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School of Social Sciences

Philosophy lecture
BA Philosophy
Develop the knowledge and analytical skills to examine today's biggest questions.

BA Philosophy / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:

Unit code LAWS20101
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Law
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course is designed to introduce students to some of the major authors and issues in the philosophy of law as it appears in the Anglo-American tradition.  We will begin by examining some theoretical questions about the nature of law, the relationship between law and morality, and the role of the courts.  We will then take a look at the idea of justice - which will involve the study of various issues within political and moral philosophy - in order to begin to provide answers to questions of what a just society would look like, and how law might help ensure justice and secure rights.  Primarily, we will focus on problems of distributive justice, and how to balance the demands of liberty and justice in complex societies.  Issues to be examined include methods of moral reasoning, the nature of rights, the meaning of liberty, the problem of economic inequality and the demands of distributive justice. We will go on to look at questions to do with structural injustices of other sorts, and how (and whether!) the law should deal with them.


- To encourage the development of skills in reasoning and analysis as applied to law through the use of non-doctrinal materials.
- To introduce students to basic theoretical perspectives on the creation and application of law.
- To provide students with an awareness of principles underpinning legal doctrine, and of the ways in which those principles can conflict.
- To engage students in reflection upon the question of what makes for a valid system of binding laws, and upon the distinction between a just and an unjust legal system.

Learning outcomes


Teaching and learning methods

30 hours of lectures, five hours of (fortnightly) seminars and 10 hours of (weekly) direction and feedback drop in sessions.

The lectures will be traditionally led.

Seminars will involve open discussion of 2-3 pre-circulated problem questions, giving students the opportunity to apply many of the principles covered in the lectures.

Intellectual skills

- An ability to analyse and make reasoned arguments.
- A capacity to interpret and assess competing philosophical perspectives on law, and to use those perspectives to formulate arguments about law, politics and ethics.
- A capacity to identify and analyse critically key jurisprudential issues.

Practical skills

- An ability to engage in and cultivate reasoned legal and moral arguments, by way of both written presentation and (in seminars) oral argument.
- An ability to produce (by a specified deadline) concise and appropriately structured discursive essays addressing a key jurisprudential issue, with accurate and appropriate use of sources.
- An ability to undertake independent online and library-based research.
- An ability to carry out literature reviews, formulate theses and summarize legal and ethical perspectives.
- An ability to develop an argument persuasively irrespective of whether it coincides with one's beliefs.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- An ability to think logically, to identify and assess competing principles impartially, and to identify and solve legal and ethical problems.
- An ability to discuss such problems orally and to articulate relevant conclusions.
- An ability to think independently and to use one's own initiative in developing jurisprudential ideas and research.
- An ability to manage one's own study-time and meet deadlines.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 50%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%

Coursework only - 2 essays of 2500 words weighed at 50% each

Feedback methods

The course is assessed by two essays of 2,500 words. These essays will be weighted at 50% each.

No formative essay is required; the first summative essay with serve as formative work for the second. General guidance on the completion of assessed essays is also provided, but the turor is not permitted to review or comment on drafts or outlines. 

For students seeking feedback on coursework questions, a selection of first class answers will be posted as soon as practical after marks have finally been approved. 

Recommended reading

None required, but students may find it helpful to consult Nigel Simmonds' Central Issues in Jurisprundence (4th ed. 2013) to get a sense of some of the issues that will be covered in the course.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Seminars 5
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Iain Brassington Unit coordinator

Additional notes


This course is compulsory for students on the LLB; but it is available as an option to all students in the Faculty. 

Pre-requisites: None for Law School students and other students at the discretion of the course director.

See Law School timetable


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