Ronald Dworkin, one of America’s most liberal philosophers and constitutional law experts celebrated for his belief in the idea of moral integrity, died in a London hospital on Thursday.
He was 81 and suffering from leukaemia, his family said.
A professor of law at New York University and emeritus professor at University College London, Mr. Dworkin was a trenchant critic of America’s overtly political conservative judges. Most recently, he attacked the Supreme Court’s judgment that allowed big corporations to pump millions of dollars into the presidential campaign.
He wrote that the court’s “conservative phalanx’’ had demonstrated “once again its power and will to reverse America’s drive to greater equality and more genuine democracy’’.
Regarded as one of the most original thinkers of his time, Mr. Dworkin divided his time between New York and London but remained a proud Anglophile until the end. A great believer in human dignity, he wrote that “without dignity our lives are only blinks of duration’’.
Describing him as one of the most important legal philosophers of his generation, the NYU Law School Dean Richard Revesz said Mr. Dworkin was “not only an intellectual giant, but also a masterful teacher, admired colleague and beloved friend”.
“He will be dearly missed by those of us who were lucky enough to know him and by the countless people who followed and admired his work,” he said.
Professor Stephen Guest at University College London said he was “a cosmopolitan American who regarded London as his main home, and who knew how to enjoy things, especially music and art”.
In his writings, Mr. Dworkin argued for dignity and moral clarity in life.
“If we manage to live a good life well, we create something more,” he wrote. “We write a subscript to our mortality. We make our lives tiny diamonds in the cosmic sands,” he wrote in his final book, Justice for Hedgehogs.
Even as he lay down the “law’’ for others, as it were, Mr. Dworkin admitted that he did not know how to judge his own life telling The Guardian in an interview two years ago that all he could say was that he had “tried to be responsible for my decisions and to make an authentic life’’. “I can’t say if I’ve succeeded,” he said.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, he studied law at Harvard University and Oxford.
He is survived by his wife, Irene Brendel Dworkin, two children and two grandchildren.