Faculty Profiles

Seana Shiffrin

Seana Shiffrin

Professor of Philosophy
Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice
B.A. UC Berkeley, 1988
B. Phil. Oxford, 1990
D. Phil Oxford, 1993
J.D. Harvard, 1996
UCLA Faculty Since 1996

LAW M524 - Legal Philosophy

 The course will explore the ethical theory and legal theory of what I call “Controversial Communications,”  by which I mean communications that are ethically controversial or ethically borderline.  The course is well suited for students with an avid interest in the ethics of communication, freedom of speech, fraud and lying, the ethics of research and investigative techniques, or, more generally, in philosophical approaches to law.  We will start by discussing the role of truth telling in moral relations and to freedom of speech.  We will then proceed to hard cases:  lying under exigent circumstances and lying by police in interrogations.  Next, we’ll look at the doctrine of duress and the moral status of promises made under threats.  From there, we will turn to the exposure of private information and its proper treatment in law and then to blackmail.  After that, we’ll turn to some controversial issues about academic freedom and oversight of academic activities, looking both at the university’s interest in smooth institutional function and how it relates to academic independence; we will also examine the role of deception in academic research.  Then, we will turn to deception in fiction (both fictional libel and falsehoods in fiction).  We’ll end with a discussion of undercover investigations by police, journalists and researchers.  The focus will be on both the ethics of these communications and also, what status they should have in law. 

Students will be asked to do reading in and outside of the philosophical and legal literature, to attend and participate regularly, to write some short reaction papers, and to write a seminar paper. The course counts toward the Law and Philosophy specialization (Group A for law students).