University of Pittsburgh, Summer 2000
Philosophy 1390: Philosophy of Law
Ben Eggleston

Philosophy of Law

Course documents:

Description: We will begin by inquiring into the nature of law itself. Is law (properly so called) a branch of morality, discoverable by reason and necessarily conducive to the common good; or is it nothing more than the commands issued by whoever has the most power; or is it something in between? When judges interpret the Constitution and other laws, do they discover the law or do they, in effect, make it up as they go along? We will then consider several questions that arise in the contemporary practice of law in America, such as the following: Is civil disobedience just? To what extent does the U.S. Constitution provide for privacy rights (including abortion rights)? Does plea bargaining corrupt the criminal-justice system? Under what circumstances can we hold people responsible for outcomes that they caused or could have prevented? Is the death penalty an acceptable form of punishment? We will address such questions by reading not only theoretical essays about law but also actual legal decisions. Assignments will include papers and tests, but the schedule of papers will be flexible, to suit the needs of each student.