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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2020

Oren Perez*
Bar-Ilan University, Faculty of Law, Ramat Gan, Israel


One of the most difficult challenges of mature legal systems is the need to balance the conflicting demands of stability and flexibility. The demand for flexibility is at odds with the principle of impartiality, which is considered a cornerstone of the rule of law. In the present article, I explore the way in which the law copes with this dilemma by developing the idea of tolerance of incoherence. I argue that tolerance of incoherence emerges from the interplay between the inferential and lexical-semantic rules that determine the meaning of legal speech acts. I base this argument on an inferential model of speech acts, which I develop through a discussion of graded speech acts, and on the idea that the use of speech acts is governed by multiple and potentially conflicting conventions. I show how this tolerance allows the law to resolve the tension between dynamism and traditionality, and discuss its sociological and moral implications.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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I would like to thank Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov, Itzik Benbaji, and Gabriel Lanyi for their helpful comments on a previous draft of this paper and Guy Opatovsky for excellent research assistance. The paper was presented at the Edinburgh Legal Theory Research Group seminar on January 25, 2017, and I would like to thank the participants for their comments.


1. McLough/in v. O'Brian [1983] 1 AC 410, 430; Hildebrandt, Mireille, Law as Information in the Era of Data-Driven Agency, 79 Mod. L. Rev. 1 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wolff, Lutz-Christian, Law and Flexibility—Rule of Law Limits of a Rhetorical Silver Bullet, 11 J. Juris. 549 (2011)Google Scholar.

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3. MacCormick, supra note 2, at 143.

4. Robert A. Kagan, Adversarial Legalism: The American Way of Law (2001), at 29, 128.

5. Hildebrandt, supra note 1, at 6; Wolff, supra note 1, at 562.

6. Marianne Constable, Our Word Is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts (2014), at 21; Adolf Reinach, 8 The Apriori Foundations of the Civil Law: Along with the Lecture “Concerning Phenomenology” (2012), at 8–9; Iwona Witczak-Plisiecka, Speech Actions in Legal Contexts, in Pragmatics of Speech Actions 613 (Marina Sbisà & Ken Turner eds., 2013).

7. Richmond Campbell, Learning from Moral Inconsistency, 167 Cognition 46 (2017).

8. John Langshaw Austin, How to Do Things with Words (2d rev. ed. 1975).

9. Id. at 5.

10. Id. at 94–103. In the following, I use the terms “speech act” and “illocutionary act” synonymously.

11. Austin, supra note 8; John R. Searle, Austin on Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts, 77 Phil. Rev. 405 (1968). Austin provides a detailed list of rules for the successful execution of speech acts. Austin, supra note 8, at 26–45. The most important rule is A(I), which states: “[t]here must exist an accepted conventional procedure having a certain conventional effect, the procedure to include the uttering of certain words by certain persons in certain circumstances.” Id. at 26.

12. Mark Lance & Rebecca Kukla, Leave the Gun; Take the Cannoli! The Pragmatic Topography of Second-Person Calls, 123 Ethics 456, 459 (2013); Marina Sbisà, Uptake and Conventionality in Illocution, 5 Lodz Papers in Pragmatics 33, 45 (2009); Maciej Witek, Mechanisms of Illocutionary Games, 42 Language & Commc'n 11, 12 (2015).

13. Austin, supra note 8, at 101.

14. Kent Bach, Speech Acts and Pragmatics, in The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Language 147, 152 (Michael Devitt & Richard Hanley eds., 2003).

15. Austin, supra note 8, at 14–15.

16. Id. at 17.

17. Id. at 16. My focus here is on the way in which Austin and Searle conceptualize the consequences of infelicitous performance of an illocutionary act; I do not discuss their detailed taxonomy of infelicities.

18. Id. at 14–15.

19. John R. Searle & Daniel Vanderveken, Foundations of Illocutionary Logic (1985), at 16–17; see also Ernie Lepore & Matthew Stone, Imagination and Convention: Distinguishing Grammar and Inference in Language (2014), at 92.

20. Searle & Vanderveken, supra note 19, at 120.

21. This approach can be traced back to Searle's earlier work. John R. Searle, Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language (1969), at 54. It also appears in Vanderveken's more recent work. Daniel Vanderveken, Towards a Formal Pragmatics of Discourse, 5 Int'l Rev. Pragmatics 34, 40–43 (2013).

22. Searle & Vanderveken, supra note 19, at 22–23.

23. Marina Sbisà, Illocutionary Force and Degrees of Strength in Language Use, 33 J. Pragmatics 1791, 1795 (2001).

24. Marina Sbisà, Some Remarks About Speech Act Pluralism, in Perspectives on Pragmatics and Philosophy 227, 233–234 (Alessandro Capone, Franco Lo Piparo & Marco Carapezza eds., 2013).

In the case of assertives, the notion of “probative value” may replace that of deontic force; see the discussion of hearsay evidence below.

25. Lance & Kukla, supra note 12, at 460; Witek, supra note 12, at 14.

26. Espen Gamlund, The Duty to Forgive Repentant Wrongdoers, 18 Int'l J. Phil. Stud. 651 (2010).

27. Austin, supra note 8, at 116.

28. As Sbisà noted, it is somewhat unclear whether Austin referred to “actual uptake or just the speaker's reasonable effort to produce it.” Therefore, my interpretation possibly aligns with Austin's framework. Marina Sbisà, Locution, Illocution, Perlocution, in Pragmatics of Speech Actions 25, 31–32 (Marina Sbisà & Ken Turner eds., 2013). Further support for my interpretation of the “conventional effect” of illocutionary acts can be found the text of paragraph (2) in Austin, supra note 8, at 11; see also Marina Sbisà, How to Read Austin, 17 Pragmatics 461, 464 (2007).

29. Ernie Lepore & Matthew Stone, supra note 19, at 92; John R. Searle, How Performatives Work, 12 Linguistics & Phil. 535, 549 (1989). My approach is consistent with Robert Brandom's model of linguistic rationalism. Robert Brandom, Articulating Reasons (2009), at 189, 197.

30. Austin, supra note 8, at 116.

31. Hyejin Youn, Deborah Strumsky, Luis M. A. Bettencourt & José Lobo, Invention as a Combinatorial Process: Evidence from US Patents, 12 J. Royal Soc'y Interface 20150272 (2015).

32. In contrast to the approach of some authors in the field, I believe that the conventional model of speech acts is also applicable in thinly institutionalized settings. For a review of speech act theories and a critical discussion of the conventionalist view, see Daniel W. Harris, Daniel Fogal & Matt Moss, Speech Acts: The Contemporary Theoretical Landscape, in New Work on Speech Acts 1 (Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss eds., 2018).

33. Mats Deutschmann, Apologising in British English (2003); Andreas H. Jucker, Speech Act Attenuation in the History of English: The Case of Apologies, 4 Glossa: J. Gen. Linguistics 45 (2019); Ursula Lutzky & Andrew Kehoe, “Oops, I Didn't Mean to Be So Flippant”. A Corpus Pragmatic Analysis of Apologies in Blog Data, 116 J. Pragmatics 27 (2017).

34. Taryn Fuchs-Burnett, Mass Public Corporate Apology, 57 Disp. Resol. J. 26 (2002); Ben Gilbert, Alexander James & Jason F. Shogren, Corporate Apology for Environmental Damage, 56 J. Risk & Uncertainty 51 (2018).

35. Jucker, supra note 33, at 16.

36. Lutzky & Kehoe, supra note 33.

37. Nick Smith, I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies (2008), at 17; Nick Smith, Just Apologies: An Overview of the Philosophical Issues, 13 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. 35, 53 (2013).

38. Nick Smith, The Categorical Apology, 36 J. Soc. Phil. 473, 474 (2005); Smith, supra note 37.

39. Mitchell Simon, Nick Smith & Nicole Negowetti, Apologies and Fitness to Practice Law: A Practical Framework for Evaluating Remorse in the Bar Admission Process, J. Pro. Law., March 31, 2011, at 11; Smith, supra note 37, at 24; Smith, supra note 37. For other definitions see, e.g., Erving Goffman, Relations in Public (2009); Aaron Lazare, Apology in Medical Practice: An Emerging Clinical Skill, 296 JAMA 1401 (2006); Lee Taft, Apology Subverted: The Commodification of Apology, 109 Yale L.J. 1135 (2000). Smith emphasized that not all apologies must be categorical. Some circumstances may call for apologies in which only some of the criteria included in the categorical definition are salient, reflecting, for example, differences in the severity of the offense or in the cultural context in which it was committed. Nick Smith, Justice Through Apologies: Remorse, Reform, and Punishment (2014), at 19–20.

40. The use of apologetic speech (e.g., “sorry”) probably reflects a highly attenuated form of apology, which may be better understood as a token acknowledgment of a minor mishap. Jucker, supra note 33, at 17.

41. See Jenna Johnson, Trump Apologizes for ‘Foolish’ Comments About Women, then Attacks the Clintons, Wash. Post, Oct. 8, 2016,

42. See Donald Trump Sexism Tracker: Every Offensive Comment in One Place, Daily Telegraph, The reform and redress condition raises a practical dilemma as it suggests that the felicity status of the apology may depend on the speaker's future actions for an indefinite time. This concern can be addressed in two ways. The first is to assume the existence of a time limit on the period in which the “reform and redress” condition can be applied. The second is to consider felicitous apologies as inherently contingent. This interpretation should also change the normative statuses of the addressee, allowing him, for example, to retract his forgiveness in the appropriate circumstances. I thank one of the anonymous reviewers for pointing out this problem.

43. Paul M. Hughes & Brandon Warmke, Forgiveness, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Edward N. Zalta ed., Summer 2017),

44. Frederick R. Ford, Rules: The Invisible Family, 22 Fam. Process 135 (1983); Chris Segrin & Jeanne Flora, Family Communication (2011), at 29. Ford gives the following example of a family rule: all children have a right to be heard. Ford, supra, at 7. For other examples, see Shoshana Blum-Kulka, Dinner Talk: Cultural Patterns of Sociability and Socialization in Family Discourse (2012); Segrin & Flora, supra, at 29.

45. Karin Aronsson & Asta Cekaite, Activity Contracts and Directives in Everyday Family Politics, 22 Discourse & Soc'y 137, 139 (2011).

46. Rebecca Kukla, Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Injustice, 29 Hypatia 440 (2014).

47. For example, we can imagine an organization with a chauvinistic culture, which is incompatible with external social conventions regarding gender equality. Catherine W. Ng & Ann-Sofie Chakrabarty, Women Managers in Hong Kong: Personal and Political Agendas, 11 Asia Pac. Bus. Rev. 163 (2005). I thank one of the anonymous reviewers for raising this point.

48. Angela Grünberg, Saying and Doing: Speech Actions, Speech Acts and Related Events, 22 Eur. J. Phil. 173 (2014).

49. Austin, supra note 8, at 7, 19; Hildebrandt, supra note 1, at 8; Witczak-Plisiecka, supra note 6, at 615–616.

50. Will Bateman, Legislating Against Constitutional Invalidity: Constitutional Deeming Legislation, 34 Sydney L. Rev. 721, 721–722 (2012). See, e.g., South Australia v Commonwealth (1942) 65 CLR 373, 408 (Latham CJ).

51. Oliver P. Field, Effect of an Unconstitutional Statute, 1 Ind. L.J. 1 (1926); HCJ 6652/96 The Association for Civil Rights in Israel v. Minister of Interior [1998] IsrSC 52(3) 117 125; Norton v. Shelby County 118 U.S. 425, 442 (1886).

52. Dan B. Dobbs, Beyond Bootstrap: Foreclosing the Issue of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Before Final Judgment, 51 Minn. L. Rev. 491 (1966); Dan B. Dobbs, The Validation of Void Judgments: The Bootstrap Principle. Part I. The Rationale of Bootstrap, 53 Va. L. Rev. 1003 (1967). See, e.g., Re M.T.B. Motors Ltd (in administration) [2010] EWHC 3751 (Ch).

53. See, e.g., the legislative procedures of the Israeli Knesset ( and the European Parliament (, as well as HCJ 5131/03 MK Litzman v. Speaker of the Knesset [2004] IsrSC 59 (1) 577 (which discusses the consequences of a procedural breach).

54. Rae Langton, Blocking as Counter-Speech, in New Work on Speech Acts 144, 156 (Daniel Harris, Daniel Fogal & Matt Moss eds., 2018); Sbisà, How to Read Austin, supra note 28, at 465–466.

55. Sbisà, How to Read Austin, supra note 28, at 465–466.

56. Id. at 466 (my emphasis).

57. Dennis Kurzon, It Is Hereby Performed … : Explorations in Legal Speech Acts (1986), at 12–15.

58. The Israeli case of HCJ 5131/03 MK Litzman v. Speaker of the Knesset [2004] IsrSC 59 (1) 577 deals with a circumstance in which some members of the Knesset )MKs) voted instead of other MKs who were not present at the time of voting. The “improper” votes would not have changed the result because there was overwhelming support for the statute in question. Based on a relative voidance doctrine, the Supreme Court held that this procedural defect did not undermine the validity of the statute.

59. David M. Olson, Democratic Legislative Institutions: A Comparative View (2015); Robert F. Williams, State Constitutional Limits on Legislative Procedure: Legislative Compliance and Judicial Enforcement, 17 Publius: J. Federalism 91 (1987); Norton v. Shelby County 118 U.S. 425, 442 (1886).

60. Bateman, supra note 50, at 722, 757. For this practical dilemma, see, e.g., the ruling of the Australian High Court in State of NSW v Kable [2013] HCA 26 (5 June 2013) 298 ALR 144 (Kable No. 2).

61. H. W. R. Wade, Unlawful Administrative Action: Void or Voidable?, 83 Law Q. Rev. 499, 512 (1967).

My argument challenges the claim, made by people such as Fredrik Schauer, that legal decision making is bivalent. Schauer argued that “‘some of this and some of that’ is not a permissible legal answer, however reasonable such an answer might be in most nonlegal domains.” Frederick Schauer, Analogy in the Supreme Court: Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, 2013 Sup. Ct. Rev. 405, 405 (2014).

62. Sbisà, How to Read Austin, supra note 28, at 466.

63. Nye Perram, Project Blue Sky: Invalidity and the Evolution of Consequences for Unlawful Administrative Action, Speech Delivered to the Australian Institute of Administrative Law on 20 November 2012, 2012 Fed. J. Scholarship 35 (2012), Although doctrinal details differ across jurisdictions, the rejection of absolute voidance is almost universal. See, e.g., the decision of the Australian High Court in Kable No. 2, supra note 60 (the majority decision, text near notes 23–28), the U.S. Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976), and the Israeli Supreme Court in Cr. A. 866/95 Soosan v. the State of Israel [1996] 50(1) 793 (Justice Zamir, para. 9).

64. Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov, Time and Judicial Review in Israel: Tempering the Temporal Effects of Judicial Review, in The Effects of Judicial Decisions in Time (Patricia Popelier, Sarah Verstraelen, Dirk Vanheule & Beatrix Vanlerberghe eds., 2013).

65. The concept of “soft law,” legal-like structures that lie between the poles of lawlessness and full legality, involves similar ideas. For further elaboration, see Oren Perez, Fuzzy Law: A Theory of Quasi-Legal Systems, 28 Can. J. L. & Juris. 343 (2015).

66. In re Redevelopment Plan for Bunker Hill, 61 Cal. 2d 21, 42 (1964) (my emphasis).

67. Marine Forests Society v. California Coastal Com., 36 Cal. 4th 1, n.28 (June 23, 2005).

68. 424 U.S. 1, 142 (1976).

69. Elizabeth Earle Beske, Backdoor Balancing and the Consequences of Legal Change, 94 Wash. L. Rev. 645, 696 (2019).

70. The Court justified its ruling by noting that “[t]his limited stay will afford Congress an opportunity to reconstitute the Commission by law or to adopt other valid enforcement mechanisms without interrupting enforcement of the provisions the Court sustains, allowing the present Commission in the interim to function de facto in accordance with the substantive provisions of the Act.” Buckley, 424 U.S. at 142.

71. For another example, see Marianne Constable's discussion of the “Miranda warning” doctrine. Constable, supra note 6, at 28.

72. Adrian Keane & Paul McKeown, The Modern Law of Evidence (2012), at 273; David Alan Sklansky, Hearsay's Last Hurrah, 2009 Sup. Ct. Rev. 1, 12 (2009). John Wigmore defined the hearsay rule as that “which prohibits the use of a person's assertion, as equivalent to testimony to the fact asserted, unless the assertor is brought to testify in court on the stand, where he may be probed and cross-examined as to the grounds of his assertion and of his qualifications to make it.” John H. Wigmore, The History of the Hearsay Rule, 17 Harv. L. Rev. 437, 437 (1904).

73. Ronald J. Allen, The Hearsay Rule as a Rule of Admission Revisited, 84 Fordham L. Rev. 1395, 1398–1399 (2015).

74. Francesco Martini, Hearsay Viewed Through the Lens of Trust, Reputation and Coherence, 194 Synthese 4083 (2017).

75. Fed. R. Evid. 802.

76. Allen, supra note 73, at 1398–1399. Eleanor Swift describes this process succinctly: “[t]he rule is not being abolished de facto, but hearsay practice may be at an important turning point. The categorical structure of the admission/exclusion decision may be giving way to a more flexible process that openly acknowledges the trustworthiness factor.” Eleanor Swift, Hearsay Rule at Work: Has It Been Abolished de Facto by Judicial Decision?, 76 Minn. L. Rev. 473, 504 (1991).

77. Sklansky, supra note 72, at 2.

78. The following discussion takes a highly abstract view of the hearsay doctrine and does not attempt to offer an accurate description of the current approach of either English or U.S. law to hearsay evidence. See Michael Joseph Polelle, The Death of Dying Declarations in a Post-Crawford World, 71 Mo. L. Rev. 285 (2006); John R. Spencer, Hearsay Evidence in Criminal Proceedings (2014).

79. Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(2) (“In a prosecution for homicide or in a civil case, a statement that the declarant, while believing the declarant's death to be imminent, made about its cause or circumstances”); Aviva Orenstein, Her Last Words: Dying Declarations and Modern Confrontation Jurisprudence, 2010 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1411, 1415 (2010).

80. Timothy T. Lau, Reliability of Dying Declaration Hearsay Evidence, 55 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 373, 385–386 (2018).

81. See Mindy Chen-Wishart, The Nature of Vitiating Factors in Contract Law, in Philosophical Foundations of Contract Law 294 (Gregory Klass, George Letsas & Prince Saprai eds., 2015).

82. A finding that a stock is voidable (rather than void) means that defects can be remedied, for example, through ratification by the board or stockholders. See C. Stephen Bigler & Seth Barrett Tillman, Void or Voidable?—Curing Defects in Stock Issuances Under Delaware Law, 63 Bus. Law. 1109 (2008).

83. Brandom, supra note 29, at 48 (emphasis in original).

84. This argument is based on a conventionalist understanding of speech acts. Lepore & Stone, supra note 19, at 92; Sbisà, How to Read Austin, supra note 28, at 45.

85. See Jaroslav Peregrin, Inferentialism: Why Rules Matter (2014), at 22 and Giovanni Sartor, Legal Concepts as Inferential Nodes and Ontological Categories, 17 A.I. & L. 217, 223 (2009) for a similar framework regarding legal concepts. According to Sartor “legal norms basically work as ‘inference rules’: they tell the legal reasoner what legal conclusions (an obligation, a permission, a right, a normative qualification, a status, etc.) he or she should derive given certain preconditions.” Sartor, supra, at 218.

86. For example, for a felicity condition set with five elements and a deontic consequence set with four elements, the total number of linking possibilities is 478. By contrast, in Austin and Searle's binary approach, there are only two possibilities of linking the two sets.

87. Lutzky & Kehoe, supra note 33, at 27.

88. Searle & Vanderveken, supra note 19, at 15, 20.

89. Id. at 99.

90. Janet Holmes, Modifying Illocutionary Force, 8 J. Pragmatics 345, 347 (1984); Searle & Vanderveken, supra note 19, at 99. Some institutional contexts limit the ability of speakers to attenuate their speech acts. Judges, for example, cannot weaken the force of their ruling by using certain words.

91. See Appendix A for an illustrative taxonomy of types of attenuation mechanisms.

92. Lance & Kukla, supra note 12, at 466.

93. See David A. Fahrenthold, Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005, Wash. Post., Oct. 8, 2016,

94. Vanderveken, supra note 21, at 62. These goals have, respectively, a words-to-things, things-to-words, double, and empty direction of fit. Id. at 35.

95. Id.

96. Arielle Goldberg, Civic Engagement in the Rebuilding of the World Trade Center, in Contentious City: The Politics of Recovery in New York City 112, 118 (John Mollenkopf ed., 2005).

97. Christopher Bennett, Is Amnesty a Collective Act of Forgiveness?, 2 Contemp. Pol. Theory 67 (2003).

98. Robert A. Koons, Defeasible Reasoning, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Edward N. Zalta ed., Winter 2009),; Henry Prakken & Giovanni Sartor, A Logical Analysis of Burdens of Proof, in Legal Evidence and Proof: Statistics, Stories, Logic 223, 229 (Hendrik Kaptein, Henry Prakken & Bart Verheij eds., 2009). I therefore reject the argument that defeasible logic can be used only in the context of propositional arguments, as maintained, for example, by Frans Van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst. Frans H. Van Eemeren & Rob Grootendorst, A Systematic Theory of Argumentation: The Pragma-Dialectical Approach vol. 14 (2004), at 2.

99. Searle & Vanderveken, supra note 19, at 15, 20.

100. This distinction between the constitutive inferential links and the meta-norms regulating potential conflicts between illocutionary claims and their supporting reasons is also adopted (implicitly) by Sartor. Sartor, supra note 85, at 243.

101. For a somewhat similar account, see Lance & Kukla, supra note 12, at 468–469.

102. The Michigan Model: The U-M Health System Approach to Medical Errors, Near Misses and Malpractice Claims, (last visited Nov. 22, 2019); Sigall K. Bell, Peter B. Smulowitz, Alan C. Woodward, Michelle M. Mello, Anjali Mitter Duva, Richard C. Boothman & Kenneth Sands, Disclosure, Apology, and Offer Programs: Stakeholders’ Views of Barriers to and Strategies for Broad Implementation, 90 Milbank Q. 682 (2012); Richard C. Boothman, Sarah J. Imhoff & Darrell A. Campbell Jr., Nurturing a Culture of Patient Safety and Achieving Lower Malpractice Risk Through Disclosure: Lessons Learned and Future Directions, 28 Frontiers Health Servs. Mgmt. 13 (2012).

103. Rachel Odell, A Theory of Contestation Space in International Regimes (2019).

104. Allen Kachalia & Michelle M. Mello, New Directions in Medical Liability Reform, 364 New Eng. J. Med. 1564 (2011).

105. Tom Baker, The Medical Malpractice Myth (2011), at 14–19.

106. Bell et al., supra note 102, at 689.

107. Herbert M. Kritzer, Guangya Liu & Neil Vidmar, An Exploration of Noneconomic Damages in Civil Jury Awards, 55 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 971 (2013).

108. E.g., should a physician's claim that he followed approved clinical guidelines be accepted as proof that he exercised “reasonable care”? Allen Kachalia, Alison Little, Melissa Isavoran, Lynn-Marie Crider & Jeanene Smith, Greatest Impact of Safe Harbor Rule May Be to Improve Patient Safety, not Reduce Liability Claims Paid by Physicians, 33 Health Affs. 59 (2014).

109. Simon, Smith & Negowetti, supra note 39, at 38.

110. Doan v. Kentucky Bar Association, 423 S.W.3d 191, 195 (Ky. 2014); SCR 2.300(6).

111. Doan, 423 S.W.3d at 195; SCR 2.300(6).

112. Simon, Smith & Negowetti, supra note 39, at 74.

113. Doan, 423 S.W.3d. 191.

114. Austin, supra note 8, at 16.

115. Doan, 423 S.W.3d at 197.

116. Id. at 202.

117. Id. at 198 (for reasons of space I only quote part of the exchange).

118. This doctrine is inconsistent with the binary approach of Austin. For example, the Board of the District of Columbia stated in one case that it “generally does not support conditional reinstatements. Either the petitioner is fit to return to law practice or the petitioner is not fit.” In re McConnell, 667 A.2d 94, 96 (D.C. 1995).

119. Para. (2) of Rule 40.075 states that the Board of Bar Examiners may impose “any reasonable conditions upon an applicant that will address the applicant's individual circumstances and the board's concern regarding the performance of essential responsibilities to a client or the public,” which may include supervision, periodic reporting, and financial or business counseling. See also the rules of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Admission to the Bar, Chapter 40, SCR 40.075 Conditional Bar Admission,

120. Model Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, June 28, 2017, The provision there is somewhat paradoxical: if the “lawyer has met the burden of proof justifying reinstatement or readmission,” why do we need “further precautions”? I interpret this paragraph as assuming that the lawyer has only partially met the required conditions.

121. For cases involving conditional admission/reinstatement, see, e.g., the petition of Steven Pier for Reinstatement to the Practice of Law, South Dakota Supreme Court, Original Proceeding #19850, decided March 5, 1997; In Re: the Bar Admission of Joshua E. Jarrett. Joshua E. Jarrett, Petitioner, v. Board of Bar Examiners, Respondent, No. 2015AP1393–BA, Supreme Court of Wisconsin (May 18, 2016); In re Robinson, 705 A.2d 687, 1998 D.C. App. LEXIS 19 (D.C. 1998).

122. A somewhat different account of the notion of speech act pluralism is offered by Sbisà, supra note 24, and Herman Cappelen & Ernest Lepore, Insensitive Semantics: A Defense of Semantic Minimalism and Speech Act Pluralism (2005).

123. Scott Brewer, Exemplary Reasoning: Semantics, Pragmatics, and the Rational Force of Legal Argument by Analogy, 109 Harv. L. Rev. 923, 994 (1996); Nicholas Smith, Fuzzy Logic and Higher-Order Vagueness, in Understanding Vagueness: Logical, Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives 1, 8 (Petr Cintula, Christian G. Fermüller, Lluis Godo & Petr Hájek eds., 2011).

124. The idea of speech act pluralism is supported by studies of meta-ethics pluralism (Thomas Pölzler & Jennifer Cole Wright, Empirical Research on Folk Moral Objectivism, 14 Phil. Compass e12589 (2019); Jennifer C. Wright, Piper T. Grandjean & Cullen B. McWhite, The Meta-Ethical Grounding of Our Moral Beliefs: Evidence for Meta-Ethical Pluralism, 26 Phil. Psych. 336 (2013)), mutiplistic approaches to vagueness (Matti Eklund, What Vagueness Consists In, 125 Phil. Stud. 27 (2005); Giovanni Merlo, Multiple Reference and Vague Objects, 194 Synthese 2645 (2017); Nicholas J. J. Smith, Vagueness and Degrees of Truth (2008)), and work on legal incoherence (Abbe R. Gluck & Lisa Schultz Bressman, Statutory Interpretation from the Inside—An Empirical Study of Congressional Drafting, Delegation, and the Canons: Part I, 65 Stan. L. Rev. 901 (2013); Frederick Schauer, Second-Order Vagueness in the Law, in Vagueness and Law: Philosophical and Legal Perspectives 177, 185 (Geert Keil & Ralf Poscher eds., 2016); Lawrence M. Solan, Pernicious Ambiguity in Contracts and Statutes, 79 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 859 (2004); Solan, supra note 2).

125. David Christensen, Diachronic Coherence Versus Epistemic Impartiality, 109 Phil. Rev. 349 (2000).

126. It is not always clear whether the coherence view also entails a meta-coherence norm, which imposes a duty on interlocutors to achieve such coherence.

127. Brandom, supra note 29, at 189; Peregrin, supra note 85; Vanderveken, supra note 21, at 63.

128. Heather Bowe, Kylie Martin & Howard Manns, Communication Across Cultures: Mutual Understanding in a Global World (2014).

129. Sarah F. Brosnan & Frans B.M. de Waal, Evolution of Responses to (Un)fairness, 346 Science 1 (2014); Alex Shaw, Beyond “to Share or Not to Share”: The Impartiality Account of Fairness, 22 Current Directions in Psych. Sci. 413 (2013).

130. Susan M. McHale, Kimberly A. Updegraff, Julia Jackson-Newsom, Corinna J. Tucker & Ann C. Crouter, When Does Parents’ Differential Treatment Have Negative Implications for Siblings?, 9 Soc. Dev. 149 (2000). Differential parental treatment may take various forms, e.g., differences in the use of disciplinary measures or differences in affection measures. Gene H. Brody, Sibling Relationship Quality: Its Causes and Consequences, 49 Ann. Rev. Psych. 1, 7 (1998); Amanda Kowal & Laurie Kramer, Children's Understanding of Parental Differential Treatment, 68 Child Dev. 113 (1997).

131. For example, favoritism is a key source of workplace conflict. Illoong Kwon, Endogenous Favoritism in Organizations, 6 Topics in Theoretical Econ. 1 (2006); Kathie L. Pelletier & Michelle C. Bligh, The Aftermath of Organizational Corruption: Employee Attributions and Emotional Reactions, 80 J. Bus. Ethics 823 (2008).

132. Jason A. Colquitt & Kate P. Zipay, Justice, Fairness, and Employee Reactions, 2 Ann. Rev. Org. Psych. & Org. Behav. 75 (2015); Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Andrew I. Schoenholtz & Philip G. Schrag, Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, 60 Stan. L. Rev. 295 (2007).

133. Shaw, supra note 129, at 415.

134. Paul Horwich, The Composition of Meanings, 106 Phil. Rev. 503 (1997); François Recanati, From Meaning to Content, in The Science of Meaning: Essays on the Metatheory of Natural Language Semantics 113, 117 (Derek Ball & Brian Rabern eds., 2018); Sartor, supra note 85, at 236.

135. WordNet: A Lexical Database for English (MIT Press),

136. Sartor, supra note 85, at 242.

137. Id. at 245.

138. Henry E. Smith, On the Economy of Concepts in Property, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. 2097 (2012).

139. Uta Lenk, Discourse Markers and Global Coherence in Conversation, 30 J. Pragmatics 245, 246 (1998).

140. Daniel J. O'Keefe & Howard E. Sypher, Cognitive Complexity Measures and the Relationship of Cognitive Complexity to Communication, 8 Hum. Commc'n Rsch. 72, 73 (1981); William A. Scott, Cognitive Complexity and Cognitive Flexibility, 25 Sociometry 405, 405 (1962).

141. Georg Brun, Logical Expressivism, Logical Theory and the Critique of Inferences, 196 Synthese 4493, 4498 (2019).

142. I shall use the phrase “doctrinal scheme” to refer to the combined set of inferential relations and priority rules that constitute the conceptual space underpinning a particular legal doctrine (e.g., the precautionary principle). Jack M. Balkin & Sanford Levinson, Legal Historicism and Legal Academics: The Roles of Law Professors in the Wake of Bush v. Gore, 90 Geo. L.J. 173, 173–174 (2001).

143. Lauren Hartzell-Nichols, From ‘the’ Precautionary Principle to Precautionary Principles, 16 Ethics, Pol'y & Env't 308 (2013); Oren Perez, Precautionary Governance and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge: A Democratic Framework for Regulating Nano-Technology, 28 UCLA J. Env't L. & Pol'y 29 (2010).

144. See, e.g., State of Oklahoma ex rel. Oklahoma Bar Association v. Alexander L. Bednar, Case No. SCBD-6618 (Okla. Mar. 12, 2019).

145. Doan v. Kentucky Bar Association Supreme Court of Kentucky, 423 S.W.3d 191, 195 (Ky. 2014); SCR 2.300(6).

146. Doan, 423 S.W.3d at 195; SCR 2.300(6).

147. John Pittard & Alex Worsnip, Metanormative Contextualism and Normative Uncertainty, 126 Mind 155, 167 (2017).

148. Grant Lamond has similarly referred to the inherent indeterminacy of general legal concepts. It is rare, he argued “for a case, or even a series of cases, to provide a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for classification.” Grant Lamond, Analogical Reasoning in the Common Law, 34 Ox. J. Legal Stud. 567, 576 (2014). Lamond distinguished between “settled” and “unsettled” legal concepts, and noted that in the latter case, “there will be competing accounts of the best characterization of the cases, and of the role of that concept in its legal context.” Id. at 576.

149. Tom R. Tyler, What Is Procedural Justice? Criteria Used by Citizens to Assess the Fairness of Legal Procedures, 22 Law & Soc'y Rev. 103, 130 (1988).

150. Kukla, supra note 46.

151. David S. Abrams, Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?, 41 J. Legal Stud. 347, 348 (2012).

152. E.g., asserting that precautionary principle1 applies to such and such conditions and consequences, and similarly with regard to precautionary principle2 and precautionary principle3. Nicholas J. J. Smith, Undead Argument: The Truth-Functionality Objection to Fuzzy Theories of Vagueness, 194 Synthese 1, 22 (2015).

153. Bruno Galantucci & Gareth Roberts, Do We Notice When Communication Goes Awry? An Investigation of People's Sensitivity to Coherence in Spontaneous Conversation, 9 PLOS ONE e103182 (2014).

154. Ronald J. Gilson & Robert H. Mnookin, Disputing Through Agents: Cooperation and Conflict Between Lawyers in Litigation, 94 Colum. L. Rev. 509 (1994); Frank H. Stephen, Lawyers, Markets and Regulation (2013), at 44.

155. Donald C. Langevoort & Robert K. Rasmussen, Skewing the Results: The Role of Lawyers in Transmitting Legal Rules, 5 S. Cal. Interdisc. L.J. 375 (1996). Economists have long argued that the financial interests of lawyers may cause them to misrepresent the interests of their clients. Gilson & Mnookin, supra note 154; Stephen, supra note 154, at 44. With respect to the other forms of misalignment, Donald Langevoort and Robert Rasmussen have argued, for example, that lawyers may systematically overstate legal risks. Langevoort & Rasmussen, supra, at 376–377.

156. Arthur Dyevre, Unifying the Field of Comparative Judicial Politics: Towards a General Theory of Judicial Behaviour, 2 Eur. Pol. Sci. Rev. 297 (2010); Theunis Roux, American Ideas Abroad: Comparative Implications of US Supreme Court Decision-Making Models, 13 Int'l J. Const. L. 90 (2015).

157. Barry Friedman, The Wages of Stealth Overruling (with Particular Attention to Miranda v. Arizona), 99 Geo. L.J. 1, 14 (2010).

158. Ayelet Sela, Nourit Zimerman & Michal Alberstein, Judges as Gatekeepers and the Dismaying Shadow of the Law: Courtroom Observations of Judicial Settlement Practices, 24 Harv. Negot. L. Rev. 83 (2018).

159. Gluck & Bressman, supra note 124, at 936.

160. Lord Goff, Judge, Jurist and Legislature, 2 Denning L.J. 79, 92 (1987).

161. Richard A. Posner, Against the Law Reviews, Legal Affs., Nov.–Dec. 2004, at 57; Mathias M. Siems & Daithí Mac Síthigh, Mapping Legal Research, 71 Cambridge L.J. 651 (2012).

162. The enduring inconsistency of long-standing legal doctrines, such as hearsay and the precautionary principle, seems to support this argument. Sven Ove Hansson, Safety Is an Inherently Inconsistent Concept, 50 Safety Science 1522 (2012); Gary Elvin Marchant & Kenneth L. Mossman, Arbitrary and Capricious: The Precautionary Principle in the European Union Courts (2004); Martin Peterson, The Precautionary Principle Is Incoherent, 26 Risk Analysis 595 (2006); Frederick Schauer, On the Supposed Jury-Dependence of Evidence Law, 155 U. Pa. L. Rev. 165 (2006).

163. MacCormick, supra note 2, at 143.

164. Christopher L. Kutz, Just Disagreement: Indeterminacy and Rationality in the Rule of Law, 103 Yale L.J. 997, 1028–1029 (1994); Joseph Raz, The Relevance of Coherence, 72 B.U. L. Rev. 273, 310 (1992); Gunther Teubner, De Collisione Discursuum: Communicative Rationalities in Law, Morality, and Politics, 17 Cardozo L. Rev. 901 (1996).

165. Kutz, supra note 164, at 1028–1029.

166. Harman, Gilbert, Moral Relativism Defended, 84 Phil. Rev. 3 (1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; James David Velleman, Foundations for Moral Relativism (2013).

167. Campbell, supra note 7; Campbell, Richmond & Kumar, Victor, Moral Reasoning on the Ground, 122 Ethics 273 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

168. Arbel, Yonathan A. & Kaplan, Yotam, Tort Reform Through the Backdoor: A Critique of Law & Apologies, 90 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1199 (2017)Google Scholar; Smith, supra note 37, at 45.

169. Arbel & Kaplan, supra note 168.

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