Philosophy of Law

Spring 2000
Instructor: Hood

Office: Gardner 335

The intent of this course is that it be a critical study of major understandings of law with particular emphasis on how the various notions of law are governed by fundamental views concerning ontology (the nature of reality) and anthropology (the individual person). To that end the class sessions will follow a lecture/discussion format coordinated with readings in which various philosophies of law are either implied/grounded or specifically developed.

To make this work you will have to be here, have your readings done and THINK. Particularly THINK.

Part I

A. Raising and elucidation of the question: what is law?

B. Discussion of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience. Jan. 20

Part II

A. Law as Edict

1. Positivistic.

a.Hobbes Jan. 25

b. Russell Jan. 27

c. Rawls Feb. 1

2. Utilitarianism

a. Mill Feb. 3 & 8

3. Pragmatism

a. Dewey Feb. 10 & 15

B. Law as grounded in religious perspective

1. Judaism--Epstein Feb. 17

2. Christianity--Maritain Feb. 22 & 24

3. Christianity--Tillich Feb. 29 & Mar. 2

4. Buddhism--from Buddhist Bible Mar. 7 & 9


C. Law as belonging to the order of being

1. The order as immanent/static

a. Stoic philosophy--Marcus Aurelius Mar. 21

b. Aristotle Mar. 23 & 28

c. Locke Mar. 30

d. Rousseau Apr. 4

2. The order as immanent/dynamic/dialectical

a. Marx Apr. 6

b. Derrida Apr. 11

3. The order as Transcendent

a. Plato Apr.13 & 18

b. Kant Apr. 20 & 25

c. Camus Apr. 27

Part III

A. The Declaration of Independence May 2

B. The Constitution of The United States of America May 4

Part III will be an analysis of the fundamental understanding of law underlying the Declaration of Independence and The U.S. Constitution. The topics discussed in Part I will here be taken up directly in terms of the Declaration and the Constitution and will be discussed in relation to the various perspectives on law discussed in Part II.


1. Three take-home exams, spaced roughly at each third of the term. Specific topics will be determined during the course of the term. Clear grasp of the issues, critical evaluation of the options, exploration of significant implications, reasonable comprehensiveness, creative insight, coherent expression and comprehensive understanding as revealed in your conclusions will be criteria in terms of which your essays will be judged.

2. Daily reports. Due at the beginning of each class session. Very brief!. For each answer the following questions: What is the main topic: What is the author's basic thesis?--one line, one sentence and What in the author's text strikes you as most interesting and/or outrageous?--again, one line, one sentence.


Exam # 1 30%

Exam # 2 30%

Exam # 3 30%

Daily reports: 10% Concerning these daily reports: no late submissions or make-ups except for medically excused absences or real family emergencies. Two missed reports will have no effect on your grade, thereafter each missed report will cost you 2 points per miss.

So let's make this an adventure of the mind. Philosophy must always be so or it isn't really philosophy, the love of wisdom. Think boldly. Read. Think. Write. Speak out boldly. And think, think, think!

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