Political Theory and Public Law

Govt 86.30 (Identical to Phil 50.21)

Current Research in Social/Political Philosophy


Race, Justice, and the Law

Course Despription

Prerequisites: One Philosophy course, or one political theory Government course, or permission of instructor.

Distributives: TMV

GOVT 86.48

Criminal Law

This course will examine the American system of criminal law from the philosophical origins and justifications of crime and punishment to the specific elements that make up criminal statutes in the US. We will examine the ways in which statutes lay down general rules of law, which leave ambiguities and uncertainties to be interpreted in court opinions. We will look at differences in how crimes are defined and punished across state systems, and discuss tensions created by the law and its underlying justifications. We will work on developing sound arguments from competing perspectives around an issue.

We will also focus on skills of practical application. Reading court cases, identifying the key facts and then summarizing them in a useful way can be difficult and a time-consuming skill to learn, but will be valuable regardless of what profession you ultimately choose to pursue. Analyzing legal cases and participating in discussion will require you to pay careful attention to a wide range of facts, carefully consider alternatives, and thoughtfully express your perspectives. Finally, we will begin the process of learning how attorneys analyze, differentiate, and argue cases based on the needs of their clients.