The H.L.A. Hart Memorial Lecture

Event date
16 May 2024
Event time
17:00 - 18:15
Oxford week
TT 4
University College

Professor Anita L. Allen

Anita L. Allen Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy


On behalf of University College, Oxford we would like to invite you to this year’s HLA Hart Memorial Lecture*, in honour of H.L.A. Hart (1907-1992), who became Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford in 1952 and was the author of the highly influential book The Concept of Law. This year’s lecture, the 38th in the series funded by the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, will be given by Professor Anita L. Allen, Henry R. Silverman Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania, on the subject “Unconditional Love: Some Implications for the Law”. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session.

The lecture will be held at 5pm in the College Chapel, Main Quad, University College on Thursday 16 May 2024. The lecture will be followed by drinks in the Butler Room at 6.15 pm.

We would be grateful if you could contact Manuela Williams ( by Wednesday 1 May to let her know whether or not you are able to attend the lecture and, if so, whether you have any mobility requirements.

Places are limited so please do let us know if you cannot attend, for your place to be offered to another lecture guest.


Best wishes,


Baroness Amos

Master, University College

Ruth Chang

Professor of Jurisprudence Professorial Fellow,

University College


*The lecture will be live-streamed and recorded. Please register with Manuela Williams indicating whether you will require the live-stream link.



As H.L.A. Hart once remarked, “in order to understand certain features of legal institutions or legal rules, the aims and purposes they are designed to fulfil must be understood.” Certain features of its legal system that the United States shares with many other countries can be understood as fulfilling the aims of unconditional love as a norm and expectation. To quote Gabriele Taylor, “The moral status of love is of course much discussed by philosophers, poets and novelists.” Yet the ways in which love concepts insinuate themselves into the law are seldom examined as closely as they deserve to be. For better and for worse, concepts of unconditional love seep consequentially into policy and practice, mattering to how we understand responsibility and accountability. Among the reasons legal theorists need to take unconditional love quite seriously is that it has implications for coercive law. Modern western no-fault divorce laws imply valuing the ability easily to sever important commitments and start fresh. Yet contemporary laws relating to evidentiary privileges, parental support of disabled adult children, prison visitation, and abortion are among the legal rules explicable to the communities bound by them because the notion that some love (and some duty) is and ought to be unconditional is a pervasive one. Joseph Raz illuminated marital love, parental love and loving friendships as powerful, life-meaning generating attachments. It is no wonder that the law serves to fulfil the aims of unconditional conceptions of familial love, a love that can be a stranglehold, as well as a reliable basis of affectionate companionship, care and concern.





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