PHL 612: Philosophy of Law

Topics: Jurisprudence, Ronald Dworkin, Law Pages: 25 (5890 words) Published: March 10, 2014
Department of Philosophy

Course No. PHL 612: Philosophy of LawWinter 2014

Instructor(s): Alex Wellington
Office: Room 428, Jorgenson Hall*
Phone: 979-5000 ext. 4057
(E-mail address)**:

Office Hours Posted:
Wednesdays at 2:10 pm, By Appointment
Wednesdays at 3:10 pm and at 4:10 pm, Drop In Time
Thursdays at 3:10 pm, By Appointment
*Other times may be available by appointment

Website: Blackboard course website available through

This is an Upper Level Liberal Studies course

Course Description:

PHL 612 Philosophy of Law [Calendar Description]: What is law? What makes something a legal norm? Should citizens always obey the law? What is the relationship between law and morality? This course will explore competing theories of law, such as natural law and positivism, and touch on crucial debates over civil disobedience, purposes of punishment, and interpretation of legal texts. It will deal with contemporary controversies over the legal regulation of human behaviour, for instance in matters of sexual morality.

Grading Scheme:

Course Evaluation:
Grades will be determined in the following manner:

Midterm Test
Week 7
Essay Assignment*
Week 11 (March 28)
Final Exam

*Essay Assignment will be 1750 - 2250 words (Approximately 7 - 9 pages) OR Alternative Community-based/ Service Learning Opportunity

Marks for assignments will be posted on Course Website on Blackboard

Any alterations in any of the above will be discussed in class prior to being implemented. The usual process for making alterations to the grading scheme includes: (a) discussing the changes with the class; (b) making such revisions as early as possible in the course; and (c) confirming the changes both orally and in writing (handout or posting to course website).

NOTE: Faculty Course Surveys will be administered online

Readings and Resources:

There will be a Course Website on Blackboard.

Course readings will be comprised of selected journal articles and court cases as specified in the Course Schedule.

The readings are itemized and numbered in the Course Schedule below. All course readings can be accessed electronically. Many are available through links found in the Course Readings area of the course website on Blackboard (through Ryerson University Library electronic holdings). Court cases can be accessed through the CanLII website.

NOTE: The full references and citations for the readings follow under the heading “Sources/ References for Course Readings”.

Powerpoint Presentations and Instructors Supplemental Notes will be posted in the Documents area of the course website on Blackboard. Other documents will be posted in the Documents area, and figures and charts are posted in the Information area.

Please note: A variety and diversity of readings on the issues are included in order to give students choices for the essay topics; only specified readings will be the focus of the questions on the mid term test and final exam.


In this course we will focus on the conceptual issues arising from philosophical questions about law: What is law? What makes law valid? How do moral norms and legal norms overlap, and yet ultimately, differ from each other? How do moral perspectives impact upon and influence the articulation and interpretation of legal norms? In what ways do particular interpretations of legal documents and legal rulings provide reasons for acting or deciding (if one is a judge)? What are judges disagreeing about when they disagree about how to decide a particular case - what the law is, or what it ought to be? Does what the law is sometime depend on what it ought to be? Are we morally obligated to obey each and every law, even when the content of a particular law is...

Citations: (8) Bedford v. Canada, 2013 SCC 72 (Supreme Court of Canada). Available online:
(13) R. v. Butler [1992] 1 S.C.R. 452 (Supreme Court of Canada), 1992 CanLII 124 (SCC).
(15) Multani v. Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 256, 2006 SCC 6
Available online: CanLII:
(16) Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 772, 2001 SCC 31
Available online: CanLII:
(17) Dworkin, Ronald. 1982. “Law as Interpretation”. Critical Inquiry, Volume 9, Number 1, The Politics of Interpretation (September 1982), pages 179-200.
(18) Dworkin, Ronald. 1985. “Law 's Ambitions for Itself”. Virginia Law Review, Volume 71, Number 2 (March 1985), pages 173-187.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982 being
Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11. Sections 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 15. Available Online: CanLII:
Christman, John. 2003/ 2009. “Autonomy in Moral and Political Philosophy”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available online:
Crenshaw, Kimberle, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas, editors
Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefancic. 2012. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. Second Edition. New York University Press.
Delgado, Richard and Jean Stefancic, editors. 1999. Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge. Second Edition. Temple University Press. Available through Ryerson University Library; Call Number: KF4755 .C75 2000  
Devlin, Patrick
Dworkin, Gerald. 1971. “Paternalism”. In Morality and the Law, edited by Richard Wasserstrom (Wadsworth, 1971), pages 107-126
Dworkin, Ronald
Finnis, John. 2007. “Natural Law Theory”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available online:
Fish, Stanley
Fuller, Lon. 1964/ 1969. The Morality of Law. Revised Edition. Yale University Press.
Green, Leslie. 2003. “Legal Positivism”, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available online:
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