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The University of Southampton

LAWS1025 Philosophical Perspectives on the Common Law

Module Overview

This module provides you with a critical introduction to the philosophical development of the common law through an examination of key concepts and principles within private and public law that are essential for full and critical engagement with the substance of any core module as well as with any more specialist area. The module will examine some of the central conceptual and normative notions that underpin the common law, such as the private vs. public; doctrine of precedent; coercion; desert and entitlement; justice; ownership; duties and rights; promises and agreements; causation; responsibility; community; authority; sex/gender. This list is not exhaustive and can vary slightly from year to year. By reflecting on these key concepts and principles you will gain a deeper understanding of the nature of law and be able to present innovative and persuasive legal argument as part of your studies and future legal practice.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the conceptual and normative underpinnings of central concepts and principles of the common law;
  • the major questions, issues and conflicts that have shaped the philosophical development of the common law;
  • the importance of philosophy and theory in understanding law’s development.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • assess critically the fundamental concepts and principles and key theoretical perspectives that emerge in the philosophical approach of the study of law;
  • evaluate the potential of legal philosophical study for helping to understand, explain and address contemporary legal problems, issues and tensions;
  • analyse the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments and perspectives and their relative merits for promoting and securing meaningful change within and across different areas of law.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate and analyse relevant primary and secondary resources, together with relevant philosophical, ethical and political materials;
  • identify and summarise different types and forms of argument;
  • construct, communicate and defend your own argument through a piece of independent research in a specific area under pressure of time;
  • think critically and contribute to informed debate on a wide variety of current issues.


The subject areas covered during the module may differ from year to year but may include: - Private vs. public - Doctrine of precedent - Coercion - Desert and entitlement - Justice - Ownership - Duties and rights - Promises and agreements - Causation - Responsibility - Community - Authority - Sex/gender - Violence - Power - Language - Codification - Jurisdiction - Discretion - Complicity - Necessity - Duress - Consent

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: The teaching programme comprises ten 2-hour weekly lectures and five 2-hour fortnightly tutorials. Learning activities include: - Directed reading assisted by reading lists. - Providing an interdisciplinary approach from law, politics, philosophy, literature and film. - Drawing on the rich resources on the Web. - Conducting two tasks of critically exploring and applying key notions to a specific case. - Conducting group presentation on a specific legal problem. Preparation for, and participation at, seminars will develop: - Knowledge of the contestable understanding and relationship between key notions and the significance to the construction of original legal argument. - Appreciation of constructive criticism of the background justification of legal rules linking this criticism to these basic notions. - Ability to manage and access diverse and interdisciplinary materials and its effective deployment in a legal case. - Ability to structure and express thoughts in logically coherent way. - Ability to prioritise problem construction to problem solving through engaging with key notions.

Completion of assessment task50
Wider reading or practice12
Preparation for scheduled sessions58
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

The principal library resources are accessible through the Hartley Library’s existing holdings (including electronic).. 

‘Blackboard’ learning platform.





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.


The module does not carry any additional costs for you. There is no set text and the reading lists are drawn from materials already available in or through the University library (including electronic resources).

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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