The “rule of law” has often been contrasted with the “rule of men”; the basic idea is that it is better to be governed by impartial principles, fairly applied, than to be subject to the arbitrary decisions of some individual ruler — whoever that may be. But what, exactly, is law? Different societies have adopted a variety of different legal systems, with distinctive institutions, and divergent principles. Are Islamic law and US law, for example, so different as to be wholly incompatible, or do they share important commonalities? This Integrated Study will explore these two quite different systems of law, while also looking at philosophical reflections about the law and literary narratives of individuals confronting the law. Faculty: Bill Lee, Joseph Reisert and John Turner.
GO 140Af Introduction to American Law (M & W, 2:30-3:45)
What are the fundamental concepts, principles, and procedures at the heart of the US legal system? Topics include: the anthropological basis of law; courts and legislatures as sources of law; the structure and functioning of different courts; the adversarial principle; the common law method of legal reasoning; an overview of criminal and civil law. Coursework will include mock trials and debates, and attendance at court. Four credit hours. S. Lee.
HI 140f Sharia (Islamic Law) (T & Th, 9:30-10:45)
An introduction to how Islamic law functions and why it takes the shape that it does. We will explore the nature of religious, as opposed to secular, law. How is sharia formulated? Who has control over it? How is it applied and how have its applications changed over time? To answer those questions, we will consider different philosophies of law, explore a variety of approaches to the interpretation of law, and and examine different institutional embodiments of law. We will see that that Islamic legal systems are pluralistic and see how they differ from the US legal system. No background knowledge is needed or assumed. Four credit hours. H. Turner
GO 140Bf Writing and Thinking About Law (T & Th, 11-12:15)
Philosophy typically examines law in the abstract, offering theories of what law is, where it comes from, and what its content should or must be. Literature is more concrete, dramatizing those moments of crisis when the law becomes real for them — when a will is read, or a divorce finalized; when someone has been wronged and seeks compensation, or after a crime has been committed; when reformers seek to establish “the rule of law” or when an abusive government uses law to crack down on its critics. In this writing-intensive course, we will study literary treatments of the law, including Antigone, Crito, The Merchant of Venice, The Trial, and others, in parallel with philosophical theories about law. Four credit hours. L, W1. Reisert