The Conflict of Human and Non-Human Laws

Animals, Biopolitics, Law: Lively Legalities, edited by Irus Braverman Routledge, Dec 22, 2015

28 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2018 Last revised: 12 Feb 2018

See all articles by Richard Janda

Richard Janda

McGill University

Richard Lehun

Goethe University Frankfurt

Date Written: January 20, 2018


We are in the Anthropocene. Humanity’s collective impact has become the dominant influence on the biosphere, leading to conditions destroying the ecosystems upon which we depend. For the jurist, the Anthropocene involves a conflict of laws between those human laws governing our economic behaviour, and the non-human laws governing biogeophysical outcomes. This conflict produces an antinomical burden. The human laws having greatest determinacy and persistence – the laws of supply and demand – cannot be sustained under the operation of non-human laws. Thus, growing energy demand, being met by increasing supply, is now in an antinomical relationship with the biosphere’s regulatory response. This conflict of laws cannot be resolved. However, it can be addressed though the reflexive reconfiguration of human norms as they produce outcomes under non-human laws. This excludes the conventional choice of laws methodology, which would seek to identify the narrow set of conditions under which we should apply non-human laws. Non-human laws cannot be suspended. Nor can we embrace more than human law as a supervening source of legitimacy with which we should simply learn to identify. Human laws persist, and we live with the antinomy to which they give rise.

Suggested Citation

Janda, Richard and Lehun, Richard, The Conflict of Human and Non-Human Laws (January 20, 2018). Animals, Biopolitics, Law: Lively Legalities, edited by Irus Braverman Routledge, Dec 22, 2015. Available at SSRN: or

Richard Janda

McGill University ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. W
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G5

Richard Lehun (Contact Author)

Goethe University Frankfurt ( email )


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