PHIL-161 Political Problems
Fall for 2011-2012
Maring, Luke (ljm39)
Should abortion be legal? What about capital punishment, or “enhanced interrogation?” Should the law restrict immigration?
We will approach these questions in two ways. The first approach involves understanding each of these issues on their own terms––getting clear, insofar as we can, about whether or not abortion, capital punishment, and the like are immoral. That murder and rape are abundantly wrong is part of the reason why they should be illegal; the moral status of the issues above is similarly relevant to their legal status. Readings in this part of the course will include selections from Judith Jarvis Thompson, Maggie Little, David Luban, Russ Shafer-Landau, Christopher Wellman, and others.
But while morality is relevant to law, the fact that something is immoral isn’t a sufficient reason to make it illegal. It would, in normal circumstances, be immoral for me to lie to my friends; yet a blanket law against lying is a bad idea. To get clearer about what the law’s position on these moral issues should be, we’ll study legal philosophy. We’ll consider a variety of positions concerning what the law is and should be––ranging from Natural Law theory to Legal Positivism. And we’ll consider some different political ideologies, such as Liberalism and Conservatism. Readings will include selections from Mark Murphy, H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, Joshua Cohen, and others.
To know what the law’s position on a moral issue should be, we need to understand two things: the relevant moral issue and the law. My hope is that in this course, we will develop a more nuanced understanding of both.
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Fall '11: Widerquist, K (description, file download)
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