Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1998

Abstract

Style and substance cross-are genetically related as we now might want to say. Each draws on and is implied by the other. One point at which they cross is our sense of the nature of human language, what language is and can be, what it is not and can never be. The language of law is part of human language. Law is a distinctive form of thought, but it lives in human language. "Rule" might be thought synonymous with "law," but for all its talk of rules, the practice of law does not begin with a descriptive statement, or a definition, or a rule, for debate about "its" meaning or "its" truth or correctness, and for use as a building block in moving to another statement, definition, or rule whose meaning or truth depends upon having done with the first, fixed and placed it. Words do not float free in that way. In law they are not detachable from a responsible decisionmaker facing action or the withholding of action, and they do not have a meaning of their own, a meaning apart, "literal" as opposed to "metaphorical." · Law thus ultimately turns away from accepted forms of academic discourse-away from proposition isolated and stated first, its establishment as truth and its linkage to other propositions by bonds of incontestable logic. Observation of this difference, or reflection on it, would hardly startle a lawyer whose first introduction to law is almost always being handed a case to read. The case in law is a story. The case is also the particular and the concrete, in constant tension with the statistical and the generalizing in those various and highly developed modes of thought that cannot admit the importance of what is only an individual instance. And the case is a merging of something said and something done, in which what is done is evidence of the meaning of what is said, and what is said does not direct what is done before it is done but is said with the doing of it.


Share

COinS