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Asking why in the study of human affairs

Webber, Grégoire (2015) Asking why in the study of human affairs. American Journal of Jurisprudence, 60 (1). pp. 51-78. ISSN 0065-8995

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Identification Number: 10.1093/ajj/auv005


For the study of human affairs, there is a strategic question that directs inquiry: why? Why did persons act the way they did? What were their reasons for so acting? When one seeks to study human affairs of a time and place, one puts the question “why?” to the persons of that time and place and seeks to understand their reasons for acting, as they conceive them. But when one seeks to study human affairs generally, one puts the question “why?” to oneself and interrogates what truly good reasons there are for acting. Law earns a place in the study of human affairs only if there are truly good reasons to favor it and, if there are, those reasons will identify the central case of law, which will be united with the law of different times and places by a network of similarities and differences. The argument suggests that there is an order of priority in the questions one asks in order to develop a general theory of law: ask “why choose law?” before and in order to answer “what is law?”

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of University of Notre Dame
Divisions: Law
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Date Deposited: 04 May 2016 08:17
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2019 02:04

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