Dicey and the Brick Maker: An Unresolved Tension Between the Rational and the Reasonable in Common Law Pedagogy

Abstract

In his inaugural address as the Vinerian Professor of English law in 1883, Albert Venn Dicey laid down the vision for a new pedagogy for the common law to replace the ‘unaccountable’ arrangement of apprenticeship that had hitherto served the common law. The latter, he likened to ‘brick making’. At the heart of Dicey’s vision was the idea that the common law be cognized as a system of rules and exceptions—in contrast to the classical common lawyers’ self-understanding which took it to be a practice of reasoning—which could then, like other sciences, be expounded and taught by the newly emerging professoriate. Dicey pitched this as supplementing the ‘brick maker’ with a knowledge of the science underlying his craft. This article argues that Dicey’s rationalist pedagogical vision, however, fundamentally altered the very nature of the common lawyers’ enterprise since it was based on a philosophical model opposed to the one the common lawyers’ traditional self-understanding presupposed. On the rationalist model (which Dicey presupposes), the common law is seen as being comprised of standards—with precedents being seen as rules—which it is the task of legal reasoning to bring to bear upon the case. On the reasonableness model—which is how David Hume, along with the common lawyer, understood the common law—the task of legal reasoning is to have a motivational traction on the community and precedents are rhetorical counters that serve to persuade the interlocutor.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Dicey (1883).

  2. 2.

    ibid at 18–19.

  3. 3.

    ibid at 20–21.

  4. 4.

    ibid at 21.

  5. 5.

    ibid at 24–27.

  6. 6.

    ibid at 21.

  7. 7.

    ibid at 22, 26.

  8. 8.

    ibid at 23.

  9. 9.

    ibid at 22.

  10. 10.

    Lobban (1991: 9).

  11. 11.

    Dicey (1883: 22).

  12. 12.

    This was Brian Simpson’s famous expression: Simpson (1975: 278).

  13. 13.

    Simpson (1981: 632).

  14. 14.

    Dicey (1883: 2).

  15. 15.

    ibid at 3.

  16. 16.

    ibid at 9.

  17. 17.

    ibid at 3.

  18. 18.

    Ibid at 2; Additionally, it was also Dicey reckoned, a much more efficient system than reading in the chambers for years and picking up some knowledge contingently.

  19. 19.

    Dicey (1883: 8–11).

  20. 20.

    ibid at 6.

  21. 21.

    Simpson (1981).

  22. 22.

    Lobban (1991: 16).

  23. 23.

    Pound (1938: 160–162).

  24. 24.

    Brooks and Lobban (1999: 371).

  25. 25.

    Lobban (1991: 121).

  26. 26.

    Simpson (1973: 88).

  27. 27.

    Lobban (1991: 121) (quoting Bentham).

  28. 28.

    Ibid at 121.

  29. 29.

    Ibid at 121.

  30. 30.

    Hoeflich (1986: 95).

  31. 31.

    Ibbetson (1999: 220–224).

  32. 32.

    Jones (1996: 9).

  33. 33.

    Berman (1983: 131).

  34. 34.

    Twining (1994: 24), Weber (1978: 785–788).

  35. 35.

    Select Committee(1846: x).

  36. 36.

    Polden (2010: 1175).

  37. 37.

    ibid at 1175.

  38. 38.

    ibid.

  39. 39.

    Brooks and Lobban (1999: 357) (quoting Stephen Denison).

  40. 40.

    Select Committee (1846: xi).

  41. 41.

    ibid at xxxix.

  42. 42.

    Abel-Smith and Stevens (1967: 25), Twining (1994: 24–25).

  43. 43.

    The benefactor of which was Sir George Downing who died in 1749 but the chair was only established much later in 1800 along with Downing college.

  44. 44.

    Simpson (1984: 114).

  45. 45.

    Polden (2010: 1176).

  46. 46.

    Select Committee (846: vii).

  47. 47.

    Brooks and Lobban (1999: 359).

  48. 48.

    ibid at 360.

  49. 49.

    Rumble (1996: 17).

  50. 50.

    Brooks and Lobban (1999: 367).

  51. 51.

    Select Committee (1846: lvii).

  52. 52.

    Ibid at xl.

  53. 53.

    Ibid at xlvii.

  54. 54.

    Ibid at xlviii.

  55. 55.

    Twining (1994). The lifting of the celibacy restriction on fellows and increase in salaries no doubt played a part: Duxbury (2004: 59).

  56. 56.

    Brooks and Lobban (1999: 376).

  57. 57.

    See Twining (1994: 25).

  58. 58.

    David (1986: 29–33).

  59. 59.

    Samuel (2013: 76); (quoting Peter Stein (1980: 123).

  60. 60.

    Hart (1994: 124–141).

  61. 61.

    Ibid at 137.

  62. 62.

    Brian Leiter takes American Legal Realists to be tacit legal positivists: Leiter (2007).

  63. 63.

    Brooks and Lobban (1999: 353).

  64. 64.

    ibid; Also see Birks (1986: v).

  65. 65.

    Oliver (1994: 77).

  66. 66.

    Brian Simpson argued that the idea of the common law as a system of rules—he called it the ‘school rules’ concept of law—is something that seems to have very wide academic support: Simpson (1973: 80–83).

  67. 67.

    Hume (1974: 5–6). The expressions ‘inform’ and ‘transform’ are borrowed from Pierre (2002: 87) (here ‘transform’ is used in the place of Hadot’s ‘form’ without any change in meaning).

  68. 68.

    Hume uses the term principles. But since the term has come to have a shade of meaning distinct from a rule in modern legal philosophy, one would be better off sticking to the neutral term ‘standard’.

  69. 69.

    Hume (1974: 5).

  70. 70.

    Jonsen and Toulmin (1988).

  71. 71.

    ibid at 6–8.

  72. 72.

    Hoeflich (1986).

  73. 73.

    Simpson (1973: 87).

  74. 74.

    Understandably Carlin Romano titles a chapter on Iocrates as ‘a man, not a typo’: Romano (2012: 535–561).

  75. 75.

    Isocrates (1929: 333).

  76. 76.

    ibid 343; For a discussion on the centrality of rhetoric for Isocrates, see: Scallen (2004: 195–204).

  77. 77.

    Frost (2005: 1–22).

  78. 78.

    Ibid; Buckland and McNair (1952: 19).

  79. 79.

    Hume (1978: 415).

  80. 80.

    See Smith (1994: 6–9).

  81. 81.

    For a Humean account of non-cognitivism see: Blackburn (1984).

  82. 82.

    Stevenson (1944).

  83. 83.

    Swaminathan (2016a: 231), Swaminathan (2017a: 27).

  84. 84.

    Hume Treatise (1978: 581–582).

  85. 85.

    Bitzer (1969: 153).

  86. 86.

    Hayek (1963: 691).

  87. 87.

    Hume (1974: 308).

  88. 88.

    Hutchinson (2000: 1015).

  89. 89.

    Mootz (2013: 311).

  90. 90.

    Postema (1982: 31).

  91. 91.

    Boyer (1997: 3).

  92. 92.

    S. Swaminathan, ‘What the Centipede Knows: Polycentricity and Theory for Common Lawyers’ (Unpublished MS. On file with the author).

  93. 93.

    Hare (1952: 145).

  94. 94.

    Hume, Enquiries (1974: 290).

  95. 95.

    Williams (1985: 140–142).

  96. 96.

    Dicey (1883: 13).

  97. 97.

    Cavell (1968: 349).

  98. 98.

    Kraut (2017).

  99. 99.

    Kuhn (1970: 190–192); Also see Swaminathan (n. 92) supra.

  100. 100.

    Ibbetson (1999: 220–244).

  101. 101.

    Swain (2015: 276); also Swaminathan (2017b: 141).

  102. 102.

    Swaminathan (2019: 46); The term Grundnorm is Simpson’s supra (1975: 247).

  103. 103.

    Atiyah (1987: 49).

  104. 104.

    Legrand (2002: 21–33), Peter (1986: 301).

  105. 105.

    Swain (2015: 276).

  106. 106.

    The discussion on privity here is based on: Swaminathan (2016b: 160).

  107. 107.

    This discussion on consideration is based on Swaminathan (2017b: 101).

  108. 108.

    Stone (1985: 56–59), Stein (1986: 303).

  109. 109.

    Lamond (2005: 1).

  110. 110.

    House of Commons Hansard (1871: Col 241).

  111. 111.

    The idea non-conceptual or expert coping is captured admirably by Hubert Dreyfus who develops and refines the work of Martin Heidegger: Dreyfus (2014).

  112. 112.

    This borrows from Hubert Dreyfus.

  113. 113.

    Postema attributes the malleability of the common law decision to each successive judge’s quest for ‘reasonableness’: Postema (1982: 10–11). Here it is argued that the quest is for what is likely to be acceptable to the community.

  114. 114.

    J. Annas (1995: 2).

  115. 115.

    Hadot (1995).

  116. 116.

    Hadot (2002: 247).

  117. 117.

    Berman (1983: 135).

  118. 118.

    Buckland and McNair (1952: xvi).

  119. 119.

    Berman (1983: 129).

  120. 120.

    Peter (1966: 68–70, 101–108), Berman (1983: 140).

  121. 121.

    Berman (1983: 138).

  122. 122.

    ibid at 139.

  123. 123.

    ibid at 137.

  124. 124.

    ibid at 137.

  125. 125.

    Stein (1966: 105).

  126. 126.

    Lawson (1968: 30).

  127. 127.

    For an argument that the obsession with detecting rationes of cases is a relatively new one: see Simpson (1973).

  128. 128.

    It is perhaps as Rupert Cross and Jim Harris put it, ‘impossible to devise formulae for determining the ratio decidendi of a case’: Cross and Harris (1991: 72); for an overview of the debate see ibid at 52–72.

  129. 129.

    For a criticism of such theories see Postema (2014: 69).

  130. 130.

    Wedberg (1982: 32).

  131. 131.

    Kuhn (1970: 190–192).

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Swaminathan, S. Dicey and the Brick Maker: An Unresolved Tension Between the Rational and the Reasonable in Common Law Pedagogy. Liverpool Law Rev 40, 203–226 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10991-019-09228-w

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Keywords

  • Dicey
  • Common law
  • Pedagogy
  • Science
  • Apprenticeship