Thursday, November 04, 2004

Fuzzy (Legal) Thinking -- or Precise Thinking about Fuzzy (Legal) Matters

Google "fuzzy sets" and you get 129,000 hits.

Google "fuzzy logic" and you get 600,000 hits.

Hey, jurisprudes and legal theorists! Do you think there may be a there there?

Why the general (albeit not universal) silence about fuzzy logic in the legal academy?

Don't lawyers believe in the importance of precise thinking about fuzzy and rough concepts? So why aren't they attracted (generally speaking) to a serious attempt to talk precisely about ambiguity, fuzziness, roughness, and such things? Is it because they see a basic flaw in the theoretical foundations of fuzzy logic? (This I truly doubt! They haven't gotten close enough to the theory to even begin to think about foundational issues.) Is it just because they can't get an intuitive handle on fuzzy sets, fuzzy probabilities, fuzzy measures of uncertainty, and all that? (Perhaps.) Is it because they think probability theory does a better job of describing the properties of imprecise language and imprecise concepts? (This I also doubt.)

Zadeh's more advanced work edges toward a [nominalist(?); semantic(?)] neo-Platonic [or, perhaps better described, "neo-Aristotelian"] notion of partial existence. Do legal theorists shy away from Zadeh because they cannot get a handle on the notion of a thing having some of the properties of some concept to some degree? I doubt this too!

  • Whether legitimately or not, legal professionals think this way all the time. What did American lawyers do when confronted with institutions that are not quite banks but are very much like banks? They called such hybrid institutions "non-bank banks." Talk about putting aside the principle of non-contradiction! Talk about partiality of existence! Talk about penumbral concepts!
  • Oops! This last item snuck in here via con law -- Griswold, J. Douglas, privacy, and all that. But there is an affinity here, no?
  • To get back to the heart of the matter: What's the story here? Fear of fuzziness, is it?

  • The Japanese will probably have to lead the way -- again.
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