B4128 - Sem Legal Reasoning in Private Law

Academic Year 2023/2024

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

Learning outcomes

The course will compare methods of legal reasoning in common law and civil law systems, focusing on the contemporary controversy of whether reasoning from precedent or from code provisions is even possible. It will examine the methods of reasoning of the Roman jurists, the medieval civilians and canonists, the late scholastics, the rationalists and the 19th century conceptualists, to see what light they shed on this contemporary problem.

Course contents

The course is held together with Prof. James R. Gordley, W.R. Irby Chair in Law at Tulane University (U.S.A.), currently Visiting Professor at the University of Bologna.

The course will begin by contrasting positivist conceptions of legal reasoning in civil law and common law. It will consider the revolt against these conceptions by François Gény in France, by the Freiuristenschule in Germany, and by the American Legal Realists and the Critical Legal Studies Movement in the United States.

The course will then investigate what legal reasoning was like before positivism. It will contrast the methods and goals of the classical Roman jurists, the medieval civilians, the late scholastics, the humanists, the northern natural law school founded by Hugo Grotius, and the 18th century rationalists.


Background reading will be assigned from James Gordley, The Jurists A Critical History (Oxford University Press, 2013).


Teaching methods

The lectures will be based on selections, in English translation, from original works by jurists who wrote during the periods under study.

Each lecture will examine a series of texts and ask the students what inferences one can draw about the method and reasoning and goals of the author.

Assessment methods

The exam is oral.

Teaching tools

Dr. Loris Di Cerbo (loris.dicerbo2@unibo.it) and Dr. Nicola Scarano (nicola.scarano2@unibo.it) will provide teaching support.

Materials (e.g. legal cases, documents, legal texts) will be made available to students on the website.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Marco Martino