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Research Themes

Glasses on note book

The research carried out within the ECLT covers a diverse range of topics, including inter alia the philosophical investigation of doctrines and concepts of contract law, public law, criminal law, evidence law, and international law, relations between legal theory and legal history, gender and sexuality, the conceptual and normative apparatus required to conceive of law in post-state contexts, connections between law, personality and polity, computational legal theory, issues in legal argumentation and legal interpretation or the psychology of legal decision-making. Although the scope of research carried out within the ECLT is too wide-ranging to be boxed within a few categories, recent work by staff, students and visitors has focused on the following themes:

Virtue Jurisprudence

Edinburgh Law School is a leading center in the field of virtue jurisprudence, which places the notion of virtue at the forefront of legal analysis. Some of the research lines that have figured prominently in our recent work include:

  1. an investigation of the role played by virtuous character traits, most prominently, phronesis, in legal reasoning and legal decision making;
  2. an analysis of the relevance of virtue to some central problems in legal theory, such as the normativity of law and the objectivity of legal judgments;
  3. the exploration of the relations between virtue, law, and technology;
  4. the examination of the institutional and social dimensions of virtue;
  5. the investigation of how engagement with the law by legal professionals can be considered to be an integral part of a virtuous life.

Legal Reasoning

For almost half a century now, Edinburgh Law School has been a leading force in the study of legal argumentation. Neil MacCormick’s ground-breaking work in the field has inspired generations of Edinburgh students and staff who studied, taught, and developed a number of original approaches to different aspects of legal argumentation.

Our lines of research in the field are varied and diverse, but recent work has focused on

(i)  the interface between legal argumentation and legal decision-making, in particular the decision-maker’s subjectivity.

(ii) the relation between legal argumentation and theoretical problems (such as the nature of precedent, the notion of coherence, and the concept of a reason for action). 

(iii) the study of legal argument types such as legal analogies, inferences to the best legal explanation, the “legal syllogism”, and the fallacy of denying the antecedent.

Philosophy of Private Law

The Centre is home to a thriving community of private law theorists and, over the past few years, hosted a number of high-profile events on that field. Recent work by staff and students has covered a multitude of aspects of private law, including

(i)   the interface between private law and justice;

(ii)  the notion of just price in contracts;

(iii) the justification of private property (in general) and of some of its central features

(iv) the relationship between private law and public law.

Global Law and Global Legal Theory

Global legal theory – an investigation of the various ways in which legal doctrine, institutions, systems and basic concepts can be understood as globally (and not merely nationally or regionally) significant under modern conditions – is one of the main research areas of Edinburgh Legal Theory. Key topics include:

  1. the making of legal and political communities beyond the state;
  2. the relationship between various forms and bases of legal universalism, pluralism, and particularism;
  3. ideas of regional or global legal order;
  4. the relationship between globally extended law and global justice. 

Law and Polity Project

Visit the Law and Polity project website