Law and Philosophy

The Law School has long had a very distinguished program in legal, moral, and political philosophy that has greatly influenced the way law schools across the country teach this complex interdisciplinary field of study. The intellectual values and programmatic innovations of its founding figures, the great philosophers Ronald Dworkin and Thomas Nagel, are evident throughout the curriculum.

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 at the Law School each year. Among the full-time law faculty with strong philosophical expertise are Professors Anthony Appiah, John Ferejohn, Moshe Halbertal, Mattias Kumm, Stephen Holmes, Robert Howse, David Richards, Lewis Kornhauser, Mark Geistfeld (torts), Benedict Kingsbury (international legal theory), David Golove (foreign relations), and Amy Adler (feminist jurisprudence). The Law School has also hosted a number of distinguished legal philosophers as part of its Hauser Global Law School Program, including David Dyzenhaus, Leslie Green, János Kis, Wojciech Sadurski, and, for several years, Jürgen Habermas.

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 about the following core subjects: jurisprudence or legal philosophy, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. Any given course typically addresses more than one of these subjects. This reflects NYU Law’s conviction that legal, moral, and political philosophy are three aspects of what is fundamentally the one subject.

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. In many academic years, Scheffler has offered a seminar in the Law School on such topics as equality and global justice.

The third tier, the Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy, brings in distinguished speakers (half from NYU School of Law) who present papers in moral, political, and legal theory, and then are subjected to challenges and questioning from perhaps 40 or 50 faculty and students. Guests over the years have included the biggest names in the field, such as Jürgen Habermas, Frances Kamm, and Thomas Scanlon. In addition, the colloquium is a for-credit class for about 20 upper-year students who meet with one of the instructors separately for two hours a week to discuss and write about the same papers that were presented at the colloquium. 

More on the Legal Philosophy program from the NYU Law Magazine

Joint Degrees

JD/MA or PhD in Philosophy with NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science