Jurisprudence and Legal Theory
Numerous upper level offerings address perennial fundamental questions about the relationships among law, politics, and morality. The introductory course Jurisprudence provides students with a broad background in leading movements in American and English thought concerning the fundamental nature of law, the justification of coercion by the state, the legitimacy of legal systems, the relationship between law and morality, and the possibility of “objective” decision-making by judges.
Courses in jurisprudence examine topics including natural law theory, legal positivism, and legal realism, up through contemporary debates in feminist theory, critical race theory, critical legal studies, and law and interpretation. Students who are especially interested in one particular approach to jurisprudence will find a variety of courses and seminars that aim to develop one school of jurisprudence or one “method” of legal theory intensively. Gender, Sexuality, and the Law, as well as Critical Race Studies and Law of Race, for example, draw upon a wealth of contemporary legal theory that looks at the role of gender- and race-based motivations behind what sometimes claims to be our neutral and unbiased law. They also draw upon substantive legal issues pertaining to race and gender, and study the contribution that legal theory can make to trying to resolve these issues.