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 SSC 370 - General Theories of Law


The SSC 370 course has a different theme every semester. The course explores the relations between morality and law in contemporary legal practice. It is a popular misunderstanding that a more reflective approach (philosophy of law, ethics, legal theory) is only a theoretical pastime and can not be relevant for the day-to-day legal business. This view is mistaken as it neglects the importance of lawmaking (legislation), where moral, prudential and practical aspects are always influential. Application of rules and implementation of public policies are never completely isolated from moral debates and political discourse. Famous (and powerful) lawyers often have shown a keen interest in philosophy of law. The celebrated legal philosopher Gustav Radbruch was Minister of Justice in the German Weimar Republic and after World War II one of the most prominent intellectuals in the post-nazi-period. Charismatic political leaders – like Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama – frequently have a background in law and legal theory. Former Dutch Ministers of Justice – like Donner and Hirsch Ballin – were trained extensively in legal philosophy.

In this course we investigate the concept (definition) of law, we discuss the separation or interrelatedness of law and morality, we explore ‘the idea of justice’ and focus in the second phase of the course on the challenging question whether traditional legal instruments are fit to regulate and channel the huge problems of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘environmental protection’.


Prof. Pieter Ippel ​




The following courses are required in order to take this course:

  • SSC 171 Law, Society and Justice
  • And one of the following courses:
    • SSC 271 International and European Law
    • SSC 275 Principles of Private Law​