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A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life, and Mind

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226902227
ISBN-10: 0226902226
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Editorial Reviews


NY Law Journal
Winter demonstrates with his new tools what his intellectual forbearers, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Karl Llewellyn, merely suggested: regularity in law derives more from the imaginative processes than from rationalistic logic or rules.

From the Inside Flap

Cognitive science is transforming our understanding of the mind. New discoveries are changing how we comprehend not just language, but thought itself. Yet, surprisingly little of the new learning has penetrated discussions and analysis of the most important social institution affecting our lives—the law.

Drawing on work in philosophy, psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and literary theory, Steven L. Winter has created nothing less than a tour de force of interdisciplinary analysis. A Clearing in the Forest rests on the simple notion that the better we understand the workings of the mind, the better we will understand all its products—especially law. Legal studies today focus on analytic skills and grand normative theories. But, to understand how real-world, legal actors reason and decide, we need a different set of tools. Cognitive science provides those tools, opening a window on the imaginative, yet orderly mental processes that animate thinking and decision making among lawyers, judges, and lay persons alike. Recent findings about how humans actually categorize and reason make it possible to explain legal reasoning in new, more cogent, more productive ways.

A Clearing in the Forest is a compelling meditation on both how the law works and what it all means. In uncovering the irrepressibly imaginative, creative quality of human reason, Winter shows how what we are learning about the mind changes not only our understanding of law, but ultimately of ourselves. He charts a unique course to understanding the world we inhabit, showing us the way to the clearing in the forest.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226902226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226902227
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,544,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven L. Winter is the Walter S. Gibbs Professor of Constitutional Law at Wayne State University Law School. He has taught at the Brooklyn, University of Miami, American, Cardozo, Rutgers-Newark, and Yale Law Schools. He is the author of numerous articles on constitutional law and legal theory, including The Metaphor of Standing and the Problem of Self-Governance; Bull Durham and the Uses of Theory; An Upside/Down View of the Countermajoritarian Difficulty, The "Power" Thing; Melville, Slavery, and the Failure of the Judicial Process; What Makes Modernity Late?; and, most recently, Reimagining Democracy for Social Individuals.

From 1978 to 1986, he served as an Assistant Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., where he worked on more than a dozen Supreme Court cases including brief and argument in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), the landmark case holding the common law fleeing felon rule unconstitutional.

He has served as a consultant for the Helsinki Watch Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2001, he filed a brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of Intellectual Property Creators and the Society of Amateur Scientists as amici curiae in Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co., Ltd., 532 U.S. 722 (2002), using developments in cognitive linguistics to argue successfully against reliance on the use of literal language in patent law.

In June of 2012, the Dutch journal Rechtsfilosofie & Rechtstheorie will be dedicating a special issue to his work.

Professor Winter is currently working on a book about consumerism and democracy

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Iveta Kazoka on April 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 2005 I stumbled across this book on Amazon almost by accident. I was writing a thesis on new directions for legal philosophy/theory and the phrase "cognitive legal studies" caught my attention. "A Clearing in the Forest" changed my thinking about law forever! Having read this book several times, I now am much more aware about the beyond-surface level of legal decisionmaking. I think about court rulings and legislation in terms of categorization, image schemas, conceptual metaphors, prototype effects, radial categories, compositional structures. It is a more in-depth and true to life perspective than what is being tought in law schools - where you get a very simplistic explanation of legal decision making (where the judges alledgedly get the insight on what the law says from the texts; beyond the texts there are just personal attitudes or politics - that's obviously a quite primitive outlook that doesn't even attempt to explore what really is going on in a person's mind when faced with a legal problem).

This book might be a bit complicated for those who are not willing to engage deeply in cognitive science and semantics (even though all the concepts are explained and there are many examples). In order to understand the importance of the subject in a more easy-going manner, I would advise to also look at Hames Geary's new book "I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How it Shapes the Way We See the World"
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Revolutionary for legal theory and legal philosophy. The book gives new possibilities of their development. The best application of cognitive sciences to law I ever met.
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A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life, and Mind
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