Exam Type: One-Day Take-Home with paper option available.
This course examines the diverse ways in which the philosophy of law bears on the practice of law. Our subject is thus a set of philosophical concepts, but the approach is not purely conceptual. Rather, we will examine both those philosophical concepts in the abstract and how those concepts are reflected or actualized in practice—that is, in the craft of legal argumentation and adjudication, in law’s intellectual history, and in contemporary questions of politics and government. Above all, we will ask which conception of law best contributes to justice. The course consists in four units. Unit I concerns theories of the nature of law, focusing on legal positivism and natural law. Unit II concerns theories of lawyering and adjudication, focusing on legal realism and critical legal studies. Unit III concerns theories of particular departments of law, focusing on tort law and criminal law. Unit IV takes a philosophical perspective on being a lawyer, focusing on questions of what principles define lawyers’ role in society and what ideals give the life of a lawyer meaning. Grading is based on class participation, two in-class moot court presentations, and, depending on individual student preference, either a final exam (a one-day take-home essay with a word limit) or a final research paper (due in February). Background in philosophy is not required.