The Department of Philosophy
at Brandeis University

Philosophy in Preparation for Law School

Many Brandeis graduates who have pursued careers in law had some exposure to philosophy while they were undergraduates at Brandeis. This is not surprising. Every philosophy course taught at Brandeis helps students to develop analytical skills that are invaluable in the practice of law and this is true of every course currently taught by the Department, whether the course is one directly related to law, such as Philosophy of Law, or whether its focus is elsewhere, say on Amercian Pragmatism or on the Philosophy of Religion.

Below you will find a list of courses taught in the Philosophy Department that may be of special interest to students who are contemplating a career in law, but it should be borne in mind that any course in philosophy can introduce you to the basic skills essential to the study and practice of law, to help you to improve upon your ability to make and evaluate arguments, to anticipate and respond to objections, and to uncover principles that may help to explain conflicting judgments of similar cases.

The Department welcomes students with an interest in law, and is eager to help each student find the right mix of courses that will suit his or her specific needs. Majors in other fields, in Politics, Economics, or History, for example, who wish to pursue legal careers need not become Philosophy Majors to benefit from the courses the Department has to offer. The pre-law student who takes one or two courses in Philosophy in addition to fulfilling his or her course requirements in another Field will be far better prepared to enter law school than a pre-law candidate who has had no exposure to philosophy at all.

A recent comprehensive study of college students' scores on major tests used for admission to graduate and professional schools shows that students majoring in Philosophy received scores substantially higher than the average on each of the tests studied.

The performance of Philosophy Majors on all three tests was remarkable: Philosophy Majors received higher scores on the LSAT, for instance, than students in all other humanities areas, and higher scores than all social and natural science majors except economics and mathematics, and higher scores than all applied majors.

Moreover, the differences in most cases were substantial:

Philosophy Majors scored 10% better than political science majors on the LSAT. Philosophy Majors outperformed business majors by a margin of 15% on the GMAT and outperformed every other undergraduate major except mathematics. And Philosophy Majors' scores on the verbal portion of the GRE were higher than in any other major even English; and although several science majors showed higher averages in the quantitative portion of the test, Philosophy Majors scored substantially higher than all other humanities majors and were alone among humanities majors in scoring above the overall average.

The study compared the scores of 550,000 college students who took the LSAT, GMAT, and the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE with data collected over the previous eighteen years and was conducted by the National Institute of Education and reported in THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

Courses of Special Interest for Students
Preparing for a Career in Law

PHIL 5a Introduction to Logic

A study of the most basic forms of reasoning and their linguistic expression. Provides an introduction to the traditional theory of syllogism relations, contemporary symbolic logic, and the nature of scientific reasoning. Usually offered every fourth year. Last offered in the fall of 1994.

Mr. Hirsch

PHIL 17a Introduction to Ethics

Explores the basic concepts and theories of ethical philosophy. What makes a life good? What are our moral obligations to other people? Applications of ethical philosophy to various concrete questions will be considered. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Wong

PHIL 19a Human Rights

Enrollment limited to 100.

Examines international human rights policies and the moral and political issues to which they give rise. Includes civilians' wartime rights, the role of human rights in foreign policy, and the responsibility of individuals and states to alleviate world hunger and famine. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Teuber

PHIL 20a Social and Political Philosophy: Democracy and Disobedience

Investigates some central questions of social and political philosophy. Topics include the origins of legitimate political authority, the duties owed by citizens to governments, and by governments to citizens; the right to rebellion, individual rights, the limits of legitimate political authority, the relationship between citizenship and individual freedom, and the ends which political institutions ought to pursue. Usually offered in odd years.

Ms. Chaplin

PHIL 22b Philosophy of Law

Examines the nature of criminal responsibility, causation in the law, negligence and liability, omission and the duty to rescue, and the nature and limits of law. Also, is the law more or less like chess or poker, cooking recipes, or the Ten Commandments? Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Teuber

PHIL 23b Biomedical Ethics

Enrollment limited to 50.

An examination of ethical issues that arise in a biomedical context, such as the issues of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, lying to patients, and the right to health care. The relevance of ethical theory to such issues will be considered. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Hirsch

PHIL 112b Philosophy and Public Policy

The course examines the case that can be made for and against distributing certain goods and services on an open market as the result of free exchange, or through public mechanisms of planning and control. For examples, the arguments for and against public funding of the arts, fire departments, patents, zoning laws, and national health care. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Teuber

PHIL 114b Topics in Ethical Theory

Is morality something we have reasons to obey regardless of our interests and desires, or do the reasons grow out of our interests and desires? Is the moral life always a personally satisfying life? Is morality a social invention or is it more deeply rooted in the nature of things? The course will address such questions. Usually offered in odd years.

Mr. Wong

PHIL 116a Seminar in Political Philosophy: Privacy

Privacy has assumed an increasingly central role in contemporary social and political thought, but there is still no clear agreement on what it is, or if indeed it exists independently at all. We consider such questions as to whether or not there is a right to privacy, its derivation and value and its relationship to other values such as freedom and autonomy. Usually offered in even years.

Ms. Chaplin

PHIL 121a Politics, Philosophy, and the Legal Regulation of Sexuality

Treating the sexual exchange as a proper subject for politics, we will read traditional philosophers like Tocqueville and Mill, as well as laws and court opinions in an effort to understand how sex is regulated in America as a political matter. Usually offered in even years.

Ms. Hirshman

Department of Philosophy
Brandeis University
Rabb 305/MS 055
South Street
Waltham, MA 02254
(781) 736-2788

Spring 00 Courses | Fall 99 Courses | Philosophy Main Page | Office Hours | Talks
April 15, 1999

Comments and Inquiries to