Lawful emotions

  • Robin L. West Law Center at Georgetown University, Washington, USA


«Law and Emotions» scholarship of the last two decades, across a range of disciplines and methods, occurs around a handful of common comments: that law is based at least partly on emotions, even as it finds expression in rationality, that judicial interpretation of law is likewise colored by the emotional responses of judges to both the litigants before them and the precedents they apply, that law acts upon the «emotional subject» no less than upon the economic or political subject, that law, and particularly criminal law, tort law, and family law, often regulates our emotional lives, and that the ideal of justice toward which law strives is formed by empathic knowledge of others which is itself garnered partly from emotions. These sentences are central and vitally significant contributions to our understanding of law’s nature. However the «law and emotion» researches have not so clearly investigated another and perhaps equally central aspect of law relation to emotional life: that is law capacity to create, or produce emotions, and therefore to create or produce or influence on emotional health or ill health of the citizens whose lives it touches by other ways. Emotional wellbeing is now recognized as one of the central capabilities that liberal state just tends to develop. Law produces emotions of fear, anxiety, hope, frustration, satiation revenge, rage. Perhaps law and emotion scholars who are also interested in the meaning of justice might therefore fruitfully turn to the consideration whether law promotes emotional wellbeing, and the capacity for moral connections with others for which emotional wellbeing is so important, and how it might be reformed with these emotional values in mind — along side of more familiar ideals of efficiency, wealth, integrity, consistency and principle.


emotions that are created by law, society of equal opportunities, diffusion, mutual consent, individualism, constitutionalism


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Author Biography

Robin L. West , Law Center at Georgetown University, Washington, USA

Professor of Law and Philosophy


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How to Cite
West , R. L. (2016). Lawful emotions. Pravovedenie, 60(3), 6-33. Retrieved from
Concept of law