The Limits of Experimental Jurisprudence
Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence, Forthcoming
USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS22-21
19 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2022 Last revised: 9 Mar 2023
Date Written: July 19, 2022
This chapter offers a critique of experimental jurisprudence. While experimental jurisprudence can make an important contribution to legal knowledge and legal theory, theorists and practitioners of experimental should also be aware of its limitations. Experimental jurisprudence cannot, by itself, resolve legal theoretical debates. It is just one limited tool, with an important but partial role to play in the collective project of understanding and evaluating law and legal rules, institutions, and practices. This chapter offers a summary survey of some of the limitations of experimental jurisprudence in special and general jurisprudence. It also argues that, if we want to fully understand law and legal concepts, practices, and institutions, experimental jurisprudence needs to be supplemented with other perspectives—such as those provided by anthropology, qualitative research, and the humanities. These perspectives can capture precisely what experimental jurisprudence must necessarily ignore: that law is a complex institutionalized social and cultural practice constituted by the thought and talk of legal experts.
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