Last modified on 27 May 2014, at 01:28




meta- +‎ rule


metarule (plural metarules)

  1. A rule that governs the application of other rules.
    • 1974, Thomas S. Szasz, M.D., chapter 9, The Myth of Mental Illness[1], ISBN 0-06-091151-4, page 161:
      The existence and durability of social rules—irrespective of
      the sources to which man may have attributed them—is evi-
      dence of the intensity of the human need to follow rules.
      Indeed, man's need for rules and his propensity to follow them
      is equaled only by his desire to reject rules and be free of
      them. As I will try to show later,15 this antithetical disposition
      is a special instance of a more general human ambivalence—
      namely, the simultaneous needs for intimacy and solitude.
      Alternating attitudes of submission to and rebellion against
      people and rules may be best viewed as manifestations of this
      fundamental human paradox. One of the most useful methods
      for resolving this dilemma is our capacity for abstraction
      which makes it possible to construct progressively higher
      levels of symbolization; these constructs, in turn, lead to a
      lessening of the feeling of compulsion attached to rules explic-
      itly understood as rules. Thus, for each set of rules we can, in
      principle, construct a set of metarules. The latter are made up
      of the specifications governing the formation of the rules at the
      next lower (logical) level. Explicit awareness of metarules
      implies an understanding of the origin, function, and scope of
      the (next lower level) rules. Acquiring such understanding
      constitutes a form of mastery. Only by practicing what may be
      called the metarule attitude—which is actually a special case
      of the scientific attitude applied to the domain of rules—can
      we acquire a secure yet flexible integration of rules as behav-
      ior-regulating agencies. Finally, the metarule attitude enables
      us to increase our range of choices about whether or not to
      comply with rules, and whether or not to try to change them.