B4126 - Sem Legal Theory, Legal Reasoning and General Research Methodology

Academic Year 2023/2024

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

Learning outcomes

The seminar "Legal Theory, Legal Reasoning, and General Research Methodology" 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 analyzing the structure of important papers in legal theory to see how they are framed, we will criticize the underlying arguments and construct alternative solutions, we will focus more generally on how arguments can be framed, which fallacies we should avoid, and how we should organize our thinking in framing a research question, finding an answer and supporting it. 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

Notice: This is a seminar in advanced legal theory, so students will be expected to have a background in legal theory and legal philosophy and to have a genuine interest in theoretical matters about the law and its nature. In discussing these issues, we will address relevant questions about the methodology of research and academic writing, among which the structure of conjectures and arguments, the possible ways of framing an argument, some relevant logical fallacies, and the way in which research work is better organized.

This year’s seminar discusses discusses Mark Greenberg's recent "Moral Impact Theory of Law", which is one of the most authoritative contemporary views about the nature of law and the central questions of jurisprudence. We will discuss Greenberg's criticism of the legal-positivistic view, the way in which he develops from this criticism his own, full-fledged view, and a direct criticism of his conception by Larry Alexander.


All the texts will be shared online on Virtuale as PDF files. They are in any case available also through the Unibo Library Service and AlmaStart at: https://sba.unibo.it/it.

Here are the papers:

1) M. Greenberg, "The Standard Picture and Its Discontents", in Leslie Green, and Brian Leiter (eds), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law: Volume 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 39–106.

2) M. Greenberg, "The Moral Impact Theory of Law", The Yale Law Journal, 123, 2014, pp. 1290–1342.

3) L. Alexander, "In Defense of the Standard Picture: The Basic Challenge", Ratio Juris, 34, 2021, pp. 187–206.

Teaching methods

The seminar will consist of five classes, each of two hours. In the first meeting, I will provide students with some ideas about the structure of conjectures and arguments, in the second, third, and fourth meetings we will discuss the first, second, and third paper respectively, and in the last meeting I will introduce students to some guidelines about research methodology, also in the light of the previous discussion.

Students are required to read the articles before the meetings: the first paper before the second meeting, the second paper before the third meeting, and the third paper before the fourth meeting. The papers are quite long (particularly the first two), so I suggest to start reading them as soon as possible.

During the discussion, all students are required to take part in the conversation, reconstructing the argumentative structure of the texts and assessing it critically. Students will be encouraged to try to formulate their own conjectures and objections by addressing directly the arguments developed in the papers, as if engaging in a virtual conversation with Mark Greenberg himself.

Assessment methods

Oral exam. The exam will be aimed at evaluating the students’ knowledge of the papers 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

I will use Virtuale to share the texts of the articles to be discussed and the Power Point presentation, in which I will present visually also the guidelines for research methodology.

Office hours

See the website of Corrado Roversi


Peace, justice and strong institutions

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.