Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2009

Abstract

Unlike Professors Fernandez, Banner, and Donahue, I am not a legal historian; like them, however, I am much interested in the comings and goings of the famous old case about the fox. It figures significantly in my course on property and in my co-authored book on the subject. The background of the case is noted in the book and will be updated in the next edition to take account of Fernandez's discovery of the hitherto lost judgment roll in the case.I Her find yields many facts, but, in my judgment, virtually no information. Facts are necessary to information, but not sufficient. A fact without purpose is useless; coupled with purpose, it becomes information. The information itself might be trivial, as it is in trivia games. Suppose you are playing a game, a trivia game, where stating the right fact wins you points. Suppose the name of William Blackstone's tailor was Jonas Maybird, and this is a fact you happen to know. Suppose you are asked, What was the name of William Blackstone's tailor? You answer correctly and win points. Outside the game, the name of Blackstone's tailor is just a fact; inside the game, it is information. Change the game to a scholarly one concerned with illuminating Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, and we are back to the name of Blackstone's tailor being just a worthless fact. For purposes of understanding Blackstone, I presume that to know the name of his tailor is to know a fact that carries no information; it has no purpose in the enterprise. Change the game again, to a study of famous tailors in eighteenth-century England, and then once again the Maybird-Blackstone connection is not just a fact, but a piece of information. So it all depends on the game.


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