Law unrolled: explore the philosophy of law

Course Dates: 04/05/21 - 15/06/21
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
Location: Online
Tutors: 
Our lives are governed by the law, but do we really understand the thinking behind our legal system or do we simply take it for granted? This course is an introduction to jurisprudence: the philosophy of law.
NB: This course runs on Tuesday mornings 10:15 - 12:15, from 4th May to 15th June, but there will also be one Friday morning session in the second week, on 14th May, from 10:15 - 12:15.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £159.00 Senior fee £127.00 Concession £97.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HP159

Started Tue, day, 04 May - 15 Jun '21

Duration: 8 sessions (over 7 weeks)

Call us to check if you can still join the course 020 7492 2652 (depart num)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

We start by asking what we mean by law and looking at different ways to approach the subject: naturalism and positivism. We contrast common law and civil law, before considering four fundamental concepts: the rule of law, authority, rights, and responsibility. We end by asking why we punish and exploring feminist philosophy of law.

NB: This course runs on Tuesday mornings 10:15 - 12:15, from 4th May to 15th June, but there will also be one Friday morning session in the second week, on 14th May, from 10:15 - 12:15.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?


• What is law? How do we categorise different types of law? Why do we need them?
• How do we distinguish natural and positive law? What is the debate?
• What is the difference between common law and civil law?
• Why is the rule of law fundamental to liberal democracies? What does it involve?
• Do judges apply or interpret the law? Why does this matter?
• What do we mean by authority? Should we always obey the law?
• Do we have rights? What does that involve? Can we understand rights as trumps?
• What is responsibility? Does it depend on facts, values, or both?
• Why do we punish? Who benefits? Do we disrespect the criminal if we do not?
• Do we need a feminist jurisprudence? What are the main issues it raises?

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Define law and catalogue the various types that govern our society
• Outline the history of natural law and explore the debate with positivism
• Distinguish common law and civil law and list the differences
• Understand the rule of law, set out the key elements, and describe its importance
• Consider whether courts apply or interpret the law – and the implications of this
• Explore authority and consider whether law breaking is ever justified
• Evaluate whether we have rights and what that means
• Discuss what we mean by responsibility and its place in the law
• Argue the case for and against punishing criminals
• Describe the main arguments of feminist jurisprudence.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is an introductory course and no prior knowledge is required.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Each class is broken down into bite-sized explorations of key topics, introduced by the tutor and followed by class discussion; in addition, the tutor introduces the session and sums up at the end to make sure you fully understand the important points. You will be provided with an introductory reading list, but this is designed to enhance your study and, while we encourage you to read up each week, you can follow, enjoy, and contribute to the discussion without doing so.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No other costs. Please bring a pen and notebook to class if you wish to make notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Please see City Lit's website for full details of all philosophy courses.

Justin Jackson

Justin is Lecturer in Politics at Brasenose College, Oxford. He also teaches at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford and the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge. He is an Associate Lecturer at the Open University. He holds postgraduate degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and London.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.