View the full schedule of events.
Brooklyn Law School will host a series of interdisciplinary talks from October 10-20, 2011 focused on how linguistics and philosophy intersect with the interpretation of the law. Drawing on the expertise of distinguished scholars in the area, the Center for Law Language and Cognition and the Philosophy and Linguistics Society (PLS) will co-host a series of talks designed to address cutting edge issues in this area of law.
“For more than a decade, Brooklyn Law School has been a forum for programs concerning how advances in the study of language by linguists, philosophers and psychologists can inform the law,” said Professor Lawrence Solan, Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition. “This series of talks continues that mission. It is especially telling that the idea for this series emanated from our student organization, the Philosophy & Linguistics Society. The Law School has always prided itself on blending theory and practice. It is gratifying that the students themselves have taken a leading role in promoting this perspective.”
The series of talks features the following distinguished scholars:
Professor Timothy Grant, Aston University, Birmingham, England
Professor Grant will discuss the field application of forensic linguistics drawing upon his work on a murder conspiracy case in which he was asked to analyze and "interpret" Internet Chat Relays used by the conspirators. He will discuss the linguistic complexities that arise due to use of abbreviations, regional dialects, and slang.
Professor Adam Kolber, Brooklyn Law School
Professor Kolber will describe the use of smooth continua and discrete categories in both law and legal theory. He will argue that the law often uses categories (like guilty or innocent, liable or not liable) when smooth continua seem more appropriate. Our focus on discrete categories amplifies modest differences in conduct into very disparate legal outcomes. The approach we use is sometimes puzzling because many legal outcomes, like awards of damages and incarcerative sentences, can be made to fall anywhere along a spectrum and do not obviously require the sharp categories we use.
Professor Stephen Neale, CUNY Graduate Center
Professor Neale's current research involves a philosophical analysis of the statutory interpretation theory known as textualism. He closely examines the use of linguistic and philosophical concepts across several cases and by several judges and finds many instances of “wholesale confusion.” Neale’s own theory of interpretation could be called a "highly qualified" defense of Scalia's textualism, and he proposes that applied philosophy of language be taught in law school.
Professor Lawrence Solan, Brooklyn Law School, Professor John Darley, Princeton University, and Pam Mueller, Psychology Graduate Student Princeton University
These researchers will present results of a series of experimental studies that they conducted in which they asked people to assign appropriate civil and/or criminal liability to individuals who cause harm with having various states of mind and kinds of knowledge. Their studies show that people are able to make explicit distinctions about the states of mind of others that more or less correspond to legally-relevant categories. Yet, when asked to assign consequences, their moral judgments play a larger role than do their cognitive categorizations.
Brooklyn Law School’s Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition is the only one of its kind in the nation devoted to exploring how developments in the cognitive sciences – including psychology, neuroscience and linguistics – have dramatic implications for the law at both theoretical and practical levels.
The Philosophy and Linguistics Society was founded by Lisa Hatfield ’12 and Eliott Siebers ’12, who were philosophy undergraduate majors. They sought to use their interest in and knowledge of philosophy to shed light on the law and its concepts and created what is now a thriving student organization. “The turnout at PLS events always amazes us, and we have consistently found that students from a variety of backgrounds are interested in philosophy or linguistics or both. Through these talks, we hope to satisfy the intellectual curiosities of the larger student body and philosophical and linguistic communities, as well as our membership,” they said.