Course Description: This course will provide an introduction to the philosophy of law. Rather than comprehensively explore some particular set of questions, our approach will be broadly pluralistic, both in terms of content and methodology. Coverage will comprise the following principal areas, chosen for their philosophical richness: jurisprudence, torts, criminal law, and First Amendment law. Following our introductory unit in jurisprudence, each subsequent unit presents both philosophical writings and pertinent case law. Students will therefore acquire a facility not just with academic work, but also will acquire the analytical abilities needed to work through court opinions. A final research paper will allow students to explore a topic in philosophy, law, or the intersection thereof.
Course Syllabus (Fall 2013)
Course Description: American politics has devolved into polarized extremes, made no better by last year’s divisive election. The aim of this seminar is to critically evaluate some of the most contentious issues facing us, as well as to try to charitably construct—as opposed to caricature—arguments from across the political spectrum. The methodology will be broadly interdisciplinary, drawing from sources in philosophy, political science, and law. The first unit is theoretical, trying to understand the differences between liberalism and conservatism, as well as different approaches to judicial interpretation. The second unit looks at issues in voting, gerrymandering, and campaign finance. The third unit considers the First Amendment, specifically religious tolerance, religious liberty, and hate speech. The final unit engages patriotism, nationalism, immigration, and the Second Amendment.
Course Syllabus (Fall 2017)
Course Description: Criminal law aims to punish those who are responsible for wrongdoing. This aim gives rise to two classes of affirmative defense. First, the accused can argue that they are not responsible for their actions. Second, they can argue that, while they have otherwise satisfied the elements of a crime, no wrongdoing occurred. This first category suggests that the accused should be excused from punishment—either in whole or in part—and trades on doctrines such as duress, intoxication, and insanity. The second category suggests that the accused’s actions were justified, and trades on doctrines such as self-defense and necessity. This seminar will therefore consider the related doctrines of justification and excuse, both by review of primary case law and secondary sources.
Course Syllabus (Fall 2016)
Course Description: Recent developments in neuroscience portend a range of interesting questions for the law. Most fundamentally, neuroscience challenges traditional doctrines of moral and legal responsibility. Concepts like competence and addiction are cast in new lights, as are developmental axes, like the adolescent brain. Free will and determinism loom large here, and legal doctrines need to respond to a new empirical scene. Mind reading and lie detection move from the realm of the science fiction into, maybe, the realm of the possible. But hazards loom large as neuroscientific information is often misunderstood, or even faces barriers in terms of evidentiary admissibility. In the future, brain-machine interfaces and artificial intelligence may revolutionize what it even means to be human. This seminar offers an introduction into a wide array of topics; it draws from academic scholarship, as well as the limited—but growing—case law.
Course Syllabus (Spring 2016)
Course Description: In this course, we will investigate the philosophical foundations of: intentional torts, privileges, negligence, causation in fact, proximate cause, defenses, and damages. In these investigations, our focus will be less on what the law is, than why it is what it is and whether it should be as it is. Furthermore, we shall consider case-based approaches to moral methodology, as opposed to principle-based approaches or alternatives (e.g., reflective equilibrium). To put this another way, torts doctrine is largely constructed from the common law, and we can query the advantages and disadvantages of this method.
Course Syllabus (Spring 2012)