Logic And Language In Thomas Holmes's Declaration Of Language

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These passages — in easily understood words — are the essence of Holmes’s great innovation. While apparently simple, they reach for wider meaning. Given the limits of thought that existed, what Holmes did with the material could not possibly have been anticipated. He was operating with a new idea, and a new idea is a light that illuminates things before the light fell on them. Most new discoveries are suddenly seeing things that were always there hiding in plain sight. The Common Law was a frontal assault on the governing legal philosophy of the time. It was modern law’s declaration of independence. “Here is the text,” wrote Cardozo years later, “to be unfolded. All that is to come will be development and commentary.” Indeed, Professor…show more content…
Of the thirteen words in the sentence, all but two are small common words of one syllable. And the two words that have more than one syllable are distinguished that way for a reason. Those two words — “logic” and “experience” — are set off for purposes of special emphasis. Both of them are simple yet absolutely key to the sense of the passage. Their increased number of syllables draws attention to them for greater effect. None of the words is jargon. Anyone can read the sentence and understand it. The effect grows with cadence and rhythm. We can see these qualities by breaking down the sentence: The life/ of the law/ has not been logic/ it has been experience. The four phrases in the sentence progressively increase in number of syllables and all end with a stressed final word. They artfully build up to the last crucial word. The passage also makes skillful use of antithesis. It sets “logic” and “experience” in contrast with each other. The juxtaposition of “logic” and “experience” alerts us to the contours of Holmes’s daring thesis. Holmes’s use of opposition highlights, in a lasting way, the essential point he is trying to

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