Brian Leiter on Law and Philosophy

Law and Philosophy: For Brian Leiter CN ’92, a Natural Pair

“My favorite short description of philosophy,” says Brian Leiter CN ’92, “comes from John Campbell [at Berkeley]: ‘Philosophy is thinking in slow motion.’ Law school is often thinking in fast motion, but it’s the same kind of intellectual skill.”

Though Dr. Leiter knew early on that he wanted to study law, discovering Sartre in an advanced high school French class also piqued his interest in philosophy. “I went to college and started studying philosophy. Like everybody else who studies philosophy as an undergraduate, the question arises whether one could actually make a career out of that. My parents,” he recalls wryly, “raised that question as well.”

Financial aid made the decision for Dr. Leiter. After completing his law degree, he went on to the philosophy Ph.D, and eventually faced a tough, if enviable, decision between two tenure-track offers. “One involved going into a tenure-track position in philosophy with some teaching in law at the University of Arizona. The other was at the University of Texas—a tenure-track position in law with some teaching in philosophy. I had to weigh which direction to go and opted for the tenure home in law.” Dr. Leiter taught at the University of Texas for more than ten years and became the youngest chairholder in the history of the law school. “There’s been lots of happy accidents as it were. It’s worked out pretty well.”

Read more at Fellowship: The Newsletter of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation