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Sensitive Judges – How to Resolve the Tangle of Legal Decision-Making and Emotion?

Author:

Jurriën Hamer

Utrecht University School of Law, NL
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Abstract

According to traditional legal thought, emotions should have no influence on legal decision-making. The general assumption is that emotions interfere with clear rational thinking, and cause decisions to be biased and imbalanced. However, in modern philosophical thought, a different thesis has been put forward. Contrary to being irrational occurrences, emotions are said to actually contain important cognitive content. More precisely, our emotions reflect important evaluative judgments we have about our environment, which usually inform us in making decisions. The question asked in this paper is what the consequences are of accepting such an account of emotions for the legal decision-making process. Does this new understanding of emotions necessitate rethinking the role traditionally assigned to emotions? Focusing on judges, it is argued that emotions are of value to the decision-making process, and that the influence of emotions does not automatically lead to decisions being biased. It is concluded that like distanced rational thought, the emotions involved offer a uniquely important aid to make correct and just decisions.
DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ulr.188
How to Cite: Hamer, J., (2012). Sensitive Judges – How to Resolve the Tangle of Legal Decision-Making and Emotion?. Utrecht Law Review. 8(1), pp.189–199. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ulr.188
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Published on 27 Jan 2012.

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