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Current Issue : Fall 2009

BRIAN LEE

Philosophy Scholar

Brian Lee joined Brooklyn Law School as an Assistant Professor teaching International Law and Property following a year-long clerkship with Judge Ralph K. Winter of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

He is a graduate of Yale Law School and holds two degrees in philosophy: a Masters from the University of California, Los Angeles; and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. His undergraduate degree is from the University of California, Berkeley in Classical Civilizations. He is the recipient of multiple honors and awards, including the Nathan Burkan Prize at Yale for the best paper in copyright law, selection as a Ramsey Fellow at Princeton, the Wooden Fellowship at UCLA, and highest distinction in general scholarship as an undergraduate at Berkeley. During law school, he was a book reviews and features editor for the Yale Law Journal.

Lee’s research interests include property, intellectual property, and international law. He recently published “Preventive War, Deterrent Retaliation, and Retrospective Disproportionality,” which grew out of questions arising from the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Published in the Brigham Young University Law Review, the article examines the intrinsic moral and strategic logic of preventive war strategies and deterrence strategies in international affairs. “There’s been a great deal of debate in the wake of 9/11 about the legal and moral permissibility of preventive war. That debate occurs on a background assumption that deterrence strategies are legally straightforward and relatively unproblematic,” he explained. “What this paper does is call that into question. I argue that deterrence and preventive war have more in common than is typically noticed and that the issue is more complex than previously recognized.”

Lee’s current research project explores the analytical underpinnings of statutes granting moral rights to artists in the United States. He argues that there is a moral duty of respect that is driving these statutes. Another work in progress relates to government compensation for the emergency destruction of private property.

While he is no longer formally involved in the study of philosophy, Lee explained that a background in philosophy has motivated him to analyze the role of morality in shaping the law. “Part of what I find interesting about the law is exploring areas where there is a moral component taking place, and trying to bring it to the front so we can see what the implicit moral principles are in a body or system of beliefs. Philosophy helps open up new possibilities for analysis. It shows us that there are dimensions of problems that may have been overlooked, which in turn can shape debates about whether a law is a good idea or not.”

His philosophy schooling has also influenced his teaching. He said that he tries to get his students to search for what is controversial or unknown in the law. “If you open a commercial outline you might get a comforting sense that the law is straight-forward, and that if you learn the outline, you know the law. But in the real world, law is not straight-forward. I want my students to reach for the point where things are unclear, where positions are controversial. Even if it’s less satisfying, it’s more accurate, and in the long term, more interesting and exciting.”

Brian Lee Professor Brian Lee "Philosophy helps open up new possibilities for analysis. It shows us that there are dimensions of problems that may have been overlooked, which in turn can shape debates about whether a law is a good idea or not."