- Students become familiar with the operation of ‘law in society’, that is, how law is rooted in society and can be used as an instrument for social change (legal instrumentalism).
- Students are introduced to an interdisciplinary approach to legal studies that evaluates the virtues and pitfalls of legal instrumentalism from philosophical and sociological perspectives.
- Students learn to read and engage with legal material (cases & legislation), and to place this material in its broader philosophical and sociological contexts.
- Students acquire basic knowledge and skills in the areas of legal doctrine, legal reasoning, and empirical legal research.
This course introduces students to the pathways of 'law in society' by using materials from philosophy of law and sociology of law. In combination, these two different research traditions offer important insights into the problematique of instrumentalism: the belief and expectation that law functions as an instrument to solve social problems.
The first part of the course (6 seminars) examines from a philosophical perspective the relationship between law, morality, and society. Through the study of philosophical texts and practical legal cases, students learn to place legal instrumentalism in relation to the philosophical traditions of natural law and legal positivism. The first part of the course takes its cue from Lon Fuller's famous 'Case of the Speluncean Explorers', a fictional legal case involving cannibalism in which four judges explore their deepest convictions about the relationship between law, morality, and society. This case serves as a background for discussing, on the basis of classical philosophical texts and legal cases, the traditions of natural law and legal positivism. We shall explore the relationship between these traditions and the belief that law (should) function as an instrument to solve social problems.
In the second part of the course (6 seminars), which is sociological in nature, the participants will get to know theoretical and empirical research relating to instrumentalism and to the social working of law, with applications to anti-smoking laws, anti-discrimination laws and regimes relating to euthanasia. They will confront the nature of empirical and comparative research, its opportunities and pitfalls. The second part of the course introduces Moore's concept of semi-autonomous social fields as a way of comprehending the social functioning of rules. In the following lectures, these ideas are opposed to the basic principles of instrumentalism. This confrontation starts from theoretical considerations which are consequently applied to empirical studies on the effects of legal rules in the field of the prevention of smoking and discrimination.
This course is taught using University College Tilburg's "Team Teaching"-Method, which entails two lecturers (often from different fields) teaching the course at the same time.