LAW4137 - Legal philosophy - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Chief examiner(s)

Professor Jeffrey Goldsworthy

Not offered in 2018


For students who commenced their LLB (Hons) course in 2015 or later:

LAW1111; LAW1114; LAW1112; LAW1113; LAW2101; LAW2102; LAW2112; LAW2111

For students who commenced their LLB course prior to 2015: LAW1100 or LAW1101 and LAW1102 or LAW1104; LAW2200 or LAW2201 and LAW2202 OR ATS2868/3868. ATS2869/3869 OR ATS2905/3905


Students will study the major contemporary theories of the nature of law and legal reasoning (positivism, natural law, interpretivism, realism), and the main lines of debates between them. These debates concern the nature and foundations of law, the relationship between law and justice, the nature of legal reasoning and the role of value-judgments and creativity in judicial decision-making, the meaning of statutes and constitutions, and judicial activism and fidelity to law. Students will also study how philosophical debates about these issues illuminate actual controversies in the practical administration of legal systems.


At the successful completion of this Unit, students will be able to:

  1. Articulate and critically assess the major theories of the nature of law and legal reasoning, demonstrating sophisticated awareness of the main lines of debate between them;
  2. Demonstrate cognitive and creative skills in analysing the complex issues at stake in these debates, and the capacity to draw and defend well-reasoned conclusions;
  3. Communicate such analysis and conclusions effectively, appropriately and persuasively;
  4. Appreciate and explain how these debates illuminate actual controversies in the practical administration of legal systems.
  5. Learn and work autonomously and use feedback to improve their own capabilities and performance.


Class Participation: (10%)

Compulsory research assignment 2,000 words: (40%)

Final examination: (2 hours plus 30 minutes and noting reading time): 50%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. The unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information