Political Science | American Law and Theory
Y675 | 9868 | Failer


This seminar is an introduction to jurisprudence, i.e., to the branch
of moral and political philosophy that asks basic questions about the
nature and character of law.  Among our central questions will be,
What is law? What is (are) its function(s)?  What makes law
authoritative?  What is the role of morality in legal thinking?

Traditionally, there have been two schools of jurisprudence that
answer these questions in two distinct ways: natural law and
positivism.  In this seminar, we will compare these canonical
approaches to basic problems in legal theory.  We will also augment
those studies by examining the original contributions that American
legal theory has made to these discussions.  In particular, we will
look to the schools of legal realism, critical legal studies
(including critical race and feminist jurisprudence), and law and
economics.  We will also devote a portion of the course to examining
several problems that have loomed large in American law, and will
compare traditional and more distinctly American approaches to
evaluating these issues.  Where appropriate, we will also use legal
cases to help evaluate and clarify the theoretical debates.

Throughout the course, we will focus both on the role of morality in
law and on the specifically American contributions to law and
jurisprudence.