PH439      Half Unit
Anarchy, Authority and Evidence: Topics in Philosophy of Law

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Lewis Ross LAK 401


This course is available on the MSc in Economics and Philosophy, MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy, MSc in Philosophy of Science and MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This half-unit course considers a range of philosophical issues raised by the law. No prior legal knowledge is required. The first half of the course discusses big picture questions about the purpose and defensibility of law - for example, asking whether it is possible to have law without the state, scrutinising the obligation to obey the law, the justification of punishment, and the circumstances in which we can engage in civil disobedience. The second half of the course focuses on legal questions of philosophical interest. An indicative list includes: When should a court consider something proven? How should the law use algorithms? Why should we defer to professional judges? Does it make sense to treat a corporation as morally responsible? Throughout the course, we explore the connection between legal philosophy and other areas of philosophy - especially moral philosophy, political philosophy, and epistemology.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce at least 1 (group) presentation and 1 piece of formative work in the MT. 

Students will have the opportunity to submit a formative essay for feedback. 

Students will have the opportunity to receive feedback on their summative essay plan. 

There will be a student-led group debate for which feedback will be provided.

Indicative reading

The following are readings that discuss representative issues covered in this course:

  • Delmas, Candice (2018). A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
  • Kropotkin, Petr (2015). The Conquest of Bread. Penguin.
  • Huemer, Michael (2012). The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to
  • Coerce and the Duty to Obey. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Nagel, Thomas (1976) Moral Luck. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes. Vol. 50
  • Jorgensen, Renée (2020). The rational impermissibility of accepting (some) racial generalizations. Synthese 197 (6):2415-2431.
  • Hoskins, Zachary (2017). Punishment. Analysis 77 (3): 619–632.
  • King, 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills