An Interested Response to a “Wholly Disinterested Assessment”: LeBel on Summers on LeBel on Summers on ….Er…Um…Oh, Yeah…Fuller

In 1985, I published in the Michigan Law Review a review of a recent book by Professor Robert S. Summers on the legal philosophy of Lon Fuller. Professor Summers has published in the Cornell Law Review an ironically titled criticism of my review and of another review. In a number of respects, Professor Summers’ Assessment has served to increase my understanding of his book, and I trust that other readers will be similarly benefited. Although Professor Summers’ response to my review of his book takes issue with what I said on a number of points, I strongly suspect that few readers would be interested in a detailed defense of what I said in that review. Such an exercise is likely to be as unproductive to the participants and as incomprehensible to the reader as the “He said I said … but what I really said was … and anyway what I meant was … and only an idiot would think that I meant … ” exchanges between gonzo historians that fill the back pages of the New York Review of Books. Several of the points that Professor Summers makes are worthy of some further attention, however, if for no other reason than that they demonstrate the contemporary significance of some very old debates. Among the topics on which the differences between my views and those recently expressed by Professor Summers might matter are first, the meaning of the question whether a judicial decision is good law, second, the underpinnings of the morality characterization given to particular practices or goals within a legal system, and third, the significance of moral criticism. On each of these topics, I will give a very brief statement of how Professor Summers and I appear to differ, and attempt to explain why the differences may be important.