The Law Teacher

Emotions and the frontiers of legal education

How cooperation, dialogue and emotions support justice, legal education and civic values?

Based on an educational experience that brought together law students and inmates in the same classroom, this paper reflects on the connections between emotions, justice and democracy.

After a brief description of the course, the paper explores its philosophical assumptions. The methodology of the course is inspired by Martha Nussbaum’s claim that emotions must be at the foundation of a theory of justice.

By using the Socratic method, the instructor created a space for emotions to play a crucial role in the interaction among participants. This approach was inscribed within Michel de Montaigne’s idea that the construction of knowledge must be based on dialogue, which requires the participants to take a leap of faith and to trust each other in order to engage in genuine cooperation, following the ideas of Richard Sennett.

The paper claims that this exercise in cooperation promotes an acute sensitivity towards justice (along the lines of Amartya Sen) and enhances democratic dialogue (along the lines of John Stuart Mill). Thus, cooperation, dialogue and emotions are the three pillars of the philosophical framework of this project, and ultimately point towards the importance of love for justice, legal education and the promotion of civic values.

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