Law and the Passions: Why Emotion Matters for Justice




Journal Title

Journal ISSN


Volume Title





Peer reviewed



Engaging with the underlying social context in which emotions are a motivational force, Law and the Passions provides a uniquely inclusive commentary on the significance and influence of emotions in the history and continuing development of legal judgment, policy formation, legal practice and legal dogma. Although the emotionality of the law and the use of emotional tropes in legal discourse has become an established focus in recent scholarship, the extent to which emotion and the passions have informed decision-making, decision-avoidance and legal reasoning – rather than as simply an adjunct – is still a matter for critical analysis. As evidenced in a range of illustrative legal cases, emotions have been instrumental in the evolution of key legal principles and have produced many controversial judgments. Addressing the latent influence of fear, hate, love and compassion, the book explores the mutability of law and its transformative power, especially when faced with fluctuating social mores. The textual nature of law and the impact of literary forms on legal actors are also critically examined to further elucidate the idea of law-making as both rational and emotional, and significantly as an essential activity of the empathic imagination. To this end, it is suggested that critical scholarship on law, the passions and emotions not only advances our understanding of the inner workings of law, it constitutes a fundamental part of our moral reasoning, and has the capacity to articulate the conditions for a more dynamic, adaptable, ethical and effective legal institution.




Shaw, J.J.A. (2019) Law and the Passions: Why Emotion Matters for Justice. Routledge, Oxford


Research Institute

Centre for Law, Justice and Society