Monday, July 16, 2007

Physics Analogies and Law

Among my claims to truly minor (aka "nonexistent") celebrity status is (as I snidely observed back in January) that, as a law student, I was one of a team of five assistants to Larry Tribe on a law review article, with Barack Obama one of the other four. The article is The Curvature of Constitutional Space: What Lawyers Can Learn From Modern Physics, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1 (1989), and my recollection is that I didn't do all that much work on the piece, in part because I thought the exercise somewhat ill-conceived.

The point of an analogy is to take something fairly complicated and compare it to something simpler that the reader/listener already understands. This is why the famous Judith Jarvis-Thomson hypothetical case---in which you inexplicably wake up one day with your circulatory system intertwined with that of an unconscious violinist who will die if disconnected (reproduced seemingly without permission here)---is not all that helpful in breaking deadlocks about the moral status of abortion. Most people have much clearer moral intuitions about abortion than they have about unconscious violinists.

And likewise with modern physics. The interconnectedness of space, time and gravity that general relativity posits and the seeming paradox of the two-slit experiment at the quantum level are hard enough for people with serious training in physics to wrap their heads around. For most lawyers, even most very-smart-but-not-physics-trained lawyers, the answer to the question "what can lawyers learn from modern physics?" is "not much," I'm afraid. Tribe's admittedly elegant article is, like Thomson's violinist, an analogy going in the wrong direction.

Or so I long thought, until I happened across this wonderful Tom Tomorrow cartoon, which explains VP Cheney's hilarious claims that he is both entitled to executive privilege and not part of the executive branch by reference to quantum mechanics, with a reference to black holes thrown in. If only Tribe had posed the question "What can lawyers learn from cartoons about modern physics?"

18 comments:

egarber said...

The point of an analogy is to take something fairly complicated and compare it to something simpler that the reader/listener already understands.

As a non-lawyer, one of the best analogies I've ever heard came from Patrick Fitzgerald:

And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice is the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure out what happened and somebody blocked their view.

Granted, obstruction is a relatively easy concept to grasp, but the baseball analogy allows the average joe to see through the clutter.

Neil H. Buchanan said...

Even though Mike is right that "[m]ost people have much clearer moral intuitions about abortion than they have about unconscious violinists," the problem with abortion debates is precisely that people are already committed to their bottom lines and won't engage with the logical issues involved.

Jarvis Thomson wants to get past the "is it a human being or something else?" question about fetuses, and she wants to put people on unfamiliar ground. She thus puts us in a deliberately odd situation and asks us to think anew about what really motivates our morality. She then gradually changes the hypothetical to make the situation more and more familiar.

I realize that some people reject her conclusion (although I fully embrace it), but the power of her argument flows directly from her use of an unfamiliar analogy.

We're not always incapable of understanding analogies that are about situations with which we're unfamiliar. Mike's bigger point, though, is still correct: that people have to be able to engage with the analogy in some way that enhances understanding, and general relativity doesn't do it.

Tam said...

I, too, find Thomson's violinist hypo to be very useful and persuasive in drawing out our intuitions, which can then be re-applied to the actual issue.

My problem with the use of the violinist analogy is it doesn't apply to the cases where my intuition is least clear: pregnancies that result from voluntary sex. To address these instances, she uses a hypo (human seeds floating in through an open window) where it is, to me, far less intuitive that the actor owes no moral "duty of support," so to speak. I can't shake the feeling that we ought to be responsible for the natural and foreseeable consequences of our own actions, vis-a-vis assumption-of-the-risk doctrine, or the "knowing" degree of mens rea for certain criminal offenses. To me, the real hard question on the abortion issue is where on the line of voluntariness (ranging from purely accidental, despite prophylatic measures, to purposeful conception) an abortion of a fetus that has become a human goes from being morally permissible to morally impermissible.

To her credit, Thomson does state that her position does not offer a general yes or no answer.

Andrew said...

Very funny cartoon, thanks for the link.

And I agree that Tribe's article was an anology going in the wrong direction. It may well have also been a fallacious appeal to authority. So, how much of the article can we hold Obama responsible for? :-)

Derek said...

The genius of that cartoon is that it plays on the one thing lay people *do* understand about the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics: that it makes absolutely no sense. What more perfect analog to Cheney's contorted reasoning could there be?

Neil H. Buchanan said...

Tam is, as usual, quite right in his analysis. Jarvis Thomson's new framing of the abortion issue opens up the question of where to draw the line on assumed risk. She does not simply leave it at that, though. The part of the article that most people forget is her argument that there is no area of the law where we even come close to imposing a burden on someone as great as a nine-month, life- and health-threatening stint that will at least change one's body forever. If I recall correctly, she points out that we don't even do this when a person has actually volunteered, creating expectations and reliance interest, but then changes his mind and backs out. So even though this is a different line-drawing exercise, the power of the re-framing lies in showing that outlawing abortion would be miles beyond any line of obligation that we draw in any other area of life.

PG said...

I think Thompson primarily was dealing with the "fetus as person with a right to life" argument, where *how* the fetus/violinist gets hooked up to the woman is less important than whether one considers the fetus/violinist to have a claim on the woman's support solely because the fetus/violinist is a person with a right to life. It's meant to get rid of the whole debate over whether a fetus is a person or not by putting in its place a violinist who indubitably is a person.

At the point one agrees that the violinist can be disconnected, one has agreed that the fetus does not have a positive right to life that gives it a claim, solely on that basis, to a woman's involuntary support. Which allows us to move on to what really motivates the distinction that tends to be drawn between abortion in cases of rape/incest, and all other abortions: the belief that a woman who voluntarily had sex deliberately put herself at risk of pregnancy and should have to complete the pregnancy.

I always wished that instead of the window analogy, Thompson had said that one listened to any form of music with the knowledge that doing so meant that one might be marked for selection to be hooked up to the violinist. This brings the analogy closer to that of voluntary sex, at least as experienced by many women: doing something voluntarily out of enjoyment or obligation (or both) that creates the possibility of being forced into a position one does not want. The violinist is not the giver of the pleasure of jazz music anymore than the fetus creates the pleasure of sex, but as the system (of biology and of analogy) has been set up, these are the risks one takes.

Should women have to choose between all opportunity to hear music and the possibility of having to carry an unwanted pregnancy on the one hand, and deafness to all music and the ability to avoid that possibility on the other hand? (Naturally, the answer will seem obvious to someone who doesn't care for music, but so the abortion question may seem to the asexuals -- don't want the risk, don't do the activity that creates it.)

Tracy said...

So Cheney is Schrodinger's cat?

路傑 said...

免費A片, ut聊天室, AV女優, 美女視訊, 免費成人影片, 成人論壇, 情色交友, 免費AV, 線上a片, 日本美女寫真集, 同志聊天室, 聊天室交友, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 微風成人區, 色美媚部落格, 色情影片, 成人影片, 成人網站, 免費A片, 上班族聊天室, A片,H漫, 18成人, a漫, av dvd, 一夜情聊天室, 微風成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人貼圖, 成人電影, 成人, 中部人聊天室, 080中部人聊天室, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 成人電影, A片, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 成人遊戲, 成人影城, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲, 成人網站, 麗的色遊戲, 色情網站, 成人論壇, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 自拍, 癡漢, , 俱樂部, 豆豆聊天室, 聊天室, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊交友90739 情人視訊網影音視訊聊天室 免費視訊聊天室 視訊聊天 視訊交友 美女視訊 視訊美女 視訊 免費視訊 免費視訊聊天 視訊聊天室 辣妹視訊 一夜情 色情a片 aio交友愛情館 情色電影 情色視訊 色情遊戲 色情 情色小說 一葉情貼圖片區 色情小說 色情聊天室 情色交友 成人論壇 成人網站 色情網站 情色論壇 小高聊天室 女同志聊天室 6K聊天室 080苗栗人聊天室 080聊天室 聊天室尋夢園 UT男同志聊天室 男同志聊天室 尋夢園聊天室 UT聊天室 聊天室 豆豆聊天室 A片 成人電影 成人貼圖 嘟嘟成人網 美女交友 本土自拍 成人交友 成人影片http://ssff01.3b8mm.com/

xw said...

You need lots of kamas to enhance your game character. Follow the guide below, you will have a better experience in dofus kamas. Because of Bambooto attack with both earth and wind damage, with also heals kamas. There are some cheap kamas in the Dofus and that is very useful. The best part is that bulbiflor can drop bulbiflor magic bark, which sells for 50000 dofus gold and requires just 100 prospecting to get leveling my feca there got one between lv24 and lv46. They sell well kamas anytime too, so you can buy dofus kamas at anytime.

. said...

酒店喝酒,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,制服店,便服店,鋼琴酒吧,兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,伴唱小姐,暑假打工,酒店上班,日式酒店,舞廳,ktv酒店,酒店,酒店公關,酒店小姐,理容院,日領,龍亨,學生兼差,酒店兼差,酒店上班,酒店打工,禮服酒店,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,經紀 彩色爆米花,經紀人 彩色爆米花,酒店傳播,酒店經紀 彩色爆米花,爆米花,童裝,童裝拍賣,童裝大盤,童裝寄賣,童裝批貨,酒店,酒店,童裝切貨,酒店,GAP童裝,酒店,酒店 ,禮服店 , 酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,招待所,

. said...

酒店喝酒,禮服店,酒店小姐,制服店,便服店,鋼琴酒吧,兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,伴唱小姐,暑假打工,酒店上班,日式酒店,ktv酒店,酒店,酒店公關,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,酒店上班,酒店打工,禮服酒店,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,經紀 彩色爆米花,經紀人 彩色爆米花,酒店傳播,酒店經紀 彩色爆米花,爆米花,童裝,童裝拍賣,童裝大盤,童裝寄賣,童裝批貨,酒店,酒店,童裝切貨,酒店,GAP童裝,酒店,酒店 ,禮服店 , 酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,招待所,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店上班,暑假打工,酒店公關,酒店兼職,酒店經紀

wsty said...

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.
[url=http://www.pumafr.com]puma shoes[/url]
[url=http://www.eshooes.com]chaussures puma[/url]
[url=http://www.myshoess.com]nike air max ltd[/url]

freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店經紀, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店工作, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀,,

miloe said...

For many years the UGG Classic short from Uggs have been a firm favourite with women around the globe. However, this year we can see the new Ugg Bailey Button becoming just as popular. These boots are similar in design to the original Classic short, however with one exception. Each pair comes with a large wooden button etched with the Ugg logo on them and what first appeared on the Classic Cardy Bootspurchasing a pair of Ugg boots will wear them nearly every day and then wonder why they don’t look as good as when they first put them on. By taking proper care of your Ugg boots including the UGG Cardy boots you can ensure that they remain looking as good as the day you first put them.

virstock.com said...

Dofus Kamas|Prix Moins Cher Dofus Kamas|Kamas par allopass|Dofus kamas audiotel|Dofus kamas par telephone sur Virstock.com

Meilleur prix dofus kamas stock de dofus kamas

Prix moins cher dofus kamas
vente dofus kamas sur www.virstock.com

Kamas par allopass sur dofus kamas

Dofus kamas par telephone sur dofus kamas

Dofus kamas audiotel sur dofus kamas

http://www.virstock.com/jsp/comments.jsp dofus kamas vente

Le meilleur Blog sur Dofus Kamas MMORPG,trouver des astuces dofus kamas surdofus kamas

http://www.virstock.com

erqing said...

Those are best online website , best service , best quality. Good luck !
ed hardy clothing
Chaussures Sport
Tennis Racquet Shop
Cheap Polo Shirts
The North Face Jackets
cheap ed hardy
Chaussures Sport
Tennis Racquet
nike shox r4
ed hardy
cheap ed hardy
polo shirts
cheap polo
Remise Chaussures Sport
nike tn requin
ed hardy clothes
nike femmes chaussures

erqing said...

Those are best online website , best service , best quality. Good luck !
ed hardy clothing
Chaussures Sport
Tennis Racquet Shop
Cheap Polo Shirts
The North Face Jackets
cheap ed hardy
Chaussures Sport
Tennis Racquet
nike shox r4
ed hardy
cheap ed hardy
polo shirts
cheap polo
Remise Chaussures Sport
nike tn requin
ed hardy clothes
nike femmes chaussures