Kenneth S. Abraham

The Costs of Attitudes

Yale Law Journal

UVA Law Faculty Affiliations


Guido Calabresi's work has always recognized that economic considerations cannot entirely explain a decision, a doctrine, or a whole field of law, though they may be an ingredient in the just resolution of private law problems. Until now, however, students of Dean Calabresi's work have been left to wonder how large a role he believes noneconomic values actually play and ought to play in structuring tort law. Many of his most original and important insights have been the product of economic analysis and have seemed useful principally as tools in the analysis of law from the economic point of view. Moreover, although Calabresi has always argued that noneconomic values are legitimate trumps of otherwise appropriate cost-reduction approaches, such values have also seemed in his scheme to be nonrational. Readers might easily have inferred from Calabresi's work that he believes little can be said, in general, about the role of noneconomic values in tort law.

Ideals, Beliefs, Attitudes, and the Law should put an end to that impression. At heart, the book is about the law's tolerance of weakness and diversity, and about its ambivalence in the face of tensions between such tolerance and the desire for safety, cost reduction, and the vindication of constitutional values. Derived from Calabresi's Frank W. Abrams lectures at Syracuse University, the book explores the important role played in tort law by three sources of value - ideals, beliefs, and attitudes. Yet Ideals is not only about the importance of values in law. In many ways it is also Calabresi's own statement about the meaning of his earlier work, and it paints a revealing portrait of the beliefs of Calabresi at mid-career.


Kenneth S. Abraham, The Costs of Attitudes (reviewing Guido Calabresi, Ideals, Beliefs, Attitudes, and the Law: Private Law Perspectives on a Public Law Problem) 95 Yale Law Journal 1043-1086 (1986).

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