review article

There is No Such Thing as a Safe Space

Richard Mullender


In Winning Arguments, Stanley Fish tells us that ‘argument is everywhere, argument is unavoidable, argument is interminable’. He also declares that ‘argument is all we have’. He means by this that the arguments we advance successfully deliver the world to us ‘in a particular shape’. He also tells us that, if we are to argue successfully, we must do so in ways that are ‘context-specific’. While these points will be old hat to anyone familiar with Fish, Winning Arguments brings into sharp focus a set of assumptions at work in his mind that have great relevance to law. He tells us that argument may sweep away the politico-legal frameworks, or normative worlds, we make and inhabit and that invest our lives with a sense of significance and security. On this view, we are always vulnerable to the depradations of those who could prevail at our expense by means of argument. Thus there is no ‘oasis’ or ‘safe space’ that is entirely secure. This article will not seek to gainsay this view. However, there are reasons for thinking that it may be possible to establish a normatively appealing, enduring, but not entirely safe politico-legal space.

Published May 2019
Frequency Bi-Monthly
Volume 82
Issue 3
Print ISSN 0026-7961
Online ISSN 1468-2230