This class addresses a range of philosophical issues pertaining to the law, both descriptive (e.g., what is law? how does it operate to advance or stymie social struggles?) and normative (e.g., what makes law legitimate? what are the individual’s moral rights and responsibilities vis-à-vis the state?). The first part of the course covers an array of classical philosophical positions (Aristotle, Hobbes, Montesquieu and Durkheim, Marx) on the function of law in society and its possible sources of the moral legitimacy. We then transition into more recent debates about the legitimacy of moralism in law and the limits of legal coercion. The second half of the class considers contemporary philosophical positions regarding the nature of law, and closes by considering the nature and authority of constitutional law, and the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of constitutional review of legislation by institutions like the Supreme Court.
Instructor: Todd Hedrick