James William Harris 1940–2004


in Proceedings of the British Academy, 138 Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, V

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780197263938
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734236 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

James William Harris 1940–2004

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Jim Harris was most unusual in combining the training, techniques, and craft of a conveyance with the concerns and the learning of a philosopher. His abiding interest in ethical theory was thus strengthened by his sound grasp of thorny and frequently litigated legal problems. Harris used this experience, not only to illustrate theses conceived in the abstract, but also as a means of explaining issues which, for the sake of justice, deserved patient consideration, while his grasp of the practical problems thrown up by legislation, litigation, and modern medicine led him to reflect deeply on the many differing accounts of law and justice given by more cloistered minds. In addition, it was his lived experience of the routine of private law–the contracts, conveyances, mortgages, testaments, statements of claim, and such like (the kind of work solicitors do all day)–that led to his fascination with the school of thinkers who attempt a general account of how that unglamorous process all adds up: his thoughts and writings returned to legal positivism again and again.

Keywords: lawyers; ethical theory; justice; private law; legal positivism; biography; obituary

Chapter.  8030 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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