Casuistry and Progeny: Understanding the Odd World of American Legal Reasoning

Issues/Topics Covered in this Chapter

  • Legal reasoning
  • The practice and problems of precedent
  • Progeny and Casuistry

Legal reasoning

The premises underlying the process of legal reasoning in the United States reflect deeper assumptions about the relationship between individuals and the community, about the possibilities of human understanding, and about the nature of reality itself. That is, assumptions that govern the realms of philosophy, religion, science, politics, literature, and other disciplines also shape our understanding of law and of legal reasoning. The American Constitution was written in the late eighteenth century at the height of the Enlightenment and thus reflects the assumptions underlying Enlightenment thought. Two centuries later, however, developments in every area of human endeavor have challenged, often successfully, these same assumptions. The result has been to cast grave doubt upon the theoretical underpinnings of legal reasoning. American lawyers, accordingly, have struggled continually to reconceptualize the law and the legal reasoning process in light of their changed understanding of the world. Legal reasoning today is thus a patchwork of ideas that have survived from earlier times combined with ideas borrowed from contemporary thought[1].

The practice and problems of precedent

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Progeny and Casuistry

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Review Questions

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  1. Vandevelde, K. (2021). Thinking Like A Lawyer, an Introduction to Legal Reasoning. MERLOT.


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