This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Michael Wilkinson


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 issues in the study of law and its legitimacy. To provide students with knowledge of some of the most influential legal and political philosophers and their theories of law. To encourage and enable students to think about doctrinal legal questions from a philosophical and critical perspective. To help students to develop legal reasoning skills by training them in abstract, philosophical arguments. Some of the themes that the course covers are: natural law; conventionalist legal positivism; the rule of law; the use and significance of principles in legal reasoning; the social contract tradition (Hobbes; Kant; Rawls); the democratic legitimacy of the state and its law; Marxist approaches to law; Arendt’s political theory 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 some 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.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2016/17: 171

Average class size 2016/17: 14

Capped 2016/17: Yes (185)

Lecture capture used 2016/17: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills