David Lanius

Academic Background

I am working as a PostDoc at DebateLab at Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie (KIT) with Gregor Betz on analyzing current political arguments and developing a normative theory of public debate.

Dissertation on Strategic Indeterminacy

I wrote my dissertation in philosophy under the supervision of Geert Keil at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Ralf Poscher at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and Andrei Marmor at Cornell Law School.

My dissertation has been published with Oxford University Press and is on vagueness and indeterminacy in the wording of laws, verdicts, and contracts. Legal texts are particularly interesting insofar as they address a widely heterogeneous audience, are applied in a wide variety of circumstances and must, at the same time, lay down clear and unambiguous standards. Sometimes they fail to do so, either by accident or by intention. In my dissertation I try to answer three, related, questions. First, what are the sources of indeterminacy in law? Second, what effects do the different forms of indeterminacy have? Third, how can and should they be intentionally used? The dissertation examines the various forms of indeterminacy as they are actually found in legal texts and scrutinises (i.a. by way of game theoretical models) the conditions under which they can be strategically used in laws, verdicts, and contracts.

Area of Specialisation

My main area of specialisation is philosophy of language, logic, and argumentation theory. I very much appreciate the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein as well as the free will debate. I am particularly enthusiastic about philosophical, psychological, legal, and logical aspects of vagueness, but I am also interested in more general questions of philosophy of law, linguistics as well as decision and game theory.

Current Research Focus

I am particularly interested in how (and whether) people change their convictions based on rational argumentation. Are good arguments ultimately convincing also to someone who does not share one’s beliefs already? How are we to deal with people who believe in “alternative facts?” Are there specific argumentative practices tied to modern populism, or is it all rhetoric?

At the moment I am examining how argumentative abilities can be effectively acquired and taught in schools and universities and how the teaching of the epistemic and reflective competencies of philosophy can help to counter fake news and populism.

Selected Publications

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