The Philosophy of Law - LW540

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn and Spring
View Timetable
6 30 (15) DR S Pethick







The Philosophy of Law module is designed for those who think they might be interested in philosophical reflection and enquiry into law. The module assumes no prior knowledge of either philosophy or law. The module uses the tools of analytic philosophy in order to promote understanding and criticism of current and historical understandings of law and legal practice, and to promote students' own critical, reflective understandings concerning these topics. Module learning divides into two parts. The first part occupies Autumn Term learning and teaching, and comprises an introduction to philosophy of law and to the major school of thought in jurisprudence that have dominated reflection on the nature of law. A significant theme of this programme of study is to develop understanding of the relation of ideas in philosophy of law to a wider scholarship that includes historical and sociological understandings of legal practices. The second part occupies Spring Term learning and teaching, and is taken up with the close critical reading of a single monograph in the philosophy of law. The aim of this part of the module is to build upon and supplement Autumn Term learning through the focussed and detailed examination of a single, sustained argument offered within the subject field, thereby deepening earlier understandings and also enabling students to develop and refine their skills of philosophical reading and critique.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

20 hours Lectures; 10 Seminars (approximately)

Method of assessment

20% coursework (1 essay) : 80% written examination or optional 100% dissertation. Contact Kent Law School Undergraduate Office, or access Moodle, for details.

Indicative reading

B Magee The Great Philosophers (BBC, 1987)
R Dworkin Law’s Empire (Fontana, 1986)
JW Harris Legal Philosophies (Butterworths, 2nd edn, 1997)
HLA Hart The Concept of Law (OUP, 2nd edn, 1994)
F Schauer Playing by the Rules (OUP, 1991)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this module will be able to:
1. Demonstrate a clear, in-depth understanding of the principal schools of thought about the nature of law.
2. Demonstrate precise knowledge of the major theoretical debates in philosophy of law.
3. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the major concepts and principles at issue in the philosophy of law, including those derived from general philosophy.
4. Prepare detailed accounts of the relevance of topics in general philosophy (including ethics, metaphysics and epistemology) to law.
5. Evaluate law critically as an example of practical as well as speculative reason.
6. Demonstrate the ability to engage in reasoned and sophisticated discussion on the major areas of theory and its practical application.
7. Articulate the aims of philosophy of law and its objectives in relation to law and legal reasoning.
8. Articulate and review the position of philosophy of law in relation to other theoretical perspectives about the nature of law, such as sociology of law.

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