Beyond Jurisprudence

78 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2016 Last revised: 2 Nov 2019

Date Written: July 7, 2016


This article takes a new approach to legal theory. Because it views law as part of a complex natural system, it uses complex systems theory as its central investigative framework. Unlike traditional jurisprudence, which separates human artifacts from nature, complexity theory shows that human and natural systems are interdependent. Such systems cannot be studied in isolation, but require consilience. Consilience unites knowledge from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. By merging consilience with complexity theory, the article moves beyond jurisprudence toward “jurisilience.”

Jurisilience shows that law is a complex cultural system caused by complex social systems of cooperation. Yet law is not just a social construction. Law’s tree of causality has biological roots. Human social practices derive from complex psychological systems that stimulate empathy and trust. These systems, in turn, emerge from complex neural and genetic systems that propagate man’s selfish and social instincts. According to complexity theory, system pressures operate both within and between man’s developmental tiers, triggering attitudinal and behavioral changes that run not only from individuals up to societies and cultures, but also back down into the human genome. In this way, law is both permanently grounded in human nature and constantly adapting to social and cultural progress.

Like all natural systems, man’s systemic cycles are governed by coordination dynamics. Though human beings seek self-preservation, they possess complementary but conflicting properties that jeopardize their survival. Coordination dynamics reconcile such conflicts. Our biological systems coordinate our bodily functions and psychological drives, while our social and cultural systems coordinate our relationships with other people. As a cultural institution, our legal system stands above society, stabilizing the persistent discord below. But law never loses its human footing. In fact, law is really just the mirror image of its human creator – a complementary collection of problem-solving systems dynamically coordinating and reconciling their antagonistic tendencies in pursuit of survival and flourishing.

Keywords: General Jurisprudence, Legal Positivism, Logical Positivism, Social Theory, Naturalized Epistemology, Ontology, Complex Systems Theory, Evolutionary Biology, Neuroscience, Moral Psychology, Anthropology, Consilience, Complementarity, Coordination Dynamics

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Calnan, Alan, Beyond Jurisprudence (July 7, 2016). 27 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 1 (2017); Southwestern Law School Research Paper No. 2016-7. Available at SSRN: or

Alan Calnan (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States
(213) 738-6811 (Phone)

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