Emotional Duties

Erica Rachel Goldberg

Harvard Law School

July 21, 2014

Connecticut Law Review, (2015) Forthcoming

The distinction between physical and emotional harm is fundamental. Legal disciplines from torts to constitutional law rely on a hierarchy that places bodily integrity over emotional tranquility. This hierarchy is now under attack by scientists and scholars. Neuroscientists have undermined the view that emotional harm is more subjective; social scientists have refuted the position that emotional harm is less impactful; and feminist scholars have undercut the view that these categories are gender neutral. Courts are taking notice, especially in tort law. Each new Restatement of Torts provides more avenues for plaintiffs to collect damages for emotional injuries.

This Article defends the relevance of the distinction between physical and emotional harm, especially in tort law, by offering theoretical justifications that are responsive to the modern criticisms. A new conception of the distinction should be based on a duty to reasonably regulate one’s own emotional health. This duty fits well within tort theories including law and economics, corrective justice, and civil recourse theory, and harmonizes with criminal law and First Amendment doctrines. Further, neuroscience, social science, and even feminist theory support this duty. A duty to maintain one’s own emotional well being can benefit both potential tort plaintiffs and defendants by incorporating normative ideals about identity, consent, autonomy, social justice, and social welfare. In advancing this emotional duty, this Article also provides sustainable definitions for physical and emotional harm that can survive changing technology, and discusses the implications of a new understanding of the physical/emotional hierarchy for tort law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 68

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: July 23, 2014 ; Last revised: October 7, 2014

Suggested Citation

Goldberg, Erica Rachel, Emotional Duties (July 21, 2014). Connecticut Law Review, (2015) Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2469258

Contact Information

Erica Rachel Goldberg (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 1,286
Downloads: 164
Download Rank: 123,469
Paper comments
No comments have been made on this paper

© 2015 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo6 in 0.438 seconds