Robert A. Burt

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The Truth About Owen Fiss, 58 U. Miami L. Rev. 83 (2003)


Owen Fiss has a passion for truth. This embrace has given moral fervor and power to his character and his work. At the same time, a puzzle accompanies this commitment - a puzzle that is both intellectual and personal. Intellectually, how does Professor Fiss sidestep the assaults of skepticism, relativism, post-modernism - and not only the ideological isms of our secular world which have cast doubt over authoritative truth claims, but also the corroborating historical experience of the social disasters accompanying authoritarian truth claims? Personally - and I say this from extensive and repeated experience - the puzzle is to understand how Owen combines his attentiveness to others' needs and perspectives with the forcefulness of his moral vision, his clear and even adamant conviction about right conduct and belief. How can it be that he is such a good friend, sounding board and guide at the same time that he remains so resolute, so adamant, in his rectitude? It is in this sense that I intend to explore the "truth about Owen" - how, that is, can he wrap the robes of Truth around himself without succumbing to moralizing authoritarianism?

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