Philosophy of Law Philosophy 34 Spring 2015

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 syllabus (PDF) has a schedule of topics for discussion, readings, and assignments; it also describes the standards for grades and other policies for the class. Registered students can find all other materials on Sakai.


The notes were last updated on Thursday, December 19, 2019.

  1. Tuesday, January 20. The “what is law?” question
  2. Thursday, January 22. Austin’s legal positivism
  3. Tuesday, January 27. Hart on Austin
  4. Thursday, January 29. Hart’s positivism
  5. Tuesday, February 3. Legal realism
  6. Thursday, February 5. Hart on judges
  7. Tuesday, February 10. Dworkin vs. Hart
  8. Thursday, February 12. Test prep
  9. Tuesday, February 17. The Speluncean Explorers
  10. Thursday, February 19. More Spelunceans
  11. Tuesday, February 24. Scalia’s originalism
  12. Thursday, February 26. Dworkin vs. Scalia
  13. Tuesday, March 3. Retributivism and consequentialism
  14. Thursday, March 5. Hart’s combined theory
  15. Tuesday, March 10. Goldman on combined theories
  16. Thursday, March 12. Feinberg’s expressive theory
  17. Tuesday, March 24. Hampton’s educational theory
  18. Thursday, March 26. Compatibilism and incompatibilism
  19. Tuesday, March 31. Greene and Cohen’s incompatibilism
  20. Thursday, April 2. Morse on compatibilism
  21. Tuesday, April 7. Responsibility test case
  22. Thursday, April 9. Lady Eldon’s lace
  23. Tuesday, April 14. Lotteries and criminal attempts
  24. Thursday, April 16. Warren and Brandeis on privacy (updated December 19)
  25. Tuesday, April 21. Thomson on privacy
  26. Thursday, April 23. Scanlon on privacy
  27. Tuesday, April 28. Posner on privacy
  28. Thursday, April 30. Privacy online

The class

Class photo

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. For Spring 2015, my office hours are Fridays, 10-12.

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