The H.L.A. Hart Memorial Lecture


The 2024 HLA Hart Memorial Lecture in honour of H.L.A. Hart (1907-1992), Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford in 1952 and author of the highly influential book The Concept of Law, 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 series is funded by the Tanner Trust. 

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.


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.

The H.L.A. Hart Lecture in Jurisprudence and Moral Philosophy

1985: Richard Wollheim, 'Crime, Punishment, and Pale Criminality'
1986: John Rawls, 'The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus'
1987: Bernard Williams, 'Voluntary Acts and Responsible Agents'
1988: Quentin Skinner, 'The Idea of the State' (unpublished)
1989: William J. Brennan Jr, 'Why Have a Bill of Rights?'
1990: T.M. Scanlon, 'The Aims and Authority of Moral Theory'
1991: Joel Feinberg, 'In Defence of Moral Rights'
1992: Tony Honoré, 'The Dependence of Morality On Law'

The H.L.A. Hart Memorial Lecture

1996: Thomas Nagel, 'Justice and Nature'
1998: Stephen Breyer, 'The Work of an American Constitutional Judge' (published as 'Judicial Review')
2002: Sir John Laws, 'Beyond Rights'
2006: Jules L. Coleman, 'The Internal Point of View' (published as 'Beyond the Separability Thesis')  
2010: Amartya Sen, 'Rights and Responsibility' (published as 'Rights, Laws, and Language')
2012: Christine Korsgaard, 'Kantian Ethics, Animals, and the Law'
2013: Will Kymlicka, 'Animals and the Frontiers of Citizenship' (published version with Sue Donaldson)
2016: Margaret Jane Radin, 'Contract Law in the Information Society'
2019: Rae Langton, 'Reimagining Free Speech'
2020: Due to the corona virus pandemic, the Hart Lecture was moved to 2021
2021: Due to the corona virus pandemic, the Hart Lecture has been postponed to 2022
2022: Sally Haslanger, 'Social Justice, Culture, and Law'
2023: Jeremy Waldron, 'The Crisis of Judicial Review' 
2024: Anita L. Allen, 'Unconditional Love: Some Implications for the Law'
2025: Elizabeth Anderson, TBD

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