About This 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 syllabus 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.

Class Notes

Tue, Jan 16
What is Law?
Thu, Jan 18
Austin’s Command Theory
Tue, Jan 23
Legal Realism
Thu, Jan 25
Hart on Austin
Tue, Jan 30
Hart’s Positivism
Thu, Feb 1
Hart on Judges
Tue, Feb 6
Dworkin on Hart
Thu, Feb 8
Short Test
Tue, Feb 13
The Speluncean Explorers
Thu, Feb 15
More Spelunceans
Tue, Feb 20
Scalia’s Originalism
Thu, Feb 22
Dworkin vs. Scalia
Tue, Feb 27
The Living Constitution
Thu, Mar 1
Retributivism and Consequentialism
Tue, Mar 6
Hart’s Combined Theory
Thu, Mar 8
Criticism of Combined Views (updated Sat, Mar 17)