Philosophy of Law Philosophy 34 Spring 2024

The Course

The philosophy of law involves two broad kinds of questions. On the one hand, there are questions specifically about the nature of the law. We will discuss different attempts to say what the law is, paying special attention to their implications for judges. The other kind of questions are ones that are addressed in other areas of philosophy but are particularly important in the law. Here, we will look at questions about punishment and rights. The discussion of punishment will address questions about the justification of punishment and the impact of scientific advances on our understanding of responsibility. We will talk about the nature of rights in general and the right to privacy in particular. 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.

The Classes

Wed, Jan 17
Overview
Mon, Jan 22
Austin’s Legal Positivism
Wed, Jan 24
Legal Realism
Mon, Jan 29
Hart on Austin and the Realists
Wed, Jan 31
Hart’s Positivism
Mon, Feb 5
Fuller on Law and Morality
Wed, Feb 7
Hart on Judges
Mon, Feb 12
Dworkin on Hart
Wed, Feb 14
Test Day
Mon, Feb 19
The Speluncean Explorers
Wed, Feb 21
Scalia’s Originalism
Mon, Feb 26
Dworkin vs. Scalia
Wed, Feb 28
The Living Constitution