Rhetoric of Legal Philosophy
165 001 | CCN: 10040
Instructor: Nancy Weston
Location: Dwinelle 182
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 about law, and about what law is? How do we pursue philosophical inquiry into law — and what can this pursuit reveal about what it is we are seeking? What must we think law is, that we seek it in the ways we do?
In looking to classic and modern statements of the political and moral foundations of law, we will attend in particular to 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 accordingly bring us to engage in the philosophy of law as well.
Further, we shall examine the course taken by Western legal philosophy as a whole 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 historical course of Western thought, as we come to see its fruition in prevailing accounts of law and morals.
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 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.
There will be two midterm examinations, several short paper assignments, and a final examination.
Please note: Class meetings are intensive, each constituting an occasion of significant engagement with the questions of the course. Class attendance is obligatory. 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.
In planning their schedules, students should be aware that wide ranging collective discussions, often lasting an hour or more, will generally occur after the Thursday class meetings. In past classes students have found these informal but intense discussions to be of substantial help in coming to terms with difficult material encountered in the course. You are therefore strongly encouraged to plan your schedule so as to be able to attend these sessions. Please feel free to
contact me if you have any questions about the course.