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Legal Liminality: An Inquiry Into the Cognitive Foundations of the Law

Legal Liminality: An Inquiry Into the Cognitive Foundations of the Law

Objective

Legal theorists have long argued that law is more than enforcement, i.e. rather than being just an externally observed
phenomenon, that it involves a cognitive element on the part of participants in the practice. The dominant accounts of this
cognitive element divide into those—within the law and economics paradigm—that see it as a cost-benefit analysis and
others—in the natural law tradition—that conflate it with morality. Recent evidence suggests, however, that the picture is
more complex: neither are human beings as relentlessly self-interested as they are parodied to be as the homo economicus
of rational-choice theory nor do they possess unlimited altruism. But there has been very little systematic inquiry—certainly
of an empirical nature—into the question: what are the cognitive foundations of law— as a mode of cooperation—that make
it distinct from other institutions? This project will attempt to fill that gap by trying to understand the relationship between
decision-making at the individual level, group behaviour and social outcomes—focusing, in particular, on the role of trust and
the notion of community in mediating these relationships, and the point at which social norms “tip” into law. Joining the dots
between behavioural law and economics, moral psychology, legal theory and economic sociology, it will draw on the range
of methodologies currently in use in the American Empirical Legal Studies tradition (with a focus on behavioural techniques)
and extend current practice by developing an approach specifically adapted to legal scholarship. This ground breaking
research will seek to stretch the boundaries of current knowledge—in disciplinary, methodological and, ultimately,
theoretical terms— through pioneering approaches to the empirical study of law and thereby contribute to real world change
in the way that law and legal systems function, with implications for development, climate change, regional alliances and a
range of other key challenges.
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Coordinator

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

Address

Trinity Lane The Old Schools
Cb2 1tn Cambridge

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 271 732,80

Partners (1)

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BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 844628

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    2 September 2019

  • End date

    1 September 2022

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 271 732,80

  • EU contribution

    € 271 732,80

Coordinated by:

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

United Kingdom