Law and philosophy phil p-11105 – Summer 2015 – Session II course information and syllabus

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Syllabus subject to revision This draft: 7/17/15


PHIL P-11105 – Summer 2015 – Session II
Many important philosophical issues arise in connection with how we address legal questions. And philosophical issues also arise regarding the nature of law and legal reasoning. This course introduces students to a number of these issues and encourages independent critical thinking about them. Included among the questions to be explored are: What is the relationship between law and morality? Is there ultimately a substantial difference between legal reasoning and what seems to be more open-ended reasoning about policies or justice? What justifies society in criminalizing various acts and administering criminal punishment? Under what circumstances (if any) would the law be justified in permitting some persons to be treated differently than others on the basis of gender or sexual preference? Should failing to aid others when it is easy and safe to do so be a misdemeanor or a tort, so that one becomes subject to criminal or civil liability for not helping?
Chris Taggart, Instructor,

Class Meeting Times
Class is scheduled to meet on M–F from 8:30–11:30 a.m. in Sever 302.

Course Materials
Materials will be available on the course iSite under the “Course Material” link. They will include the readings and, after each class, any other helpful documents or media files.

Course Readings
Reading materials are available on the course iSite under the “Course Material” link. The course syllabus lists the readings for each week. The readings will be available as pdf files in advance of each class. For example, all of the readings for Class 4 will be available before that class meets on the iSite as a pdf file called “Class 04 Readings,” which can be downloaded. Students should complete the assigned readings before each class.

Courthouse Visit
On the second Wednesday of the course, instead of having our usual class meeting, we will visit the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse for a tour. This is a federal courthouse containing courtrooms for the federal District of Massachusetts and the First Circuit.

In keeping with the emphasis on learning over achievement, this course is not, in the traditional sense, “graded.” Instead, you will receive a written evaluation at the end of the class.
Please note that your regular, active, and insightful participation in class discussions each day is important. I expect everyone to have completed the readings each day and to come to class prepared to participate actively in our discussions.
Academic Honesty
All students are expected to do their own work. Any form of academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism) is strictly prohibited. Please refer to


PHIL P-11105 – Summer 2015 – Session II – Class Meetings


Class 1

Introduction – Basic Concepts in Logic; Consequences Versus Principles in Moral/Ethical Reasoning; The Nature of Legal Reasoning

    • “A Very Brief Introduction to Logic for Use in Philosophical Reasoning”

    • The Queen v. Dudley and Stephens (1884).

Class 2

The Nature of Legal Reasoning

    • Christopher Columbus Langdell, Selection of Cases on the Law of Contracts (preface) (1879).

    • Joseph H. Beale, A Treatise on the Conflict of Laws (excerpts) (1935).

    • Max Weber, The Categories of Legal Thought, in Economy and Society 657–58 (G. Roth & C. Wittich, eds. 1968) (first published 1922).

    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457 (1897).

Class 3

The Nature of Legal Reasoning; Constitutional Law: Double Jeopardy

    • Lon L. Fuller, The Case of the Speluncean Explorers, 62 Harv. L. Rev.
      616 (1949).

    • Orin S. Kerr, How to Read a Judicial Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students (2005), at

    • Burnham, (“Knock and Announce” rule); 303–06 (exclusionary rule); 315–19 (double jeopardy).

Class 4

Constitutional Law: Double Jeopardy

    • Ellen S. Podgor & John F. Cooper, Overview of U.S. Law 105–11 (2009).

    • Abbate v. United States, 359 U.S. 187 (1959).

    • Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33 (1988).

Class 5

Constitutional Law: The Exclusionary Rule; Equal Protection of the Laws – Gender and Race

    • Exclusionary Rule – The Policy Debate.

    • Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586 (2006).

    • Thomas Nagel, A Defense of Affirmative Action.

    • Shelby Steele, Affirmative Action: The Price of Preference, in The Content of Our Character 111–26 (1990).

    • United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996).

Class 6

Equal Protection of the Laws –Sexual Orientation; The Moral Duty to Obey the Law

    • Jeff Jordan, Is It Wrong to Discriminate of the Basis of Homosexuality?, 25 J. Soc. Phil. 39 (1995).

    • Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996).

    • Plato, The Crito.

    • Robert Paul Wolff, The Conflict Between Authority and Autonomy, in The Duty to Obey the Law 63–74 (W. Edmundson, ed. 1999).

Class 7

The Moral Duty to Obey the Law; Constitutional Boundaries of the Law – Freedom of Expression and Enforcing Morality

    • John Rawls, The Justification of Civil Disobedience, in Civil Disobedience 240–55 (Hugo Adam Bedau, ed., 1969).

    • Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in Philosophical Problems in the Law 96–100 (David M. Adams, ed. 2013).

    • John Stuart Mill, The Harm Principle

    • Patrick Devlin, The Enforcement of Morals

    • H.L.A. Hart, Law, Liberty, and Morality

    • Joel Feinberg, A Ride on the Bus

    • Village of Skokie v. National Socialist Party of America, 432 U.S. 43 (1977).

    • Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003).

Class 8

Federal Courthouse Visit

Class 9

The Nature/Concept of Law; Libertarianism – Redistributive Taxation and a Legal Duty to Aid

    • John Austin, The Province of Jurispudence Determined (1832) (excerpts)

    • H.L.A. Hart, Positivism and the Separation of Law and Morals

    • Lon. L. Fuller, The Morality That Makes Law Possible

    • Ronald Dworkin, The Model of Rules

    • Mark C. Murphy, Natural Law Theory

    • Riggs v. Palmer, 115 N.Y. 506 (1889).

    • Lon. L. Fuller, The Problem of the Grudge Informer

    • Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (excerpts)

    • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (excerpts)

    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, Against a Legal Duty to Rescue, in Philosophical Problems in the Law _______ (David M. Adams, ed. 2013).

    • Ernest Weinrib, The Case for a Duty to Rescue, 90 Yale L.J. 247 (1980).

Class 10

Criminal Justice – What Is (Should Be) a Crime? Is Moral Responsibility Possible? Punishment and Responsibility

    • Douglas N. Husak, Intent

    • Sanford H. Kadish, The Criminal Law and the Luck of the Draw, 84 J. Crim. Law & Criminology 679 (1994).

    • Peter van Inwagen, The Powers of Rational Beings: Freedom of the Will, in Metaphysics 184–99 (1993).

    • David Boonin, The Problem of Punishment 3–27 (2008).

    • Richard B. Brandt, The Utilitarian Theory of Criminal Punishment, in Readings in the Philosophy of Law 262–67 (John Arthur & William H. Shaw, eds. 2010).

    • Michael Moore, The Argument for Retributivism

    • H.L.A. Hart, Punishment and Responsibility

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