Philosophy of Law Philosophy 34, Spring 2009

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.

The syllabus I will use this year will be largely the same. There is a little more on American Constitutional law and punishment. But those are the only differences.

Class notes

  1. Wednesday, January 21. Natural law.
    Handout: Natural law.
  2. Monday, January 26. Austin on command and obligation.
  3. Wednesday, January 28. Hart and Austin on obligation and sovereignty.
  4. Monday, February 2. Hart’s positivism.
  5. Wednesday, February 4. Legal realism.
  6. Monday, February 9. Hart on judicial interpretation.
    Handout: Hart’s target.
  7. Wednesday, February 18. Speluncean Explorers I: Truepenny, Foster, Tatting.
  8. Monday, February 23. Speluncean Explorers II: Keen and Handy.
  9. Wednesday, February 25. The US Constitution.
  10. March 2–4. Scalia and Dworkin on originalism.
    Handouts: Scalia’s Originalism (3/2) and Scalia vs. Dworkin (3/4).
  11. Monday, March 9. Dworkin on taking rights seriously. Posted March 30.
  12. March 11 & 25. Hart on rights. Posted March 30.
  13. Monday, March 30. Feinberg on rights.
  14. Wednesday, April 1. Rights, control, and protection.
  15. Monday, April 6. Mill’s harm principle.
    Class handout: Mill’s harm principle.
  16. Wednesday, April 8. Dworkin on paternalism.
  17. Monday, April 13. Dworkin on moralism.
  18. April 15–20. Feinberg on punishment, including the expressive theory of punishment. Posted May 6.
  19. Wednesday, April 22. The right to punishment. Posted May 6.
  20. Monday, April 27. Criminal attempts. Posted May 6.
    Handout: background on criminal attempts.
  21. Monday, May 4. Lewis on attempts and lotteries.
  22. Wednesday, May 6. Wrongful life lawsuits.
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Philosophy of Law