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Distinguished Lecture on Jurisprudence

May 15, 2024

Anita Allen
Anita Allen

Prof. Anita L. Allen will deliver the 2024 HLA Hart Memorial Lecture at the University of Oxford.

Anita L. Allen, Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, will present the 2024 HLA Hart Memorial Lecture in honor of H.L.A. Hart (1907-1992), Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford in 1952 and author of the highly influential book The Concept of Law.

A graduate of Harvard Law with a PhD from the University of Michigan in Philosophy, Allen is internationally renowned as an expert on philosophical dimensions of privacy and data protection law, ethics, bioethics, legal philosophy, women’s rights, and diversity in higher education.

Allen’s lecture is on the subject “Unconditional Love: Some Implications for the Law” and will be held on May 16, 2024 in the College Chapel, Main Quad, University College. From the abstract:

As H.L.A. Hart once remarked, “in order to understand certain features of legal institutions or legal rules, the aims and purposes they are designed to fulfil 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.

Learn more about the 2024 HLA Heart Memorial Lecture.