and identification of perceived shortcomings to his thought. In this way, they model the rigor and independence of thought we hope for all of our students.