Jurisprudence and Psychology

New Waves in Philosophy of Law, Forthcoming

Osgoode CLPE Research Paper No. 49/2010

24 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2010 Last revised: 21 Oct 2014

See all articles by Dan Priel

Dan Priel

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: November 26, 2010


I argue that much of the work in analytic jurisprudence has been concerned with two questions that have not been adequately distinguished: (a) an inquiry about the concept of law, and (b) an explanation of the important features of the practice of law. It is often assumed that the two inquiries are the same. In this essay I distinguish the two and argue that work in psychology provides important insights about both. With regard to the first, I argue that much jurisprudential conceptual analysis is challenged by psychological work on concepts. With regard to the second, I argue that legal theorists would benefit from greater attention to what people’s ‘internal’ attitudes about law are by looking at psychological research on the matter. But psychology is not merely a challenge to contemporary jurisprudence: following the critique I suggest various ways psychological work can assist us in thinking on old jurisprudential questions like the dispute between positivism and natural law or the question of law’s normativity.

Keywords: jurisprudence, law, practice of law, psychology

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Priel, Dan, Jurisprudence and Psychology (November 26, 2010). New Waves in Philosophy of Law, Forthcoming; Osgoode CLPE Research Paper No. 49/2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1715647 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1715647

Dan Priel (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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