Jay Foster - Philosophy

J. Foster, Lecturer

Department of Philosophy
Department of Gender Studies (Humanities Graduate Program)

Office Hours:

M 10:00-11:00P in SN4074
W 10:00-12:30P in SN4074
or by appointment


PHIL 2370 - Philosophy of Law

Course Syllabus:
Course Readings:


23 March 2020

The course has now moved online into D2L/Brightspace. Course updates and lectures will be distributed there from now on. Readings will still be distributed via this course webpage. Email me if you have any questions!


18 March 2020

While we expected to have a class this morning, MUN ended all face-to-face classes a day early. In light of what a "doubling time" COVID-19 really means, the decision makes good epidemiological sense, especially given that universities seem to have been a contact and transmission point in Ontario. I'm in the process of building a course shell for Philosophy of Law with CITL in Brightspace/D2L. I will activate the shell as soon as possible and not later than Monday 23 March -- you may see some contruction woes so bear with me.

As promised in class on Monday, links to the remaining course slides are below. I will record and post lectures starting next week. We need to discuss options about the course grading scheme, but that can wait until we have an online discussion forum.

We are presently reading the two articles by H.L.A Hart available in the usual course readings area. As you read, think about the ways in which Hart is a legal positivist, and how Hart as a legal positivist is navigating the question of the role of morals in judicial decision.

Course Slides for Part 1
Course Slides for Part 2
Course Slides for Part 3
Course Slides for Part 4


13 March 2020

NOTE!!! As requested in class today, it would be much appreciated if everyone would send me a brief email note to ajfoster at mun dot ca. This will enable me to contact you via email to guide a possible transition to online teaching should COVID-19 spread significantly in St. John's. If you already emailed me after this morning's class, there is no reason to send another email. Thanks for your help and stay well.


9 March 2020

Here are the course slides for the section of the course on Hobbes and the state of nature. And, here are the slides on legal realism.


27 February 2020

Here are the questions I propose as topics for the second short paper. Of course, write on just one question.

1. In the R. v. Perka decision, Brian Dickson tells us: "no system of positive law can recognise any principle which would entitle a person to violate the law because on his view the law conflicted with some higher social value." Explain how this principle follows from the Hobbesian position articulated by Hobbes and Austin. Explain how excuse still can be reconciled with the Hobbesian position.

2. Blackstone and the Hobbesian give different justifications of common or customary law. Which justification is the more cogent, if either?

3. In the infamous Buck vs. Bell decision, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. insists that the state can legimately require citizens to undergo involuntary sterilization. Can this decision be reasonably resisted on Hobbesian grounds?

Papers should be no more than five double-spaced pages and no more than 1800 words. The paper is ostensibly due in class on 13 March 2020 but extensions are available on request.


1 February 2020

The first assignment in the course is here. Assignments should be submitted in class and on paper. In class we agreed that the due date for the assignment would be 14 February. In general, I like to be flexible about due dates. On this occasion I'm concerned about keeping the class on schedule, and that due date is deep in term for the first assignment. Unless you have something crazy like three midterms that week, I would like to keep that due date firm.


9 January 2019

Welcome to the course! The first readings may be found in the readings area. We will begin discussion with R. v. Dudley and Stephens (1884). which is the second case in the list.