PHIL 280.001 – Morality, Law, and Justice: Issues in Legal Philosophy

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Instructor: Simone Gubler. This course meets MWF 1:25 – 2:15 p.m. in GL 302.

I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty… I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law. Obedience is commended as a virtue. May I therefore ask that consideration be given to the fact that I obeyed, and not whom I obeyed.”

So spoke Adolph Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, during his trial in Jerusalem. In this course, we will study the relationship between law, morality, and justice. We will focus in particular upon four questions raised by Eichmann’s plea: (1) What makes a law authoritative? (2) What sort of relationship exists (or should exist) between moral and legal responsibility? (3) What should we do when confronted by immoral laws? And, (4) how should we respond to those who resist (and those who obey) the law? In pursuing answers to these questions, we will read and engage with the theoretical work of philosophers, jurists, and criminals (as well as with the work of some philosopher-jurist-criminals). We will gain familiarity with some of the major issues and theoretical constructs that have characterized the philosophy of law to date. And we will engage with real legal cases, in order to better understand the practical import of our philosophical labors.