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PHIL 155 Philosophy of Law

Kafka Before the Law Aquinas

Catalogue Description
Theories of the nature of law, e.g., natural law, legal positivism, legal realism. Selected controversies in contemporary law will also be studied, such as the justification of punishment, the legislation of morality, judicial activism vs. judicial restraint.

Course Description
What is ‘law’? Is it something like gravity, which, though we may wish to defy it, always has its way us? Is it something which it is possible to resist, on what terms, at what risks to those who do? Since King John of England signed (however unwillingly and unhappily) the Magna Carta in 1215, people have been asking how far and to who’s benefit the state may regulate the behaviour of the people who comprise it. This course will consider answers offered to these and other questions about the nature of law, its role in the mediation of the relationship between the state (community) and the individual.

Toward this end, we will consider several theoretical approaches to law and jurisprudence. Once we have a solid appreciation of theoretical matters, we will explore the relation between law, morality and politics as the latter provide alternative sources of justification for the law's authority. We will also examine the philosophical underpinnings of such important legal concepts as the rule of law, privacy, liberty, responsibility (culpability), intentionality, and punishment. Finally, we will consider the role of law in maintaining an ordered and structured society. We will also spend some time on the basics of legal reasoning (i.e., logic for lawyers) and on techniques and tools needed to read cases fruitfully, both as philosophers and as budding scholars of law.

Course Material


Resources & Interests

Syllabus (PDF)
Texts: Kavanagh / Golding
Grading Policy
Course Policies
Department Writing Guide

All essays, assignments, and discussion topics are available on-line in SacCT.

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Updated: 22 August, 2011