Skip to content

Spring 2025 Course


Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: Any Day Take-home

Jurisprudence is the silent and controlling partner in every judge’s and every lawyer’s reasoning about law. A judge, a lawyer, a citizen, a law student cannot answer any legal question without a sufficiently clear sense of what law is— as distinct, say, from religion, or hard science or social science— and what it is that constitutes legal reasoning and argument (as opposed to, say, reasoning in empirical science or theology or mathematics or logic). What sources may a judge consult to resolve a legal dispute, and on what sources should a lawyer rely in making an argument on behalf of a client? Only such commonplace sources as case precedents, statutes, constitutional provisions, administrative regulations, executive orders? May she also consult the bible, or works by moral, political, and legal philosophers? Why or why not?

These and related questions are the subject matter of Jurisprudence and of this course. In our exploration of these themes, we will consider competing explanations of the concept of law (among legal positivists, legal realists, natural law theorists, critical legal studies theorists), the role of social and political contest in lawmaking and law application (including approaches to this issue that focus on race, class, and gender in their explanations of law and legal institutions), the nature, extent and limits of reason and rationality in legal argument, the role of virtue in judging and lawyering, and the values that do or should guide legal factfinding.

No special background is required. Work for the course consists of class participation and a take-home exam. Cross-registrants are welcome. Anyone seeking information about this course should feel free to contact Professor Scott Brewer at