LAW 217

Legal Philosophy

Law & Philosophy

This course will provide an introduction to some of the central issues in the philosophy of law. We will specifically consider questions in analytical jurisprudence (the study of the nature of law) but will also discuss issues in normative jurisprudence (that is, how ought legal institutions be designed and what are the justifications for regulating behavior through law). For example, we will ask what distinguishes law from other governance techniques? What connection, if any, there is or ought to be between law and morality? What type of authority, if any, is essential to the law? Do citizens have a duty to obey the law, and if so, under what circumstances? When, if ever, is paternalistic interference by the state into the lives of its citizens justified? How can rules give us reasons? What, if anything, justifies punishment by the state? We will explore all these questions by critically examining some of the main historically influential schools of thought, including legal positivism, natural law theory, and critical theories of law.

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