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sandhyabijunair (lawyer)     20 March 2012

Hoffman's resolution

hi,what is hoffman's resolution?


 3 Replies

saravanakumar (Lawyer)     30 March 2012



"All reasoning should be regarded as a philosophical process--its object being conviction by certain known and legitimate means. No one ought to be expected to be convinced by loud words, dogmatic assertions, assumption of superior knowledge, sarcasm, invective; but by gentleness, sound ideas, cautiously expressed by sincerity, by ardor without extravasation. The minds and hearts of those we address are apt to be closed when the lungs are appealed to, instead of logic; when assertion is relied on more than proof; and when sarcasm and invective supply the place of deliberate reasoning. My resolution, therefore, is to respect courts, juries, and counsel as assailable only through the medium of logical and just reasoning; and by such appeals to the sympathies of our common nature as are worrthy, legitimate, well-timed, and in good taste."

COMMENT: Two notes here. First, his use of the word extravasation is unusual. The word is derived from two Latin words meaning "outside the vessel," and was first attested in English late in the 17th century in pathology to mean "the escape of an organic fluid (e.g., blood, sap) from its proper vessels into the surrounding tissues; an instance of this." Its figurative usage also dates to the 17th century: "Such an extravasation.. of silver, occasions a great deadness in Trade." So the term means flowing forth, gushing out, pressing out. I don't think it is as violent an action as extrusion; it partakes more of a seepage or outflowing than of forced elimination. Hoffman uses the word here to mean a sort of artifical and insincere verbal "gushing," mostly sarcastic or cynical. I wonder if you will get far these days if you use the term. Second, and more to the substance of what he is saying, I think Hoffman is mistaken here. Classical rhetoricians such as Cicero and Quintilian emphasized the three-fold goal of the rhetorical enterprise: appealing to logos, pathos and ethos. That is, appeals to reason have their place, and perhaps even their priority, but one must never forget that what "moves" people is a combination of the three. We are learning in our culture now the power of stories to move. Logical speech is only one way to win your case. Hoffman backs down slightly from his sole emphasis on logos in the last sentence, but note that even his appeal to the centrality of logos is couched in emotional pictures.

48. "The ill success of many at the bar is owing to the fact that their business is not their pleasure. Nothing can be more unfortunate than this state of mind. The world is too full of penetration not to perceive it, and much of our discourteous manner to clients, to courts, to juries, and counsel, has its source in this defect. I am, therefore, resolved to cultivate a passion for my profession, or, after a reasonable extertion therein, without success, to abandon it. But I will previously bear in mind, that he who abandons any profession will scarcely find another to suit him. The defect is in himself. He has not performed his duty, and has failed in resolutions, perhaps often made, to retrieve lost time. The want of firmness can give no promise of success in any vocation."

COMMENT: I talked to a person at a recent Holiday party who told me that at one time he thought he wanted to be a philosophy professor. He got his degree from a good institution, secured a one-year position and taught. After the year he realized, in his words, that he was not "God's gift to the philosophy profession." He promptly left it and now is a man content in his legal practice. Hoffman's Resolution contains both gold and dross. The former is his exhortation to "cultivate a passion" in a profession and, if you don't find it, leave that profession. But the latter is evident in his lines about not finding another profession if you abandon one that you don't like. This is definitely a 19th century reflection on life, an attitude which still obtains in many parts of the Western World, though it is fast receding in America. Our current understanding is that it may take a person a while to discover his/her passion. False starts are part of life, maybe a big part of it.

49. "Avarice is one of the most dangerous and disgusting of vices. Fortunately its presence is oftener found in age than in youth; for if it be seen as an early feature in our character it is sure, in the course of a long life, to work a great mass of oppression, and to end in both intellectual and moral desolation. Avarice gradually originates every species of indirection. Its offspring is meanness; and it contaminates every pure and honorable principle. It cannot consist with honesty scarce a moment without gaining the victory. Should the young practitioner, therefore, on the receipt of the first fruits of his exertions, perceive the slightest manifestations of this vice, let him view it as his most insidious and deadly enemy. Unless he can then heartily and thoroughly eradicate it, he will find himself, perhaps slowly, but surely, capable of unprofessional, means, and, finally, dishonest acts which, as they cannot be long concealed, will render him conscious of the loss of character; make him callous to all the nicer feelings; and ultimately so degrade him, that he consents to live upon arts, from which his talents, acquirements, and original integrity would certainly have rescued him, had he, at the very commencement, fortified himself with the resolution to reject all gains save those acquired by the most strictly honorable and professional means. I am, therefore, firmly resolved never to receive from any one a compensation not justly and honorably my due, and if fairly received, to place on it no undue value, to entertain no affection for money, further than as a means of obtaining the goods of life; the art of using money being quite as important for the avoidance of avarice, and the preservation of a pure character, as that of acquiring it."

COMMENT: Behind this condemnation of another one of the Seven Deadly Sins (he warned against envy in Resolution 37) is abundant Biblical teaching which no doubt informs Hoffman's approach. When someone came to Jesus asking him to mediate between him and his brother over the division of the family inheritance, Jesus said: "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions" (Lk. 12:14-15). A thesis I would like to test is whether the law profession's changing its disciplinary focus to "zealous advocacy" of clients' concerns rather than protection and education of the public has led both to a focus on money rather than service and a plummeting of prestige of the profession in the minds of the American public. Hoffman may have clothed his ethical advice in the apodictic style of the Ten Commandments, and we today might disapprove of avarice because of functional reasons (it doesn't really get you what you want; indeed it turns people against you), but it comes down to the same thing: avarice hurts you more than it provides for you.

"With the aid of the foregoing resolutions, and the faithful adherence to the following and last one, I hope to attain eminence in my profession, and to leave this world with the merited reputation of having lived an honest lawyer."

50. "Last resolution: I will read the foregoing forty-nine resolutions twice every year during my professional life."




sandhyabijunair (lawyer)     30 March 2012

Thank u sir

sandhyabijunair (lawyer)     30 March 2012

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