Philosophy G201: Morals and the Law

Instructor: Gary Zabel, Ph.D
Philosophy Department Phone: (617) 287-6530
E-mail Address:
Office Hours: Wed2:45-3:45/Th 2:45-3:45
Wheatley, 5th Floor, 035




In this class, we will examine three moral frameworks for understanding the law and the role it plays in both national and global society: 1) Natural Law Theory, with its associated doctrine of just and unjust wars; 2) Social Contract Theory, including its expression in American constitutional law, with its emphasis on individual rights and the restraint of state power; and 3) Radical Democratic Theory in relation to the problem of public authority and religious fundamentalism. We will consider such general moral-philosophical topics as the nature of justice, the concept of rights, the significance of the rule of law, and the relationship between law and political power. We will also apply the concepts and principles we develop in the class to such concrete public issues as the War in Iraq, the Patriot Act, and the conflict between fundamentalist religion and science in the public schools.


1)     3 five-to-eight page papers
2)     Regular class attendance and participation, including a panel presentation

Grading: The papers are averaged together and constitute three-quarters of your final grade; attendance and participation constitute another quarter of the final grade.

Readings: All readings are online and can be accessed through the links below. You will need Adobe Reader in order to read the PDF files. If you don't already have it, you can get it free at:

"Justice" by Fra Angelico


Week of Sept 4

Socrates Taking the Hemlock

1. The Natural Law Tradition

"Justice,"  Ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura

Week of Sept 11

A. Ancient and Medieval Sources

World of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle

Protogoras' Challenge

The Trial of Socrates (including Plato's Apology)

Excerpt from Plato, Republic, Book 4

Week of Sept 18

Adler_Natural law

Aristotle, Nicomachaen Ethics, Book1

Stoic Natural Law

Natural Law - Catholic Encyclopedia

B. Catholic Just War Theory

Thomas Aquinas

Week of Sept 25

Stanford: War

War - Catholic Encyclopedia

The Vatican Against America

Saddam's capture may bring peace, doesn't excuse war, cardinal says

Behind the Pope's Stringent Just-War Teaching

Catholic Theologian Argues for War

How Catholic conservatives got it wrong

Thomas More

C. Secular Frameworks

Week of Oct 2

Geneva Convention

Nuremberg Trials

The NurembergTrials

Principles of the Nuremberg Trial

U.S. Army Field Manual provisions relating to the law of war

Rules of War Enable Terror

Michael Walzer Just and Unjust Wars

An Account of the My Lai Courts-Martial

Lt. William Calley Court-martial:testimony

D. War in Iraq

Week of Oct 9

I. Jus Ad Bellum

Are We Sure We Can Get Away With It This Time?

Would War be Lawful Without Another U.N. Resolution?

Walzer: So, is this a just war?

Zinn: A  Just Cause, Not a Just War (on Afghanistan)

Week of Oct 9 (cont)

II. Jus in Bello

Justice in Combat

Michael Byers : The Laws of War, US-Style

Who Owns the Rules of War?

Washington Post: War Crimes

Haditha killings - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BBC NEWS  Middle East  Haditha Massacre and cover-up

Evidence altered, hidden in probe of Iraqi deaths - Case involves killings of 24 civilians in Haditha by Marines.

In Haditha, Memories of a Massacre

Haditha Massacre Iraq’s Mai Lai

Why Haditha isn't My Lai

JURIST - Forum Haditha and My Lai Lessons from the Law of War

Week of Oct 16


Abu Ghraib




Walzer: The Abuse of Prisoners in Iraq

Abu Graib

Week of Oct 16 (cont)

Rights of Prisoners Taken in War

The Legal Status of Iraqi and Foreign Combatants Captured by Coalition Armed Forces

DoD News: Briefing on Geneva Convention, EPW's and War Crimes



US doesn't have the right to decide who is or isn't a PoW

Week of Oct 16 (cont)

International Criminal Court

International Criminal Court Comes to Life

The Better Approach to War Crimes Trials

Court case against General Franks in Brussels

US, Allies Could Be Prosecuted for Iraq War

Kissinger: Risking Judicial Tryanny

Palace of Justice, Brussels

2. Rights, Security, and the Problem of State Power

Week of Oct 23

(First Paper Due)

A. Social Contract Theory

World of Hobbes, Locke, and the American Founders


Locke - Second Treatise On Civil Government

Week of Oct 30

B. The American Constitutional Tradition

Declaration of Independence

Constitution Of The United States

US Court System

Former US Attorney General Ashcroft had Curtains
Placed in front of this statue of justice to hide its exposed breast

C. The Patriot Act

Week of Nov 6

I. Before the Patriot Act

Nat Hentoff

COINTELPRO - Wikipedia

The FBI's Vendetta Against Martin Luther King, Jr

Watergate Chronology

Watergate Revisited

Church Committee - Wikipedia

Church Committee Final Report

Congressional Oversight and the Crippling of the CIA

Back to Church_ Chris Mooney

II. What is the Patriot Act?

Week of Nov 13

USA PATRIOT Act - Wikipedia

Week of Nov 13 (cont)

III. The Bush Administration's Case for the Patriot Act

Patriot act overview

President Bush Speaks About the Patriot Act

Attorney General Ashcroft Speaks About the Patriot Act

Attorney General Ashcroft Testifies Before Congress About the Patriot Act

Dispelling Some of the Major Myths about the USA PATRIOT Act

Week of Nov 13 (cont)

IV. The Case Against the Patriot Act

Conservative Voices Against the USA PATRIOT Act

Surveillance Under the USA PATRIOT Act

How the USA PATRIOT Act redefines Domestic Terrorism

Section 215 FAQ

Sneak and peek

Libraries post Patriot Act warnings


Dissent in America After 9-11.pdf

Week of Nov 13 (cont)

IV. The Controversy Over Warantless Wiretapping

NSA warrantless surveillance controversy - Wikipedia

Bush Lets U_S_ Spy on Callers Without Courts

Judge Rules Against Wiretaps

Judges Opinion in ACLU vs NSA

NY Times: Ruling for the Law

Specialists doubt legality of wiretaps - The Boston Globe

Prepared Statement of Hon_ Alberto R_ Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States (02-06-06)

Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects

3. Democracy and Religious Fundamentalism

A. Spinoza on Law, Politics, and Religion

Week of Nov 27 (Second Paper Due)

Spinoza's World

Spinoza: Life and Works

Spinoza: Theologico-Political Treatise (Excerpts)

Week of Dec 4

Spinoza: A Political Treatise (Excerpts)

Week of Dec 11

B. The Scopes Trial

Famous Trials: The Scopes Trial

Anti-evolution teachings gain foothold



Week of Dec 18

(Third Paper Due)

Sistine Chapel /The Last Judgment