Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Compassion and the rule of law

  • Susan A. Bandes (a1)
Abstract

Compassion poses difficult challenges for the rule of law. The compassionate response is often cast as a deviation from settled law rather than a principled application of it. Compassion so understood is troubling, most obviously because it poses a challenge to overall fairness, notice and consistency. Although compassion is usually approached as a factor influencing substantive outcomes, I argue to the contrary that compassion cannot serve as a reliable indicator of who should prevail in legal debates. Whether compassion should inform substance is a normative question that must be answered in light of the purposes of the tribunal and the principles it seeks to advance. I propose instead that compassion's importance lies in its ability to aid decision-makers in understanding what is at stake for the litigant. In this sense, compassion is closely tied to humility: both are reminders of human fallibility and of the limits of individual understanding.

Copyright
Corresponding author
sbandes@depaul.edu
Footnotes
Hide All

The author thanks both Dermot Feenan and Jeffrie Murphy for invaluable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. She also thanks Dermot Feenan for lead organisation of the superb conference at which this essay was first presented.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Bandes, S.A. (1990) ‘The Negative Constitution: A Critique’, Michigan Law Review 88: 22712347.
Bandes, S.A. (1996) ‘Empathy, Narrative, and Victim Impact Statements’, University of Chicago Law Review 63: 361412.
Bandes, S.A. (2009) ‘Empathetic Judging and the Rule of Law’, Cardozo Law Review de Novo: 133148.
Bandes, S.A. (2011) ‘Moral Imagination in Judging’, Washburn Law Review 51: 124.
Batson, C.D. (2011) ‘These Things Called Empathy: Eight Related but Distinct Phenomena’, in Decety, J. and Ickes, W. (eds) The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. Boston: MIT Press, 316.
Berlant, L. (2004) ‘Introduction: Compassion (and Withholding)’, in Berlant, L. (ed.) Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion. New York, NY: Routledge, 113.
Bloom, P. (2004) Descartes’ Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human. New York: Basic Books.
Blum, L. (1980), ‘Compassion’, in Rorty, A.O. (ed.) Explaining Emotions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 507517.
Brennan, W.J. (1988) ‘Reason, Passion, and “The Progress of the Law”’, Cardozo Law Review 10: 324.
Carr, B. (1999) ‘Pity and Compassion as Social Virtues’, Philosophy 74(3): 411429.
Cuff, M.P., Brown, S.J., Taylor, L. and Howat, D.J. (2016) ‘Empathy: A Review of the Concept’, Emotion Review 8(2): 144153.
Duncan, S. (2016) ‘Brandeis School of Law Faculty Vote to Adopt Compassion Resolution’, University of Louisville. Available at: <www.louisville.edu/law/news/brandeis-school-of-law-faculty-adopt-compassion-resolution> (accessed 6 March 2017).
Fallon, R.H. Jr (1997) ‘“The Rule of Law” as a Concept in Constitutional Discourse’, Columbia Law Review 97: 156.
Garber, M. (2004) ‘Compassion’, in Berlant, L. (ed.) Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion. New York, NY: Routledge, 1527.
Guthrie, C. (2008) ‘ Carhart, Constitutional Rights, and the Psychology of Regret’, Southern California Law Review 81: 877903.
Hobbes, T. (1651/2010) Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill, XIII, ed. Shapiro, I.. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Ickes, W. (2011) ‘Empathic Accuracy: Its Links to Clinical, Cognitive, Developmental, Social, and Physiological Psychology’, in Decety, J. and Ickes, W. (eds) The Social Neuroscience of Empathy. Boston: MIT Press, 5770.
Johnson, M. (1994) Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kozinski, A. (1997) ‘Teetering on the High Wire’, University of Colorado Law Review 68: 12171229.
Milligan, L. (2016) ‘Commentary: UofL Law School Is No Longer Neutral’, Courier Journal, 17 January 2016. Available at: <www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2016/01/13/commentary-uofl-law-school-no-longer-neutral/78655014/> (accessed 6 March 2017).
Minow, M.L. and Spelman, E.V. (1988) ‘Passion for Justice’, Cardozo Law Review 10: 3776.
Murphy, J.G. (2017) ‘Humility as a Moral Virtue’, in Worthington, E. Jr, Davis, D.E. and Hook, J. (eds) Handbook of Humility: Theory, Research, and Application. New York: Routledge (forthcoming).
Nussbaum, M.C. (2001) Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Peters, R.S. (1973) Reason and Compassion. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Schriwer, T. (1999) ‘Establishing an Affirmative Governmental Duty to Protect Children's Rights: The European Court of Human Rights as a Model for the United States Supreme Court’, University of San Francisco Law Review 34: 379408.
Singer, T. and Klimecki, O.M. (2014) ‘Empathy and Compassion’, Current Biology 24: 875878.
Smith, A. (1790/2005) The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. Soares, M.M.. MetaLibri. Available at: <metalibri.wikidot.com> (accessed 6 March 2017).
Spelman, E.V. (1998) The Fruits of Sorrow: Framing Attention to Human Suffering. Boston: Beacon Press.
Zipursky, B. (1990) ‘ DeShaney and the Jurisprudence of Compassion’, New York University Law Review 65: 11011147.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Law in Context
  • ISSN: 1744-5523
  • EISSN: 1744-5531
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-law-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed