Logic Lounge

Realizing Leibniz’s Dream

Scott Shapiro, Yale Law School

Location: MB 1.210, Concordia University Conference Centre

Date and Time: July 25, 2024, 18:30-19:30 EDT

Abstract: In the 17th Century, the philosopher, mathematician and lawyer Gottlieb Leibniz envisioned the creation of a characteristica universalis and calculus ratiocinator that would enable reasoning in law and morals as systematically as in geometry and analysis. His goal was to resolve legal disputes with the precision and clarity with which accountants settle financial discrepancies. “To take pen in hand, sit down at the abacus and, having called in a friend if they want, say to each other: Let us calculate!”

We are now, for the first time in history, positioned to realize Leibniz’s dream of automating legal reasoning. The crucial step in this process, I will argue, is the alignment of sophisticated computer science techniques with appropriate types of legal problems. Automating code-based legal reasoning, which relies on explicit statutes and regulations, differs fundamentally from automating case-based reasoning, which depends on precedents and interpretations. I will explore how formal methods and Large Language Models (LLMs) can be utilized to achieve what Leibniz envisioned three centuries ago, effectively transforming the landscape of legal reasoning through the power of modern computational technology.

Short bio: Scott Shapiro is the Charles F. Southmayd Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at Yale Law School. His areas of interest include the philosophy of law, international law, criminal law, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. He is the author of Legality (2011), The Internationalists (2017) (with Oona Hathaway), Fancy Bear Goes Phishing (2023) and editor of The Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law (2002) (with Jules Coleman). He earned B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in philosophy from Columbia University and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Shapiro is an editor of Legal Theory and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He is the founding director of the Yale CyberSecurity Lab, which provides cutting-edge cybersecurity and information technology teaching facilities. In 2017, Shapiro founded the Yale Documentary Project, which provides legal representation to independent documentary filmmakers. He has just been appointed as Special Government Expert to the Office of the Technical Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, working on AI security.


The Logic Lounge is hosted by the 36th International Conference on Computer-Aided Verification (CAV) and organized by Ruzica Piskac (Yale University) in collaboration with the Vienna Center for Logic and Algorithms at TU Wien (VCLA) and supported by Roderick Bloem and Georg Weissenbacher. A list of past events and recordings of talks can be found on the Logic Lounge website.