Legal Philosophy or Jurisprudence – broadly understood as the philosophical inquiry into the nature of law and the values it should serve – has a long and distinguished tradition at UCL Laws.

Our former professors in the subject include two canonical legal philosophers: John Austin, one of the most influential exponents of classical legal positivism and an advocate of utilitarianism, and Ronald Dworkin, the leading contemporary critic of legal positivism and a key figure in the revival of rights-centred approaches to law and politics.

The Quain Chair of Jurisprudence is an established professorship devoted to the study of legal philosophy. Past holders of the Quain Chair include the political philosophers G.A. Cohen (2008-10) and Ross Harrison (2006-7), Ronald Dworkin (1998-2005), the legal theorists William Twining (1983-1996) and Lord Lloyd of Hampstead (1956-1980), and the legal scholar and law reformer Glanville Williams (1945-1955).

The jurisprudential tradition at UCL continues to flourish. A large number of faculty members conduct research in jurisprudence and related areas of philosophy, while several members of staff at UCL Laws hold posts dedicated to legal theory, including Dr Sylvie Delacroix, Professor Stephen Guest, Professor Ross Harrison, Dr Kate Greasley, Dr Kevin TohProfessor George Letsas and Professor Philip Schofield.

We are united not by adherence to any common set of jurisprudential doctrines, but by a joint commitment to the use of clear and rigorous philosophical argumentation to probe some of the deepest problems of law and society.

A shared focus, in keeping with the Benthamite ideals of the founders of UCL, is the aim of relating law to fundamental ethical values in order to achieve an enhanced appreciation of how law can be a force for good in the lives of individuals and societies.

This commitment to the practical significance of legal philosophy finds an important outlet in the activities of the Centre for Ethics and Law and the UCL Institute for Human Rights.

We also maintain close teaching and research ties with members of the UCL Department of Philosophy and the School of Public Policy.

Research by faculty members addresses a diverse, and continually changing, array of topics. These include questions concerning the general nature of law and legal adjudication, questions about basic moral and political values that bear on law generally, and questions about the conceptual and normative underpinnings of particular areas of law, such as human rights law, property law, contract, tort, criminal law, public law, and international law.

There is also a strong focus on the history of legal philosophy, exemplified primarily by the world-famous Bentham Project, which was established in 1959 and is based in the Faculty. Regular highlights in the UCL jurisprudence calendar include the Colloquium in Legal and Social Philosophy and the newly-established annual Quain Lectures in Jurisprudence, published by Oxford University Press.

We have many opportunities for graduate students who wish to study legal philosophy. In addition to our Ph.D programme, we offer a large number of interdisciplinary postgraduate courses in legal and political philosophy as part of one or more of the following degrees: the MA in Legal & Political Theory, the MA in Human Rights, and the LLM (with specialisation in Legal Theory).

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