As his many appreciative readers know, James Boyd White brought his learning to bear on the relation between ethical living and ethical speaking, and particularly as it pertains to how we live and speak in law. His prodigious writing, teaching, and speaking career, as far as I can tell, was motivated by a singular, passionate belief: that the human capacity for language can and should serve as a bridge from mind to mind and spirit to spirit, so that we might cohabit the earth not only peaceably, but with the pleasures and grace of each other’s company. Language, White taught, can both facilitate friendship across the space that divides us as individuals, and create a just and lively cooperation across the oceans that divide our nations, our beliefs, and our communal codes for living. Ethical speech in law, White argued across the span of four decades, can address injustice, forge bonds of shared struggle, unearth a shared human essence across difference, ease suffering, create a human community, and articulate both our promises to each other and our hopes that we can live up to them.
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