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Legal Theory examines the nature of law, its role in society, and its relationship to morality and politics.
The questions we investigate have productive historical and conceptual traditions but no settled answers, and students will be encouraged to critically evaluate their own and others’ theories and arguments. To this end, the subject will examine a range of approaches, and assist students to further develop skills in critical analysis, reasoning and argument. The course enables students to develop and evaluate their thinking about a number of theoretical questions, drawing on a range of conceptual approaches to the study of law.
In any one year, the specific topics to be studied in Legal Theory will be drawn from jurisprudence; law, society and culture; authority, politics and rule of law; or law, morality and ethics. These topics will be explored in the context of the plural traditions of legal theory, and by way of examples from debates about the character and role of law in society, both nationally and internationally.
Intended learning outcomes
The aim of the subject is for students to develop their conceptual understanding of law and of law’s key role in society. This understanding will be developed through individual close reading and class discussion of legal theory texts, and through collaborative analysis of contemporary political, social and ethical issues within law. Students who successfully complete the subject will be able to:
- Demonstrate foundational knowledge and understanding of the key theories and theoretical questions, topics and issues explored in the course;
- Demonstrate the ability to independently read and comprehend theoretical texts, concepts and arguments;
- Demonstrate the ability to explicate, analyse and evaluate a range of theories, arguments and perspectives, in order to engage with complex conceptual questions at an abstract level; and
- Develop and communicate reasoned and justified arguments about questions and issues in legal theory.
Through completion of this subject students will have practised the following skills:
- Close reading and analysis of a range of sources, including legal theory texts and interdisciplinary materials;
- A capacity to engage in critical thinking, evaluation and independent thought at an abstract level;
- A capacity to communicate knowledge and understanding of complex ideas in oral and written forms, to defined audiences;
- The ability to write effectively in descriptive, analytical, critical and reasoned modes;
- The ability to consider responses to unfamiliar or challenging ethical issues;
- The ability to participate constructively as a member of a small class, with a high level of personal accountability; and
- Intercultural awareness and understanding, demonstrated through respect for the considered views and values of others.
Last updated: 2 December 2019