Belgrade Legal Theory Group organized its third event in 2023 with Marek Jakubiec (Jagiellonian University in Krakow), as part of a series of lectures on the naturalization of legal theory, on the topic of cognitive legal studies.

Marek opened the presentation with some methodological points regarding cognition and stated that there is a contemporary tendency to supplement or even replace epistemology by psychology or neuroscience. He alluded to the general concern of philosophers regarding the descriptiveness of science and its applicability to the law as normative, although he mentioned that experience can provide useful insights when dealing with legal concepts because law can also be seen from the descriptive perspective. Cognitive sciences should also be helpful in understanding the processes of decision-making and legal interpretation, which is essential for law.

Afterward, Marek moved on to the potential problems and tensions within the idea of naturalization which relies on cognitive theories, because they are inconclusive and often contradict each other. The pessimistic view on naturalization states if there is no clear indication to which theory is more plausible, then naturalization doesn’t seem possible. One of the most fundamental divergences in cognitive sciences regards the question of whether mental representations are embodied or disembodied. The former means that concepts have a strong connection to our perceptual experience, while the latter suggests they do not. Both approaches are plausible and both change the direction of naturalization, thus limiting its scope of application.

Following was the Q&A part of the event, with substantial interest from the audience.

The audience was focused on various aspects of the topic, but mostly on the question of why is inconclusiveness of cognitive theories so important for the application of naturalization, especially since science in general and knowledge (in general) are inconclusive and dynamic, i.e. based on assumptions and refutations which never completely end.

Marek answered by claiming that he doesn’t endorse such a pessimistic view, but rather the moderate one which encourages naturalization despite scientific inconclusiveness, but includes cautiousness. He thinks the fact that neuroscience is a quite new and young field of research, as well as that naturalization cannot fully replace conceptual analysis, should make us warier when proposing naturalistic solutions.

Ending the meeting, Sava Vojnovic thanked everyone for an excellent discussion, as well as Marek for the interesting lecture.


BLTG: Marek Jakubiec – Cognitive Legal Studies: methods, opportunities, limitations