[PAST EVENT] 2014 Blackstone Lecture: Shakespeare & the Predicament of Contract Theory by Professor Nathan Oman

February 20, 2014
3:30pm - 5pm
Law School, Room 124
613 S Henry St
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Nathan B. Oman is Professor of Law and Tazewell Taylor Research Professor of Law at William & Mary Law School.

About Professor Oman's Lecture:

Why does the law enforce contracts? One would think that we'd have a clear answer to this question. We don't. Theorists of contract law are divided between philosophical moralists of various stripes who link contractual obligations to the moral obligation to keep a promise or a respect for the liberty of contracting parties. Alternatively, economic theorists tend to insist that the goal of contract law is to create incentives for efficient behavior. William Shakespeare, a well-known Elizabethan contract theorist and playwright, waded into something like this debate with his play "The Merchant of Venice." Among other things, it's a play about contracts. Unlike the legal moralists, Shakespeare does not see contract law primarily in terms of fidelity to one's word or the obligation to keep one's promises. Rather, "The Merchant of Venice" offers a vision of contract in which it is centrally concerned with commerce and the support of the market. Unlike the economic theorists, however, Shakespeare presents commerce as a complex moral practice that cannot be reduced to the efficient allocation of resources. Contract is clearly one of the central features of a market economy and one would think that markets and their normative value would be a central question in debates over the evaluation of contract law. This, unfortunately, has not been the case. Modern theorists would do well to adopt something like Shakespeare's approach the contract law.

Professor Oman joined the W&M Law faculty in 2006. He earned his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he served on the Articles Committee of the Harvard Law Review and as an editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He graduated from Brigham Young University, where he was a Benson Scholar, and, prior to law school, worked on the staff of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Morris Shepard Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and worked as a litigation associate in the Washington, DC, office of Sidley Austin, LLP. For his biography and list of publications, click the link below.

The Blackstone Lecture Series was established in 1996 to recognize the scholarly achievements of younger members of the William & Mary Law School faculty. The series is made possible by the generosity of Law School alumni.

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