How Do You Trim the Seamless Web? Considering the Unintended Consequences of Pedagogical Alterations
Ryan Patrick Alford
University of Victoria Faculty of Law; Ave Maria School of Law
University of Cincinnati Law Review, Forthcoming
The Socratic method is considered obsolete and unhelpful by many legal educators. Catalyzed by the latest report of the Carnegie Foundation on legal education, educational reformers are pushing for the reduction or elimination of its use. This paper presents a historical perspective on the importance of the Socratic method to the development of law and to its continuity across time. It highlights the importance of the method in imparting Aristotelian epistemology and scholastic modes of reasoning that are increasingly rare in society at large, but which are critical to the structure and spirit of the law. Accordingly, it is argued that it is impossible to predict with confidence that the demise of the Socratic method would not destroy our hermeneutic bridge to the era in which foundational concepts of law were elaborated, or even destroy our ability to understand them. This perspective should give us pause when we consider making changes to a tradition with a value that we do not always appreciate.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: legal education, Socratic method, case method, scholasticism, Aristotle, Petrus Ramus, Peter Abelard, Jerome Frank, Christopher Columbus Langdell, realism, critical legal studies
JEL Classification: K00, K40Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: September 18, 2008 ; Last revised: December 11, 2012
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