“The slightest reference to actual thinking ... shows that the doctrine [of contradictories] carries the use of logical figments beyond the limits of the tolerable. We never actually use such contradictories. It is not profitable to talk about the universe at large and to contrast a single aspect of it with all that remains. We always know enough about anything we are discussing not to leave its position as vague as that, and hence language does not form pairs of words in the form of ‘A’ and ‘not-A.’”
Contrasting a definite legal concept “with all that remains” is only a step from contrasting a quality outside the field of reference with something in the field of reference by application of the ‘law of excluded middle.’ Thus we might say that particular legal concepts are either colloidal or not colloidal, isosceral or not isosceral, ponderable or not ponderable, etc., etc.
To have known Prof. Hohfeld is to understand the table of ‘opposites’ (contradictories). His type of mind was the thoroughgoing kind. If he met a fact, he did not stop to inquire if it had any exchangeable value. We do not quarrel with that mental attitude. On the contrary, we highly respect it, and we simply affirm that as to the table of ‘opposites’ (contradictories) we are unable to find any place where it may be usefully applied in concrete legal thinking. It is not improbable that Prof. Hohfeld in his reflection on the subject weighed the possibility of constructing still other tables, as, for example, a table of ‘opposites’ (logical sense), of ‘contraries,’ and perhaps even of ‘differentials,’ and since nothing of such additional tables was announced or suggested by him, it is very likely that he regarded the two tables published as a complete statement of fundamental jural ideas so far as concerns the problem of systematic arrangement.
If the fundamentum divisionis is ‘opposites,’ in the logical sense (i.e., extreme terms of quantity), so far as it is workable, we fare no better. That a right in this sense is the opposite of duty is a matter of accounting rather than of jurisprudence. If ‘contraries’ is taken as the basis of division, it will be found that its range of application is too limited for practicality in a systematic table.Coming back, therefore, to the table considered as based on ‘negatives’ (contradictories), which is the only view which will avoid a complete breakdown), and not on ‘opposites’ or ‘contraries,’ we conclude that it has little, if any, importance, and that if it seems