This course will examine the theoretical foundations and practical implications of natural law theory. Because "natural law" is often taken to mean many different things, one of the course's first aims will be to establish a common vocabulary for identifying and distinguishing the various "versions" of natural law theory: e.g., classical-teleological, utilitarian, and deontological-contractarian. We will see that a common denominator in all natural law theory is the proposition that positive law (i.e., law as it is simply "posited" or enacted by lawmakers) does not exhaust the content of the law, and can be evaluated in light of a "higher law" or a "natural law." Our ensuing discussion of the difference between positive law and natural law will open onto a series of questions that will guide us through the rest of the course:
"Is there really a natural law?"
"If there is a natural law, what is the basis upon which this law exists and becomes knowable to us?"
"If natural law exists, then what is its moral content and what does this moral content have to say about individual goods and their relation to the common good?"
"Furthermore, how is the moral content of natural law to be enforced or made effective through our system of positive law?"
"Finally, how are we to make sense of the natural law tradition in light of our contemporary understandings of judicial review, governmental neutrality, and reasonable pluralism?"
The course will not only introduce the classical natural law tradition (based mainly on the thought of Aristotle and Aquinas), but will place this classical tradition in dialogue with contemporary thinkers. The ultimate aim of the course will be to achieve an understanding of the natural law tradition and its relevance for a variety of contemporary legal issues. No prior acquaintance with philosophy or jurisprudence is assumed; the relevant concepts will be developed in class.
Is this course open to LL.M. students? Yes
Do the credits of this course count toward the specialized program credits that students need for the International Law & Justice LL.M. Program? Yes