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Re: Beyond the shadow of a doubt

Posted by Bob on September 15, 2000

In Reply to: Beyond the shadow of a doubt posted by isaac on September 13, 2000

: What is the orgin and meaning of "beyond the shadow of a doubt." I have looked everywere.

"Beyond a doubt" would be completely unambiguous, but an impossible standard for legal purposes. Nothing is so certain as to be beyond doubt. So, legally, different standards of guilt emerged, the most famous of which is "beyond a reasonable doubt," which muddies up the issue by introducing the idea of reasonableness. (You and I are certainly reasonable, but those other guys... oy!) Now, swimming against that tide, comes the phrase beyond a shadow of a doubt... that is, absolutely certain. (A shadow being even less substantial than the thing itself.) It's an exaggerated, impossible degree of certainty suitable only for egotists and fanatics.