Interview with James Boyd White

The occasion of the following interview was the Montesquieu Lecture at the University of Tilburg, which Professor James Boyd White delivered in February 2006. In the lecture, entitled “When Language Meets the Mind,” Professor White discussed the manner of interpreting and criticizing texts, both in the law and in other fields, that he has worked out over his career. The heart of this method, as described in the lecture, is to direct attention to three sets of questions: – What is the language in which this text is written, and the culture of which it is a part? How are we to evaluate these things? – What relation does this writer or speaker establish with this language as he uses it–does he just replicate it unthinkingly, or does he make it the object of critical attention or transformation? How are we to evaluate what he does? – What relation does the writer or speaker establish with those to whom and about whom he speaks? How are we to evaluate these relations?