PHIL 280.001 – Morality and Law

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Instructor: Molly Gardner. This course meets MWF 11:00 – 11:50 a.m. in CW 105.

It seems plausible that there is a moral obligation to obey the law. At the same time, it also seems easy to identify cases in which the law was or is unjust. How do we resolve this apparent tension between what is morally required and what is legally required? In this course, we will attempt to answer this and other questions at the intersection of law and morality. We will begin by considering what it is that morality requires of us, how to distinguish the rules of morality from laws, and why a society ought to be governed by laws and not merely by moral rules. We will then consider what general criteria a system of laws must meet in order to be just. We will also consider the moral dimensions of particular aspects of the law, including criminal law, punishment, property law, and torts. Finally, we will return to the opening question about what we ought to do when the laws do not appear to meet moral standards: when, if ever, should we obey immoral laws? This course has no prerequisites, and it satisfies the philosophy requirement for the philosophy, politics, and economics minor.