Area of Study & Practice
- Interdisciplinary Studies
- Legal Theory
JD Graduation RequirementsThis course typically satisfies all or some of the following JD graduation requirements:
This course surveys contemporary legal philosophy. We begin with classic questions in jurisprudence about the relation of law to rules, authority and morality. What makes a norm part of a legal system, why are they authoritative, and can moral norms ever be legally binding without being issued by a judge or legislator? The readings are drawn from twentieth century positivists (Hart, Raz) and natural law theorists (Finnis, Moore, Dworkin). The second unit covers issues in legal interpretation, including whether legal reasoning constrains judicial decisions and the nature of common law reasoning. We read recent formalists (Schauer), American legal realists (Leiter), and critical theorists (Kennedy), as well as empirical studies of judging and articles about law and philosophy of language. The final unit covers discrete philosophical issues relevant across legal domains, including (but not limited to) the structure of rights, the normative significance of discrimination, and the epistemology of evidentiary rules. The goal of the course is to provide students with useful philosophical tools for analyzing contemporary legal debates.
No familiarity with philosophy will be presupposed, but some readings will be philosophically demanding and we will wade into challenging issues in philosophy of language, epistemology and metaethics.
Requirements: Three ten-page papers. With instructor’s permissions, students may expand one of the papers to fulfill an upper-level writing requirement.
Please note that course organization and content may vary substantially from semester to semester and descriptions are not necessarily professor specific. Please contact the instructor directly if you have particular course-related questions.