Philosophy of Law

TUD_thumbnailThe Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) and Delft University of Technology (TuD) invite PhD students in philosophy to register for the course “Philosophy of Law” to take place in Spring 2016

Organizing university

Delft University of Technology


29 March & 5, 12, 19 & 26 April



Type of activity

5-day Course

Primary target group

PhD students

If places available, also open to

2nd year ReMa students

Application/registration deadline

15 March 2016

Aim / objective

The goal of the course is to engage students in a systematic reflection on some major philosophical questions about law. What is the nature of law? What is the relationship between law and justice? How can state punishment be morally justified? What are the limits of legal responsibility – when should people be exempted, justified or excused for their crimes and wrongs? What is the moral foundation of the practices of compensation and restitution typical of tort law?

The course aims to: a) give students a general knowledge of some major general theories in the philosophy of law of the XX century – Legal positivism v. Natural Law Theory, theories of justice, retributive and utilitarian theories of punishment; the philosophical foundation of legal responsibility b) engage students in the critical discussion of specific topics like the moral limits of criminal responsibility – e.g. the justification of self-defence, the excuse of coercion – and the philosophical justification of tort liability.


The course will deal with the following four topics:
1. The Nature of law: Positivism v Natural law theory (Hart v. Dworkin)
2. Theories of justice (Rawls and his critics)
3. Philosophical foundation of State punishment: retributivist v. utilitarian approaches to punishment (Feinberg, M.S. Moore v. Brandt, Posner)
4. Grounds and bounds of legal responsibility – exemptions, justifications, and excuses (Hart, Gardner, Horder)
5. Philosophical foundation of Tort law – economic v. substantive justice approaches to tort liability (Posner, Coase v. Perry, Weinrib)

The course has the following structure: on each of the five days there will be one lecture in the morning and one seminar in the afternoon. Each lecture aims to present one topic of the course and to prepare the ground for the afternoon seminar. The afternoon seminar will have students presenting and discuss contrasting views on the topic of the day on the basis of a discussion of two articles read in advance.


Dr. Filippo Santoni de Sio

Required preparations

The reading of (parts of) the following book is recommended:

– M. C. Murphy, Philosophy of Law: The Fundamentals, 2006, Wiley-Blackwell

Two (or more) articles will be discussed in each seminar. The reading of the articles is required to participate in the seminars.

In order to complete the course students must write a short paper on a topic of their choice related to those discussed in the course.

Certificate / credit points



The course is free for:

– PhD students who are a member of the OZSW;
– Research Master students who are a member of the OZSW;

All others pay a tuition fee of 250 euros.

Location / accommodation details


Registration/application form

Contact info

Dr. Filippo Santoni de Sio: (for questions regarding course content)
OZSW secretariaat: (for questions regarding registration)