Thursday, October 05, 2006

Epstein on Intellectual Breadth

As a person with broad interests (short attention span), I enjoyed this passage from the prominent legal scholar Richard Epstein:

I have gone through much my entire academic career by trying to answer one question: just what do you specialize in, Professor Epstein? And my invariable answer to that question is “nothing, really.”

In fact, when I was very young and teaching at USC, my then new colleague, the late Gary Bellow asked, “What will you teach next year?” And I said, “Whatever I'm asked to do,” to which Bellow replied, "No utility infielder has ever made it into the hall of fame, and so you've got to figure out what it is that you want to specialize in."

It occurred to me that he was probably right, but nonetheless I decided to disregard the advice and to continue on my errant ways. And that intellectual mindset, in fact, has led to the simple truth that I'm an outsider to every intellectual field in which I participate.