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Contribution to Book
Legal Positivism and Evolutionary Psychology: Can Darwin Do Something for Positivist Approaches to the Study of Law?
Law and Biology (2010)
  • Arthur Dyevre, Max Planck Institute for International and Comparative Law

In the present essay, I consider the relevance of Evolutionary Psychology (EP) for legal positivism, addressing the two main traditions in the legal positivist family: (1) The tradition I identify with the works of H.L.A. Hart and Hans Kelsen and characterize as “normativist”, as it tries to describe law as a purely or, at least, as an essentially normative phenomenon while remaining true to the ideal of scientific objectivity and value-neutrality. (2) The tradition I broadly refer to as “legal realism”, which equates law with adjudication and “legal science” with the task of explaining judicial behaviour. On the assumption that the claims of EP are correct, I try to establish whether EP could and should inform the legal theories that have developed within these two traditions. My conclusions warrant a degree of scepticism, although I am somewhat less sceptical about possible interconnections between EP and the legal realist approach than I am about the Hartian-Kelsenian brand of legal positivism. What motivates my scepticism is the nature of the normativist enterprise, how normativists construct their theories and delineate their subject-matter. The truth is EP has little to say about the questions that are of interest to legal positivists of that persuasion. The situation is slightly different for the legal realist tradition and the theories that try to study judicial behaviour in causal terms. The question, however, is whether EP can help generate new testable hypotheses about judicial decision-making.

  • Evolutionary Psychology,
  • Legal Positivism,
  • Normativism,
  • Legal Realism,
  • Adjudication,
  • Law and Evolutionary Biology
Publication Date
B. Brozek and M. Soniewicka and J. Stelmach
Jagellonian University Press
Studies in the Philosophy of Law
Citation Information
Arthur Dyevre. "Legal Positivism and Evolutionary Psychology: Can Darwin Do Something for Positivist Approaches to the Study of Law?" KrakowLaw and Biology Vol. 5 (2010)
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