Contextualizing the Lottery

Neil Duxbury

in Random Justice

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780198268253
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191683466 | DOI:
Contextualizing the Lottery

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While the lottery has never been adopted as a general social decision-making tool, it has, in the past, been used to resolve a fairly wide variety of matters. Yet, today, to seriously entertain the prospect of extensive social decision-making by resort to lot (and hence, chance) would probably strike most people as absurd. The outcome of casting lots was once regarded not as random but as the revelation of divine intent. While divination by lot can be traced back at least as far as the ninth century BC, it would be wrong to regard the practice as wholly archaic. For Saint Thomas Aquinas, lotteries were regarded in medieval times as a means of getting God to speak. It may sometimes be the case that refusal to entertain the possibility of political and legal decision-making by resort to randomization betrays not human rationality but quite the opposite. Reluctance to use lotteries for political purposes such as elections is understandable, but misplaced. There are many arguments which might be advanced in support of randomness in political selection.

Keywords: lotteries; chance; social-decision making; lot-casting; divination; legal decision-making; elections; political selection; randomization; rationality

Chapter.  16725 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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