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Strategic Indeterminacy in the Law (eBook, ePUB)
Lanius, David

Strategic Indeterminacy in the Law (eBook, ePUB)


Philosophers interested in vagueness have traditionally focused on how to solve the theoretical problems posed by the Sorites Paradox. Relatedly, past decades have seen the development of numerous intricate theories of the nature, logic and semantics of vague natural language – which have largely gone unnoticed outside of academic philosophy, though. More recently, a growing number of philosophers have turned towards the more tangible topic of vagueness in the law. And for good reason, it appears: not only is vagueness seemingly ubiquitous in legal texts, but the law also comprises plenty of interesting real-world examples of borderline or ‘hard’ cases and promises to be a rich source of principles and procedures that might inform our practical concerns when dealing with blurred boundaries. Moreover, the fact that vague legal terms and general clauses have survived decades of legal practice strongly suggests that vagueness might be beneficial to some purposes of the law – maybe linguistic vagueness is a valuable ingredient when it comes to ensuring legal flexibility and can consequently be used strategically.

If David Lanius is right, however, appearances are deceptive. In Strategic Indeterminacy in the Law, Lanius convincingly argues that the philosophical debate on vagueness in law is partially misguided: First, when scrutinized, many purported examples of vagueness in law actually prove to be examples of different types of linguistic indeterminacy – notably, polysemy or standard relativity. Second, contrary to a surprisingly widespread preconception among philosophers, vagueness is in fact not particularly beneficial to communicative purposes; all arguments supposedly proving the strategic value of vagueness fail. And, third, while certain other types of linguistic indeterminacy indeed principally allow for strategic use, Lanius reminds his fellow philosophers of a gap between linguistic and legal content: linguistic indeterminacy does not entail legal indeterminacy. Therefore, one should be careful not to overestimate the importance of linguistic indeterminacy in the law.

The book comprises five chapters, each of which ends with a helpful summary of key claims and arguments. It is written in a highly engaging and exemplary lucid style and augmented by several illustrations which enable the reader to take in central conceptual distinctions and interrelations at a glance. Throughout the book, Lanius enlivens astute philosophical analyses with insightful discussions of pertinent cases from US and UK law as well as German law.

The book is highly original as well as exceptionally clear and accessible. And while its first three chapters persuasively challenge much of the status quo of the philosophical debate of vagueness in the law, its second half clears the way for further important research in philos-ophy and legal theory. For these reasons and others, Strategic Indeterminacy in the Law is and will continue to be of interest to philosophers of language and law and legal scholars alike.