A Functionalist Theory of Legal Persons

32 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2024

Date Written: March 28, 2024


This Article defends a functionalist theory of legal persons that substantively unifies individuals, corporations, and other constructed or juridical persons, and then canvasses revisionary implications for law. In more words, I argue that, because the law has (and ought to have) an instrumentalist conception of the world, legal persons are defined and delineated on the basis of functional—rather than natural or material—structures and properties. I then argue that, in order to fully reflect and realize this functionalism, the law’s present understanding of legal persons must be expanded in a number of significant ways. These include that i) the boundaries of individual legal persons—along with personal rights—ought to depart from the boundaries of human bodies far more explicitly and expansively than they presently do; ii) that the law ought to seriously consider contextual or collective legal persons beyond corporations; and iii) that the law’s mental state requirements perhaps ought to be interpreted as satisfiable by purely functional mental states, including those of “extended” and artificial minds.

Keywords: law & philosophy, legal philosophy, private law theory, functionalism, normative metaphysics, legal ontology, corporate law theory, intellectual property, privacy, defamation, AI, law & technology, copyright law, corporate law, private law, torts, legal fictions

Suggested Citation

Chatterjee, Mala, A Functionalist Theory of Legal Persons (March 28, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract= or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4775551

Mala Chatterjee (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th St
NEW YORK, NY 10027

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