The HLA Hart Memorial Lecture at Oxford

References contributed by Anthony Slingsby, Esq. Retired Solicitor, London, Portugal 

The HLA Hart Memorial Lecture at Oxford

Thursday, 16 May 2024, given by Professor Anita L Allen, Henry R Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, on the subject “Unconditional Love, Some Implications for the Law.”


As HLA Hart once remarked, “in order to understand certain features of legal institutions or legal rules, the aims and purposes they are designed to fulfill must be understood.” Certain features of its legal system that the United States shares with many other countries can be understood as fulfilling the aims of unconditional love as a norm and expectation. To quote Gabriele Taylor, “The moral status of love is of course much discussed by philosophers, poets and novelists.” Yet the ways in which love concepts insinuate themselves into the law are seldom examined as closely as they deserve to be.

For better and for worse, concepts of unconditional love seep consequentially into policy and practice, mattering to how we understand responsibility and accountability. Among the reasons legal theorists need to take unconditional love quite seriously is that it has implications for coercive law. Modern western no-fault divorce laws imply valuing the ability easily to sever important commitments and start fresh. Yet contemporary laws relating to evidentiary privileges, parental support of disabled adult children, prison visitation, and abortion are among the legal rules explicable to the communities bound by them because the notion that some love (and some duty) is and ought to be unconditional is a pervasive one.

Joseph Raz illuminated marital love, parental love and loving friendships as powerful, life-meaning generating attachments.  It is no wonder that the law serves to fulfil the aims of unconditional conceptions of familial love, a love that can be a stranglehold, as well as a reliable basis of affectionate companionship, care and concern.

The second is an important article in the New York Times, “Working With Your Hands Is Good for Your Brain”

By Markham Heid

March 28, 2024

The article makes the important point that activities like writing, gardening and knitting can improve your cognition and mood. A brief quote:

“When you look at the brain’s real estate — how it’s divided up, and where its resources are invested — a huge portion of it is devoted to movement, and especially to voluntary movement of the hands,” said Kelly Lambert, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

Dr. Lambert has another hypothesis. “With depression, people experience something called learned helplessness, where they feel like it doesn’t matter what they do, nothing ever works,” she said. She believes that working with one’s hands is stimulating to the brain, and that it could even help counteract this learned helplessness. “When you put in effort and can see the product of that, like a scarf you knitted, I think that builds up a sense of accomplishment and control over your world,” she said.

About HLA Hart (Wikipedia)

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