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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Justice, Ethics and Law (LAWS10062)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryThis course is concerned with the inter-relations between the law, and concepts of ¿the good¿ (ethics) and ¿the right¿ (justice). What is the relationship of law to morality? Do we have an independent duty to obey law? Should all moral imperatives become legal imperatives? And where do the ideas of morality and justice that affect our understanding of law come from? On what basis can they be justified? Is legal neutrality a desirable ¿ or even an intelligible ¿ goal?

The course will consist of three elements (any two of which may be stressed in a given year); the nature of moral values and their relevance to law (whether providing an intrinsic element of law, or a critical standard for its appraisal); theories of justice with special reference to legal problems; ethics in the legal process.
Course description The course is divided into 5 sections. In the first, essentially introductory, section we will familiarise ourselves with some important terms and distinctions, discuss one of the classic texts addressing the relationship of law to morality (Sophocles¿ Antigone), and consider the question of whether and when we have a moral duty to obey the law. The next two sections are devoted to examinations of different approaches to questions of morality and justice: firstly some important historical figures, representing major schools (Aristotle, Kant, Bentham/Mill and Marx) and then some more contemporary scholars (with a focus on Rawls, Habermas and Foucault).

In second semester, we will then turn our attention to some relevant conceptual controversies, relating to human rights, a duty to rescue, torture, and mercy. We will then conclude by considering whether and how the various theories and positions we have studied in relation to justice, ethics and law can be applied in a global setting.

This course is delivered in a seminar format, as this is by far the most effective way of developing the skills outlined above.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Spaces on this course are allocated as part of the Law Honours Course Allocation process. Places are generally only available to students who must take Law courses. To request a space on this course, please email
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is only open to visiting students coming through a direct exchange with the School of Law (including Erasmus students on a Law-specific Exchange). Exchange students outside of Law and independent study abroad students are not eligible to enrol in this course, with no exceptions.

**Please note that 3rd year Law courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.**
Priority will be given to students studying on exchange within the Law department, and it is highly unlikely that there will be additional spaces for general exchange students & independent study abroad students to enrol; we will look into this on a case-by-case basis in September/January. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space.

These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have developed knowledge and understanding of some key ethical theories, and be able to critcally discuss and evaluate for themselves value positions in relation to law and legal practice.
  2. Reading for critical understanding: students will be able to read complex philosophical texts and understand them at a level of depth sufficient not merely to re-articulate the arguments in their own terms, but also to establish some cirtical distance from them, adopting their won evaluative position in relation to each text.
  3. Communication and language: The ability to articulate - in both oral and written forms - the arguments that you are adddressing is key not only to demonstrate that you have understood a text, but actually to the process of understanding itself. The course will seek to encourage both the quality of and confidence in self-expression, both in seminars and in the written assessments.
  4. Synthesise and develop complex arguments: The final skill that the course seeks to impart builds upon the previous two: when students are able to read for understanding, and to adopt and articulate critical positions on individual texts, we will start looking to bring the different texts we will read into relation with each other, combining and interrogating issues from different perspectives, leading to the development and defence of complex position on certain key contemporary issues.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsJEL,Justice,Ethics,Law,Morality,Moral Imperatives
Course organiserDr Euan MacDonald
Tel: (0131 6)50 9832
Course secretaryMrs Suzanne Strath
Tel: (0131 6)517000
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