Brian Leiter on the Role of Philosophy in Legal Education
In a prior post, I noted the developments in American legal education over the last 150 years that have led to the central place of economics, psychology, and history, among other disciplines, to the study of law. One discipline I did not say much about, however, was my own: philosophy. And yet the philosophical study of law has been central to legal education in both the European and Anglophone traditions, and for a much longer time than the other important disciplines that now loom so large.
My own institution, the University of Chicago, invented in the 1960s and 1970s the economic analysis of law that has taken over legal education in the last generation, yet in its very first year as a law school more than a century ago, "Jurisprudence" (the philosophy of law) was one of the dozen or so courses offered to the very first student. Indeed, Chicago was the first law school to appoint a PhD philosopher, without a law degree, to its faculty, back in the 1930s! Why would that be?
The explanation has partly to do with the nature of philosophy as a discipline and partly to do with the deep affinities between law and philosophy.