24634 - Logic and Legal Reasoning

Course Unit Page


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

Reduced inequalities Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

Students will be introduced to a) the main kinds of arguments, their logical structure (schemes of argumentation) and their use in various cognitive situations; b) the fundamentals of rhetoric and dialectic, and c) their application to legal argumentation (in particular to the "art of cross-examination").

Course contents

This course is structured along two main tracks: (a) the first one is theoretical, in which the elements of valid and effective argumentation are treated by looking at the literature, primarily in legal philosophy but also in epistemology and logic; (b) the second one is applicative and practical, its purpose being to apply the theory to some paradigmatic cases in the jurisprudence of courts in Italy and Europe, as well as in the United States and Latin America. The course consists of two modules: (1) the first one, taught by Corrado Roversi, focuses on the fundamental philosophical and logical tools needed to form a properly constructed or at least plausible argument; we will also cover the basic forms of inference, informal inferential schemes, the most common logical fallacies as well as the dialectical and rhetorical aspect of arguing in public; we will consider the concepts of truth that can be brought to bear on the legal world, as well as their limits; and we will finally isolate the basic arguments deployed in legal interpretation, highlighting their connection to moral and theoretical argumentation; (1) the second module, taught by Chiara Valentini, will introduce various theories specifically concerned with legislative intent, analogy, rules and principles, and schemes for balancing principles. These theoretical constructs will then be used in discussions of specific cases, making it possible to understand how the judge’s decision-making works in practice.


Attending students:

1) F. Schauer, 2016. Il ragionamento giuridico. Una nuova introduzione. Roma: Carocci. (1st ed. 2009)

2) D. Canale, G. Tuzet, 2019. La giustificazione della decisione giudiziale. Torino: Giappichelli.

3) Readings discussed in class and distributed through the the course's website on Virtuale.

Non-attending students:

1) F. Schauer, 2016. Il ragionamento giuridico. Una nuova introduzione. Roma: Carocci. (1st ed. 2009)

2) D. Canale, G. Tuzet, 2019. La giustificazione della decisione giudiziale. Torino: Giappichelli.

3) Readings discussed in class and distributed through the the course's website on Virtuale.

4) A. Traversi, 2014. La difesa penale. Tecniche argomentative e oratorie. Milano: Giuffrè.

Teaching methods

This is a course in presence and scheduled for the second semester. The course consists of twenty-four lessons, two hours each, for an overall forty-eight hours across the two modules: the two modules may intersect in various lessons depending on the topic discussed. Each of these lessons will integrate the course’s two tracks, meaning that in each lesson we will have a theoretical exposition of the topic at hand, followed by an open discussion in which students will be asked to apply the theory to specific cases, with an emphasis on exposition and dialectical exchange in class.

We will discuss real cases of argumentations formulated in the political, scientific, and journalistic context, showing their features from a logical, dialectical and rhetorical point of view and discussing with students how those arguments could be improved. Moreover, we will analyze the arguments behind cases that can be considered landmarks from the point of view of argumentation, cases drawn from the national, European, but also the Anglo-American context. In all these exercises, we will show how theoretical concepts taken from argumentation theory can be applied to improve our self-consciousness (and confidence) in defending a thesis in public.

Finally, an "Argumentation Lab" of one week will be organized, in which students will have the opportunity to defend a thesis of their own (be it ethical, political, or strictly legal) again a dialectical opponent. The format of this lab will be as follows: the proponent will argue for his or her thesis, then the opponent will be able to reply and counter the proponent's points; finally, the proponent will have the opportunity of formulating a brief end comment. A poll will be made about the attitude of the attendees on the proponent's thesis before and after the argumentation, to see whether, and to what extent, the argumentation provided by the proponent was able to convince the attendees and to counter the opponent's critical remarks. The objective of this lab will be to enhance the students’ capacity to critically analyse arguments in legal contexts, as well as their capacity to form arguments at once logically coherent, effective, and persuasive.

Assessment methods

There will be an oral final exam consisting in a discussion of three arguments, one of which focused on logic and argumentation in general, one connected with the theory of legal argumentation, and finally one related with the discussion of a particular case. The aim of the final exam is  both to ascertain the knowledge acquired by the student and to evaluate the degree of the student's "response" to the course learning objectives, in particular as regards the students' critical skills.

Graduation of the final grade

Preparation on a very limited number of topics; analytical skills emerging only with the help of the teacher; overall correct language → 18-19.

Preparation on a limited number of topics; limited analytical skills; correct language → 20-24.

Preparation on a large number of topics; analytical skills above average; mastery of specific terminology → 25-29.

Exhaustive preparation; analytical skills above average; full mastery of specific terminology; autonomous argumentation skills → 30-30L.

Teaching tools

These include slides summarizing the main course topics, software to annotate texts and slides directly on screen, software (Rationale) to explain the structure of some theoretical problems, software (Kahoot) to make tests in a competitive gameplay framework, software to make pools online during classes to improve the discussion.

All the information relative to the course, as well as any supplemental course material, will also be available online on the course's website (Virtuale).

Office hours

See the website of Corrado Roversi

See the website of Chiara Valentini