Philosophy of Law Philosophy 34 Spring 2016

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 19. The “What Is Law?” Question
  2. Thursday, January 21. Austin’s Legal Positivism
  3. Tuesday, January 26. Legal Realism
  4. Thursday, January 28. Hart’s Criticisms of Austin and the Realists
  5. Tuesday, February 2. Hart’s Positivism
  6. Thursday, February 4. Hart on Judicial Interpretation
  7. Tuesday, February 9. Dworkin on Hart
  8. Thursday, February 11. Test day
  9. Tuesday, February 16. The Speluncean Explorers
  10. Thursday, February 18. Spelunceans 2
  11. Tuesday, February 23. Justice Scalia’s Originalism
  12. Thursday, February 25. Dworkin vs. Scalia
  13. Tuesday, March 1. Retributivism and Consequentialism
  14. Thursday, March 3. Hart’s Combined Theory
  15. Tuesday, March 8. Criticism of Combined Views
  16. Thursday, March 10. The Expressive Theory
  17. Tuesday, March 22. Hampton’s Educational Theory
  18. Thursday, March 24. Compatibilism and Incompatibilism
  19. Tuesday, March 29. Modern Incompatibilism
  20. Thursday, March 31. Modern Compatibilism
  21. Tuesday, April 5. Kevin and the Insanity Defense
  22. Thursday, April 7. Criminal Attempts
  23. Tuesday, April 12. Lewis on Criminal Attempts
  24. Thursday, April 14. Privacy and the Private Law (updated December 19)
  25. Tuesday, April 19. Doubts About the Right to Privacy
  26. Thursday, April 21. Support for the Right to Privacy
  27. Tuesday, April 26. Economic Analysis of Privacy
  28. Thursday, April 28. Privacy Online

The class

Class picture

Contact Michael Green

My office is Pearsons 207. For Spring 2016, my office hours are Fridays, 10-11:30.

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