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In this essay I talk about a wide range of themes in the hope of establishing a connection among them: writing (including the teaching of writing) and what is at stake, for the writer and the rest of the world, in doing it well or badly; certain forces in our culture-hard to define and understandthat tend to reduce or trivialize human experience, indeed the very value of the human being; the conception of the human being, not trivial at all, that underlies our practices of self-government in general and constitutional democracy in particular; and the idea of justice at work, or potentially at work, in our legal system and its realization-or nonrealization-in the opinions of our courts, especially those opinions of the Supreme Court that elaborate the law of the First Amendment (which of course deals with both speech and writing). I think that these issues, or most of them, are present in every act of speech or writing, every'engagement with language. As I hope to show, in each such instance it is a crucial question whether, and in what sense, the speaker or writer can be seen to mean what he is saying.


From Law in the Liberal Arts, edited by Austin Sarat. Copyright © 2004 by Cornell University. Included by permission of the publisher, Cornell University Press. No use of this material is allowed with prior, written permission from the publisher.