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Jurisprudence and legal theory

Module information>

Academic Direction
Laws Consortium
Modes of Study

Jurisprudence examines the nature of law, its place in society and how a legal system operates as a system of rules.

Jurisprudence and legal theory is a compulsory module on the LLB course. 

Jurisprudence poses fundamental questions about the nature of law, its purpose, its place in society and how a legal system operates as a system of rules and as a social institution engaging with ideals of justice and often conflicting moral codes. 

Topics covered

  • The nature of jurisprudence
    • Subject matter. 
    • Philosophical method and analytical philosophy. 
  • Natural law theory and its critics.
    • The history of natural law.
    • The natural law theories of Fuller and Finnis.
  • Legal positivism and its critics
    • Imperative and sanction theories of law, including the theories of Austin and Kelsen.
    • Hart's theory of law. 
    • The 'Hart–Fuller' debate.
    • The 'Hart–Dworkin' debate.
    • Raz's theory of law.
    • Practical reason, and authority. 
  • Interpretivist theories of law and their critics
    •  Dworkin's theory of law as integrity and its critiques by selected theorists. 
  • Legal reasoning
    • Raz's theory of practical reason and norms, theories of adjudication, in particular that of Dworkin. 
  • Liberalism and law
  • Marxist theories of law and state.
  • Feminist jurisprudence
  • A study in depth of a case prescribed by the examiners on which there will be one compulsory question in the examination.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the module successfully you should be able to:

  • Knowledge of some of the most influential legal and political philosophies and their theses on law; 
  • Understanding of a range of topics and debates in legal and political philosophy and especially the main methodological, ontological and normative questions concerning law and its legitimacy. 
  • Construct philosophical argument; 
  • Critically assess legal and political theories and question their internal consistency and coherence as well as their foundational assumptions; Apply abstract philosophical argument to real problems and contexts; 
  • Present a sustained and well-constructed argument orally and in written form.


4hr 15 mins unseen examination

Essential reading

  • Freeman, M. (ed.) Lloyd's introduction to jurisprudence. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2014) ninth edition [ISBN 9780414026728] (available in the Online Library).