The Fulfilled Life and the Life of the Law

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Fall 2014 Course
Meets: Th 1:00pm - 3:00pm in WCC Room 4059; F 1:00pm - 2:00pm in WCC Room 4059
3 classroom credits

What is it to lead a fulfilled life? This was the central question for ancient philosophers, in both the east and the west, for whom philosophy was not only theory. It was a method designed to achieve both rigorous conceptual analysis and a fulfilled human life. In this course we will explore several of the methods philosophers have proposed for leading a fulfilled life and consider some of the rich suggestions or implications of these methods for leading a fulfilled “life of the law,” the life led by law students, lawyers, judges, and others interested in administering, shaping, or living according to law. Among the methods or philosophical ways of life we will explore are: use of the Socratic method (and the closely related methods of reflective equilibrium and casuistry) to lead an “examined life” (Socrates and Plato), use of the dialectical method to achieve a transcendent conceptual clarity (Plato), use of skeptical “therapy” to achieve a life of serenity (Pyrrhonian skepticism), use of meditative techniques designed to enable a life of equanimity and awareness (Buddhist and Hindu philosophy), and cultivation of “joyful wisdom” (Nietzsche). Readings are from a variety of legal theorists and ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophers.

The class meets for a total of three classroom hours a week, divided into two hours (Thursday) plus one hour (Friday). The Thursday meeting is a seminar-style discussion of assigned readings. The Friday meeting is a workshop devoted to practicing the different philosophical methods that we are studying; we will, for example, not only learn what the Socratic method is, but we will also practice doing the Socratic method (and the other philosophical methods noted above).

No background in philosophy is required. Course work consists of ten one-to-two page response papers based on the weekly reading (of which you may choose eight as the basis of the written work component of your grade) and class participation. Cross-registrants are welcome. Anyone seeking information about this course should feel free to contact Professor Scott Brewer at sbrewer@law.harvard.edu.

Subject Areas: Constitutional Law & Civil Rights , Disciplinary Perspectives & Law .

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