Law, Reason, and Emotion

38 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2014

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 9, 2014


Law, reason, and emotion have a long, close, and complicated relationship in the history of philosophy and justice. This discussion suggests that that law gains legitimacy and effectiveness when it marries reason with emotion, that reason and human emotion are the guiding values of any just legal system, that all legal systems claim to be just, and that all legal systems and all legal scholars make use of these insights whether they acknowledge them or not. The project here in the first instance is one of definition: "law", "reason", "emotion", "justice", "effectiveness", and "the rule of law" all require specification to better understand how they relate to one another and set the agenda for further conversation. The first step is to consider how these words have been and should be used for the better understanding and eventual improvement of law and society. Reason and emotion are the twin pillars of the law, which make the law legitimate, just, and effective when they are properly taken into account and otherwise not. No one can properly understand law without reference both to human emotion and to the purpose law properly exists to serve, which is the rational well-being of each and every member of society.

Keywords: law, reason, emotion, social emotions, Marcus Tullius Cicero, rule of law, society, legitimacy, effectiveness, values, legal system, justice, law and society, specification, nature, natural law, morality, Sir Edward Coke, right reason, recta ratio, summa ratio, emotions, love, loyalty, liberality

JEL Classification: D63, D64, K10, K19, K40

Suggested Citation

Sellers, Mortimer Newlin Stead, Law, Reason, and Emotion (June 9, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Mortimer Newlin Stead Sellers (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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