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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Law and Philosophy: Responsibility, Negligence and Liability (Spring 2019)

Course Description

Co-taught with Professor Gary Watson

The concept of responsibility plays a central role in the law and in the morality of interpersonal relations. It is closely related to the idea of liability to various responses. In tort law, responsibility for harm or trespass can make one liable for damages or remedy; in criminal law, responsibility can make one liable to conviction and punishment; in extra legal contexts, responsibility can make one liable for moral blame and resentment. In these different contexts, liability depends on the various mental states (mens rea) of the agent, or in some cases, it seems, the absence of particular mental states. For example, negligence often involve inadvertence or “indifference”, which seems a matter of not paying attention. That is one of the factors that makes negligence controversial, especially in criminal law.  This seminar will explore some classic and contemporary texts by legal theorists and philosophers on the topics of responsibility liability, and negligence. Authors will include Oliver Wendell Holmes, H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz, Arthur Ripstein, John Gardner, Seana Shiffrin, Jeremy Waldron, and Ernest Weinrib.

 Requirements:  This will be a 3 credit course, meeting once a week for three hours.  A 15-20 page term paper will be expected, but a final exam might be an option, after consultation with the instructors. 5 short response papers will be required. These papers will be no more than one to two pages and will react to the weekly reading assignments. Attendance and participation is required but it will not be graded.  The course may be taken CR/D/F only with the written permission of the instructors.


Course Details

  • Unit Value: 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: M 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm
  • Exam: Paper or exam
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: no