Some of the most abiding conceptual questions in law have constituted the subject matter of jurisprudence. These include the nature of law, its relationship to sovereignty, do we have an obligation to obey the law, do laws have a moral content? Often regarded as the philosophical backbone of the law, jurisprudence has evolved over many centuries via the emergence of different schools of thought and the stakes in jurisprudence debates are very high as it is not just the crucial terrain on which the conceptual battles in the law take place, but these debates also substantively determine the design of legal systems and how laws are interpreted. For instance the question of the extent to which the state can regulate the dietary preferences of individuals is not just a matter of politics but also of jurisprudence as it goes into the heart of jurisprudential debates.
One of the abiding concerns of jurisprudence is the very nature of law itself, but what exactly is at stake in the question and why do we need a general theory of what law is, and what does it have to do with legal practice? One of the aims of this course will be to examine the conceptual and practical implications of jurisprudence for the practice of law. Jurisprudence has often thought of as the province of “dead white men”, and in this course we will try to study the classics of jurisprudence but with a keen eye towards their lively, vital relevance to contemporary debates. While the domain of jurisprudence us vast, in this course will be looking at some of the foundational debates and focus on one strand of analytical jurisprudence namely the debate between legal positivism and normative jurisprudence while other topics including sociological jurisprudence etc. will be covered in other courses. In particular we will focus on the works of two thinkers H L A Hart and Ronald Dworkin along with their interlocutors.
- Teacher: Lawrence Liang