Rhetoric of Legal Philosophy
165 001 | CCN: 31243
Instructor: Nancy Weston
Location: Dwinelle 215
Date / Time: Tu/Th 3:30pm - 4:59pm
The central question for the philosophy of law is: What is law? To inquire into the rhetoric of the philosophy of law is, then, to ask: How do we speak of law, and of what law is? How do we engage in philosophical inquiry into law — and what can this engagement reveal about what it is we are seeking? What must we think law is, that we seek it in the ways we do?
We shall examine the course taken by Western legal philosophy, with an eye to uncovering the tacit premises on which it may be seen to have been conducted. To that end, we shall draw upon insights of Heidegger and Nietzsche into the nature and history of moral and legal thought.
In looking to classic and modern statements of the political and moral foundations of law, our principal focus will be the question of the source, nature, and implications of the search for such foundations, and its bearing upon the understanding of law. Engaging with the question of the rhetoric of the philosophy of law will thereby bring us to engage as well with the philosophy of law itself.
Please note: Students are obligated to prepare for, attend, and participate in each class meeting. Adequate preparation includes sustained engagement before class with the readings, which are often extensive and difficult. As close attention to the texts is essential to the work of the course, students are to bring the week’s readings, in hard copy, to each class. Class meetings are intensive, each constituting an occasion of significant engagement with the questions of the course. Class attendance (which includes preparation and timeliness) is obligatory. Note that we will meet on all scheduled days of instruction, including those adjacent to university holidays. Students are advised to plan their schedules accordingly. If you are (or later become) unable or unwilling to fulfill these obligations, you should not enroll (or remain enrolled) in this course.
There will be two midterm examinations, several short paper assignments, and a final examination.
Wide-ranging collective discussions, often lasting an hour or more, will generally occur after the Thursday class meetings. Students in past classes have found these informal but intense discussions to be not only highly enjoyable, but of substantial help in reaching an understanding of all that the course offers. Accordingly, you are strongly urged to arrange your schedule so that you may attend them.
The instructor will limit enrollment as necessary, and will consider for enrollment only those students in attendance and in fulfillment of the assigned work from the outset.
Prior coursework in philosophy is not required; an openness to its challenges is.