Valuing Emotions

54 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2019

Date Written: February 28, 2018


This Article illuminates an unresolved legal enigma: Why is private law so reluctant to compensate victims for emotional harms while it is fully committed to compensating them for any other type of harm? It proposes a novel analysis of the deeper roots of the problem and a solution. This Article shows that the persistent resistance to compensation in the affective domain comes from a broader legal misunderstanding and mistreatment of emotions. Opponents of compensation are wrong to assume that emotional harms are trivial, easy to fake, or impossible to value. Rather, with the help of scientific and technological progress, it should be clear by now that the devaluation of emotional harms is unjustified, injurious to victims, and toxic to relational norms of behavior. What's worse, as this Article exposes, is that while the debate has continued without resolution, reality has dramatically changed. Outside of law and under a neoliberal worldview, the value of emotions has been celebrated, making emotions a new type of personal property and an important component of people's human capital. The Article thus demonstrates that in today's hypercompetitive world the refusal to compensate for emotional harms is more devastating than ever before. For that reason the Article proposes that it is about time we start valuing emotions — recognizing their importance and compensating those who suffered emotional harms. The Article then discusses how to shape the necessary reform, mainly by utilizing existing remedial tools to cope with concerns related to verification and measurement — a challenge that is in no way unique to emotional harms and should not continue to prevent appropriate compensation.

Keywords: Emotions, Neoliberalism, Contracts

Suggested Citation

Keren, Hila, Valuing Emotions (February 28, 2018). Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 5, 2018, Southwestern Law School Research Paper No. 2019/02, Available at SSRN:

Hila Keren (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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