Is there a formal branch or name for the kind(s) of philosophy needed to answer questions like the following ? If so, how can I self-learn it? I stress that no legal knowledge is required.

The background material for these questions are lengthy so I only abstracted a few select questions; I mightn't've provided enough, so Please feel free to emend or improve this post

http://www.caths.cam.ac.uk/home/?m=page&id=167: This page is short so I won't summarise it here.

From http://ba.law.cam.ac.uk/assets/misc/Cambridge_Law_Test_Specimen_Questions.pdf
(initially from http://ba.law.cam.ac.uk/applying/cambridge_law_test/):

Essay Question - Specimen question 2: (page 1 of 6)

  1. Should people be regarded as having fundamental moral rights, quite independently of law? If so, how should we decide what those rights are? Give reasons for your answer.

Problem Question - Specimen question iii: (p 3 of 6)

X promises Y to pay Z £500 and Z, on hearing of this and because of it, immediately pays some outstanding bills. Before any money is handed over to Z, X and Y change their mind and agree to cancel their contract. Can Z sue X under the Act? Give reasons for your answer.

Comprehension Question - Specimen question: (p 6 of 6)

  1. Explain in your own words, and indicating how it differed from the reasoning of the Court of Appeal, the reasoning of Lord Diplock in this case.
  2. In the first paragraph of his judgment, Lord Diplock suggests that a bystander who came across the fire would not be guilty of any offence if he failed to take steps which were within his powers to put it out. Why should that be? Do you agree that such a person should not be guilty of an offence? Give reasons for your answer
  • 3
    These are questions for a law program entrance exam. Some of them are philosophy of law but others are questions about legal reasoning... Basically, practice working on analysis problems and providing explanations. It's nearly impossible to self-study this sort of thing because you need someone to critique your thinking.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 8:07
  • Z can sue X and Y as well as the owner of the venue where the three of them had coffee. In the US, anyone can sue anybody for anything.
    – user4894
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


I would say the first question is the only one regarding philosophy of law (jurisprudence). You can answer that question by reading Locke or Gustav Radbruch. You can also read Kelsen for the opposite perspective. From my point of view, the answer is yes. The battle between legal positivism and naturalism has been over for a long time ago. As countries follow ius cogens rules of International Law (which is to a huge extent connected with the existence of natural law), we can say that people believe in a super set of rules independent of positive law that should not be broken, because they are moral rules. The concept of natural law is connected with the existance of limitations prior to the entrance of the state of civility. You should really read Locke's 2nd treatsie, read it all so you can see the big picture (if you are entering law school the Treatsie should be a piece of cake).

  • "The battle between legal positivism and naturalism has been over for a long time ago." is simply not true, there are dozens of perfectly respected philosophers of law who still hold to legal positivism. Leslie Green or Jules Coleman for example. The argument about international law is easily placed within a positivist framework by internal requirements. No legal right can be infringed upon unless it is necessary in a democracy, we therefore have to have facility to compare practices in other democracies in order that a person can have the opportunity for rebuttal of such an argument.
    – user22791
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 6:40

Some of it is Logic, but a lot has to do with moral philosophy. Moral philosophers often have a view on how Law and Politics should work.

This lecture series called "Justice" from harvard is a great introduction to the moral philosophies related to law and politics. Its also a great intro to philosophy.


  • At best, Michael Sandel's justice has only a tangential relationship to what the asker wants to know.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 4:19
  • 1
    I don't think so, I think, in terms of philosophy, that would be the introduction to the area of philosophy asked for, as opposed to studying law itself, or the philosophy of law which extends from that introduction. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 4:29
  • 1
    But if you look at the source of his questions, these are entry questions for a law program. Studying general moral philosophy is a poor introduction to that. I did a BS/BA in philosophy, then worked as a paralegal, then got a PhD in philosophy. And the sort of on the ground questions about Lord Dimwit are not going to be resolved at all by learning moral philosophy.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 4:31
  • 1
    nice en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority however, you haven't stated WHY? Kant, Locke, etc would have views on how to answer the questions related to Lord Dimwit Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 4:54
  • Maybe it does work out to just be an argument from authority. I'm not interested in quibbling on that. But what I am trying to say is that there's nothing in a standard moral philosophy course that would prepare one for that exam compared to just studying logic or even essay writing. It's like studying metallurgy to learn how to use a hammer.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 5:19

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