Does the Reasonable Man Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

41 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2020 Last revised: 23 Jan 2020

See all articles by Lucy A. Jewel

Lucy A. Jewel

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2019


The reasonable man is an anthropomorphic metaphor for legal reasoning. In this role, he sometimes shows symptoms of mental illness. He exhibits a compulsion to organize, rank, and prevent disorder, a process that can create unjust outcomes. When he is symptomatic, the reasonable man becomes a monster borne out of a fear of disorder. As the putative judge whom all lawyers write and speak in front of, the reasonable man is the reader attorneys fine-tune their arguments and language for. After developing a case history for the reasonable man, this Article engages with several questions. First, when advocates emulate the reasonable man’s white, privileged, patrimonial, and no-nonsense approach to legal reasoning, are they nurturing a monster? Second, do advocates reinforce inequality by adopting the reasonable man’s privileged persona and formalist approach to legal reasoning? And finally, if the reasonable man sometimes exhibits symptoms of a mental disorder, can our law and culture heal him?

Keywords: Rhetoric, Legal Reasoning, Jurisprudence, Legal Writing, Critical Theory

Suggested Citation

Jewel, Lucille A., Does the Reasonable Man Have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? (September 1, 2019). Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 54, 2019; University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 389. Available at SSRN:

Lucille A. Jewel (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

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