The Variable Determinacy Thesis

How to Cite

Surden, H. (2011). The Variable Determinacy Thesis. Science and Technology Law Review, 12.


This Article proposes a novel technique for characterizing the relative determinacy of legal decision-making.  I begin with the observation that the determinacy of legal outcomes varies from context to context within the law.  To augment this intuition, I develop a theoretical model of determinate legal decision-making.  This model aims to capture the essential features that are typically associated with the concept of legal determinacy.  I then argue that we can use such an idealized model as a standard for expressing the relative determinacy or indeterminacy of decision-making in actual, observed legal contexts.  From a legal theory standpoint, this approach – separating determinacy and indeterminacy into their constituent conceptual elements – helps us to more rigorously define these theoretical ideas.  Ultimately, from a practical standpoint, I assert that this framework assists in understanding why legal outcomes in certain contexts are determinate enough to be amenable to resolution by computers.