Full course description
This course introduces students to major theories in the field of legal theory and philosophy of law. These theories are discussed in relation to one another, and on the basis of a number of themes, including the nature of law, the relationship between law and justice, legal positivism and natural law theories, the normative foundations of the liberal legal order and fundamental rights. In addition, students learn to apply these theories to concrete cases from legal practice and case law. In doing so, the premise is that positive law as a concrete social practice is analyzed and critically evaluated from various legal philosophical and legal-theoretical perspectives. The ultimate goal is that students are challenged to develop their own critical view of applicable law, which is informed by ideas, concepts and arguments derived from the legal philosophical literature.
Questions addressed include: How does law relate to morality and justice? Are laws that are unjust nonetheless binding? Can such unjust laws be considered law at all? And to what extent should conceptions of justice play a role in the interpretation of law? What are the normative foundations of the liberal legal order? On what fundamental rights and "principles of justice" is this liberal legal order based? And how can fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or the right to privacy be philosophically justified? Are there philosophical arguments for placing certain limits on the exercise of these rights?
This course focuses on skills characteristic of normative inquiry and, more specifically, the ability to analyze legal cases using multiple legal philosophical theories. This includes the skill of applying relevant legal philosophical arguments to the case, defending a particular interpretation of the case using legal philosophical arguments, and comparing and contrasting different legal philosophical theories and arguments when evaluating the case.
Upon completion of this course, students will be familiar with major theories in the field of philosophy of law and legal theory; familiar with philosophical discussions of law regarding the nature of law, the relationship between law and justice, legal positivism and natural law, and the normative foundations of the liberal legal order and fundamental rights; able to describe, present in context, and critically evaluate various philosophical theories of law.
Upon completion of this course, students will have the ability to:
- recognize, distinguish between, outline, and apply dominant philosophies of law and legal theories;
- analyze a legal case from different legal-philosophical perspectives;
- apply relevant legal-philosophical arguments to this case;
- defend a particular interpretation of the case based on legal-philosophical arguments;
- compare and contrast different legal philosophical theories and arguments when evaluating the case.