Dear Habermas Logo A Jeanne Site

Definitions of Terms Relating to Law and Social Change

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 24, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

affirmative law

affirmative law - Law that is written to require that we do something. Most law in the U.S. is written as that which we must NOT do. One policy reason for this is the courts' unwillingness to order X to sing under X's contract to Y. What is the court going to do if X refuses to sing??? So the courts tend to order money damages to Y for the violation of his/her contract, and legislatures tend to write laws as what we must not do.

affirmative defense

affirmative defense - A defense which the accused could raise in support of his/her innocence, such as an alibi. It is called affirmative because it requires positive action on the part of the defendant, who must proffer the alibi. If the defendant fails to proffer the alibit, or other defense, at the appropriate moment in the legal proceedings it is lost. The prosecution is under no obligation to bring up the defendant's alibi.

apperceptive mass

apperceptive mass - a term used by Herbart, a learning theorist, to describe the mind. All of our experiences, perhaps predating birth, both in and out-of-awareness, go into our apperceptive mass, where they accumulate throughout our lifetime. I like to think of this apperceptive mass as a giant stewpot to which new experiences are continuously added on top of the old. Some are processed and thought through as they go into the pot, others simply go in as is, with little or no processing or awareness. When we respond to new stimuli, we do so through the perspective of this cumulative set of experiences unique to each of us.


disingenuous - "meanly or unworhily artful; deceivingly simple" (from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1961.)

Good example from the Quintessential Dictionary, at p.126, by William Buckley, :

"There is even hypocrisy in his own muddled philosophy, as when in the nightclub sequence, he [Lenny Bruce] uses "nigger" and "wop" and "kike" affecting to defuse the words, when, in fact, he is DISINGENUOUSLY exploiting them."
("W.F. Buckley Jr.Execution Eve and Other Contemporary Ballads G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1975, p.405)


egregious - outrageous, in a pejorative sense. From the Latin, e=out + greg=herd. Outside the herd, in the sense of the "black sheep" that stands out as different. (From Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1961.

Good example from the Quintessential Dictionary, p. 136 by William Buckley:

"We were at a splendid restaurant, and Harry was at his best, putting on the act for which he is so famous, affecting an EGREGIOUS concern for the price of the lettuce, for the indignities of the service, and for the deficiencies of the Republic."
("W.F. Buckley Jr.Execution Eve and Other Contemporary Ballads G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1975, p. 466)


pejorative - adjective indicating a negative usage that casts aspersions on the subject: Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1961, uses the term "depreciatory." From Late Latin: pejorare = to render worse. (From Webster's.)

Good example from the Quintessential Dictionary, p. 307, by G.F. Will:

"The word elitism is of recent vintage; it does not appear in the American Heritage Dictionary published in 1969. It is a PEJORATIVE label for social philosophies opposed to the notion that rigorous egalitarianiam (sic) is a democratic imperative. And elitist is a label for people (like me) who believe that, frequently, egalitarianism is envy masquerading as philosophy."
("G.F. Will, "D is for Dodo," Newsweek, 2/9/76, p. 84")