Toward 'Jurisilience'

98 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2015 Last revised: 31 May 2016

Date Written: October 15, 2015


General jurisprudence currently faces three daunting challenges. First, it possesses an outdated dualistic ontology that creates irreconcilable conflicts between its competing theories. Second, it employs a parochial epistemology that selectively deploys insights from isolated knowledge domains with no systematic attempt at validation or synthesis. Third, and most important, this approach to the human institution of law essentially defies human nature - ignoring or denying the law’s immanent humanity while eliding the human dynamics behind legal theorizing.

Because these challenges are fundamental, they cannot be met by piecemeal change. Instead, they require radical reimagination. This article takes a first step in that direction, proposing an alternative type of legal theory called “jurisilience.” Inspired by the consilience movement outside legal academia, jurisilience seeks to unite knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to enrich our understanding of law and jurisprudence.

This preliminary offering provides a rough sketch of the project’s major themes. Combining research from physics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, moral and developmental psychology, sociology, and anthropology, it shows that human nature is not dualistic but holistic, consistently exhibiting the features of complementarity and coordination dynamics. To test this theory, the article begins to develop an interdisciplinary standard of knowledge derived from the fields of science, epistemology, hermeneutics, and rhetoric. It then uses this standard to defend a neoteric narrative of legality. Finding repeating patterns in law’s history, content, and interpretation, it argues that mankind’s corpus juris is the mirror image of its creator - a complementary collection of problem-solving systems dynamically coordinating and reconciling their antagonistic tendencies in pursuit of survival and flourishing.

Keywords: General Jurisprudence, Positivism, Natural Law, Social Theory, Epistemology, Ontology, Natural Science, Social Science, Humanities, Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, Moral Psychology, Anthropology, Hermeneutics, Rhetoric, Consilience, Complementarity, Coordination Dynamics

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Calnan, Alan, Toward 'Jurisilience' (October 15, 2015). Southwestern Law School Research Paper No. 2015-23. Available at SSRN: or

Alan Calnan (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

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