Paul H. Edelman

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Constitutional Commentary

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constitutional theory, legal analysis, deductive reasoning


Constitutional Law | Jurisprudence | Law


Can mathematics be used to inform legal analysis? This is not a ridiculous question. Law has certain superficial resem­blances to mathematics. One might view the Constitution and various statutes as providing "axioms" for a deductive legal sys­tem. From these axioms judges deduce "theorems" consisting of interpretation of these axioms in certain situations. Often these theorems are built on previously "proven" theorems, i.e. earlier decisions of the court. Of course some of the axioms might change, and occasionally a theorem that was once true becomes false; the former is a common feature of mathematics, the latter, though theoretically not possible in mathematics (since a theo­rem is by definition true) has been known to happen in mathematical practice as well. So maybe mathematics can help law scholars. That is cer­tainly what Michael Meyerson believes. His new book is "prem­ised on the belief that there are many legal ideas that can be explained or clarified by mathematics." (p. 47) He presents an extended set of examples to illustrate how mathematics and mathematical thinking can be useful in understanding legal issues. Some of his examples are persuasive indeed. Others are less compelling. In this review I will describe some of his exam­ples and assess how much the mathematics really adds to the le­gal analysis.



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