Está en la página 1de 9
The Concept of Coherence and Its Significance for Discursive Rationality ROBERT ALEXY and ALEKSANDER PECZENIK the concept of coherence can be expressed inthe following ements belonging ‘posible number of preference relations between the greatest posible number and compl ‘cases covered by the theory; an ered by the theory. For a long time, the idea of coherence has been regarded as an attractive tool Hegel 1970, 24). Many thinkers also ly coherent with each other, ‘whereas there is a lesser degree of mutual coherence between physics and religion although it cannot be said that they contradiet each other. Philosophers face the precise concept and criteria Coherence and Discursive Rationality a1 ries of coherence assume that more general statements less general ones they number of legal rules, On the other hand, some other theories assume that particular data-stateme sake general theories coherent. According to Nicholas Rescher, a prop fs true if, and onl follows from consistent data, However, the t A proposition, all preferred m: sistent subsets of data (Rescher 1973, red sul make his additions i been given, the pr ions of what his suecessors wi be able to add to it, and his substantive value judgments (Dworkin 1986, 225ff 1. The Concept and the Criteria of Coherence A. The Concept We will analyse the con: te the main idea one. Secondly, we wi be weighed and balanced against each of theory? The main idea or the concep follows: the following manner: Firstly, we ugh this concept remains a vague teria and principles which need to to determine the coherence of a t of coherence can be expressed as ‘The more the statements bel structure, the more coherent $0 given heoy approximate a perfect supportive theory.? omer * Savgny (1814, 2) den ‘egards principles as commands to optimize Al arth count ese asec ‘98, “ 132 Robert Alexy and Aleksander Peczenik Coherence and Discursive Rationality 133 Although they may differ in form, the criterion and the principle are merely different expressions of the same requirement of coherence. (1) Ceteris piribus, the more statements belonging to a theory are supported, for example empiric the more coherent the theory.? systems or value systems). 2) The concept of support used above is a weak one. It can be characterized (2°) One should justify as many statements as possible. ‘The clause “ceteris paribus" and the expression “as possible” indicate the same thing here; no principle or criterion of coherence is independently sufficient but must be weighed against others. For example, other principles of coherence may explain the fact that relatively many statements belonging to the theory in question are not justified but merely taken for granted, Moreover, the quality of coherence can be weighed and balanced against other values. For example, ina case of emergency, a fireman should obey orders rather than continually demand a time-consuming explanation, a point of discussion. Inappropriate additional prem! tliminatd by the ceria of coherence, cussed below, and perhap by further, 2, Length of the Supportive Chains Coherence depends also upon the length of the supportive chains belonging to the supportive structure, A statement pl thus supports p2, p2 supports p3, etc. Longer chains make the supportive structure more complex. In other words, they make the theory more structured. They can also make it more profound. ‘The following criterion and principle of coherence help to clarify this idea. (2) Ceteris paribus, the longer the chains of reasons belonging to a theory are, the more coherent the theory. ze depends on the degree 4) The degree of perfection of a supportive structure depends on t to which the criteria of coherence are fulfilled (2°) When justifying a statement, one should support it with a chain of reasons as long as possible. ‘The principle 2* demands a long series of justifications. Together with the definition of support, it assumes deductive correctness and they jointly ‘complex criterion of coherence. This comprises completeness of deductive trees, obtained as a result of a logical reconstruction of the supportive chain, up and is vague and contested, itis possible to conceive coherence in different ways. 3. Strong Support A premise may occupy a peculiar position. Lawyers often argue that a decision should be supported by a statute. The same statute may support many decisions. To be sure, many other premises are also included in the supportive structure, ‘Assume, eg. that the conclusion that a certain part of a contract should be (@ PROPERTIES OF THE SUPPORTIVE STRUCTURE (CONSTITUTED BY THE THEORY * Speaking about number, How to treat numerous bu two questions ocur.Fistly: What is a single statement? Secondly: teva and perape redundant statements? 134 Robert Alexy and Aleksander Peczenik Coherence and Discursive Rationality 135 In an extreme case, p2 fol 7m pl alone. In other cases, p2 follows from nal premises. port may play a role not and causal contexts wl is set, supports the conclusion ing, however, such sources of lav ly within egal reasoning but also in other nor th include the question “Why?.” Natural science, has no means to define causal neces to have ana priori q (Kant 1983, B 233-35; Burks 1977, 619), 1ws of nature might serve as criteria of causation (Peczenik 1979, 333ff.). One might perhaps construct reasonable interpretation of at least some laws of nature as expressing a relation of strong support between a cause-statement and an effect-statement For reasons like these, the degree of coherence increases when not only weak but also strong support occurs. The following criterion and principle of coherence express this idea préparatoires are necessary for the deri ‘might not follow from any set of premises belonging to legal reasoning and not (2) Ceteris paribus, the more statements belonging to a theory are strongly supported by other statements, the more coherent the theory. (8°) One should formulate statements which strongly support as many state- The statement strongly supports the statement p2 if, and only if, pt belongs toa ments as possible set of premises, 5, having the following properties: ‘The idea of strong support answer an important question, Let is, that p1 supports p2, p2 supports pet other premises, say rand s set of premises, say, r2 and « ted that 73 together with rl, s1, 12, and 52? This would effectively dissolve the chain of support. What remained would be a conclusion and a set of premises, without inter- inks. sdge evolves step by step. Longer and longer chains of su ed. However, historical and psychological insights are justify a logical reconstruction of knowledge. Only logical or, logical reasons serve this purpose. The concept of strong supp possible to develop such reasons. The concept support the fact that there are statements, as for instance norm-statements in legal reasoning, which play a special role in justification in a given context ‘an improvement of the definition of sapport Pectenie 1980, 131: The satment p supports Propositions with priviged status within