Philosophy of Law


Philosophy of Law - Research Guide International Law

Philosophy of law is concerned with questions about the nature of law and concepts that structure law. It also deals with questions regarding the authority of the law and the role of law in society. Philosophy of law can be divided in several categories, such as analytical jurisprudence, normative jurisprudence, critical theories of law, sociological jurisprudence, theories of justice, natural law, legal positivism, and legal realism. The notions legal theory and jurisprudence are often used as a synonym for philosophy of law or its sub-disciplines.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Philosophy of Law. It provides the basic materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's systematic classification → Law in general: philosophy of law, natural law and subject heading (keyword) Philosophy of Law are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Reference works

Books about miscellaneous legal philosophical topics

Several articles

Periodicals, serial publications


Systematic classification → Law in general

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  • Orford, A., and F. Hoffmann (eds.), "The Oxford handbook of the Theory of International Law", Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.

    The Oxford Handbook of International Legal Theory provides an accessible and authoritative guide to the major thinkers, concepts, approaches, and debates that have shaped contemporary international legal theory. The Handbook features 48 original essays by leading international scholars from a wide range of traditions, nationalities, and perspectives, reflecting the richness and diversity of this dynamic field.

    The collection explores key questions and debates in international legal theory, offers new intellectual histories for the discipline, and provides fresh interpretations of significant historical figures, texts, and theoretical approaches. It provides a much-needed map of the field of international legal theory, and a guide to the main themes and debates that have driven theoretical work in international law. The Handbook will be an indispensable reference work for students, scholars, and practitioners seeking to gain an overview of current theoretical debates about the nature, function, foundations, and future role of international law.

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  • Haque, A. A., "Law and Morality at War", New York, Oxford University Press, 2017.

    This book integrates legal analysis and moral philosophy. It seeks to defend, interpret, implement, and reform the law of armed conflict. It argues that the law of armed conflict should provide combatants with moral guidance, helping them to conform to their moral obligations as closely as possible. It presents the law of armed conflict as prohibitive rather than permissive, conferring limited immunities rather than broad privileges, and applying alongside human rights law as well as ordinary moral norms. It defends a broad interpretation of civilian immunity while advocating restraints on the use of force against combatants. It develops innovative approaches to target verification, indiscriminate weapons, proportionality, and precautions in attack. Notably, it proposes specific rules of engagement that operationalize complex legal and moral norms, thereby providing clearer guidance to combatants and greater protection to civilians. It argues that human shields‐including voluntary human shields‐generally retain their moral and legal protection. Finally, it argues that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court fails to prohibit and punish serious violations of the law of armed conflict and must be amended.

    Keywords: law of war, law of armed conflict, international humanitarian law, civilian-combatant distinction, precautions, proportionality, human shields, war crimes, just war theory, military ethics.

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  • Laing, J. A. , and R. Wilcox, The Natural Law Reader, Chichester, Wiley Blackwell, 2014.

    The Natural Law Reader features a selection of readings in metaphysics, jurisprudence, politics, and ethics that are all related to the classical Natural Law tradition in the modern world. Features a concise presentation of the natural law position that offers the reader a focal point for discussion of ancient and contemporary ideas in the natural law tradition Draws upon the metaphysical and ethical categories put forth and developed by Aristotle and Aquinas Points to the historical significance and contemporary relevance of the Natural Law tradition Reflects on a revival of interest in the tradition of virtue ethics and human rights

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  • Lloyd, S.A. (ed.), Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    Lloyd, S.A. (ed.), Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century brings together an impressive group of political philosophers, legal theorists, and political scientists to investigate the many ways in which the work of Thomas Hobbes, the famed seventeenth century English philosopher, can illuminate the political and social problems we face today. Its essays demonstrate the contemporary relevance of Hobbes's political thought on such issues as justice, human rights, public reason, international warfare, punishment, fiscal policy, and the design of positive law, among others. The volume's contributors include both Hobbes specialists and philosophers bringing their expertise to consideration of Hobbes's texts for the first time. This volume will stimulate renewed interest in Hobbes studies among a new generation of thinkers.

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  • Roff, H.M., Global Justice, Kant and the Responsibility to Protect: a Provisional Duty, London, Routledge, 2013.

    Roff, H.M., Global Justice, Kant and the Responsibility to Protect: a Provisional Duty, London, Routledge, 2013.

    This book provides an innovative contribution to the study of the Responsibility to Protect and Kantian political theory. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine has been heralded as the new international security norm to ensure the protection of peoples against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yet, for all of the discussion, endorsements and reaffirmations of this new norm, R2P continues to come under fire for its failures, particularly, and most recently, in the case of Syria. This book argues that a duty to protect is best considered a Kantian provisional duty of justice. The international system ought to be considered a state of nature, where legal institutions are either weak or absent, and so duties of justice in such a condition cannot be considered peremptory. This book suggests that by understanding the duty’s provisional status, we understand the necessity of creating the requisite executive, legislative and judicial authorities. Furthermore, the book provides three innovative contributions to the literature, study and practice of R2P and Kantian political theory: it provides detailed theoretical analysis of R2P; it addresses the research gap that exists with Kant’s account of justice in states of nature; and it presents a more comprehensive understanding of the metaphysics of justice as well as R2P. This book will be of much interest to students of the Responsibility to Protect, humanitarian intervention, global ethics, international law, security studies and international relations (IR) in general.

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  • Kolb, R., Théorie du Droit International, Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2013.

    Dunoff, J.L. and M.A. Pollack (eds.), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: the State of the Art, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    L’ouvrage traite des problèmes fondamentaux du droit international dans une perspective à la fois juridique et plus générale ; une réflexion touchant à des aspects fondamentaux de ce droit vu sous l'angle de son évolution historique et de son état actuel. Cette seconde édition de l’ouvrage Réflexions de philosophie du droit international rassemble une série de réflexions personnelles sur les points de droit international qui m’ont paru importants au fil des années d’étude de cette matière. Si ces points ne s’ordonnent pas en un système, ils ne sont néanmoins pas jetés sur le papier au hasard. Ces réflexions ont ceci en commun qu’elles tentent de serrer de plus près les aspects ordonnateurs et structurants du droit international, en un mot, ses chevilles ouvrières ou ses voûtes névralgiques.

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  • Buchanan, R., S. Motha and S. Pahuja (eds.), Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodologies and Sovereign Formations, Abingdon, Routledge, 2012.

    Buchanan, R., S. Motha and S. Pahuja (eds.), Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodologies and Sovereign Formations, Abingdon, Routledge, 2012.

    This book identifies and elaborates upon key critical methodologies for reading and writing about law in modernity. The force of law rests on determinate and localizable authorizations, as well as an expansive capacity to encompass what has not been pre-figured by an order of rules. The key question this dynamic of law raises is how legal forms might be deployed to confront and disrupt injustice. The urgency of this question must not eclipse the care its complexity demands. This book offers a critical methodology for addressing the many challenges thrown up by that question, whilst testifying to its complexity. The essays in this volume - engagements direct or oblique, with the work of Peter Fitzpatrick - chart a mode of resisting the proliferation of social scientific methods, as much as geo-political empire. The authors elaborate a critical and interdisciplinary treatment of law and modernity, and outline the pivotal role of sovereignty in contemporary formations of power, both national and international. From various overlapping vantage points, therefore, Reading Modern Law interrogates law's relationship to power, as well as its relationship to the critical work of reading and writing about law in modernity.

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  • Wacks, R., Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Wacks, R., Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

    With a clear, engaging, and informal writing style, Understanding Jurisprudence is the perfect guide for students new to legal theory and looking for a convenient and interesting starting point for this sometimes daunting subject. Key theories and theorists are introduced in a compact and manageable format, offering an accessible account of the central ideas without oversimplification. Further reading suggestions are included throughout, helping students to structure their research and navigate the many texts and articles available in this subject area. Critical questions are also included in each chapter, to encourage students to think analytically about the law and the key ideas and debates which surround it. Professor Wacks is an experienced teacher of jurisprudence and excels in providing a concise, student-friendly introduction to the subject, without avoiding the subtleties of this fascinating discipline.

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  • The Martens Clause: A New Library Special

    The Martens clause is named after the Russian diplomat and international law professor Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens (1845-1909), the Russian delegate at the The Hague Peace Conferences in 1899. The Martens clause came into existence as a diplomatic statement made by diplomat Martens who wanted to come up with a solution for a disagreement between large occupying forces and smaller states. Martens, who was of the opinion that international law should illuminate and set normative standards, created the clause to fill a legal vacuum and help alleviate the horrors of war. The clause serves as a reminder that an act is not just yet permissible when an act of war is not expressly prohibited by international law or customary law.

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  • US court rules that US government funding for stem cell research breaks law protecting human embryos

    The Obama Administration is in favor of human embryonic stem cell research. Further research alongside other kinds of stem cell experimentation is vital to science and further medical study. It could help us understand the process of cell transformation and how diseases such as diabetes and blindness could be treated. James Sherley, an MIT scientist, and several other scientists however oppose to human embryonic stem cell research. They filed a case against the decision of the Obama administration to federally fund embryonic stem cell use research. The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the federal funding of stem cell research breaks law protecting human embryos.

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  • Should animals have their own lawyers in court to protect their rights and dignity?

    Dan Piraro – Bizarro Animals are treated in an ambivalent way. On the one hand we look at them as adorable animals, which we keep as pets, or which we love and admire from a distance, in a wildlife reserve or behind glass in the zoo. Most pets are loved by their owners – they […]

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Systematic classification → Law in general