Legal Philosophy Highlights
The Law School has an extremely distinguished program in legal, moral and political philosophy.
It boasts some of the field's most respected scholars and influences the way law schools across the country teach this complex interdisciplinary field of study. Professors Thomas Nagel, Liam Murphy, Samuel Scheffler and Jeremy Waldron are the public faces of this program, complemented by a faculty with a wide range of specialties. Professor Dale Jamieson, a distinguished environmental ethicist and the founder of NYU’s Environmental Studies Program, teaches in the Law School each year. Among the full-time law faculty with strong philosophical expertise are Professors Mattias Kumm, Stephen Holmes, David Richards, Lewis Kornhauser, Mark Geistfeld (torts), Benedict Kingsbury (international legal theory), David Golove (foreign relations) and Amy Adler (feminist jurisprudence).
NYU Law offers an array of legal philosophy courses, seminars and guest lectures—as well as the renowned Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy—that presents more choice and opportunity than other top law schools.
Students interested in legal philosophy can choose from a three-tiered structure of courses, seminars and colloquia. The first tier consists of a series of introductory lecture courses: Introduction to Legal Philosophy, Introduction to Ethical Theory and Introduction to Political Philosophy. Legal philosophy deals with the fundamental question of what law is—the classic debate between positivism, the idea that law is determined by social facts, and a variety of nonpositivist views that argue for a closer connection between morality and the content of the law, and which hold, for example, that an unjust law may for that reason not be law at all. An introduction to legal philosophy also surveys related questions about how judges should decide cases and about the nature of legal obligation and legal authority.
The second tier involves more specialized courses and seminars. In most years Waldron teaches a celebrated course on the rule of law. His seminar topics range widely among advanced topics in legal and political theory. Murphy has taught seminars on a wide range of topics, including some closely related to specific areas of law such as contract theory and taxation policy. The seminars, generally two hours a week with perhaps 25 students, tend to be more intimate than a lecture course, and require a high level of participation and long essays.
The third tier is the Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy. It brings in distinguished speakers (half from the NYU School of Law) who present papers in moral, political and legal theory, and then are subjected to challenge and questioning from perhaps 40 or 50 faculty and students. Guests regularly include the biggest names in the field, such as Jurgen Habermas, Frances Kamm and Thomas Scanlon. In addition, the colloquium is a for-credit class for about 20 upper-year students who meet weekly to discuss and write about the same papers that were presented at the colloquium.
J.D./M.A. or Ph.D. in Philosophy with NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences