Note To Budding Scholars: Missteps Can Be Corrected

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4 Responses

  1. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    Another instance of changing one’s well-known and influential views on a topic, albeit outside law, occurred in the case of Michael Allen Fox, author of The Case for Animal Experimentation: An Evolutionary and Ethical Perspective (1986). Not long after the book’s publication, as Angus Taylor explains, ‘its author repudiated the main views expressed in it, now calling those views arrogant, complacent, and arbitrary.’ (see Fox’s ‘Animal Experimentation: A Philosopher’s Changing Views,’ in Between the Species 3, 1987). Fox (not to be confused with Michael W. Fox) later penned the book, Deep Vegetarianism (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1999).

    Not without reason (and for better and worse) do we refer to the ‘young Marx’ and the ‘mature Marx.’

    In philosophy proper, Wittgenstein dramatically altered his views from the Tractatus to the Philosophical Investigations, and Sartre famously came to repudiate the asocial/apolitical orientation of his classic Being and Nothingness (1943) (by way of compensation: the Critique of Dialectical Reason, 1960, among other works). The brilliant philosopher Hilary Putnam has changed his views so consistently over the years that lesser philosophers have expressed their annoyance by calling him a ‘moving target.’

    There are other cases, but these should suffice.

  2. Cathy says:

    Thank you for this. As a newly-minted JD whose note is about to be published, I’ve been a combination of thrilled and terrified. I guess I can take from this that it’s ok to ratchet up the former emotion and down the latter?

  3. Dan Markel says:

    Dan, keep an eye out for my reply to Dan K, which suggests he may end up recanting…again. I’ll be posting a draft up in the next couple weeks.


    dan (of the law professor band named Dan)

  4. cynic says:

    Lesson: Chaired professors at Yale can admit to making mistakes, but only if the “mistake” is really just a better reason why they were right before.