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Extrascientific Uses of Physics: The Case of Nonlinear Dynamics and Legal Theory

Stephen H. Kellert
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 68, No. 3, Supplement: Proceedings of the 2000 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part I: Contributed Papers (Sep., 2001), pp. S455-S466
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3080965
Page Count: 12
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Extrascientific Uses of Physics: The Case of Nonlinear Dynamics and Legal Theory
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Abstract

This essay explores the metaphorical use of the area of nonlinear dynamics popularly known as "chaos theory," surveying its use in one particular field: legal theory. After sketching some of the mistakes encountered in these efforts, I outline the possibility of the fruitful use of nonlinear dynamics for thinking about our legal system. I then offer some general lessons to be drawn from these examples-both cautionary maxims and a limited defense of cross-disciplinary borrowing. I conclude with some reflections on the nature of arguments that seek to establish intellectual authority or epistemic merit by analogical reasoning.

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