Law, Nature and Society

ldroi1503  2020-2021  Louvain-la-Neuve

Law, Nature and Society
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the information below is subject to change, in particular that concerning the teaching mode (presential, distance or in a comodal or hybrid format).
5 credits
30.0 h
Lazaro Christophe;
Main themes
The objective of this course is to introduce students to the concept of natural law and to highlight the specific ways in which this concept and its various philosophical interpretations question the normative foundations of law. More broadly, this course aims at grasping the potential meaning and relevance of natural law in modern secular societies, as a tool to evaluate the legitimacy of some contemporary legal decisions and policies.
After having explored the history of this legal concept (from the ancient world through modernity, until the emergence of human rights), the course will take a more practical dimension. The contemporary relevance of natural law will be critically assessed by examining a series of epistemic figures which drastically question the legal implications derived from the very idea of (human) nature: the animal, the stranger, the woman, the worker, the rebel, the double, and the monster. In particular, the analysis of these figures will allow to question the model of the rational, free and autonomous (legal) subject. The analysis of the issues raised by these marginal, if not marginalized figures, will enable students to develop critical thinking on various legal issues marked by a strong axiological dimension.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :

1 After having successfully completed the course the student is expected to be able to:
-       Discriminate between different types of arguments (empirical, ontological, normative, etc.).
-       Master the core categories of natural law, its conceptual tools and its key theories
-       Apply these theories to concrete cases
-       Demonstrate autonomy in the way of thinking
-       Articulate thoughts effectively in written form and orally.
The objective of the course DROI1503 is to question, through an interdisciplinary approach, the relationships between law, nature and society. Whether considered as a legislative or a judicial process, law implies a constant work of identification or qualification of persons and things, that aims at defining their intrinsic characteristics. By delineating the nature of entities, law determines their respective position and value within society: for instance, what is a robot, a river or a fetus? how to define their nature and how to acknowledge their legal existence accordingly? should one consider them as legal subjects? In other words, law is an instrument which makes persons and things exist, which “instaure” them. It therefore always involves a specific way to relate to other humans and non-humans, to recognize or to deny their very existence.
By examining a series of marginal “epistemic figures” (if not marginalized in some cases), the course will critically question the concept of legal subject. In particular, it will address the legal implications derived from the very idea of (human) nature, by investigating the following figures: the animal, the robot, the refugee, the woman, the worker, the monster, the double and the rebel. The analysis of these figures will enable students to reflect about law’s “logic of instauration”, i. e. its capacity to reinforce (or reduce) the reality of beings through the process of their legal acknowledgement.
Teaching methods

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the information in this section is particularly likely to change.

The teaching method of the course will be highly interactive. The course is designed to foster active participation of students based on compulsory readings, shorts individual comments on the readings and one obligatory group presentation during the semester. The link to the course materials is to be found on Moodle along with a detailed bibliography for each theme analyzed during the class. 
The course is also designed to familiarize students with interdisciplinary approaches to law. Therefore, the students need to engage with the literature of various social sciences disciplines including philosophy, ethics, sociology or anthropology. The link to the course materials is to be found on Moodle.
Evaluation methods

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the information in this section is particularly likely to change.

Course with continuous assessment.
The final evaluation will take into account:
-       The completion of the reading assignments and short feedback comments: 20%
-       The oral presentation made in class and based of the compulsory readings: 20%
-       At the end of the semester, the oral exam based on a reflection proposed by the student about one of the figures examined in                class + an open question asked by the professor: 60%
Online resources
See Moodle
Faculty or entity
Force majeure
Teaching methods
Depending on the evolution of the sanitary crisis, teachning modalities will be hybrid ("comodal") or online
Evaluation methods
The oral exam (60% of the final evaluation - cfr. continuous assessment) will be held online via Teams

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Bachelor in Philosophy

Master [120] in Anthropology

Minor in Law (openness)

Additionnal module in law