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Cahn, Edmond Nathaniel


CAHN, EDMOND NATHANIEL (1906–1964), U.S. lawyer and philosopher of law. Cahn was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He practiced law in New York, specializing in tax law. In 1950 he gave up his practice to devote his time to writing and teaching law at New York University. For several years he was editor of the Tax Law Review.

In his legal philosophy Cahn dealt mainly with the ethical and moral insights found in the law. He held that law should aspire to express society's highest moral values. The testing ground for democracy's success, he wrote, lies in the practical operation of the law. In this context his thinking reflected the concept of "factskepticism," which he translated as the idea that a democratic society must always question its values in the pursuit of truth.

In Cahn's Sense of Injustice (1949) he argued that "Justice of righteousness is the source, the substance, and ultimate end of law." Cahn considered his book a conceptual statement of the Hebrew prophets' war on individual and social injustice. In his view, justice can be realized in "the active process of remedying and preserving what would arouse the sense of injustice." He continued his exploration of the interaction between law and morals in Moral Decision (1955). Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, reviewing Cahn's Predicament of Democratic Man (1961), noted "the voice of the Hebrew prophets summoning men to erect the pillars that support the moral authority of the representative government." Cahn's most important articles and speeches are assembled in Confronting Injustice (ed. by L.L. Cahn, 1966). He also edited Supreme Court and Supreme Law (1954), based on a symposium that he organized.

[Julius J. Marcke]

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