PHI 310: Ethics and Law

"25 Minutes to Go”
Johnny Cash

What is law, and how is it related to ethics?  Is the law whatever we say it is through legislation, or are there principles — procedural and perhaps even moral — that must be respected?  Should the law save us, in some instances, from ourselves, and what, in the end, is the nature of punishment?  These are just some of the questions that we will explore in this course, which is designed to introduce you to some of the key questions in the philosophy of law.

In the first part of this course, we will consider three broad approaches to the philosophy of law (or jurisprudence): legal positivism, legal naturalism, and law as interpretation.  We will then discuss the ultimate purpose of law in terms of the harm-to-others principle as well as the two main theories of punishment: utilitarianism and retributivism.

In the second part of this course, we will consider two things: critical race theory and the debate over abortion, both of which raise serious questions about the nature of law as something deliberated created by biased — and
frequently bigoted
 — human beings.

These are the materials that we will cover:

Philosophy of Law: The Fundamentals by Mark C. Murphy; Amazon.com

“A Positivist Conception of Law” by John Austin; PDF

“Positivism and the Separation of Law and Morals” by H.L.A. Hart; PDF

“Eight Ways to Fail to Make Law” by Lon Fuller; PDF

“The Natural Law Theory of St. Thomas Aquinas” by Susan Dimock; PDF

“The Model of Rules” by Ronald Dworkin; PDF

“Law as Interpretation” by Ronald Dworkin; PDF

Video: “Is There Truth in Interpretation?”

Selections from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill; PDF

Selections from The Philosophy of Law by Immanuel Kant; PDF

Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, second edition, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic; Amazon.com

“Whiteness as Property” by Cheryl I. Harris; PDF

The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice by Christopher Kaczor; Amazon.com

And here are some course-related media:





© Douglas Ficek