I can’t believe it: an aspect of LAW that clicks with me: that of the difficulty of classes and categories – which links it to LINGUISTICS.
The law must predominantly, but by no means exclusively, refer to classes of person, and to classes of acts, things, and circumstances; and its successful operation over vast areas of social life depends on a widely diffused capacity to recognize particular acts, things, and circumstances as instances of the general classifications which the law makes.
Herbert L.A. Hart [22: 124]
If linguistics can be said to be any one thing, it is the study of categories: that is, the study of how language translates meaning into sound through the categorization of reality into discrete units and sets of units.
William Labov [28: 342]
“Open texture is a very fundamental characteristic of most, though not of all, empirical concepts, and it is this texture which prevents us from verifying conclusively most of our empirical statements. Take any material object statement. The terms which occur in it are non-exhaustive; that means that we cannot foresee completely all possible conditions in which they are to be used; there will always remain a possibility, however faint, that we have not taken into account something or other that may be relevant to their usage; and that means that we cannot foresee completely all the possible circumstances in which the statement is true or in which it is false. There will always remain a margin of uncertainty. Thus the absence of a conclusive verification is directly due to the open texture of the terms concerned [48: 3].”
Vagueness, Categorization/classification issues, Prototype Theory:
Open Texture in Law by Hart:
“A legal rule forbids you to take a vehicle into the public park. Plainly this forbids an automobile, but what about bicycles, roller skates, toy automobiles? What about airplanes? Are these, as we say to be called “vehicles” for the purpose of the rule or not? If we are to communicate with each other at all, and if, as in the most elementary form of law, we are to express our intentions that a certain type of behavior be regulated by rules, then the general words we use-like “vehicle” in the case I consider must have some standard instance in which no doubts are felt about its application. There must be a core of settled meaning, but there will be, as well, a penumbra of debatable cases in which words are neither obviously applicable nor obviously ruled out. These cases will each have some features in common with the standard case; they will lack others or be accompanied by features not present in the standard case [19: 607].”
I am absolutely enjoying this work because, well, I UNDERSTAND IT completely _and_ it ties together SEVERAL fields at once that I didn’t really know anything about, like law.
“There is, nevertheless, at least one more significant difference between Waismann and Hart. Waismann, as a philosopher of science, was concerned with descriptive language, while Hart, a former barrister and a legal theorist, was concerned with prescriptive language, namely the language of legal rules. In fact, Hart most evidently wrote interchangeably about open texture of language, natural language, rules, verbally formulated rules, and even any form of communication concerning matters of facts [22: 124–153]. I believe that the distinction between descriptive and prescriptive language, in the context being discussed, can also be given a linguistic interpretation. Namely, it can be identified with the distinction between two perspectives of lexical studies: onomasiological and semasiological.Footnote8 When Waismann presents examples of open texture, he describes a hypothetical situation and asks how we should name it.Footnote9 He clearly adopts an onomasiological perspective. Hart takes exactly the opposite direction: he formulates a hypothetical rule (including a word in question) and asks what situations are covered by it.Footnote10 Therefore, his perspective is semasiological. It is natural that when we start with a thing (or a concept), we will likely end up with some appropriate word for naming it. It takes extraordinary circumstances (bizarre things or concepts) to make naming impossible. Conversely, when we start with a specific word in a specific context (either explicitly expressed or implicitly assumed), it takes only a small change in the thing (or a concept) to question the adequacy of reference. This is another way of explaining the difference between Waismann’s and Hart’s approaches while maintaining the view that they both described essentially the same phenomenon.”
“Prototypical categories exhibit degrees of category membership also known as the typicality effect or goodness-of-example rating. It means that not every member of a category is equally representative—some members are better examples of the category than others, because they exhibit more characteristic features of a category. In other words, they metaphorically occupy the maximum overlapping area within a category (the “core” of a category). This characteristic can easily be linked back to the previous one. A robin is a more typical bird than an ostrich, because it has a more bird-like size, shape, ability to fly and it tweets. By the same token, an apple is a more typical fruit than an avocado, and an automobile is a more typical vehicle than a skateboard [38: 229–233]. The clearest case of a category membership is called a prototype [39: 11]. Note that the notion of a prototype is context-dependent and will shift according to linguistic, as well as extralinguistic, (i.e. historical, geographical, social and other) changes [40: 99–105].”
domain specificity in lexicons is a common feature wherever you go. Liberal arts education is supposed to assure a basic fluency in most of them, well rounded citizens and such. I’d say in 2021, access to Wikipedia, finding intelligent like minds on social networks, etc, serves much of the need when access to high education is difficult.