Course Information and Policies


PHIL3211, Philosophy of Law

(3 credits, 3 hours)

Course description

An examination of the concepts and classifications used in and about legal systems; problems of legal reasoning and judicial decision-making; and the evaluation of philosophical and legal arguments in the areas of justice, liberty and responsibility on such issues as civil disobedience, capital punishment, censorship and pornography, reverse discrimination, theory of torts and contracts.

Course objectives

Students taking this course gain knowledge about the theories and perspectives that underlie the US (and select other) legal systems, and the philosophical literature that critiques these. Students develop key philosophical skills, such as analyzing arguments, recognizing and examining key premises, developing a philosophical thesis and supporting it with arguments, and communicating their views clearly in conversation. Students will learn to see connections between law and philosophy, and will be able to discuss the role that science can play in determining basic legal concepts such as causation. And they will gain an appreciation for the ways in which values and ethics play a role in determining every aspect of both domestic and international law, from legislation to judicial decision making.

Required Texts:

This is an OER (Open Educational Resource) course. All required readings for this course are either open access, hosted on external websites, or available for free through the City Tech library to students of City Tech. See hyperlinks in schedule below.



1. Gain familiarity with the basic methods of philosophy, and the difference between philosophy of law and empirical study of law. 

1. Class participation, papers, exams 

2. Understand the features and assumptions of various theories of jurisprudence, such as natural law and legal positivism. 

2. Class participation, papers, exams, homework

3. Become acquainted with philosophical issues in major areas of law, such as torts, contracts, criminal law, property law, etc. 

3. Class participation, papers, exams, homework

4. Critique and evaluate various contemporary issues in law from philosophical perspectives discussed in class. 

4. Class participation, papers, homework



A 93-100

A- 90-92.9

B+ 87-89.9

B 83-86.9

B- 80-82.9

C+ 77-79.9

C 70-76.9

D 60-69.9

F 59.9 and below

Attendance and Lateness

Attendance in class is not mandatory at CUNY. However, attendance is taken at the beginning of every class. Students receive a participation grade for the semester, and participation is not possible if students are not present.

Penalties and extensions:

Late assignments will be penalized in proportion to their tardiness, 3 points (out of 100) per academic day to a maximum of 10 points per week, and will receive no comments. No assignments will be accepted after the last regular class day before the final.

If for some reason you cannot meet a deadline, please discuss this with me well in advance of the due date. I will consider granting extensions on a case-by-case basis. The only exceptions to this “well-in-advance” rule will occur for bereavement or medical necessity (you will need to demonstrate evidence for either of these. For example, you will need a note from a doctor explaining that you could not make it to class in the case of medical necessity). 

Students requiring special accommodation:

If students require any special accommodations, please inform me at the beginning of the semester. Students may also wish to contact the The Student Support Services Program (SSSP). I will be more than happy to make any special accommodations I can.

Academic Integrity Statement

The CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity is that academic dishonesty is prohibited in the City University of New York and is punishable by penalties, including failing grades, suspension and expulsion.

New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York is committed to the maintenance of the highest standards of intellectual honesty and academic integrity. Intellectual honesty is the foundation of all academic and scholarly pursuits. Any form of academic dishonesty is viewed by the faculty as a serious offense which undermines the bonds of trust and honesty. Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using crediting and citing sources.