John Gardner at Home

Memories from Scott Hershovitz

I don't remember the first time I met you. It might have been at the Jurisprudence Discussion Group, or perhaps when you came to Oxford to present a paper. You were still based in London, not yet the Professor of Jurisprudence. But I do remember what I thought of you: that you were impossibly smart, but also, oddly for Oxford, incredibly generous. You made time for students -- students that weren't even yours -- including me.

I was thrilled when you were named Professor of Jurisprudence, because it meant you would be around Oxford more often. And when, toward the end of my time in Oxford, Joseph suggested that I switch supervisors, I said: "Yes, but only if it is John." And so I came to be your student.

I remember our first meeting in Logic Lane. You were making copies; I was explaining my objections to Raz on authority. You offered an objection to my objection. I told you that it didn't work and why. And you saw immediately that I was right and told me so. That was a new experience for me. One of your great virtues -- as a teacher and as a philosopher -- is that you are open to argument. You are rarely beat, but when you are, you say so.

At that first meeting, you told me that Joseph thought I was doing well. "What exactly did he say?" I asked, since he had never said anything like that to me. You said: "He said, 'Will you work with Scott? I think he will finish his degree." You were much more encouraging than that. I learned a ton from you in the months we worked together, but the most important thing I gained was confidence that I could be a philosopher, not just study philosophy.

Julie and I went through our photo album from Oxford and turned up this. Dinner, post-graduation, at Aziz, with my parents:

I left Oxford for Yale, and you followed me there. You taught a seminar on responsibility with Jules. Your interplay with him was not quite as practiced as it was with Tony, but it was every bit as charming. But more than the class, I remember a trip to Sally's for pizza. We talked about the differences between law and games, a conversation that still figures in the way I think about law. But our favorite memory from your visit to New Haven was the trip we took up the Connecticut coast, checking out the fall foliage and stopping to wander small towns. Here's another from our photo album:

I won't continue on with the play-by-play. I'm lucky to have spent time with you in lots of places over the past two decades. Some things I've loved about that:

• Catching your eye at a conference when someone is behaving badly. Both you and I are amused by the misbehavior of our colleagues, and it's been fun to share that.

• Even better, sitting next to you at a conference or presentation. There is no one better to trade notes with. (Once, you and I nearly lost our composure at the JDG. It was not long after September 11th, and we were laughing about the fact that the Taliban seemed to have supplanted Nazis as the go to evil guys for philosophical thought experiments. I don't know why that struck us as funny, but for some reason it did.)

• Trading pictures of our kids. You take as much joy in parenting as I do.

And while I'm thinking about kids, another marker of your generosity. Here's the impromptu lecture you gave Rex and Hank about the history of your rooms at All Souls, shortly before we went in search of Bucko the Ducko.

But the things I value most about you are not particular moments or memories. They are qualities. Your joy, which is infectious. Your enthusiasm -- for philosophy, for food, for friends, for whatever happens to be at hand. Your wit, and your willingness to laugh at yourself.

But above all that, there's what I said at the start: your generosity. You build connections and institutions. When I was a student, the Jurisprudence Discussion Group was the place to be because it was the place you were. Students came and took it seriously because you did. (And those nights -- at Pizza Express and Brasenose -- are among my fondest memories of Oxford.) More recently, it has been the ALPC, an event that you held together and took on the work to organize, year after year. An event without which our field would be a subject matter, instead of a community.

The community that you helped build is a legacy that will stand alongside your work. But the you've got smaller scale legacies in the students that you lifted up, starting (at least in your Professor of Jurisprudence days) with me. And it is impossible to overstate the difference that you've made in my life. Much of it is easy to see: you imparted knowledge and skills, wrote letters that yielded jobs, invited me to join committees and gave me opportunities. But more meaningful than all of that, to me at least, has been the inspiration and encouragement.

Just a few times, I've encountered someone and thought: I would like to be like that person. I felt that way about a teacher in high school and the first judge that I clerked for. And I've always felt that way about you, for all the reasons listed earlier: the joy, the enthusiasm, the fierce intelligence, the generosity, the wit.

I'm glad that I've inherited some of your ALPC duties, so that I can carry on your work in sustaining that community. And professionally and personally, I'll continue to strive to meet the standard you set.

I'm not the only one that will. You've left a similar mark on so many.