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The University of Southampton

LAWS3066 Jurisprudence

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Ability to critically interact with selected writings in the theory of law from both Anglo American and Continental traditions. • An opportunity to reflect on the nature of law, legal reasoning, central notions such as morality, justice, goodness, and rights, and to consider the boundaries between law and politics, as well as between law, morality and Ethics. • To understand trends that are ontologically crucial to being involved in and with the law in the historical context of the unfolding of Western political thought since the Greeks to our day. • Particular intellectual skills many of which are of broader application in studying law. Some are not emphasised in other LLB modules because of the priority of other aims and outcomes in those subjects. Others are emphasised in certain other LLB modules, but can be more fully explored in Jurisprudence given the abstract nature of the subject.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the arguments of the key texts and issues studied;
  • major points of agreement and disagreement between the writers studied;
  • the fallacies/points of contention in the arguments presented, as well as in other potential sources of criticism and disagreement;
  • some distinct theoretical frameworks within which law is analysed as well as connections and comparisons between them;
  • some of the ways that theoretical disagreements affect legal argument.
  • philosophical issues which arise in law, even where the issues are not presented in philosophical terms.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • appreciate and demonstrate the connection between theory of law and the practice of law and in turn to think about how the generic features in the doctrinal;
  • imagine and implement new possibilities for surprising legal arguments that challenge uncritically accepted conventions about law.
  • develop inter-disciplinary engagement as well awareness of the multi-layered as well as the various social and political and philosophical frameworks within which legal problems can be conceived.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and articulate the fundamental reasons for disagreements.
  • interpret the arguments of others with confidence, though these may be written in a variety of different styles; recast the arguments in your own words; and offer fair evaluations of them;
  • identify and question the assumptions underlying what may seem to be persuasive arguments;
  • develop a reasoned point of view, and defend that point of view in argument;
  • think and argue independently, and have the confidence and ability to argue and disagree with peers.
  • criticise abstractions that are used as models to understand particular situations.


The module has three parts. Part A consists of the 9 weeks. It focuses on the issues of what is law, the normative nature of legal obligation, validity and authority of law, the relationship between law and morality, the debate between Legal Positivism and Natural Law, the question of the value of law and the nature of legal reasoning. Part B consists of three weeks. It focuses on in-depth reading of one seminal book and secondary writings around it. An example is Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison (Penguin 1977) though which the notion of bio-politics is introduced. This is a rare opportunity to student to dwell on a book in what is otherwise a very fast moving module and programme. Part C consists of 8 weeks and focuses on the question of how much law can be critically justified. Its main question is constitutionalism. Topics include the nature of liberty, utility and right-based theories of justice and the tension between what is “right” and what is “good”. Students consider the evolution of liberal theories of justice in the light of communitarian challenges to them. Critical perspectives of constitutionalism include: the role of the state in maintaining freedom, Marxism and the element of ideology in the law, the role culture plays in constitutionalism and last but not least the notion of otherness and the politics of difference.

Special Features

A field trip for a class on Deep Ecology

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

20 Seminars two hours each. In a case of a big group (over 25 students) - 20 hours plenary seminars and then splitting into two groups, each having 20 one hour tutorials. The module is taught in seminars towards which students get essential and further readings following by a set of questions to think about and to critically discuss. There are two recapitulation and revision classes in which either a previous exam question is discussed, or a moot between two small teams of students is carried out.

Completion of assessment task50
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Wider reading or practice32
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

M. Foucault. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 

R. Cotterrell (1992). The Sociology of Law: An Introduction. 

B. Bix (2006). Jurisprudence: Theory and Context. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 50%
Essay  (4500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 50%
Essay  (4500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 50%
Essay  (4500 words) 50%
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