Philosophy of Law Philosophy 34, Spring 2010

Course Description

Students taking this course will learn how legal philosophers analyze important but poorly understood concepts such as “law,” “obligation,” and “rights.” They will also see how different positions on the nature of the law bear on concrete questions about how to resolve specific cases or how to think of the role of judges. Finally, they will discuss the justification for holding people responsible for the consequences of their behavior, engaging in paternalistic interference with individual liberty, punishing criminal infractions, and legally recognizing torture. Students should have significantly deeper understanding of the law as a social institution, the specific practices that I listed, and techniques of analysis and argument.

The course emphasizes arguments and writing. Students who successfully complete this course will learn how to construct arguments, how to interpret analytical writing, how to raise objections to arguments, and how to write extended analytical essays of their own. There will be extensive opportunities to practice these skills through discussions during class sessions. Grades reflect how well these skills are exhibited in written papers and exams.

Class notes

  1. Wednesday, January 20. Natural law; class handout.
  2. Monday, January 25. Austin on command and obligation.
  3. Wednesday, January 27. Austin and Hart on obligation.
  4. Monday, February 1. Hart’s positivism.
  5. Wednesday, February 3. Legal realism.
  6. Monday, February 8. Hart on judicial interpretation; handout.
  7. Monday, February 15. Hart on the separation of law and morality.
  8. Wednesday, February 17. Fuller on Hart and Nazi law
  9. Monday, February 22. Spelunceans I
  10. Wednesday, February 24. Spelunceans II
  11. Monday, March 1. Scalia’s originalism; class handout.
  12. Wednesday, March 3. Dworkin vs. Scalia; class handout.
  13. Monday, March 8. Taking rights seriously.
  14. Wednesday, March 10. Hart’s choice theory of rights.
  15. Monday, March 22. Hart on natural rights; posted March 31.
  16. Wednesday, March 24. Feinberg on rights; posted March 31.
  17. Monday, March 29. How important is claiming?; posted March 31.
  18. Wednesday, March 31. Mill’s harm principle; handout; posted March 31.
  19. Monday, April 5. Paternalism.
  20. Wednesday, April 7. Harmless immorality; handout (with the neglected “not”).
  21. Monday, April 12. Punishment
  22. Wednesday, April 14. The expressive theory
  23. Monday, April 19. The right to punishment
  24. Wednesday, April 21. Criminal attempts; handout; updated April 22.
  25. Monday, April 26. Lewis on criminal attempts; corrections for the errors in the textbook.
  26. Wednesday, April 28. Torture and the law I; class handout.
  27. Monday, May 3. Torture and the law II
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Philosophy of Law