KEYNOTE: Law and the Brain—Past, Present, and Future

Owen D. Jones.

Law has two problems. Step back far enough from the particulate nature of law as we daily experience it—from the contracts, courtrooms, and codes, from the policies, patents, and police—and then the nationally and locally and topically idiosyncratic features of this uniquely elaborate activity of our species gradually blends into a homogenized cloud of effort, surrounding the first of these problems, at the core. The problem of human behavior. For were it not for the stubborn refusal of everyone (else) to behave the way we wanted, there would be no need for law. Seen at this scale, law is an effort to contain and guide the chaos that results when many different people have many different goals.

Law’s second problem is that the first—human behavior—is so poorly understood. And it’s a special kind of poorly—one in which the very possibility, as well as the desirability, of acquiring reconcilable models of human behavior is often ignored or contested.

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