4-30-87 Thursday. What a great feeling! I’m done with my major written [preliminary] exam [on philosophy of law] and there’s no doubt that I passed it. Now I’ve got an entire week to prepare for the minor written exam [on rights], after which I have four days to prepare and psyche myself up for the oral exam. As I calculate it, the work is more than a third done. Here’s how today’s exam went. I left the apartment at 7:30 A.M. with my [Kaypro II] computer, [C.Itoh] printer, and a briefcase full of disks and cords. When the office opened at eight o’clock, I set the computer up in the commons room. Everything went smoothly, much to my relief. I remembered where the cords went, nothing was damaged, and the computer worked fine when I turned it on. At one point Jody [Kraus] came by to cheer me up. After buying a large cup of coffee, I picked up the first set of questions and went to work. The choice was smaller than I had expected. I was asked to answer two questions from a list of three. Fortunately, there were two questions that I felt comfortable with, so I attacked them. I spent two solid hours discussing [John] Austin, [H. L. A.] Hart, [Lon] Fuller, and [Ronald] Dworkin, then formatted and printed the manuscript.

The exam was divided into two parts, so I took an hour off to eat lunch (potatoes, eggs, toast, and coffee) and scan Jules Coleman’s article on tort law. By this time I knew that jurisprudence was behind me, so I shifted gears mentally and thought about some of the substantive areas. What would it be, I wondered: criminal law, tort law, contract law, free speech, property? But there was no sense in speculating; I would find out shortly enough. And that I did. By noon I was back at it in the commons room, and once again I was lucky. There were short questions on Charles Fried’s Contract as Promise [1981] and [Guido] Calabresi and [A. Douglas] Melamed’s famous article on property and tort law. The third question, which I ignored, was on criminal attempts. So I spent two hours developing and criticizing Fried, Calabresi, and Melamed, turning in the completed manuscript at two o’clock. It was, all told, twenty-two [double-spaced] pages long. Believe me, there could not be a better feeling than that I felt right then. I knew that I had done well and that the biggest chunk of work was behind me. I’ve been walking on a cloud all day.

Lois Day made copies of my answers for the committee members [Holly Smith, Joel Feinberg, and Ron Milo], so I have the originals here in the apartment with me. I answered four one-hour questions: one on Austin’s command theory of law, together with Hart’s criticisms of it; one on hard cases, with emphasis on Hart, Fuller, and Dworkin; one on Fried’s theory of contracts; and one on Calabresi and Melamed. The questions that I didn’t answer were on free speech ([T. M.] Scanlon and [Allen] Buchanan) and criminal attempts. Actually, I was surprised to have so little choice. Jeff Hershfield, who took his major written exam a week or so ago, was permitted to choose four questions from a list of twelve. Twelve! In effect, I was permitted to choose four questions from a list of six. But it worked out. Had I been unable to answer a question satisfactorily, I’d be angry and disappointed. But I was amply prepared for the four that I answered. I had outlined all of the relevant works and given them a great deal of thought. What more can I ask?

I had a couple of interesting chats with Alvin Goldman this morning. During my lunch break, I ran into him on the way to the Student Union Building. I told him that I was in the middle of my preliminary exam and that it was going well. He remarked that he was pleased to see so many students working their way through the Ph.D. program. Right now (that is, this month), at least five students are taking preliminary exams: David Schmidtz, Jeff Hershfield, Francis Sheehan, Jay Halcomb, and me. As graduate advisor, Alvin likes to see such progress. Later, I ran into him again in the bathroom. I asked him about his own preliminary exams at Princeton [University] and what he told me was astounding. He said that he had had no reading list. He was simply responsible for everything. Can you imagine that? If nothing else, I have the security of knowing that any questions I’m asked will come from books that I’ve read and thought about. I like Alvin. He’s always quick with a smile and a greeting.