Larry Ribstein, Philosopher

totmauthor —  1 January 2012

[Nelson Lund asked that TOTM publish this post in Larry Ribstein’s honor and we are very pleased to do so on his behalf]

Everyone who knew Larry Ribstein realized that he was very smart, very tough, and very hard working. Less well appreciated was his absolutely uncompromising commitment to the pursuit of the truth. Surprisingly, perhaps, this is a very rare quality among legal academics. It is the mark of a philosopher, by which I emphatically do not mean a professor of philosophy.

During countless conversations over a distressingly short period of twenty years, I knew that I could count on Larry to correct any lazy or thoughtless comment I made, just as I knew he would instantly recognize any useful insight I might happen upon. If we all have our intellectual biases and unjustified presuppositions, as I suppose we do, Larry was as aggressive as anyone I’ve known in resisting such barriers to the truth within himself. In that sense, he was far more tough on himself than he was on those of us who were fortunate to have his help in our own intellectual pursuits.

I do have one regret about my friendship with Larry, which is that I have only dabbled in the fields where he was a giant. Had I worked seriously in the areas on which he focused, or had he given more attention to the subjects that occupy most of my attention, I would have a much better understanding of many things. His death has made my life poorer, as it has the world in which he lived.