For more than a century, lawyers have written about legal reasoning, and the flow of books and articles describing, analyzing, and reformulating the topic continues unabated. The volume and persistence of this "unrelenting discussion" (Simon, 1998, p. 4) suggests that there is no solid consensus about what legal reasoning is. Legal scholars have a tenacious intuition - or at least a strong hope - that legal reasoning is distinctive, that it is not the same as logic, or scientific reasoning, or ordinary decision making, and there have been dozens of attempts to describe what it is that sets it apart from these other forms of thinking. These attempts generate criticism, the critics devise new formulations that generate further criticism, and the process continues. In this chapter, I describe the primary forms of legal reasoning, the most important schools of thought about legal reasoning, and some of the major differences between legal reasoning and scientific reasoning.
Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Ellsworth, Phoebe C. "Legal Reasoning." In The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, edited by K. J. Holyoak and R. G. Morrison Jr., 685-704. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005.