Monday, December 3, 2007
Lipshaw on How Lawyers and Ethicists Think About Models and Games, and the Implications for Contract Interpretation and Financial Accounting
Posted by Alan Childress
My perusal of the updated SSRN L&S The Legal Prof. site -- really, and oddly, he did not tell me -- revealed that Jeffrey Lipshaw (Suffolk) has just posted his new article, "Models and Games: The Difference between Explanation and Understanding for Lawyers and Ethicists," with this abstract:
There is value in thinking about constructs of rules as games, on one hand, or models, on the other. Games are real in a way models are not. Games have thingness - an independent reality - and they can be played. Models have aboutness - they map onto something else that is real for the sake of simplification and explanation. But models and games are not dichotomous as the preceding claim makes them out to be. Sometimes models look just like games, and sometimes games can serve as models. Because models look like games, we may come to believe they are real - that the models have thingness rather than aboutness. People are prone to think some of the models they deal in all the time are real, like games, and perhaps even more real than the reality the models are supposed to represent. When that happens unreflectively in business, ethical and legal problems can ensue.
There is also a relationship between games and models as a way of thinking, and the position of the thinker as modeler, game creator, or game player. To engage in any of those acts is to use the legally trained mind to make sense of what is going on, and to act on it. But there are different ways of making sense, either by explaining or understanding, and it is not common in legal education to undertake the exercise of thinking about thinking, or theorizing about theory. I explore the consequence of confusing games and models in two contexts, financial accounting and contract interpretation, and consider the possibility of co-optation from models into games and vice versa. I conclude that practicing lawyers (or law professors) need to think about thinking itself or face the possibility of being misled by precisely the same context facing their clients. In short, lawyers need to be pragmatic ontologists.
Though of course this post assumes that "Jeff Lipshaw" really exists, despite all the evidence. And congrats to his daughter and knitter Arielle, and techwonk Simon Pride, on their first anniversary.