Greco-Roman Analysis of Metaphoric Reasoning
Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 2, 1996
22 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2014
Date Written: 1996
When lawyers want to emphasize or crystallize their analysis or arguments, they instinctively and unavoidably use figurative and metaphoric language. Their use of familiar metaphoric clichés — the law as a “seamless web,” cases with “progeny,” corporations with “veils,” and constitutional “penumbras” — reveals not only their recognition of the persuasive power of figurative language, but also their unspoken and, perhaps, unconscious reliance on subtle forms metaphoric reasoning. Recognizing this, Justice Cardozo warned that “metaphors in law are to be narrowly watched, for starting as devices to liberate thought, they end often by enslaving it.” His warning did not take into account the fact that metaphors in the law have been “narrowly watched” for over 2,000 years. Ancient rhetoricians like Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian meticulously analyzed the subtle, concise and intellectually attractive value of metaphors in legal argument, noting both their emotional impact and their logical appeal. Their insights into metaphors’ persuasive value in legal argument have increasingly drawn the attention of modern language theorists, cognitive psychologists and, lately, legal scholars.
Keywords: Greco-Roman rhetoric, metaphor, Aristotle, Quintilian, Cicero, figurative language, cognitive psychologists, intellectual value of metaphor, language theorists
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