PHIL 280H.001 – Honors: Morality and Law

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Instructor: Gerald J. Postema. This course meets TR 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. in AR 215.

In this course, we will explore the connections between law and justice.  The course will be organized around two main concepts and topics (1) “the rule of law” and (2) human rights.  The notion of the rule of law has played a very large role in Western political thinking since the middle ages and especially in modern constitutional thought. Over the last century it has had a strong presence in thinking about the international legal order.  The world-wide respect for the ideal is (in part) the legacy of the Nuremberg Trials in which Nazi war criminals were tried by an international tribunal.  Yet, those trials themselves seemed to compromise the ideal.  The trials and the notion of the rule of law have remained controversial.  Some believe that the ideal of the rule of law can be derived from a sound understanding of law itself, others argue that it has its roots in fundamental notions of liberty, others attack it as a piece of Western (or American) ideology.  Some theorists treat protection of rights as central to the idea of the rule of law, others reject this claim. But all agree the there is a close relationship between the two notions. This course will explore the philosophical foundations and practical applications of the notion of the rule of law and the concept and grounds of human rights, and will focus on the importance of the rule of law in the international domain for protection of human rights.

While there are no formal prerequisites for this course, at least one or two courses would be useful preparation, especially if one of them has been in moral or political philosophy.

Gerald Postema has published extensively in moral, legal and political philosophy. He has edited the Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Law and (with Michael Corrado) Law & Philosophy. He is currently at work on a book on the rule of law.