PHIL 252:

Philosophy of Law




Were Nazi laws binding? If I am convicted of murdering someone whose will leaves me the bulk of an estate, am I still legally entitled to inherit the estate? Should civil disobedients be punished? Is punishment bad or good for guilty people? Is the death penalty ever justified? In the crime of rape, does it matter if the rapist mistakenly believes that there is consent? What is it “cruel and unusual” punishment? What is a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm? What is intellectual property? When is the state justified in taking a person’s private property for the benefit of the community? If a surrogate mother changes her mind about giving up the baby, should the contract nevertheless be enforced? Is school prayer unconstitutional? Should flag burning be a crime? Is it unconstitutional to prevent gay couples from marrying? Is it ‘affirmation action’ to exclude women with higher SAT scores in order to keep the percentage of men in a college class at 50%? Should Justices take the intent of the authors into account when interpreting the U.S. Constitution?


Syllabus 2012

Introduction: Law

Theories of Law

              (1) Classical Natural Law Theory: Aquinas

              (2) Classical Natural Law Theory: Blackstone

              (3) Modern Natural Law Theory: Fuller

              (4) Classical Legal Positivism: Austin

              (5) Modern Legal Positivism: Hart


Civil Disobedience

On Liberty

Devlin and the Enforcement of Morality

Freedom of Speech

Law and Religion

Affirmative Action

The Right to Privacy and Abortion

Criminal Law, Mens Rea and the Insanity Defense

The Constitutionality of Laws

Punishment and the Death Penalty