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, Sep 3
Thu, Sep 5
Austin’s Legal Positivism
Tue, Sep 10
Legal Realism
Thu, Sep 12
Hart on Austin and the Realists
Tue, Sep 17
Hart’s Positivism
Thu, Sep 19
Hart on Judges
Tue, Sep 24
Dworkin on Hart
Thu, Sep 26
Test Day
Tue, Oct 1
The Speluncean Explorers
Thu, Oct 3
More Spelunceans
Tue, Oct 8
Scalia’s Originalism
Thu, Oct 10
Dworkin vs. Scalia
Tue, Oct 15
The Living Constitution
Thu, Oct 17
Retributivism and Consequentialism
Thu, Oct 24
Hart’s Combined Theory