Playing by the Rules: A Philosophical Examination of Rule-Based Decision-Making in Law and in Life

Playing by the Rules: A Philosophical Examination of Rule-Based Decision-Making in Law and in Life

Playing by the Rules: A Philosophical Examination of Rule-Based Decision-Making in Law and in Life

Playing by the Rules: A Philosophical Examination of Rule-Based Decision-Making in Law and in Life

Synopsis

Rules are a central component of such diverse enterprises as law, morality, language, games, religion, etiquette, and family governance, but there is often confusion about what a rule is, and what rules do. Offering a comprehensive philosophical analysis of these questions, this book challenges much of the existing legal, jurisprudential, and philosophical literature, by seeing a significant role for rules, an equally significant role for their stricter operation, and making the case for rules as devices for the allocation of power among decision-makers.

Excerpt

This book is an exercise in analytic isolation, which is to say that it is deliberately and unashamedly 'unrealistic'. In examining any aspect of human life, an investigator may attempt to capture the full subtlety and intricacy of experience, seeking to understand and depict a complexity that is never absent from anything we do, individually or socially. Yet without denigrating such forms of inquiry, I choose to avoid them. Far too often such aspirations to comprehensive accuracy achieve their goals only by replicating the vagueness and the messiness of life. However faithful to reality these depictions may be, their accuracy often fails to increase our understanding.

In order to steer far wide of the dangers of vacuous accuracy, I wish artificially to wrench from the richness of reality just one among the myriad factors determining what we do, how we act, and what decisions we make. I select this course in the belief that careful analysis of individual components is often helpful in understanding, ultimately, the whole that those components constitute, and that careful analysis often proceeds best under conditions in which the phenomenon to be analysed is isolated, however artificial that isolation may seem. Just as scientists employ controlled experiments in order to exclude from their inquiries all factors but one, so too do I engage in this exercise with the full knowledge that the complexity of decision-making is far richer than I attempt to explore here. Instead, I hope the phenomenon I analyse can thereafter be returned to its more realistic home alongside other factors in actual decisionmaking, but returned in such a way that the analysis may then help those who study decision-making in greater breadth.

The phenomenon I subject to analytic isolation is the phenomenon of rule, the way in which prescriptive (or regulative) rules appear to play a large role in decision-making, most obviously in law but also in politics, in family governance, in religion, and in life in general. Rules appear all around us, but often our understanding of what . . .

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