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Cautious Actors

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Chapter Summary

This chapter takes up the cautionary impulse from the positive perspective, by focusing on various figures through whom tannaitic literature models caution. It examines how this literature represents halakhic caution as a virtue. The chapter reflects on the aspects of a religious, as opposed to a secular legal system that makes such a representation especially plausible. H.L.A. Hart distinguishes between "external" and "internal" motives for observance of the law. The external motive is essentially strategic. Even if one recognizes a duty to obey the law, this duty is so abstract that one is not likely to take it as demanding anything more than a minimal attempt to familiarize oneself with the law's demands. The cautious actors examined here gesture beyond a strictly deontological representation of the law in various ways. They do so, first, simply insofar as they constitute types, and thus model rather than prescribe.

Keywords: cautious actors; H.L.A. Hart; halakhic caution; tannaitic literature



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