Contract Law Theory

51 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2006

See all articles by Brian Bix

Brian Bix

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: March 17, 2006


This working paper is an early draft of two chapters (and the Preface and Bibliography) from a larger work on Contract Law (for the series, Cambridge Introductions to Philosophy and Law). The working paper covers the theory-focused part of the project. The paper analyzes what it means to have a theory of Contract, and what the criteria should be for evaluating such theories. The paper concludes that general or universal theories of Contract Law - at least those that have been presented to date (including economic theories of contract law, and deontological theories focusing on promising or autonomy) - cannot be justified, and we must seek instead to construct a theory that focuses on a particular legal system (or small group of legal systems), and that emphasizes the variety of principles and approaches within Contract Law, rather than seeking to find or impose a unity that does not exist.

In the course of the argument, the paper also touches on the role of history in explaining legal doctrine, voluntariness in contract formation, the moral obligation to keep contracts, and the relationship between rights and remedies.

Keywords: Contract Law, Philosophical Foundations of the Common Law, Jurisprudence, Law and Economics

JEL Classification: K12

Suggested Citation

Bix, Brian, Contract Law Theory (March 17, 2006). Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-12, Available at SSRN: or

Brian Bix (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

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