Is the Truth out there re: who won?
jrogers at POP.UKY.EDU
Mon Dec 11 16:32:50 PST 2000
Sandy Levinson writes that my statement that
> there is not a "Truth . . . out there with respect to who Really Won the
> Florida presidential vote," . . . is an ontological proposition
> similar to the proposition that there is no "true answer" to the question
> "How much did Julius Caesar weigh on the Ides of March?"
to which Michael Masinter adds that:
>on a more mundane but
>verifiable level, uncertainty captured by the standard error of
>measurement precludes a certain answer to the question of who received
>more votes, however defined.
But neither is on point. Omniscience knows one answer to how much Julius
Caesar weighed at one instant, or at least that he weighed more than one
comparable mass and less than another. And Omniscience knows that one
answer even though there was measurement error for humans trying to find
out (e.g., there were not sufficiently accurate scales to answer the
question at the time, or even now). These points are comparable to my O.J.
Simpson example (Omniscience knows the one answer whether he did it or not).
But Omniscience doesn't know one answer to a question that has lots of
different meanings to different people. (Stated more deferentially,
Omniscience knows that "it depends.) Omniscience doesn't know only one
answer to whether Caesar was the greatest emperor, since there are lots of
different meanings of "great." And it doesn't know only one answer to who
got the most votes for President in Florida, since there are lots of
different meanings of "vote" (the point of my earlier post).
This is not critical legal studies. It is a simple observation that
"voting" is a legal construct to which lawyers (and FOIA users) can
attribute lots of different meanings. Perhaps I should have said that
there is no single truth regarding who got the most votes. It depends on
how they are counted. Which is what this is all about in the first
place. The idea that we may find out later that someone else "actually"
won, in a nonlegal sense, is thus a red herring. The way that we count the
votes is part of the meaning of "vote."
John M. Rogers
Thomas P. Lewis Professor of Law
University of Kentucky College of Law
Lexington, Kentucky 40506-0048
e-mail: jrogers at pop.uky.edu
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