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Comparative law presents high order ontological, causal, and epistemological difficulties. Those difficulties come to a head in the design of comparative methods. Indeed, the spatial, temporal and cultural range of the legal phenomenon in all its elements – such as types of legal thinking and discourse, constitutional essentials, infraconstitutional institutions or the meaning-orientation and attitudes of legal agents – often strain the methods of comparative law to a point of rupture.

William P. Alford makes enduring contributions to comparative methods. In particular, this essay focuses on lessons contained in his early work about the limits and possibilities of theoretical approaches to comparative law, and to him it is my privilege to dedicate it.