Curriculum Guide · Curriculum
Jurisprudence--the study of legal philosophies, theories and perspectives--plays an important role in intellectual life of the Law Center. The word "jurisprudence" derives from jurisprudentia, a Latin term meaning the science or knowledge of law. The Georgetown jurisprudence curriculum encompasses at least three broad areas of study.
One area consists of studies of natural law, positivism, realism, and other centuries-old secular and religious legal philosophies, including the legal philosophies of major world religions and cultures. A second area consists of studies of modern American legal thought, including studies of legal realism, and law and literature, along with recent theories of law emphasizing the interests and perspectives of individual social groups, especially feminist legal theory, critical race theory, and gay legal studies. A third area consists of studies of legal, social, political, ethical, and bioethical concepts pertinent to an understanding of judicial process and public policy. In some instances a single jurisprudence course or seminar may include materials touching on all three areas of study.
Jurisprudence is not a required course at the Law Center. First-year students enrolled in Curriculum A may elect to take one of several jurisprudence courses that may be offered as first year electives. These relate to such topics as comparative legal philosophies, theories of economic reasoning, modern legal thought, and the concept of subordination. Two of the first year courses in Curriculum B have a substantial jurisprudential content: the Legal Justice Seminar and Democracy and Coercion. Democracy and Coercion looks at themes of consensual participation and collective force suggested by constitutional principles and case law. The Legal Justice Seminar provides an overview of major nineteenth and twentieth century American legal theories, highlighting scholarly expositions and judicial application of formalism, realism, legal process theory, law and economics, critical legal studies, critical race theory, feminist legal theory, and law and literature.
Second- or third-year students may elect to take the basic upperclass jurisprudence course typically offered each year under the name Jurisprudence. Although the precise content of the basic jurisprudence course will vary from instructor to instructor and from year to year, the course typically features a survey of natural law, legal positivism, and realism. These three competing accounts of the nature of legal authority, obligation, and reasoning once framed most discussions of jurisprudence in the United States. Georgetown's basic Jurisprudence courses generally extend beyond the triad of natural law, positivism and realism to include discussion of critical legal studies, feminism, and critical race theory. Some of the material covered in the basic jurisprudence course will be familiar to students who elected Curriculum B in their first-year of law school or who chose to take certain Curriculum A electives in the second semester of their first year. But all upperclass students are encouraged to deepen their understandings of jurisprudential issues through the upperclass Jurisprudence elective or other upperclass courses and seminars.
The Law Center offers a rich array of upperclass jurisprudence courses and seminars in addition to the basic course. Some of these examine the philosophical assumptions of the doctrines of common law, constitutional law, or statutory interpretation. Others trace the intellectual traditions that have helped to shape the law. Still others closely analyze particular law-related concepts and values -- including liberty, equality, neutrality, privacy, progress, community, rationality, due process, democracy, human rights, the social contract, and the market. The "isms" critical to understanding of American law, notably, liberalism, conservatism, republicanism, federalism, majoritarianism, and racism, have also earned a central place in jurisprudence courses or seminars. Competing moral and ethical perspectives are examined in a number of jurisprudence courses, as is the relationship between law and morality. Epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language appear in jurisprudence courses to illuminate questions of knowledge, evidence, personhood, and meaning. Finally, jurisprudence courses tackle controversial public policy concerns, such as the death penalty, affirmative action, and environmental protection. Students who wish to satisfy their upperclass writing requirements in jurisprudence should consider one of many special interest jurisprudence seminars, including African-American Critical Thought, Conservatism in Law and Politics in America, Great Philosophers on Law (offered as a course or seminar), International Legal Philosophy (offered on the main campus, with a legal writing option), and Jewish Law Seminar.
Full-time and Visiting Faculty:
Formalist and Realist Theories of Judging
Great Philosophers on Law
International Legal Philosophy
Logic and the Law: Taxation, Rhetoric, and Legal Argumentation
Classics of American Jurisprudence Seminar
Conservatism in Law in America Seminar
Critical Race Theory Seminar
Feminist Law and Philosophy Seminar: Bodies, Gender, Identity
Feminist Legal Theory and Practice Seminar: A Comparative Perspective
Holmes and The Common Law Seminar
Jewish Law Seminar
Law and Philosophy Seminar: the Analytic Turn in Jurisprudence
Law and Religion Seminar: Theories of Justice
Law of Emergency Seminar
Law, Conscience, and Nonviolence Seminar
Law, Mind and Brain Seminar
Sexuality, Gender and the Law Seminar
Special Topics in Jurisprudence: Gender, Race and Class Seminar