Friday, July 16, 2010

Conference at the European University Institute: Quantitative Aspects of Justice and Fairness

Earlier I announced that the conference described below would be held at Cardozo Law School in New York City. The conference will instead be held at the European University Institute in Florence. It will be held in February 2011; the exact dates will be announced shortly.

The institutional sponsors of the conference are the Technical University of Munich, the University of Munich, the European University Institute, and Yeshiva University (Cardozo Law School).

The program committee consists of Rainhard Z. BENGEZ (chair), TU Muenchen, Germany; Giovanni SARTOR, European University Institute; Lothar PHILIPPS, University of Munich, Germany; Alessandro SERPE, Federico II University of Naples, Italy; New University of Lisbon, Portugal; Peter TILLERS, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, USA; Fu Ching WANG, National Yunlin University of Science & Technology, Taiwan.

Depending on the willingness or unwillingness of certain donors and sponsors to contribute money for food, there may or may not be a modest registration fee to help pay for refreshments, lunches, and a dinner. Inexpensive hotel accommodations are available close to EUI.

If you are interested in taking part in this conference, please get in touch with me at or Rainhard Bengez at

A more formal call for papers will be distributed later.

Draft conference description largely prepared by Rainhard Bengez:
2nd International Conference on
On Proportionality and Justice – Quantitative Aspects of Justice and Fairness


The conference aims to develop a road map and interdisciplinary discussion for social action concerning ethical, legal, and social demands in a multicultural and globalized society characterized by accelerating technological development. Consideration will be given to national and global societal spheres (e.g., aging populations in and mass migrations to highly developed countries) and to the needs of and necessary challenges for law. Furthermore, we wish to explore and narrow the gap between the special role of individuals and quantification in complex and dynamic social systems.

Key words: justice; quantification; probability; international law; compensation; proportionality; deduction; individual dignity, decision making, and responsibility

Conference duration and venue: two days (February 2011), European University Institute, Florence, Italy


Institutions and rules are without doubt important social instruments for the standardization of the action options of a community, to regulate living together in a community, and ensure a community's existence and prosperity. But in societies experiencing dramatic demographic change (on the one hand, aging populations in industrial nations combined with accelerating inflows of migrants with diverse cultural background; on the other hand, rapid population growth in developing countries and the increasing role of transitional economies in the structure of the globalization), it is questionable whether existing institutional arrangements and incremental (over)adjustments alone can stabilize and secure social security systems.

As a result of the increasing degree of mechanization and international linkage, various dependencies arise. They lead to more varied and complex (nonlinear) social systems in the form of pluralistic, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural communities. Nobody knows how to meet the coming challenges of such social systems with fixed rules or rigid institutions. Tensions arising from scarcity of water, scarcity of territory (especially arable land), competition for raw materials, and the risk of environmental harms and catastrophes magnify the potential for conflict. In today's world such tensions cannot be adequately addressed with fixed rules or with slow-acting institutions because in today's world the matters that produce such tensions no longer have an exclusively linear character.

There is a need for an increased emphasis on the individual as a relevant factor and actor – an individual that can act and intervene according its origin, its education, and its own perceptions. In the end, the individual is the entity that is responsible for interpretation and implementation, and the individual is thus a relevant and crucial factor and actor in each human community. Trite but true: rules and institutions do nothing by themselves!

There is also a need for a jurisprudence that accompanies, regulates, and makes possible the living together of most different humans in a cultural and a society system. Historically seen, our culture coined its beginning in Mesopotamia and in the Greek city states. We observe, not only in the Codex Hammurabi and its successors, but also in religious writings, a substitution of the measure of punishment by material compensation – and thus an improvement in the understanding of the meaning of human soundness and of the meaning of life. (Of course, there were backward steps, but the forward tendency is clear.) Over time different quantitative moral benchmarks (e.g., Aristotelian tradition vs. Jewish tradition) emerged for the valuation of fractional shares of inheritances, gifts, real property, and similar matters. It can be shown however, that all of these methods conform to a common minimum system. This minimum system is recognized in a variety of cultures as a necessary basis for fairness. This minimum system can be formalized and then be used to address a variety of contemporary problems.

Jurisprudence has dealt with quantities since time immemorial. A formal (minimum) similarity can be worked out not only between the Jewish and Greek legal traditions, but also between the approaches in Greek and the Indian cultures. I think here of the parallel development of the beginnings of the formal (grammatical) logic from the right figure of the Tetraktis, and the Buddhist catushkoti (Nagarjuna).

Today‘s problems often require the use of complex stochastic analysis, which goes far beyond intuitive thinking. Examples of two such problems are genetic tests and the pricing of stock options. What contemporary problems arise from the increasing use of autonomous or semi-autonomous systems (e.g., questions of debt and appreciation), which problems involve consideration of the possibilities of the biotechnology, and which problems confront us with new global economic stakeholders and options? How can we map these problems and questions into our society to ensure their appropriate continuous development? A large challenge, particularly for jurisprudence.

This conference aims not only to raise issues and to increase sensitivity to certain problems, but also to identify pertinent tendencies, to work out their meaning, and to recognize and honor the role of the individual in the context of social decisions and actions. Thus we see ourselves in the tradition of the enlightenment and pragmatism.

Quantification promotes not only comprehensibility, but also communication between cultures and states (i.e., between social systems) and between disciplines.

The involvement of technical disciplines in this conference is designed not only to increase mutual sensitivity, but also to show where specialized knowledge and technical sciences are already assumed in myths and traditions.

The first conference in January 2010 was directed against the trend toward institutionalization in society and it accentuated the role of the individual and the meaning of quantification. It also stressed the different ways in which “justice” and “fairness” are used in argument. That conference was sponsored by TU München and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. Both are among Germany’s “excellence universities.” The TUM is Germany’s best university according to QA World University ranking.

The conference participants will address questions such as the following:

  • Analytical philosophy (e.g., from quantity to quality, sets, structures, processes)

  • Ontology/Theory of Mind: (e.g., valuation of harms & benefits to other persons)

  • Metaphysics (e.g., the foundations of quantification)

  • Ethics: (e.g., ethics of institutions vs. human-centered ethics; equality, envy, welfare & justice)

  • Law (e.g., compensation for harm to property and economic harm; compensation for pain & suffering; criminal punishment; deterrence & proportionality; law and efficiency; quantitative assessment of torture; mathematical & statistical analysis of factual inference & proof in adjudication; quantitative interpretations of burdens of persuasion and proof)

  • Economics (e.g., human beings as capital assets, the rationality or irrationality of preference & choice [behavioral economics etc.], choice & complexity)

  • Business studies (e.g., “fringe” benefits; firm earnings & profits; employee and executive compensation)

  • Media studies (e.g., media representations of humans and the popular portrayals of human life in economic & quantitative terms)

  • Comparative literature (e.g., cross-cultural comparisons of views about quantitative measures of justice and fairness)

  • Health care (e.g., measuring the quality of medical care; assigning or determining the monetary value of personal contact between patient and medical care provider)

  • Medicine (e.g., organ transplants, the value of palliative care, emergency medical services)

  • Theology (e.g., views in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc., of quantitative aspects of justice and fairness)

  • Computer science (e.g., just and intelligent allocation of scarce computing resources; legal reasoning & computational intelligence; fuzzy logic & fuzzy legal logic; computer-assisted police investigation)

  • Mathematics (e.g., use of game theory, geometry, fractals, etc., to explore or describe justice and fairness)

  • Didactics (e.g., effective teaching of concepts or problems of justice having quantitative or numerical aspects)

  • Theory of human rights (e.g., quantity and quality aspects of human rights implementation and/or violation in a globalizing world; the pursuit of justice and fairness; human rights issues and conflicts; the genesis of the‘new’ rights)

  • Moral theories and theories about law (e.g., theory of rights; rights/duties-based theories; practical reasoning; justification and argumentation within the realms of ethics and law)

  • Responsibility and science (e.g. applications of science in conventional warfare; use of atomic and chemical weapons against the civilian populations; use of chemicals – pesticides, insecticides, exfoliations, etc. – against the environment; scientific experiments carried out on animals and human beings (pharmaceutical drugs); ethical issues and neurosciences)
  • – Rainhard Bengez

    Organizational details:

    Program Committee:

    1. Rainhard Z. BENGEZ, TU Muenchen, Germany
    2. Giovanni SARTOR, European University Institute
    3. Lothar PHILIPPS, University of Munich, Germany
    4. Alessandro SERPE, Federico II University of Naples, Italy; New University of Lisbon, Portugal
    5. Peter TILLERS, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, USA
    6. Fu Ching WANG, National Yunlin University of Science & Technology, Taiwan
    1. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, New York, USA
    2. European University Institute, Florence, Italy
    3. Ludwig-Maximilans Universität München, Chair in Philosophy of Law, Munich, Germany
    4. Technische Universität München, Chair in Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Engineering, Munich, Germany


    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Startling New Cause of Alzheimer's Discovered!

    The NYTimes reports today: "For the first time in 25 years, medical experts are proposing a major change in the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease, part of a new movement to diagnose and, eventually, treat the disease earlier. ... If the guidelines are adopted in the fall, as expected, some experts predict a two- to threefold increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease. "

    Gosh, those new diagnostic guidelines had better not be adopted! We don't want to double or treble the number of people who have Alzheimer's, do we?


    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

    Evidence Syllabus

    This (evolving) syllabus for a basic course in the law of evidence has lots of diagrams and pictures. Do you think those picture and diagrams facilitate communication -- or do they impede it?
  • My question is a serious one: I want to know your opinion.
  • What Is a Time Line?

    Is a time line argument (rather than evidence?)? Suppose a lawyer draws a time line to illustrate for the jury, during closing argument, the lawyer's theory of when things happened. ("What happened was that the clerk yelled, 'You s.o.b,' and then Defendant fired the gun, and not that Defendant fired the gun and then the clerk yelled, 'You s.o.b.' That's what you must conclude. Here; look at the time line I drew for you to make this point clear.")

    Is a time line illustrative evidence? Walter Witness testifies, "I have drawn a little chart to illustrate my testimony about the order in which things happened between David and the clerk."

    Is a time line simply testimonial evidence? Walter Witness, in response to a question about the order of events between David and the clerk, testifies, "I'm not very good with words. But I was there and I can draw you a picture or sketch of the order in which things happened. Do you want to see my little sketch?"

    Is a time line scientific evidence? Expert Knowledge testifies, "I subjected the videotape to microscopic analysis; I literally used a microscope -- and a sound amplifier -- to study the videotape. This chart shows what the clerk said and what David said and the order in which they spoke."


    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

    Praise for Spindle Law

    "Spindle Law is an innovation in legal research and writing, aimed at helping legal professionals and students collect and share nuggets of legal wisdom, from the general to the excruciatingly specific.

    "Spindle Law is unlike any research method you learned in school. To me, it is a backwards (read: totally intuitive) way of drilling into legal rules and finding the authorities to support them."

    So writes Laura Bergus on July 13, 2010.

    Go here to read the rest of the review at

    More important: Get creative and boost your career by posting to Spindle Law.


    The dynamic evidence page

    It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.