This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Emmanuel Melissaris NAB5.15


This course is compulsory on the LLB in Laws. This course is available on the BA in Anthropology and Law, BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available to General Course students.

Course content

The aims of the course are: To introduce students to thinking philosophically about the law. To familiarise students with the main methodological, ontological, and normative questions concerning the law and its legitimacy. To provide students with knowledge of some of the most influential legal and political philosophies and their theses on law. To encourage and enable students to think about doctrinal legal questions from a philosophical perspective. To help students develop legal reasoning skills by training them in constructing abstract, philosophical arguments. Some of the themes that the course covers are: natural law; conventionalist and epistemic legal positivism; the rule of law; principles and the requirement of coherence in legal reasoning; some influential accounts of the legitimacy of the modern state and its law (Hobbes; Kant; Rawls); law's legitimacy and democracy; Marxist approaches to law; disobedience to the law; Arendt’s political philosophy and its implications for law.


20 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to write at least one essay per term.

Indicative reading

Students are provided with outlines and readings for topics discussed in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. For introductory and background reading see: J.E. Penner and E. Melissaris, McCoubrey & White's Textbook on Jurisprudence, OUP 2012; Brian Bix, Jurisprudence: Theory and Context (3rd ed.), Thomson Sweet & Maxwell 2003.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the main exam period.

The examination paper will be divided into first (section A) and second (section B) term questions. Students will be required to answer three questions from a wide choice of questions, but at least one question from each section.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2015/16: 164

Average class size 2015/16: 14

Capped 2015/16: Yes (180)

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills