Evolution, Biolegal History, and the Deep Structure of Law

Posted: 15 May 2009

See all articles by Robin Bradley Kar

Robin Bradley Kar

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: May 20, 2009


In this talk, I will discuss the role that evolutionary theory (and, in particular, the concept of a natural function) can play in contributing to what Owen Jones has dubbed "Biolegal History.”

After setting out a general description of this project, and a number of theoretical desiderata that it should presumably meet, I will outline some of my own work, which aims to identify the structural features of the attitudes that breathe life into our legal practices, and give rise to our sense of legal obligation. In the process, I will pay some attention to integrating recent work by a number of other theorists (e.g., Jones, Kurzban, Robinson, Mikhail, and Guttentag) into this general account. On the descriptive side, this work should -- in my view -- be understood as posing a distinctive and underappreciated challenge to the psychological views commonly espoused by most economists (including most behavioral economists). I will, however, also discuss a very different problem that arises in this literature, concerning the appropriate way to picture the relationship between moral and legal obligations. In my view, this relationship has been misconstrued not only by economists but also by most moral and legal philosophers. I will explain why I think this problem arises so robustly, propose a way of resolving it, and then trace out a number of important normative consequences that should follow.

Suggested Citation

Kar, Robin Bradley, Evolution, Biolegal History, and the Deep Structure of Law (May 20, 2009). Gruter Institute Squaw Valley Conference 2009: Law, Behavior & the Brain. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1405352

Robin Bradley Kar (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uiuc.edu/faculty-admin/directory/RobinKar

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