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Even the best scholars rarely persuade. Mostly, they illuminate. They make us more discerning readers and interlocutors.

Here I want to illustrate how Frederick Schauer's work on the law of free speech can help us to read what may be the single most influential judicial opinion ever written on that subject, Justice Holmes's famous dissent in Abrams v. United States. So far as I am aware, Schauer has not produced anything like a line-by-line parsing of the Holmes opinion. I claim nevertheless that a reader familiar with Schauer's ideas is far better prepared on that account to understand what Holmes is saying and suggesting. That is no small benefit, moreover, for the Abrams dissent has been given so many schematic, tendentious readings over the years that its actual argument is at risk of being lost in the shuffle, despite Holmes's celebrity and the opinion's canonical status.


Constitutional Law | First Amendment | Law