LAW 316 - Jurisprudence

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: First and Second Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week, 4 tutorials - 1 hour per fortnight
Course Director: Dr Arie Rosen (S1) / Associate Professor Nicole Roughan (S2)
Prerequisites: LAW 201, 211, 231, 241

Course description

This course offers an introduction to legal theory and the philosophy of law. It surveys a range of theoretical questions pertaining to law, focusing on the relations between law, politics, economics and morality. Building on the students’ acquaintance with the basics of public law, contracts and torts, the course examines the theoretical foundations of these fields, their internal logic and underlying justifications. It also examines tikanga Māori from jurisprudential and doctrinal perspectives.

Content outline

The course consists of five parts, each focusing on a set of related questions:

  1. The foundations of public law - What is the role of law in overcoming differences and disagreements in modern societies? Which institution is best suited for developing the law today? Which institution can we trust to protect the rights of minorities?
  2. Adjudication and legal reasoning - What is the proper role of the judge? What are the main techniques she employs in decision-making? Do judges simply promote their own political agenda? Do they exercise arbitrary discretion?
  3. Law and morality - What is the relationship between law and morality? Can grossly immoral law still be valid? How should lawyers and judges deal with wicked law?
  4. The logic of private law - What is the underlying logic of private law? What legal rules are appropriate for economic life? What is the relationship between economic growth and individual freedom? What are the limits of liberal law? Does it have a dark side?
  5. Māori jurisprudence - What is tikanga Māori? Is the Māori conception of law radically different from the European conception of it? How is tikanga received into New Zealand law? What are the underlying principles of tikanga Māori and how do they apply in practice?


4 out of 5 concept reviews (20%)

Tutorial attendance (5%)

Two-hour open-book exam (75%)

Open book means that you may, if you wish, bring into the exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes.

Recommended text

Materials will be distributed at the beginning of class.