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Legal Technique and Logic

Atty. J. Trugillo
S. Bance
Page 1 of 3
Legal Technique and Logic

A. What is Philosophy?
Philosophy addresses questions basic to the human experience.

1. What is truth?
2. What kind of beings are human beings?
3. What is the reason for our existence?
4. What is justice?
5. What are values?
6. Is science the best or the only way to know about the truth?

These are just some of the questions basic to the human experience that Philosophy as a
discipline addresses. As such, we may define Philosophy as a study of the problems which may be abstract
or general, primarily concerned with the nature of man’s existence, knowledge, morality, reason and
purpose. (Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide by Teichmann and Evans)

Philosophy, as a discipline, has the aim of gaining insight to questions about knowledge, truth,
reason, reality and meaning. It is not just a haphazard way of gaining insight though. Philosophy is a
systematic study as to the nature of the world (metaphysics), the justification of belief (epistemology) and
the conduct of life. In its most basic definition, it is said to be the search for wisdom or knowledge.

Origin of Philosophy
It is difficult to state particularly where, when and how Philosophy began. However, it is wrong to
say that Philosophy began in Ancient Greece, in the times of Thales of 585 BC or great philosophers like
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Socrates only coined the term “Philosophy” from the greek words Phileo,
meaning “to love” and “Sophia” meaning “wisdom” as an equivalent to the search for wisdom. It definitely
did not begin with them. Philosophy originates from doubt, it starts from wonder. Thus, it can be said that
Philosophy began from the moment man asked the very first question about himself and his reality.

Philosophy and The Law

The law is just a collection of the rational.

Metaphysics and the Law

Not only the things which we can see and feel, but it can go beyond the empirical.

Logic, defined
Logic may be defined as the science of the principles and conditions of correct thinking; or, in
other words, the science which directs our mental operations in the discovery and proof of truth. Logic is a
science in the sense that it is organized knowledge (systematic).

What is Reasoning?
Reasoning is basically making sense of things, legal reasoning then is the process of arriving at
conclusions with the application of law. Legal reasoning is at the heart of law. It is what lawyers do when
they argue court cases. Even more importantly, it is what judges do when they decide cases.

Logical truth vs Formal Validity

Logical truth consists in the conformity of our minds with reality. A proposition is true if things are
as the proposition says they are. Logic studies reason as an instrument for acquiring truth and the
attainment of truth must ever remain the ultimate aim of the logician.

An argument is valid if its conclusion flows from its premises, meaning that by virtue of inference
from two of its premises, a conclusion is arrived at. But this does not necessarily mean that the same is
true. Truth is measured in relation with our acceptance of the proposition as reality.

What is the benefit of logic?

One obvious benefit derivable from a careful study of logic is the facility/ability to detect error in
reasoning processes, being able to avoid such errors and thinking and reasoning about difficult matters
with clearness and consistency.

Law and Logic, its relationship

The influence of logic upon law arises from one fundamental fact, that laws are not self-
applicable. The function of logical reasoning and the connection with the law is to secure the efficient
application of legal principles. In fact, it was said that “lawyers are a class of the community who by study
and experience have acquired the art and power of arranging evidence, and applying to the points at issue
what the law has settled.”

It is said that law is applied logic, this is fundamentally true for law is fundamentally
argumentative. It deals with subjects in controversy, in conflicts, with the primary aim of settling disputes
Legal Technique and Logic
Atty. J. Trugillo
S. Bance
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– sometimes by persuasive methods out of court and sometimes in fiercely contested legal battles – in
either instance the instrument of reasoning plays a dominant part.

This is because when we make a legal argument, it is not enough that our arguments make sense
or get the point across. A legal argument must exhibit what we can call as “pristine logic.” In order to
exhibit “pristine logic,” a legal argument should adhere to the form of logical syllogism. From Neal Ramee,
Legal Technique and Logic: A Guide for Law Students

What is logical syllogism or syllogism?

A syllogism consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. A major premise
usually states a general rule. In legal arguments, this is what we call a statement of law. A minor premise
makes a factual assertion about a particular person or thing or a group of persons or things. In legal
arguments, this is usually a statement of fact. A conclusion connects the particular statement in the minor
premise with the general one in the major premise, and tells us how the general rule applies to the facts at
hand. In legal arguments, this process is called applying the law to the facts.

Example: In order to run for senator, the Constitution provides that a candidate
must be at least 45 years old on the day of the election. (Major premise, states a rule of law)
The plaintiff however is only 44 on the day of the election. (Minor premise; makes a
statement of fact) Therefore, the plaintiff cannot run for senator in the Philippines.
(Conclusion, application of the law to the facts.)

In order for a syllogism to be valid, it must be logically impossible for its premises to be true and
its conclusion to be false. In other words, a syllogism is valid if, given the truth of its premises, the
conclusion “follows” logically such that it, too, must be true. In legal reasoning however, an argument is
not valid simply because its premises and conclusion are all true.

Example: All cats are mammals. Some mammals are excellent swimmers. Therefore,
some cats are excellent swimmers.

Explanation: Each of the statements is true. Cats are indeed mammals. Some
mammals (i.e. dolphins and whales) are excellent swimmers. And as it happens, some cats
(tigers and jaguars) are also excellent swimmers. But this argument is not valid. The fact that
cats are mammals and that some mammals are excellent swimmers doesn’t prove anything
about the swimming ability of cats. Based on the information we’re given in the premises, it is
logically possible that no cat in the history of the world has ever stepped foot in water.
Because it is logically possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false, this
argument is not logically valid.

The example above is a fallacious argument. Learning how to spot and avoid such logical fallacies
can enormously strengthen your legal arguments and help you adhere to the “pristine logic” of correct
syllogistic reasoning.

Legal reasoning is, for a large part, technical reasoning – not moral reasoning. Like all technical
reasoning, it is concerned to achieve a particular purpose, a definite state of affairs attainable by efficient
dispositions of means to end. The particular end here is the resolution of disputes (and other allegations of
misconduct) by the provision of a directive sufficiently definite and specific to identify one party as right
and the other as wrong.

Hence, the law’s distinctive devices: defining terms, and specifying rules, with sufficient and
necessarily artificial clarity and definiteness to establish the “bright lines” which make so many real-life
legal questions easy questions.

II. Facts, Arguments, Truths and Inference

What is truth?
Truth is that which you cannot question.

What is fact?
There are two sides to facts:
a. the facts which your client relate to you
b. the facts which the other party submits

The Structure of Argument

a. Proposition (Statement) is a declaration which may be asserted or denied; this is typically
expressed by a declarative sentence.
b. Argument is a set of two or more propositions related to each other in such a way that all but
one of them (the premises) are supposed to provide support for the remaining one (the
Legal Technique and Logic
Atty. J. Trugillo
S. Bance
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c. Inference is the transition or movement from premises to conclusion, the logical connection
between them upon which the argument relies.

2 Kinds of Inferences
a. Deductive Inference is when the argument claims that the truth of its premises guarantees
the truth of its conclusion. This type of reasoning moves from the general to the specific.
Ex: All asians are smart.
Mike is asian.
Mike is smart.

b. Inductive Inference moves from specific to general.

Ex. Mike is smart.
He is Asian.
Asians are smart.