95548 - Sem. Advanced Legal Theory Reading Group

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Legal Studies (cod. 9062)

Learning outcomes

The Advanced Legal Theory Reading Group is designed to help law students develop theoretical thinking skills by analyzing the arguments used in legal theory in reasoning about fundamental legal concepts: we will be critiquing these arguments and constructing alternative solutions. Students are expected to come to the seminar having already familiarized themselves with the required reading: in this way, instead of taking up time to set up the arguments in class, we can focus directly on their merits and structure in discussion.

Course contents

This year’s seminar discusses the topic "Law and Mind", hence the impact that contemporary neurosciences and cognitive sciences—our current description of how the human mind works—can have on legal science and legal reasoning. We will read papers about the cognitive assumptions of criminal law, the relation between moral and legal cognition, the psychological underpinnings of human rights, new kinds of regulations based on cognitive illusions, and the cognitive limits of citizenship in a democratic setting.


Greene J., and J. Cohen. 2004. “For the Law, Neuroscience Changes Nothing And Everything”. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society B. 359: 1775–1785.

Sifferd, K. L. 2006. “In Defense of the Use of Commonsense Psychology in the Criminal Law”.Law and Philosophy. 25(6): 571–612.

Haidt, J. 2013. “Moral Psychology and the Law: How Intuitions Drive Reasoning, Judgment, and the Search For Evidence”. Alabama Law Review. 64(4):866-880.

Bublitz, C. 2021. “Rights as Rationalizations? Psychological Debunking of Belief about Human Rights”. Legal Theory.27(2):97-125.

Sunstein, C. 2015. “The Ethics of Nudging”. Yale Journal of Regulation. 32: 413-450.

Brennan, J. 2014, “Epistocracy Within Public Reason” in A.E. Cudd and S.J. Scholz (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Democracy in the 21st Century,Heidelberg: Springer. Ch. 14. 191-204

Teaching methods

Students are required to read the articles before the meeting, in the light of some critical questions that the teaching assistant sends them via email. During the discussion, all students are required to take part in the conversation, reconstructing the argumentative structure of the texts and assessing it critically.

The seminar will be given completely online, on Microsoft Teams, on the relevant virtual classroom. It will consist of six classes of two hours, each devoted to one of the papers listed above. We will start on Thursday, November 4, at 11.00 a.m.

Assessment methods

Oral exam. The exam will be aimed at evaluating not only the students’ knowledge of the content covered by the course but also their ability to critically think through the theoretical issues discussed in class. This means that, rather than remembering the literal content of the articles, students are expected to demonstrate that they understand the broader concepts and conceptions they use and the problems they raise.

Teaching tools

We use both a mailing list and Virtuale to share the texts of the articles to be discussed and the handouts containing questions to be discussed about them. All meetings of the group are held online via Microsoft Teams.

Office hours

See the website of Corrado Roversi