Jurisprudence: Philosophy in the Practice of Law

Jurisprudence: Philosophy in the Practice of Law

Professor Joshua Kleinfeld
Winter 2018 course
M, T, W, Th, F 1:00pm - 4:30pm in WCC Room 4059
3 classroom credits

Prerequisites: None

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. Philosophical ideas in law are not (or need not be) purely abstract; they are actualized in the craft of legal argument and adjudication, in the law’s fitful efforts to live up to the demands of justice, and, above all, in law’s intellectual history. This course examines both sides of that equation: the philosophical concepts and their actualization. In that spirit, we will study legal positivism, natural law, legal realism, critical legal studies, and the originalist/textualist revolution of the last few decades. Toward the end of the course, we will take a philosophical perspective on lawyering itself, exploring questions of lawyers’ role in society and how the life of a lawyer can be meaningful.

A modest lunch will be provided every day or (depending on logistics) nearly every day before class. Over lunch, I’m happy to talk about careers in law, academic projects, current events, or whatever other matters interest students. Lunch is completely optional, of course.

Grading is based on class participation and either a final exam or final paper (at each student’s discretion). If you elect the exam, it will be a one-day take-home essay with a word limit. If you elect the paper, the topic will be up to you and the paper will be due in mid-February. All reading will be posted to Canvas; there is no text to purchase. Background in philosophy is not required.

Subject Areas: Legal & Political Theory