Previously posted on SSRN.


Legal theory and doctrine depend on underlying assumptions about human nature and sociality. Perhaps the most common and basic assumption is that we are separate persons who communicate imperfectly with one another. While this separation thesis has been questioned, it still dominates legal theory. However, I show that understanding separation and connection as alternative perspectives, rather than as ontologically true or false, reveals that legal conflict often arises when these perspectives give rise to clashing intuitions concerning the meaning of community and what constitutes goals and harms. This Article organizes perspectives on social relationships in increasing order of intersubjectivity: isolation, interaction, interdependence, and interconstitution. The last of these, interconstitution, understands people as continuously becoming who they are on account of one another, not as separate agents who merely influence one another. Some theories of human developmental biology suggest that this perspective has as reasonable a claim, and perhaps a greater claim, on social reality as do the more familiar ones. I use several problems in law to demonstrate the importance of the choice among these perspectives, especially highlighting the valuable insights of interconstitutionalism.

Included in

Jurisprudence Commons