Foreword to the Thirteenth Edition

AuthorDr. Maria Catherine Cahill
[2014] COLR
The privilege of liaising with Audrey Lynch, Editor of the 13th Edition of COLR, over
the past few months has brought back memories for me of the three years that I
spent working as editor in a rival student law journal. As I have reflected on that
period, with the distance provided by time and space, it becomes clear that that
experience provided me with a perspective to which I now render a value beyond
From the overall practice of journal editing, comprised of many tiny details, each of
us editors became more sensitized to the importance of reason in law. Without our
having planned it, this is was the hidden result of all the hours of arguing over the
merits and flaws of other peoples’ work in our long meetings to determine which
articles could be published; of all the days scouring the library for the books and
journal articles in order to check the citations; of all the seemingly interminable
evenings in a computer lab ensuring that the finished products were faithful to the
style guide.
Sometimes we agreed with the conclusion of the author but realised that we could
not put the article in the journal because the scope was too narrow or the topic too
tired; sometimes we disagreed with the conclusion of the author but recognized an
argument well-made and worth engaging with. Often we thought about what the
author could do to make their argument more convincing, irrespective of whether we
liked the argument or whether we would get any credit for that effort of thought.
Often we were forced to take seriously positions that we might otherwise have
cursorily dismissed out of hand. Perhaps inevitably, through this careful examination
of arguments and what makes arguments good arguments, we realized that we
wanted to learn to reason well; to make good legal arguments; and to use good
arguments to arrive at defensible legal conclusions.
If some people are born with this innate quality of being compelled by reason and
good arguments, they are the lucky ones. Others learn it slowly in the stubborn,
solitary process of not giving up when they face arguments that go against their
opinions; by thinking things through to the end and often having the courage and the
confidence to have been wrong in the beginning.
For most people, the capacity to identify stronger arguments from weaker arguments
comes from hearing all the arguments; from an exchange of ideas conducted on the
basis that the important thing is not that each of us holds irretrievably to being right
at the cost of our reason, but that each of us stakes our involvement on the notion
that the right answer is important at the cost of our pride. Beside innate gift and
impressive solitary effort, this third way is necessarily communitarian. It requires
that we work together to develop ways of communicating that promote our shared
purpose of finding better answers, and to overcome obstacles of misunderstanding

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