The Enchantment Of Reason

The Enchantment Of Reason

Book Pages: 176 Illustrations: Published: July 1998

Author: Pierre Schlag

Law, Theory and Philosophy

The Enchantment of Reason is a lively critique of American legal thought and the American legal system’s deification of reason. In an attempt to understand the current malaise of American law and the depressed condition of American intellectual life in general, Pierre Schlag diagnoses what he believes is an epidemic of pathological reliance on the principle of reason. Contending that legal thinkers continually fail to recognize the aesthetic and ethical prejudices of rationalism, Schlag creates a genealogy that shows how the call to reason has become a manipulative vehicle of power, faith, and prejudice.
In examining the fierce resistance to questioning reason’s primacy, this renowned critic and professor of American law demonstrates how those who use and study the law perpetuate their own methodological blind spots. Claiming that reason has been endowed with a virtually mystical power to organize social life, Schlag unravels the seemingly rational world of judicial opinions, statutes, doctrines, and legal principles. In the process, he paints a shocking—and sure to be controversial—picture of the chaos and, indeed, violence of the American legal tradition.
This bold commentary on the irrationality of reason in American law and legal studies will interest not only legal scholars and philosophers but also serious thinkers across a broad disciplinary spectrum.


“[A] brilliant and densely argued exploration. . .” — Richard Michael Fischl , Books-on-Law

“This book essentially represents a landmark in critical legal theory. . . . This diatribe against the deification of reason is well-written and well-argued. . . . It is an important book which will be useful and interesting to both students and the practitioners of law.” — Crime, Law and Social Change

"This book critiques the American legal system’s reliance on reason. Schlag maintains that the rationale of legal reason has become a manipulative vehicle of power, faith, and prejudice. He illustrates the aesthetic and ethical prejudices of rationalism, arguing that those who use and study law perpetuate their own methodological blind spots. He concludes with a discussion of how legal thinkers and actors reconcile incompatible demands for reason and law." — , Law and Social Inquiry

“Pierre Schlag is one of the most exciting and interesting legal theorists now writing and this book shows all of his considerable virtues.” — James Boyle, Washington College of Law, American University

“This is an important contribution to the genre of jurisprudential reflection. It considers some of the most difficult and sophisticated issues on the current intellectual scene and, unlike much ‘postmodern’ scholarly production, it is clear, well-argued, and often brilliantly written.” — Gary Peller, Georgetown University Law Center


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Pierre Schlag is Byron White Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Colorado School of Law. He is a coauthor of Against the Law, also published by Duke University Press.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2214-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2185-9
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