I know it when I see it  

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The phrase that I know it when I see it usually describes something that is hard to define but can be recognized by intuition. It became "one of the most famous phrases in the entire history" of the United States Supreme Court by Justice Potter Stewart's concurring opinion in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964). Justice Stewart used it to give a vague standard for pornography whith reference to the Louis Malle film Les Amants. He wrote:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. [Emphasis added.]|Justice Potter Stewart|concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.

This expression became "one of the most famous phrases in the entire history" of the Supreme Court.

The I-know-it-when-I-see-it standard was praised as "candor" or "realistic and gallant". It has also been criticized as subjective, without an objective standard for application of the law.

See also

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