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Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law$
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Andrei Marmor and Scott Soames

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572380

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572380.001.0001

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Vagueness and the Guidance of Action

Vagueness and the Guidance of Action

Chapter:
(p.58) 4 Vagueness and the Guidance of Action
Source:
Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law
Author(s):

Jeremy Waldron

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572380.003.0004

The Rule of Law should not always be construed as demanding determinacy and clarity at all costs; it should not necessarily be conceived as the rule of rules (as opposed, sometimes, to the rule of standards). The objection to standards is that, because they use predicates like ‘reasonable’ or ‘excessive’, they are therefore vague; they give relatively little guidance to those to whom they are addressed; and they leave the individual unclear about where she stands so far as the law' s application is concerned. And these are thought to be affronts to the Rule of Law. This chapter attempts to address those objections, using as a paradigm the ‘reasonable speed’ statute considered in State v. Schaeffer 96 Ohio St. 215; 117 N.E. 220 (1917). It argues that standards do provide guidance for action: they guide the use of our practical reasoning not just to apply a given rule but to figure out what kind of action is appropriate in varying circumstances. In that sense they are as respectful of our dignity and our capacity for agency as rules are (in their different way).

Keywords:   Fuller, Raz, Rule of Law, authority, clarity, dignity, language, rules, standards, traffic law

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