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Unit information: Jurisprudence in 2015/16

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Unit name Jurisprudence
Unit code LAWD20004
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Capps
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Jurisprudence aims to enhance the understanding of law by considering the nature of law from general analytical, normative and empirical perspectives. Students will be expected to grapple with complex theoretical positions and should thereby be enabled to exercise critical judgment in their study of law and demonstrate the relationship between particular aspects of law and their theoretical foundations. The unit will cover theories of adjudication, theories of legal systems, the analysis of legal concepts, the moral purpose of law, theories of justice and the sociology of law. Liberal, Marxist, feminist and post-modern critiques of law will be considered. Students will be expected to read theoretical texts closely, summarise arguments succinctly and clearly, and engage in debate, both oral and written, concerning current controversies within jurisprudence.

Jurisprudence attempts to answer some important general questions about the nature of law. We will look at a variety of attempts to answer these questions focusing on the Western philosophical tradition. Specifically we will consider answers to the following questions: (i) What is jurisprudence?; (ii) What is a legal system? (iii) Does law have any necessary moral purpose? (iv) How should judges decide cases? (v) What are rights? (vi) What is justice? (vii) What is the role of law in modern society? (viii) Whose interests does the law serve?

The skills that jurisprudence aims to develop are the ability to master abstract thought, thinking and speaking about law in general categories. It should help you to expose the presuppositions and assumptions of lawyers, and evaluate competing theoretical approaches to law. You should be enabled to place law in the wider context of human affairs. You will be expected to be familiar with the ideas outlined in the unit contents, and to achieve the unit objectives . However, in short, the general skills which this jurisprudence unit specifically seeks to enhance are the critical analysis of texts and oral argument.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit a successful student will be able to:

  1. describe various answers to general questions about law;
  2. identify different approaches to answering such questions;
  3. evaluate other authors’ criticisms of these theories;
  4. contextualise these theories in both a historical context and with reference to other substantive areas of law;
  5. develop personal criticisms of these approaches;
  6. communicate (1) to (5) both in written and oral forms.

Teaching Information

20 lectures and 8 two-hours seminars

Assessment Information

Summative assessment: one three-hour closed book examination in May/June, in which students answer 4 questions from a choice of 8 questions.

Formative assessment: one mid-sessional examination in January plus one other piece of formative work. Students are also required to give a presentation on a jurisprudential issue.

The (formative) mid-sessional exam is mandatory; the other formative assessment is optional.

The assessments will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit. Oral communication will be assessed formatively in the presentation.

Reading and References

Lloyd & Freeman’s Introduction to Jurisprudence (9th ed, 2014)