Philosophy of Law

Philosophy 34, Spring 2014

An overview of the course

Students taking this course will learn how legal philosophers analyze important but poorly understood concepts in the law. We will discuss different views on the nature of the law, paying special attention to their implications for judges. We will look at punishment, addressing questions about the justification of punishment, the impact of scientific advances on our understanding of responsibility, and the propriety of punishing merely attempted crimes. Finally, we will examine the moral, legal, and economic dimensions of a right to privacy. Those who complete the course 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.

The class

Class picture


The syllabus (PDF) contains a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments. It also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class.


Assignments will be posted here and on Sakai.

The assignments for this course include:

  1. Short test preview (PDF)
  2. First paper topics (PDF)
  3. Second paper topics (PDF)
  4. Final exam preview (PDF)

You may want to consult my advice on writing philosophy papers.


The best way for registered students to access the site is through Sakai. The Sakai site has links to everything you see here but it also has announcements and pdf files of the readings. When the term ends, the Sakai site will no longer be published but this site will still be here.

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. My email address and office phone number are available from the Pomona College directory: select Faculty/Staff and enter my name.

My home page has links to websites for my other courses.

Michael Green


  1. January 21. Overview
  2. January 23. Austin’s positivism :: Austin outline
  3. January 28. Hart on Austin
  4. January 30. Hart’s positivism
  5. February 4. Legal realism
  6. February 6. Hart and judges
  7. February 11. Dworkin on Hart
  8. February 13. Test day
  9. February 18. Speluncean Explorers 1
  10. February 20. Spelunceans 2
  11. February 25. Spelunceans 3
  12. February 27. Originalism :: Originalism (handout, PDF)
  13. March 4. Dworkin vs. Scalia
  14. March 6. Retributivism and consequentialism
  15. March 11. Feinberg on the classic debate
  16. March 13. Sick day
  17. March 18. Spring break
  18. March 20. Spring break
  19. March 25. The expressive theory of punishment
  20. March 27. The paternalist theory of punishment
  21. April 1. Determinism and compatibilism
  22. April 3. Modern incompatibilism
  23. April 8. Modern compatibilism
  24. April 10. Lady Eldon
  25. April 15. Punishment lottery
  26. April 17. Privacy in the private law (updated April 18)
  27. April 22. Privacy in the Constitution :: Privacy Amendments (handout, PDF)
  28. April 24. Thomson on privacy
  29. April 29. Economic analysis of privacy
  30. May 1. Privacy online