Changing Your Mind


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The Law of Regretted Decisions

E. Allan Farnsworth

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When does the law permit you to change your mind and reverse a decision you have made? In this masterful book, one of the foremost authorities on American contract law considers the general principles and legal rules that bear on this question. Drawing on many fields—contracts, torts, property, trusts, wills, agency, and even family law and procedure—E. Allan Farnsworth identifies and discusses six such principles.

Using real legal cases as well as an array of nonlegal sources ranging from Rousseau and Martin Luther to Shirley MacLaine and Willie Nelson, Farnsworth illustrates the importance of the principles that govern the irrevocability of a commitment (as by a promise) and the irreversibility of a relinquishment (as by a gift) or preclusion (as by prescription). He discusses deficiencies in the law—such as the preoccupation with the reliance principle, the neglect of other principles, the propensity to find promise, and the tendency toward legal paternalism—and offers suggestions to eliminate anomalies, correct shortcomings, and further the rationalization of the legal concepts that pertain to regretted decisions.

E. Allan Farnsworth is Alfred McCormack Professor of Law at Columbia University. He was Reporter for the Restatement (Second) of Contracts and is the author of the three-volume treatise Farnsworth on Contracts and coauthor of Cases and Materials on Contracts.

"Professor Farnsworth’s book is immensely interesting. . . . The conventional academic ear is deaf to the music of doctrine. Farnsworth avidly hears it, reminding us that the law is an intellectually demanding subject on its own terms. It is instructive and inspiring to see such a mind at work."—Dennis Patterson, Books on Law

"This . . . book by one of the nation’s leading scholars on contract law is an exceptionally fine exposition of the principles governing contractual commitment. In clear and simple prose Farnsworth leads the reader through those doctrines that come into play when a party to a contract has second thoughts. . . . Accompanied by useful notes and a comprehensive index, this work belongs in every college library containing a legal collection."—R. Heinman, Choice

Changing Your Mind makes a significant contribution to legal analysis in the enforcement debate. Its clear articulation of a unique framework for categorizing manifestation of decisions provides a new and powerful approach. . . . The book, through its rigorous treatment of doctrine, coupled with a lucid style and illuminating (and often amusing) examples, enable the reader to navigate easily through some of the thorny issues plaguing the enforcement debate.”—Celia R. Taylor, George Washington Law Review

“Farnsworth’s writing style is beautifully clear and eloquent. . . . This book would be an excellent supplement to a contracts or jurisprudence course or seminar.”—Ellen M. Quinn, Legal Information ALERT

“[Farnsworth] does a good job of explaining the meaning of consideration in contracts, the glue that makes contracts enforceable. . . . The book strives to explain the concepts in practical yet technically accurate terms while offering comprehensive footnotes for those interested in further research. An intellectually challenging work that does justice to its topic."—Library Journal

"In this new book, Professor Farnsworth ventures beyond his established field of contract law, where his expertise is recognized as second to none, to the law of torts, property, trusts, agency, and procedure in search of the principles that apply when one changes his mind and reverses a decision. His very readable identification and analysis of six underlying principles will be thought provoking not only to students of the law but to courts, which must derive and apply the relevant principles, and to practitioners, who must search out and make the policy arguments."—Rayner M. Hamilton, White & Case

“Farnsworth’s impeccably organized work, Changing Your Mind, provides a brilliant framework for understanding the kinds of decisions you are stuck with, and the kinds you can renege. More importantly, Farnsworth explains why.”—Lisa A. Mazzie, Wisconsin Lawyer

"Farnsworth presents a coherent and plausible synthesis, an important new perspective through which to view issues of moral and legal significance. His book is consistently illuminating."—Melvin A. Eisenberg, Boalt Law School, University of California, Berkeley

Selected for Honorable Mention in the 1999 Scribes Book Award Competition
ISBN: 9780300086973
Publication Date: August 11, 2000
288 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4