Document Type


Publication Date



Contemporary discussions about the need to reform legal education, culminating in the 2007 Carnegie Report, should be put into a broader historical, philosophical and ethical perspective. Three hundred years ago the Italian humanist, Giambattista Vico delivered his famous oration, "On the Study Methods of Our Time," in which he lamented the rise of Cartesian critical philosophy at the expense of the cultivation of imagination, prudence and eloquence. Vico discussed law and legal education as his primary example, and his oration therefore provides an incredible resource for our contemporary deliberations.

Part One considers the literature addressing the demise of legal professionalism in terms of both theory and practice, with particular attention to work by Karl Llewellyn, Anthony Kronman, and the Carnegie Report. Part Two describes Vico's celebration of the "ingenuous method" of arguing from commonplaces, and shows how he linked this approach to education to law. Part Three considers the import of Vico's work for today's discussions and contends that legal education must seek to cultivate rhetorical knowledge, and that legal professionalism is largely shaped by rhetorical knowledge.

The final version of this article will appear in a Symposium of the Chicago-Kent Law Review entitled, "Recalling Vico's Lament: The Role of Prudence and Rhetoric in Law and Legal Education."

Publication Citation

83 Chi-Kent L. Rev. 1261 (2008)