What is a "judicial divination" in next sentence? I quoted it from the book "Human rights written by Andrew Clapham".

They considered the matter was better left to national legislators than to a judicial divination of overriding human rights principles

According to my dictionary, "judicial" refers "relating to the law, judges or their decisions" and "divination" refers "the ability to say what will happen in the future". I could understand each word but I could not understand the compound form "judicial divination".

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    Can you provide a little bit more context by including the entire paragraph? – Matt Sep 19 '13 at 0:22
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    It's probably pretty straightforward- you've got the two definitions. Put them together to get something like, "rather than leaving it to the judges to say what will happen in the future"... Although I suspect that here the use of divine is not so much about predicting the future but sifting through all the chaff to find the underlying essence of the matter. So more like using a divining rod to find water in the desert. – Jim Sep 19 '13 at 0:58

In this context divination is not about predicting the future. It is closer to an "intuitive perception". And not particularly a successful or accurate one.

The Webster's New World gives the following definition:


  1. the act or practice of trying to foretell the future or explore the unknown by occult means
  2. a prophecy; augury
  3. a successful guess or intuitive perception

The sentence means it would be preferable to have explicit laws written by legislators address this issue rather than have judges intuit an interpretation of vague general principles. The use of "divination" gives a connotation that their determination would not be based on logic but very figuratively on "occult means or augury".

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This usage of divine is OED's definition 1a...

divine To make out or interpret by supernatural or magical insight (what is hidden, obscure, or unintelligible to ordinary faculties); hence, in later use, to interpret, explain, disclose, make known.

...which is essentially obsolete. It's not quite ridiculous in a formal/legal context, but most written instances I can find are Victorian - as, for example, this one from 1854...

Hence we may divine the principles on which they went to work...

In such constructions, it doesn't really have any nuances of supernatural and/or future.

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