The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument

The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument

The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument

The Idea of Justice and the Problem of Argument

Excerpt

Some of whose important work is now made accessible to English readers in this volume, is a master of two disciplines: philosophy and law. It is therefore altogether natural that many of his writings should be concerned with the concept of justice and with forms of discursive argument other than deductive reasoning. For both these are subjects of philosophical inquiry which have an intimate connection with law. Not only do we talk of justice according to law and of the justice or injustice of laws; but even when we make use of these terms, as distinct from other moral epithets, in the criticism of conduct or arrangements which have nothing to do with the law we do so usually when we are concerned with the way in which competing claims of different persons have been or should be met, and questions arise very like those which the lawyer is accustomed to answer. The connection between law and the study of argument-- rhetoric in the old non-pejorative sense of that word--is no less clear. Legal reasoning characteristically depends on precedent and analogy, and makes an appeal less to universal logical principles than to certain basic assumptions peculiar to the lawyer; it therefore offers the clearest and perhaps most instructive example of modes of persuasion which are rational and yet not in the logical sense conclusive. The reader should, however, be warned that though he will find in this volume all M. Perelman's most important writings on justice, he must turn for the full statement of his theory of argument to the two-volume Traité de l' Argumentation, which he published jointly with Mme L. Olbrechts-Tyteca in 1958. That work has for its sub-title 'La nouvelle rhétorique', and the author's principal concern was to redirect philosophical attention to the problems investigated in antiquity under the title of rhetoric. This was not a study of matters of mere style or literary form, but of the varied techniques of argument which made appeal to those 'proofs' which Aristotle characterised as dialectical in contrast to the analytic proofs of formal logic.

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