Theory without practice is empty; Practice without theory is blind: The inherent inseparability of doctrine and skills

In Linda H. Edwards (ed.), The Doctrine Skills Divide: Legal Education's Self-Inflicted Wound. Durham, NC, USA: pp. 77-90 (2017)
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This article maintains that the so-called theory-practice divide in legal education is not only factually false but semantically impossible. As to the divide's falsity, practitioners have of course performed excellent scholarship and academics have excelled in practice. As to the divide's semantic impossibility, this article examines, among other things: (1) the essential role of experience in meaning, (2) the resulting inseparability of theory and practice in the world of experience, (3) problems the divide shares in common with debunked Cartesian dualism, and (4) modern cognitive psychology’s notions of embodied meaning which further underscore the semantic impossibility of separating theory from practice in the world of experience. Using insights from such examinations, this article also explores implications of a debunked theory-practice divide for, among other things, law school curriculums and law school faculty hiring standards. Keywords: legal education, legal writing, semantics, theory, practice, experience, Charles Sanders Peirce, embodied meaning, cognitive psychology, Cartesian dualism, affordance knowledge, metaphor, George Lakoff, category, humanities, Langdell, pragmatism, semiotics, philosophy

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Harold Anthony Lloyd
Wake Forest University


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