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History, Philosophy, and Politics of the Rule of Law




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level and 300-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


The ‘rule of law’ is an important and multi-faceted concept with a complex history. In this course we study the history and development of the idea of the rule of law through a number of primary and secondary readings, focusing mainly on Western sources from Classical antiquity, the early modern period, the Enlightenment. In some weeks we complement this historical study with writings of leading contemporary authors in legal theory and political philosophy. Both through conceptual analysis and normative theorizing we explore the character and value of the rule of law.

Course Objectives

In-depth knowledge of historical sources as well as familiarity with some relevant secondary literature; ability to independently and critically discuss and assess the character and value of the rule of law; further development of rigor and clarity in argumentation.

Mode of Instruction



Class participation – 20%
To spark constructive conversation in seminar, every student is expected to arrive at class having read the assigned texts and prepared to discuss the readings critically, imaginatively, and insightfully. Your participation grade will take into account the comments you offer, the questions you pose, and the responses you give to others’ questions and comments.

Response papers – 20% [20/10=2]
Designed as a regular thinking and writing exercise to inform and complement our seminar discussions, a short paper (no more than one single-spaced page in length) is due at 09:00 before each class from Weeks 2 – 7. You are not required to submit response papers in the week of your presentation. You are therefore required to submit ten response papers in total as part of your course portfolio.

Presentation – 20%
One presentation of maximum 10 minutes. You are not required to submit response papers in the week of your presentation.

Final essay – 40%
Your individual scrutiny of texts and our seminar discussions will yield essay-worthy inquiries, and your final essay is the perfect forum to pursue a topic of your own devising which relates to the course. All topics must be approved by me; a provisional essay title and a one-paragraph essay proposal should therefore reach me via e-mail by 09:00 on the Monday of Week 7. Final essays should be double-spaced, 2500 – 3000 words in length exclusive of footnotes and bibliography, and submitted via blackboard as a word document by 09:00 on the Thursday of Week 8. Do beware that final essays turned in without a pre-approved proposal will not be accepted, and that late submissions will not be entertained unless accompanied by reasons I find compelling.
Your final essay should begin with an express statement of the question you intend to explore. In the process of this exploration, you should articulate: (i) why you think your question is important; (ii) what general issues you are trying to address in posing this question; (iii) which texts and theories you will use in answering your question; (iv) how your question enables you to draw together some of the central themes of the course, considered as a whole; and (v) in what sense your argument and conclusion have specifically political import. I shall look for evidence of your ability to: write persuasive and elegant prose; organise your thoughts coherently; develop sophisticated arguments; and anticipate as well as respond to criticisms of your arguments. I shall judge your essay in accordance with: whether you answered your question in a way that indicates critical engagement with the themes of the course; the complexity of your understanding of the concepts and contentions in the relevant texts; and the quality of your argument in relation to the question raised.

Two caveats:

  1. Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Instances of academic misconduct will be referred to the Examination Committee and will entail immediate suspension from this course. All articles of the Honour Code and Academic Rules & Regulations as specified in LUC Student Handbook 2011-2012 apply.
  2. Late submission of work without valid reason will be penalized.



Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: Plato and Aristotle (Response papers x 2)
Week 3: Augustine and Aquinas (Response papers x 2)
Week 4: Hobbes and Locke (Response papers x 2)
Week 5: Mandeville and Montesquieu (Response papers x 2)
Week 6: Rousseau and Kant (Response papers x 2)
Week 7: Bentham and Dicey (Response papers x 2)
Week 8: (Final essay x 1)

Preparation for first session