Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/184

This page needs to be proofread.


Science and the Law terminology; Mr. Bingham's "potential governmental sequences," for example, offer a wide range of possible interpre tation, and he is right in saying that the dictionary definitions of a word may not be accurate or exhaustive if used with respect to a group of ideas which have not been analyzed thoroughly. Not only, to repeat, is language elastic and absolute exactitude of exposition un attainable, but in every false proposi tion or doctrine lurk all sorts of hidden implications which have momentous possibilities. The illogical speculations of Plato or Hegel teem with surprises for anyone who would gauge accurately their error. We do not compare Mr. Bingham, who impresses us as a positivist of extreme type, with Hegel or Plato, and we suppose that Darwin's doctrine of evolution has been almost as often misstated as any metaphysical system. Thought, like feeling, is mobile and indefinite; the truth and error of a doctrine are not only actual but potential; to the creator of thought alone, not to the critic of thought, is the power granted to grasp its full pur port. We feel, therefore, that Mr. Bing ham's theory of governmental sequences might be developed and clarified by its author or some kindred spirit to meet obvious objections, if not with complete success with a degree of suc cess diminishing the range of error to be assigned to it. Of course a nice ap praisal of the possibilities of partial truth in such fields of uncertainty can not be attempted. Criticism is to be directed at the explicit rather than the implicit in Mr. Bingham's doctrine. It may be unable to measure accurately the extent of an error, yet may pursue a qualitative analysis which is a valid method of investigation. Mr. Bingham makes it clear that he admits the propriety of using the term

169

"law" with reference not to concrete social phenomena alone, but to mental generalizations as well. We did not overlook the several definitions of law given in his article. It is easy to see, however, which definition he favors, as best expressing the real nature of law. He prefers an objective definition. "Catachresis" was our word, not his; and if a writer conceives one sense of a word to be right, and other senses "fully established and proper" but inaccurate, then he is free to regard the use of the word in one of these other senses as a catachresis, which means simply the wresting of a word from its true signi fication. Mr. Bingham conceives the field of law in the same way as a physicist conceives the field of physical pheno mena. Through study of objective facts he would formulate principles the validity of which rests solely on empirical proof; he would obviously deduce laws of "law" analogous to laws of gravitation, and just as it would be a solecism to describe laws of gravitation as gravita tion, it would be unscientific to identify ideal principles of law with Mr. Bing ham's "law." As we have said before, this sense does violence to the plain and natural meaning of words. It is proper for an investigator to twist words from their ordinary meaning when anything but obscurity is to be gained by doing so, and when a satisfactory term, such as "legal material" in this instance, is not supplied by the vernacular. But it is not merely a twist of words, but a twist of ideas with which one is here concerned, and it may be remembered that the colloquy between Alice and Humpty Dumpty arose in a highly absurd context. When the materials of law are conceived as only legal forms are fit to be conceived, and a formula is made out to be merely something which the state does, there is more to