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Conference Proceeding


What Is the Source of the Obligation of Public Service for the Professions?, 25 William Mitchell Law Review 103 (1999)


It is good to be back here in Minnesota. Before I give what I describe as my neo-Kierkegaardian view of the professions with a dash of post-modern theology thrown in, I want to say that this is a tremendously useful conference. It is useful for professionals, by which I mean people who work in self-governing professions, to meditate from time to time on what it is that makes professions special. However, my remarks are going to take this conference in a slightly different direction than some of the issues raised this morning, because I have something of a contrary view about the role of professions—both the source and nature of the public obligation of professions.

I would suggest that it is actually not helpful to try to figure out what professions have in common. On the contrary, to figure out what tlley have in common constitutes a kind of dangerous leveling of groups that in important ways we ought to keep radically separate. In fact, it is even in some ways a little bit dangerous to think in terms of the ways that professions fit neatly into American society. One of the reasons I call my remarks neo-Kierkegaardian, is that I am not persuaded that professions should try to fit into American society.

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