This information is for the 2020/21 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 philosophical thinking 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 the state and 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: the social contract tradition (Hobbes, Kant, Rawls, Rousseau); the democratic legitimacy of the state and its law; Marxism and critical theory; Arendt’s political theory and its implications for law; methodology in jurisprudence; natural law; legal positivism; the rule of law and legality; the use and significance of principles in adjudication and legal reasoning.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year some or all of this teaching will be delivered through recorded online lectures and a mix of both in-person and online classes to accommodate students who are unable to physically be on campus.  This course includes a reading week in Weeks 6 of Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.

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: S. Veitch, E. Christodoulidis, and M. Goldoni, Jurisprudence: Themes and Concepts (3rd. ed), Routledge 2018; 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 summer exam period.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2019/20: 177

Average class size 2019/20: 12

Capped 2019/20: Yes (240)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills