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An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (Phoenix Books) Revised Edition

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226474083
ISBN-10: 0226474089
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Edward H. Levi (1911-2000) was the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the College and the Law School of the University of Chicago.

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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Books
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Revised edition (February 15, 1962)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226474089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226474083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Chitown Reader VINE VOICE on December 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
In this book Levi gives an overview of the process of legal analysis and demonstrates how legal "rules" are made. The book consists of primarily 3 parts. In the first part Levi demonstrates the process of legal reasoning in case law situations by tracing the history and development of the "inherently dangerous" rule. The second part is an examination of statutory interpretation, specifically the Mann Act. Finally, is a section on constitutional interpretation. This book is not for pre-law students it will offer the most once the reader has already been introduced to the basics of the law and legal reasoning.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Levi's classic has been foisted on first year students at Stanford and elsewhere to nearly universal dispair. This slim volume is hard plowing for new students of the law. Now in my 15th year as a practitioner, and teaching criminal law, I find the lessons in it to be extraordinarily rewarding. But this is my third reading... Best section covers the natural history of a fascinating statute: The Mann Act. Buy this book and give it the time it deserves.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Jordan on April 20, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm entering law school this fall, so I thought I'd read through this book to give me a head start. Levi takes a look at the evolution of court decisions based on the common law, statutory law, and constitutional law. I found the first few pages of the book very helpful in understanding that legal reasoning is not strictly an exercise in either inductive or deductive logic, but is sort of a hybrid of both which at the same time reflects the general views of society and adapts to new societal values as society's mores change. I think this is the real value of this book, showing how the reasoning evolves as new cases arise. A new case might lead to the creation of a new legal rule to deal with it, and then this rule is used for years to deal with similar cases that arise. Then, as the number of cases increases, slight distinctions are made between them, resulting simultaneously in both an expansion and a fractioning of the legal rule, sort of like a tree branch. Then, when social values change or when the cases become so numerous and differentiated that they overwhelm the original legal rule, the legal rule is discarded altogether as a new interpretation takes its place. This book takes a look at several examples of this in U.S. legal history to illustrate this process of legal evolution. It's an excellent introduction to legal reasoning. However, I gave it only four stars because the reading tends to be rather dry at times, and I often found my mind wandering as I read it. Other than that, though, this is a good book.
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74 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
For those going into the legal profession, and for those curious about the logic of legal procedures, this book offers and excellent introduction. Its length will suit those readers who want a quick but accurate overview of this topic. It might also satisfy the needs of a reader in a field of endeavor somewhat removed from the legal profession, namely, that of artificial intelligence. Artificial and computational intelligence has been applied to the legal profession with the goal of creating automated legal reasoning machines. My interest in the book was somewhat different when I first read it years ago, but now has been reactivated from the standpoint of artificial intelligence.
The author describes his book as an attempt to give a general description of the process of legal reasoning in case law and in statutorial and constitutional interpretation. He emphasizes right at the beginning that the law should not be viewed as a known system of rules that are applied by a judge, that legal rules are never clear, and that a requirement for such clarity would make society impossible. Ambiguity in the rules he says, allows collective participation to resolve the ambiguity. Such a characterization of legal rules by Levi prohibits an axiomatic or formal approach to legal reasoning, and this will make the problem of creating automated legal reasoners much more difficult.
Interestingly, Levi quotes Aristotle in asserting that the pattern of legal reasoning consists of reasoning by example, and that it follows a three-step process: With the doctrine of precedent assumed throughout, a proposition describing a particular case is made into law and then this rule is applied to a situation that is similar to these. Thus: 1. The cases are shown to be similar. 2.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Phocion on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
While Levi clarifies much that's uncertain about legal interpretation, I don't recommend this book for those with no previous studies in law. If you must read it -- and there ARE rewards from doing so -- be sure to have a law dictionary at hand.

Besides using legal terms that aren't explained, Levi's prose is so dense as to be almost unreadable, but worse, it lacks anything resembling clarity. He often barges straight in to lengthy analyses of concepts without explaining the basic terms he uses or even why they're relevant; these must be induced from the text while reading. Since Levi is usually demonstrating through examples how concepts change over time, however, it's difficult to pin down what the concept means at any one point, before Levi has already jumped ahead to the next point without explaining either.

It's also highly recommended that you look up the cases Levi cites, since his quotations from judges rarely contain enough critical information to piece together the actual concept involved. Finding the original and just reading the parts that he replaced with ellipses add an infinite degree of clarity.
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