Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is Law a Serious Discipline? And Who Are You Calling an Ignoramus?

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

I'm sitting in the University of Michigan Law Library (by courtesy!) reading a delightful and irreverent essay on Anglo-American common law as a discipline by Peter Goodrich at Cardozo.  Here's the abstract of Intellection and Indiscipline (Journal of Law & Society):

A discipline will usually become the object of study and its relationship to other disciplines a moment of concern when its borders are precarious and its definition in dispute. Law, ‘the oldest social science’, is arguably both prior to discipline — it emerges initially and most forcefully as a practice — and without discipline, its object being potentially all human behaviour. If law is necessarily between and among disciplines, both prone to moonlighting and everywhere homeless, it will also always be in some mode of scholarly crisis. Certain conclusions follow. Law is paradoxically dependent upon other disciplines for its access to the domains that it regulates. The greater its epistemic dependency, however, the slighter its political acknowledgment of that subordination. Which allows a positive thesis: the epistemic drift of law can carry the discipline to a frank acknowledgment of the value of indiscipline both to novelty and intellection.
And here's a jewel of arcane knowledge (not the most serious point of the essay):  As Professor Goodrich notes, "The Prince or principal reformer resorted to by the scholars and humanists amongst the common lawyers was Petrus Ramus, the neo-scholastic French exponent of dialectical method as the means to schematize and so systematize any discipline whatsoever. It was Ramist logic that inspired the reform of legal method from Fraunce to Finch."  The word "ignoramus" comes from the eponymous protagonist of a satirical play by George Ruggles in 1615, Ignoramus being a pathetic English lawyer who is ignorant of Ramus.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2009/11/is-law-a-serious-discipline-and-who-are-you-calling-an-ignoramus.html

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Comments

"The word 'ignoramus' comes from the eponymous protagonist of a satirical play by George Ruggles in 1615, Ignoramus being a pathetic English lawyer who is ignorant of Ramus."

There's a lot of irony packed into that little comment. "Ignoratisne hoc verbum in linguam originalem?" one might ask. The answer, presumably, could only be "Ignoramus."

Posted by: Martin Whittaker | Nov 19, 2009 9:41:23 AM

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