Document Type


Publication Date



In this paper I shall suggest that law is most usefully seen not, as it usually is by academics and philosophers, as a system of rules, but as a branch of rhetoric; and that the kind of rhetoric of which law is a species is most usefully seen not, as rhetoric usually is, either as a failed science or as the ignoble art of persuasion, but as the central art by which community and culture are established, maintained, and transformed. So regarded, rhetoric is continuous with law, and like it, has justice as its ultimate subject. I do not mean to say that these are the only ways to understand law or rhetoric. There is a place in the world for institutional and policy studies, for taxonomies of persuasive devices, and for analyses of statistical patterns and distributive effects. But I think that all these activities will themselves be performed and criticized more intelligently if it is recognized that they too are rhetorical. As for law and rhetoric themselves, I think that to see them in the way I suggest is to make sense of them in a more nearly complete way, especially from the point of view of the individual speaker, the individual hearer, and the individual judge.