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LAWS17-572: Philosophical Foundations of Law


Philosophical Foundations of Law is an elective subject in postgraduate programs offered by the Faculty of Law in which undergraduate students may be permitted to enrol. This subject will explore some central themes and traditions in the philosophy of law (also known as legal theory or jurisprudence). Students will gain an understanding of the historical development of philosophy of law from classical times to the present, focusing on recurring themes such as the relationship of law and morality, the limits of legal authority and the nature of legal and social norms. We will begin by introducing the central questions and methodologies of philosophy of law and exploring some overarching questions about the objectivity of values. This will then lead us to the different understandings of law associated with the natural law and legal positivist traditions. We will then explore the relationship of liberalism and law, before introducing feminist and postmodern critiques of the liberal worldview. The subject will conclude by discussing some contemporary disputes on the concept of rights, the nature and limits of judicial reasoning and conceptions of justice. Students will be equipped with the knowledge and analytical tools to engage critically with current debates in each of these areas.

Subject details

FacultyFaculty of Law
Semesters offered
  • May 2023 [Standard Offering]
Study areas
  • Law
Subject fees
  • Commencing in 2022: $3,950
  • Commencing in 2023: $4,050

Learning outcomes

1. Demonstrate knowledge of: a) central themes and traditions in the philosophy of law; b) the development of philosophy of law from classical times to the present; and c) the relevance of philosophy of law to legal advocacy and practice. 2. Demonstrate the reasoning, research and communication skills to: a) engage critically with historical and current debates in philosophy of law; b) understand, analyse and critique philosophical arguments relevant to law; and c) understand, analyse and critique appeals to legal and ethical theories in legal advocacy and practice. 3. Demonstrate the ability to apply the above knowledge and skills: a) with creativity and initiative to new situations; b) with high level personal autonomy and accountability; and c) with an awareness of ethical responsibilities and context. 4. Demonstrate: a) knowledge of principles and methods of legal research and critical reasoning; b) the reasoning and communication skills to engage in effective legal research and writing on theoretical topics; and c) the ability to plan and execute a substantial research based project.

Enrolment requirements

Requisites: ?


Restrictions: ?

Students must be admitted into an approved Bachelor Law degree OR Bachelor of Laws combined degree OR Bachelor of Criminal Justice and Criminology OR be an approved Law Study Abroad OR Law Exchange student AND must have completed a minimum of 120 Credit Points of LAWS subjects AND have a minimum average of 65% in LAWS subjects.

This subject is not available as a general elective. To be eligible for enrolment, the subject must be specified in the students’ program structure.

Subject outlines

Subject dates

Standard Offering
Enrolment opens20/03/2022
Semester start16/05/2022
Subject start16/05/2022
Cancellation 1?30/05/2022
Cancellation 2?06/06/2022
Last enrolment29/05/2022
Withdraw – Financial?11/06/2022
Withdraw – Academic?02/07/2022
Teaching census?10/06/2022