Questioning the preference for precision over vagueness within concepts of law and legality, the author shows that the precision/vagueness binary is an extension of the Cartesian dualism that prioritises abstract cognition over embodied experience.
Ira Chadha-Sridhar, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom and Lecturer, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
Legal systems see linguistic vagueness as a problem: it must be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. Precision is prioritised over vagueness within our concepts of law and legality. In this paper, the researcher questions the preference for precision over vagueness.
The researcher argue that vagueness is inevitable and valuable for the law by drawing from feminist philosophy — a new and important lens with which to study vagueness. The author shows that the precision/vagueness binary is an extension of the Cartesian dualism that prioritises abstract cognition over embodied experience.
As it is vagueness that uniquely captures lived experiences and contexts, it becomes important to reclaim vagueness as a potential ‘feminist value’. The intrinsic value of vagueness can translate into instrumental benefits as well. First, when legal systems grapple with personal relationships between individuals (addressed here through ‘feminist care ethics’) and second, when they must resolve issues of discrimination (addressed through ‘intersectionality’), law benefits from vague expressions.
These areas of human life, and perhaps several others, require an understanding of subjectivity, particularity and context. Precision is ineffective. The author hopes that these explorations can help conceptualise a feminist approach to the law-language question and show that vagueness, in the world of law, can be of value.
Published in: Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence
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