PHIL2350: Philosophy of Law

Overview of Course

Every part of our lives is governed by the law, either because the law outright forbids particular behaviors, or because it does not do so (and so permits choice within that domain). The law determines where we can send our children to school, what percentage of our income we take home, what objects we can own, how we must behave in certain spaces, and so on. Put that way, the rule of law can seem like a burden. But notice that the existence and enforcement of law might reasonably be thought to contribute to our freedom: because of the law, we can contract with others for goods and services, we can sell our labor in a free market, we can seek remedies when harmed by others, and so on.In this course we’ll be interested in a range of philosophical questions in so-called “normative jurisprudence”. As the name suggests, these are questions that concern not what the law is but instead what it should be, or how we should relate to it: normative jurisprudence investigates a range of issues arising from the coercive nature of the law, its relationship to politics, morality, and individual freedom. There are enough interesting issues in this area to fill up many courses. We’ll focus our attention on six: criminal punishment, the role of statistics in the law, luck and the law, paternalism, addiction, and the obligation to obey the law.

Course Schedule & Readings

Link to course schedule and readings


Link to Description of Assessments

Academic Integrity

The use of generative AI to produce work for this course is a violation of academic integrity.

Separately, you must cite something if you’re quoting it, closely paraphrasing it, and always when you’re discussing someone else’s ideas. There are many other circumstances where you should also cite. Please refer to HKU’s guidance, or talk to me if you have any questions.

about me

I’m a philosopher based in Hong Kong. This is where I organize my academic and non-academic activities.


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