Document Type



Apologia for Jurisprudence, 44 Yale Law Journal 729 (1935)


While it is important to remember that "law" consists of a large number of mutually contradictory symbols and ideals, it is equally important to realize that it requires for its acceptance a unified philosophy, which we will refer to as the "science of the law" or jurisprudence. An official admission by a judicial institution that it was moving in all directions at once in order to satisfy the conflicting emotional values of the people which it served would be unthinkable. It would have the same effect as if an actor interrupted the most moving scene of a play in order to explain to the audience that his real name was John Jones. The success of the play requires that an idea be made real to the audience. The success of the law as a unifying force depends on making emotionally significant the ideal of a government of law which is rational and scientific. Of course if we look at the moving, tumbling stream of events, evaluating the effects of the complex of habits, fears, hopes, social and economic pressures, we discover that "law" is not what it pretends to be. Yet if law did not pretend to be what it is not, it would lose its magic and effectiveness. This is a paradox only to those who refuse to think of the essentially dramatic character which every great public institution must develop. Functionally the primary purpose of the science of the law is to be a sounding board of both the prevalent hopes and the prevalent worries of those who believe in a government of law and not of men, to reconcile these hopes and worries somewhere in the mists of scholarship and learning, and never to admit that this is what it is doing.

Date of Authorship for this Version


Included in

Law Commons