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Rethinking Legal Reasoning

Geoffrey Samuel

‘Rethinking’ legal reasoning seems a bold aim given the large amount of literature devoted to this topic. In this thought-provoking book, Geoffrey Samuel proposes a different way of approaching legal reasoning by examining the topic through the context of legal knowledge (epistemology). What is it to have knowledge of legal reasoning?
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Chapter 7: Is legal reasoning like medical reasoning?

Geoffrey Samuel


This is the first of two chapters in which legal reasoning is compared with, or to, reasoning in other disciplines. Stimulated by the publication some years ago in France of a small book on medical reasoning, legal and medical reasoning are compared. The question that is asked is whether the differences between the two types of reasoning will permit one to have a better understanding of some of the methodological and epistemological issues associated with legal reasoning. The chapter argues that although medical and legal reasoners do share things in common, legal reasoning, perhaps unlike medical reasoning, is actually concerned less with the explanation or even comprehension of texts or the facts of a dispute and more with what will be termed the ‘manipulation’ of facts (accommodatio factorum). Following on from a discussion in the previous chapter (Chapter 6), it is argued that lawyers purify and (or) construct ‘virtual’ factual situations out of perceived ‘actual’ factual situations in order to make them conform or not conform in an isomorphic way with factual situations implied by a legal text or precedent. Medical reasoning is equally complex but facts are read in a different way.

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