Philosophy of Law Philosophy 34, Spring 2008

Course Description

The philosophy of law is concerned with the nature of law. It tries to answer questions such as these. “What is law?” “Why, if at all, are individuals obliged to obey the law?” “What laws are just or unjust?”

The best way to get a sense of what this year’s course will be like is to look at the website for last year’s course. It includes a syllabus and notes on most of the class sessions.

I think that the syllabus I will use this year will be largely the same. However, there will be a few changes.

  1. There is a new edition of the textbook. I ordered the 8th edition of Philosophy of Law, edited by Coleman and Feinberg (Wadsworth/Cenage, 2008). ISBN-10: 0495095052  ISBN-13: 9780495095057. Last year, we used the 7th edition.
  2. I would like to expand the discussion of paternalism, the doctrine that it is acceptable to limit people’s freedom for their own good. In particular, I would like to discuss Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s idea of libertarian paternalism. Among other things, I think it brings in areas of the law that are rarely discussed.
  3. I would like to add discussion of some cases, that is, court decisions.

Class notes

  1. Wednesday, Jan. 23. Handout: the natural law tradition.
  2. Monday, Jan. 28. Austin on command and obligation.
  3. Wednesday, Jan. 30. Austin on sovereignty.
  4. Monday, Feb. 4. Hart’s positivism.
  5. Wednesday, Feb. 6. Legal realism.
  6. Monday, Feb. 11 & Wednesday, Feb. 13. Hart on legal realism.
  7. Monday, Feb. 18. Law and morality.
  8. Wednesday, Feb. 20. The Speluncean explorers, part 1.
  9. Monday, Feb. 25. The Speluncean explorers, part 2. Handout: definitions of “willfully”.
  10. Wednesday, Feb. 27 & Monday, Mar. 3. Originalism. Updated: Mar. 6. Handouts: (a) the Constitution, (b) Scalia (and Rehnquist’s) originalism, (c) Scalia (and Bork) vs Dworkin.
  11. Monday, Mar. 10 & Wednesday, Mar. 12. Socrates and King on the obligation to obey the law; posted March 22.
  12. Monday, Mar. 24 Dworkin on taking rights seriously.
  13. Wednesday, Mar. 26 & Monday, Mar. 31. Hart’s theory of rights.
  14. Wednesday, April 2. Feinberg on claiming.
  15. April 7. Mill’s harm principle; posted April 20. Class handout.
  16. Wednesday, April 9 – Monday, April 14. Dworkin on paternalism.
  17. April 16. Libertarian paternalism. Class handout.
  18. April 21. Punishment.
  19. April 23. The expressive theory of punishment.
  20. April 28 & May 5. Criminal attempts.
    Class handout: Background for Lady Eldon’s Lace; posted Sunday, May 11.
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Philosophy of Law