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Law Games: Defeasible Rules and Revisable Rationality

Bruce Chapman

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

June, 26 2008

Law and Philosophy, Vol. 17, 1998

In this paper I try to argue that the special sort of structure that links legal rules to their exceptions, namely, the structure of defeasibility, provides an account of rule-based decision making which is not exactly equivalent to rule-bound decision making, that is, to invariably following the rules. While defeasibility provides conceptual space for the categorical guidance of rules, it also allows for their non-absolute character, or their revision in the face of countervailing factors.

I have also argued that something like a defeasible conception of rationality is what is required for the theory of games. What is needed there is a conception of rationality that, like rules, is sufficiently strong to provide some prima facie guidance for conduct at various points of choice, while at the same time not so strong as to preclude (empirically or logically) the possibility of being at those points of choice at all.

Both legal rules and the rules of rationality are neither wholly descriptive nor wholly prescriptive in nature. In this they are quite different from both scientific laws, which are taken to provide descriptions of what `is`, and moral laws, which are thought to provide prescriptions for what `ought` to be. Both legal rules and the rules of rationality seem to bridge this is-ought divide. It should not be surprising, therefore, that legal rules and the rules of rationality might have a common structure, and that this structure, a structure that needs to accommodate both regularity and (an independent) particularity, might be provided by the concept of defeasibility.

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Date posted: June 30, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Chapman, Bruce, Law Games: Defeasible Rules and Revisable Rationality (June, 26 2008). Law and Philosophy, Vol. 17, 1998. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1151923

Contact Information

Bruce Chapman (Contact Author)
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto ( email )
78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-6911 (Phone)
416 978 2648 (Fax)

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