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

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Instructor: Ian Cruise. This course meets MWF 1:25 – 2:15 p.m. via synchronous remote instruction.

The philosophy of law is commonly broken down into two distinct subcategories: analytic jurisprudence and normative jurisprudence. Analytic jurisprudence concerns questions about the nature of law and legal systems. What is law? Is there any necessary connection between a law’s status as a law and morality? Normative jurisprudence, on the other hand, concerns questions about how to evaluate law and legal systems. What, if anything, justifies criminal punishment? Are practices of policing and prosecution unjust? More generally, what kinds of values ought we to try to achieve through the law?

Roughly half of this course will be concerned with analytic jurisprudence and the other half will concern normative jurisprudence. Within our unit on analytic jurisprudence, we will read perhaps the most important work of legal philosophy in the 20th century, H.L.A. Hart’s The Concept of Law, along with some relevant background and some responses. Within our unit on normative jurisprudence, we will discuss some of the philosophical background of contemporary pushes for criminal justice reform, including issues surrounding policing, prosecution, prisons, and offender re-entry. Obviously, these are huge areas of inquiry, so we can only scratch the surface in this course. But the course will serve as good preparation for more advanced studies on any of the major issues within the philosophy of law.