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The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics, Second Edition

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This thoroughly updated and revised edition of a popular and authoritative reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant issues, and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed yet theoretically congruent ideas.
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Chapter 29: Science as a Source of Law

Peter R. Senn


Peter R. Senn So ubiquitous is science as a source of the law that few general statements are possible. Time, place and circumstance determine the role of science in the development of law. For example, the ancient Greeks did much to give meaning to modern ideas of both science and law. A good case can be made that they used their conceptions of science in the development of their laws. Despite this, it would be hard to support the claim that what they meant by both terms, law and science, then are broadly applicable to many of the issues of today. Understanding the role that science plays as a source of law must depend on the meanings given to both ‘law’ and ‘science’. Both terms are used in so many different senses that their denotation must always be specified. As used here, the term ‘source’ refers to the knowledge which science provides as the basis for changing or developing law. There is little agreement among scholars about precise definitions of ‘law’.1 Extreme caution in the use of the term ‘law’ is also required because in every language it has many connotations. Scholars from different disciplines use it to mean very different things. Legal scholars, for example, mean something quite different from philosophers or scientists when they use the same word. There are also many kinds of law. Among these are public, civil, natural, canon, divine, criminal, international and commercial law. Science has different influences on the development...

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