"Legalism" refers to rule-making, rule-following, and legal reasoning. This course considers the omnipresence of legalism in every aspect of our lives—from criminal due process to Harvard course requirements to the rules made and enforced by voluntary associations like the Boy Scouts. Public law is only one of many systems of rules under which we live. Our social universe is jurisgenerative.
The course invites students to explore the distinctive characteristics of legalistic modes of thought and the moral justifications offered for legalism. We will also consider a variety of moral objections to legalism and the power of romantic resistance to rule-making and rule-following. Legalistic practices and institutions—juries, university disciplinary committees, contracts, "truth commissions", and others—provide materials for reflecting on the use and misuse of rule-making and rule-following.
With readings from literature, court cases, and works in moral and political philosophy, students will contend with justifications for making laws and rules, for following them, and what happens when the various systems of law under which we live conflict: the obligations of citizenship and the demands of faith, for example, or public rules of fairness and the internal rules of private membership groups, or the civil law of marriage and the marriage practices of cultural groups.