Year 2: Jurisprudence

Credit value: 1.0 (30 credits, 15 ECTS)
Convenor: Professor George Letsas
Other Teachers:  
Teaching Delivery: 1 lecture per week (whole cohort), 1 tutorial every two weeks (max 8)
Who may enrol: All second year students enrolled on a UCL LLB programme, fourth year UCL LLB students enrolled on an Erasmus programme
Prerequisites: N/A
Must not be taken with: N/A
Qualifying module for: LLB
Introductory video N/A


Practice Assessment: 1 x formative essay
Final Assessment:  

50% examination

50% essay (5000 words)

Module Overview
Module summary:

Jurisprudence is the philosophical inquiry into the nature of law and the values it serves. It is closely bound up with broader questions in moral and political philosophy, such as the justifiability of state coercion, the grounds of individual rights against the state and the value of the rule of law. These are important and persistent questions about how individuals and societies should conduct their lives and have occupied philosophers from ancient times until today.

Since the middle of the previous century, there has been a tremendous revival in English-language legal and political philosophy, spear-headed by the publication of H.L.A. Hart’s The Concept of Law in 1961. Hart’s book defined Anglo-American jurisprudence and set the agenda for current debates. UCL is proud to be associated with three of the main protagonists to these debates. Jeremy Bentham, whose utilitarian philosophy underpinned classical legal positivism, is UCL’s spiritual father; John Austin, whose command theory of law was dominant in England for over a century, was UCL’s first Professor of Jurisprudence; and Ronald Dworkin, one of the greatest legal and political thinkers of the 20th century, was Professor of Jurisprudence at UCL between 1998 and 2008.

Jurisprudence is more abstract than other subjects in the LLB and often seems, at first sight, to be unconnected with the practice of law. But it is connected. Legal practice is not insulated from abstract argument, nor is ‘abstract’ the same as ‘vague’. 

Module aims:

The overall aim of this module is to introduce you to some of these important ongoing debates about the nature of law in the hope that you will become not only well-informed about them but also an intelligent participant in them.