Rationality and the Taming of Complexity

24 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2011 Last revised: 5 Oct 2012

Date Written: April 12, 2011


The article is one of this year’s Meador Lectures, which were dedicated to Rationality. Its central thesis is that a central but somewhat unnoticed feature of both rationality and the legal system is the struggle to tame complexity. Indeed, the struggle to tame complexity may be one of the most general explanatory features of the legal system. As I will attempt to show, viewing the legal system through such a lens is clarifying in a large number of way; the taming of complexity is a unifying perspective that uncovers similarities in otherwise disparate phenomena. Viewed from such a perspective, for example, the law’s difficulty with both questions of law and questions of fact come into better focus. The taming of complexity explains more aspects of the trial of disputes specifically, and dispute resolution more generally, than any other hypothesis, as it also enlightens disparate practical and philosophical debates about the meaning of law, the significance of discretion, and even sheds light on perennial issues such as the distinction between rules and standards or rules and principles.

Keywords: evidence, rationality, complexity, rules, discretion, standards

Suggested Citation

Allen, Ronald Jay, Rationality and the Taming of Complexity (April 12, 2011). 62 Alabama Law Review 1047 (2011); Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 11-51. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1808217

Ronald Jay Allen (Contact Author)

Northwestern University Law School ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8372 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

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