Why Precedent in Law (and Elsewhere) Is Not Totally (or Even Substantially) About Analogy

Chapter
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 102)

Abstract

Cognitive scientists and others who conduct research on analogical reasoning often claim that the use of precedent in law and elsewhere is an application of reasoning by analogy. In fact, however, law’s principle of precedent, as well as the way in which precedent is used in ordinary argument, is quite different. The typical use of analogy in legal argument, including the use of analogies to earlier decisions, involves the retrieval of a source analog (or exemplar) from multiple candidates in order to help make the best decision now. But the legal principle of precedent requires that a prior decision be treated as binding, even if the current decision maker disagrees with that decision. When the identity between a prior decision and the current question is obvious and inescapable, precedent thus imposes a constraint quite different from the effect of a typical argument by analogy. The importance of drawing this distinction between analogy and precedent is not so much in showing that a common claim in the psychological and cognitive science literature is mistaken, but that making decisions under the constraints of binding precedent is itself an important form of decision deserving to be researched in its own right, but which has been ignored because of the erroneous conflation of constraint by precedent with reasoning by analogy.

Keywords

Decision Maker Legal System Previous Decision Wrong Decision Analogical Reasoning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper emerged out of a series of illuminating conversations and exchanges with Dan Simon and Barbara Spellman, and I thank both of them for serving as involuntary foils and for extensive comments on an earlier draft. Larry Alexander, Michelle Cowley, and David Lynch also provided helpful comments, and Henry Monaghan, Matt Stephenson, Carol Steiker, Bill Stuntz, Larry Tribe, Mark Tushnet, and Lloyd Weinreb furnished useful legal references. Research support was provided by the Harvard Law School, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University, and the University of Oxford.

References

  1. Alexander, L. 1989. Constrained by precedent. Southern California Law Review 63: 1–64.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, L., and E. Sherwin. 2001. The rule of rules: Morality, rules, and the dilemmas of law. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Ashley, K.D. 1990. Modeling legal arguments: Reasoning with cases and hypotheticals. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Blanchette, I., and K. Dunbar. 2000. Analogy use in naturalistic settings: The place of audience, emotion and goals. Memory and Cognition 29: 330–335.Google Scholar
  5. Brewer, S. 1996. Exemplary reasoning: Semantics, pragmatics, and the rational force of legal argument. Harvard Law Review 109: 923–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, A.L. 1989. Analogical learning and transfer: What develops? In Similarity and analogical reasoning, ed. S. Vosniadou and A. Ortony, 396–412. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Burnet v. Coronado Oil. & Gas Co., 285 U.S. 393, 406 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting). Editorial – Justice Denied. 2007. New York Times, July 5, 2007, p. 12Google Scholar
  8. Edwards v. Arizona. 1981. 451 U.S. 477.Google Scholar
  9. Ellsworth, P. 2005. Legal reasoning. In The Cambridge handbook of thinking and reasoning, ed. K.J. Holyoak and R.G. Morison, 685–704. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Forbus, K.D. 2001. Exploring analogy in the large. In The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science, ed. D. Gentner, K.J. Holyoak, and B.N. Kokinov, 23–58. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Forbus, K.D., D. Gentner, A.B. Markman, and R.W. Ferguson. 1998. Analogy just looks like high level perception: Why a domain general approach to analogical mapping is right. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 10: 231–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gentner, D. 1983. Structure mapping: A theoretical framework for analogy. Cognitive Science 7: 155–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gentner, D., M.J. Rattermann, and K.D. Forbus. 1993. The role of similarity in transfer: Separating retrievability from inferential soundness. Cognitive Psychology 25: 524–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gick, M.L., and K.J. Holyoak. 1980. Analogical problem solving. Cognitive Psychology 12:306–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gick, M.L., and K.J. Holyoak. 1983. Schema induction and analogical transfer. Cognitive Psychology 15: 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Griswold v. Connecticut. 1965. 381 U.S. 479.Google Scholar
  17. Hofstadter, D.R. 1995. A review of mental leaps: Analogy in creative thought. AI Magazine, Fall 1995: 75–81.Google Scholar
  18. Hofstadter, D.R. 2001. Analogy as the core of cognition. In The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science, ed. D. Gentner, K.J. Holyoak, and B.N. Kokinov, 499–538. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Holyoak, K.J. 1982. An analogical framework for literary interpretation. Poetics 11: 105–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holyoak, K.J. 2005. Analogy. In The Cambridge handbook of thinking and reasoning, ed. K.J. Holyoak and R.G. Morison, 117–142. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Holyoak, K.J., and K. Koh. 1987. Surface and structural similarity in analogical transfer. Memory and Cognition 15: 323–340.Google Scholar
  22. Holyoak, K.J., and D. Simon. 1999. Bidirectional reasoning in decision making by constraint satisfaction. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General 128: 3–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holyoak, K.J., and P. Thagard. 1995. Mental leaps: Analogy in creative thought. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Holyoak, K.J., and P. Thagard. 1997. The analogical mind. American Psychologist 52: 35–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Holyoak, K.J., D. Gentner, and B.N. Kokinov. 2001. Introduction: The place of analogy in cognition. In The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science, ed. D. Gentner, K.J. Holyoak, and B.N. Kokinov, 1–19. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hunt, E. 2006. Expertise, talent, and social encouragement. In The Cambridge handbook of expertise and expert performance, ed. K.A. Ericsson, N. Charness, P.J. Feltovich, and R.R. Hoffman, 31–40. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hunter, D. 1997. Reason is too large: Analogy and precedent in law. Emory Law Journal 50: 1197–1243.Google Scholar
  28. Judicial Business of the United States Courts (Administrative Office of the United States Courts), Table S-3. 2005. http://www.uscourts.gov/judbus2005/tables/s3.pdf
  29. Khong, Y.F. 1992. Analogies at war: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam decisions of 1965. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kokinov, B.N., and R.M. French. 2003. Computational models of analogy-making. In Encyclopedia of cognitive science, vol. 1, ed. L. Nadel, 113–118. London: Nature Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  31. Lamond, G. 2006. Precedent and analogy in legal reasoning. In Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2006/entries/legal-reas-prec/.
  32. Levi, E. 1949. Introduction to legal reasoning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mill, J.S. 1861. Considerations on representative government. In J.M. Robson (Ed.), Collected works of John Stuart Mill, 29, 371–577 (1963). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  34. Miranda v. Arizona. 1966. 384 U.S. 436.Google Scholar
  35. Paulsen, M.S. 2005. The intrinsically corrupting influence of precedent. Constitutional Commentary 22: 289–298.Google Scholar
  36. Posner, R.A. 2008. How judges think. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Ring v. Arizona. 2002. 536 U.S. 584, 613 (Kennedy, J., concurring).Google Scholar
  38. Roe v. Griffits. 1766. 98 Eng. Rep. 17.Google Scholar
  39. Roe v. Wade. 1973. 410 U.S. 113.Google Scholar
  40. Schauer, F. 1987. Precedent. Stanford Law Review 39: 571–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Segal, J., and H. Spaeth. 1996. The influence of stare decisis on the votes of Supreme Court justices. American Journal of Political Science 40: 971–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Simon, D., D.C. Krawczyk, and K.J. Holyoak. 2004. Construction of preferences by constraint satisfaction. Psychological Science 15: 331–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Spellman, B.A. 2004. Reflections of a recovering lawyer: How becoming a cognitive psychologist – and (in particular) studying analogical and causal reasoning – changed my views about the field of law and psychology. Chicago-Kent Law Review 79: 1187–1214.Google Scholar
  44. Spellman, B.A., and K.J. Holyoak. 1992. If Saddam is Hitler then who is George Bush?: Analogical mapping between systems of social roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 62: 913–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Spellman, B.A., and K.J. Holyoak. 1996. Pragmatics in analogical mapping. Cognitive Psychology 31: 307–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Spiro, R.J., P.J. Feltovich, R.L. Coulson, and D.K. Anderson. 1989. Multiple analogies for complex concepts: Antidotes for analogy-induced misconception in advanced knowledge acquisition. In Similarity and analogical reasoning, ed. S. Vosniadou and A. Ortony, 498–531. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stanovich, K.E., and R.E. West. 2000. Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23: 645–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sunstein, C.R. 1993. On analogical reasoning. Harvard Law Review 106: 741–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tetlock, P.E. 1999. Theory driven reasoning about possible pasts and probable futures: Are we prisoners of our perceptions? American Journal of Political Science 43: 335–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. United States ex rel. Fong Foo v. Shaughnessy, 234 F.2d 715 (2d Cir. 1955).Google Scholar
  51. Wasserstrom, R. 1961. The judicial decision: Toward a theory of legal justification. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Weinreb, L.L. 2005. Legal reason: The use of analogy in legal argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations