Philosophy of Law Fall 2019



Our first topic goes under the heading “what is law?”

It’s fair to ask “what kind of question is that?” or “who asks such a question?”

The answer is that it’s actually a fairly normal question that lots of people ask. They just don’t know it!

They need to know where to look in order to answer the question. There are obvious sorts of answers that we take for granted: statutes, court decisions, common sense, and so on. (A lot of people rely more on common sense than you think. And it works reasonably well.)

But what makes something a statute or a court decision? How do we distinguish the genuine from the spurious? And does common sense really get the status of law?

It’s obvious that we do these things, but it is not obvious how. In fact, some of our political disputes turn on the fact that we have not actually resolved these questions.

So that’s what we’re going to start with.