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Copyright 1987 Virginia Law Review Association.

Virginia Law Review

ARTICLE: THE GERMAN FREE LAW MOVEMENT AS THE SOURCE OF AMERICAN LEGAL REALISM.

MARCH, 1987

73 Va. L. Rev. 399

Author

James E. Herget * and Stephen Wallace **

Excerpt

IN jurisprudence as in other academic disciplines we sometimes tend to view great ideas as the product of ingenious individual minds. The more remote in time, the greater the scholar's accomplishment seems to be. It appears to be almost in bad taste, if not blasphemous, to charge a Thomas Aquinas, a John Austin, or a Friedrich Carl von Savigny with borrowing ideas from others. But our own experience suggests that the truth is otherwise. Ideas are in the air. They are shared by members of the scholarly community. True, many scholars add something by advancing an argument, making a connection, presenting a novel perspective; but the differences in creative contributions are usually small, a matter of degree, and difficult to measure. Those who stand out may have achieved some of that stature from the retrospective assessments of historians themselves or from our congenital need to simplify in order to understand. Complete originality in intellectual pursuits is rare.

The borrowing and sharing of ideas is thus a common phenomenon in academic circles. Indeed, if a scholar fails to "keep up" with what is happening in his field, he is a poor scholar. Sometimes, however, a line of inquiry or even an entire "school of thought" may be abandoned because it no longer seems responsive to pressing issues, persuasive in the light of new data, or for other reasons. And yet in scholarly archives these ideas wait like old clothes in an attic, available to be refurbished and donned again. ...
 
 
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