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Access_open Thought Experiments in Law

Special Issue on Experimental Legislation in Times of Crisis, Sofia Ranchordas & Bart van Klink (eds.)

Tijdschrift Law and Method, mei 2021
Trefwoorden legal empirical studies, legal methodology, philosophy of law, thought experiments
Auteurs Gabriel Doménech-Pascual
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Thought experiments have been widely used in virtually all sciences and humanities. Law is no exception. We can find countless instances of such experiments in both the legal practice and the legal theory. However, this method has hardly been studied by legal scholars, which contrasts with the vast literature devoted to it in other fields of knowledge. This article analyses the role that some thought experiments – those where an imaginary legal change is made, and its social effects are observed – may play in law. In particular, we show why these empirical legal thought experiments might be useful for the practice and theory of law, the main principles for conducting them and how the law deals with them.


Gabriel Doménech-Pascual
Dr. Gabriel Doménech-Pascual, PhD is full professor of Administrative Law at the University of Valencia, Spain. I thank Bart van Klink, Sofia Ranchordas, Alba Soriano, María José Añón, Pablo de Lora, Diego Papayannis, Arturo Muñoz, Violeta Ruiz, Pedro Herrera, Viviana Ponce de León, Maximiliano Marzetti, and two anonymous referees for their useful and thoughtful comments. All remaining errors are mine.

    It is often claimed in the media and in political and academic debates that more law nurtures more research, which in turn should generate more information. However, the question researchers are left with is: What does this mean for comparative law and its methods? This paper takes the context of European consumer sales law as an example of the web of rules applicable at both European and national level. In this context, the main idea behind this article is that looking at law and research as data to be built upon and used in further analysis can revolutionise the way in which legal research is understood. This is because current research methods in European consumer sales law fall short of systematically analysing the essential weaknesses of the current regulation system. In this contribution, I argue that the volume of regulation in European consumer law is large enough for it to be considered Big Data and analysed in a way that can harness its potential in this respect. I exemplify this claim with a case-study consisting in the setting up of a Convergence Index that maps the converging effect of harmonizing policies adopted by the European legislator in the field of


Catalina Goanta
Assistant Professor of Private Law, Maastricht Law School, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.
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