The Substance of Poetic Procedure: Law & Humanity in the Work of Lawrence Joseph
Posted: 5 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 4, 2021
There are elective affinities between poetic expression and legal thought. Well-turned verse can do something more than delight the ear or express emotions. It can also depict social reality in a particularly compelling, value-laden way. Similarly, the lawyer is not simply a technical expert on the drafting or application of rules. Long experience at such work should give a sense of the ultimate function, purpose, and meaning of such rules. Each realization suggests a more ambitious role for the humanities (including law) in social understanding. The quintessential lawyer-poet is not only on a Stevens-ian quest for “ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.” He or she may also discern the substance behind the forms of social reality: to give us a sense of deep structures in human action via particularly evocative accounts of critical events. That thick description of reality can disclose as much or more truth than any quantitative model. The humanities provide a mode of understanding that offers insights irreducible to algorithms, metrics, or even propositions.
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