Outline and Boxes on a Blue Blackground

Law and Philosophy

Law and philosophy sheds light on fundamental questions about what the law is and what it should be. The intersection of the two areas spans general jurisprudence (inquiries into the nature of law) to special jurisprudence (philosophical analysis of particular bodies of law). Scholarship draws on various subfields in philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy, and philosophy of mind and language.

How does law and philosophy work in the background of our legal and educational systems to inform our ideas of how the law is built, how it should cohere, and the purposes it serves?

Columbia Law has a long tradition of pushing boundaries to address philosophical questions regarding religion, political liberty, freedom of speech, conflict of laws, and morality. Students are guided by professors with expertise in both public and private law theory who draw on philosophy in their work. Together, they probe the nature of law and explore a range of theoretical and philosophical issues.

Why Columbia?

Study with faculty who have J.D.s. and Ph.D.s in philosophy, political science, and political theory, and who employ a philosophical lens in their scholarship on topics including constitutional norms, intellectual property, and labor law.

Interrogate cutting-edge concepts with scholars who are expanding the boundaries of legal thought in courses and seminars such as Law and Philosophy, Political Theory and the First Amendment,  Intellectual Property Theory, Critical Legal Thought, and Contemporary Critical Thought.

Explore scholarship through the Law and Philosophy program, which holds an annual law and philosophy workshop series.

Pursue additional academic pathways, including through the Academic Scholars Program and independent study options.

Develop your own research and scholarship by joining journals, as well as utilizing resources at the Law School and at Columbia University. 

“I’m interested in places where legal reasoning runs out, where the lawyer’s toolkit ceases to explain the underlying phenomena, and where we need particularly philosophical and conceptual tools.”
Ashraf Ahmed, associate professor of law

Related Centers and Programs

Law and Philosophy Program

The Law and Philosophy Program at Columbia Law School cultivates the exploration of philosophical issues surrounding legal institutions. This includes general jurisprudence (on the nature of law) and special jurisprudence (on particular areas of law), as well as the many ways in which legal institutions implicate subdisciplines of philosophy, including epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, and philosophy of mind and language. Programming includes a Law and Philosophy Workshop series during the academic year, an annual legal theory conference, and a cross-institutional, collaborative community of affiliated scholars.

Areas of Study

Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought

The Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Thought (CCCCT), a joint project of the Columbia Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Columbia Law School, encourages a critical re-examination of the present and envisions a new critical praxis for the future. CCCCT’s activities include a digital initiative, numerous practical engagements, and a yearly seminar series that challenges the authority of established truths and falsehoods.


Center for Constitutional Governance

The Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) is a nonpartisan legal and policy organization devoted to the study of constitutional structure and authority. CCG invites academics, students, government officials, practitioners, and community members to engage with major constitutional and governance issues of the day, from health care to civil rights, immigration, financial regulation, and national security. 


Areas of Study

Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts

The Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts contributes to a broader understanding of the legal aspects of creative works of authorship, including their dissemination and use. It also helps students navigate the ever-changing legal dimensions of intellectual property in the digital age through courses, interdisciplinary seminars, and events on topics such as intellectual property, copyright, trademarks, the regulation of electronic media, and problems arising from new communications technologies, plus an externship on law and the arts.


Related Faculty

Michael Heller 2021

Michael A. Heller

  • Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law; Vice Dean for Curriculum
Professor Bert Huang

Bert Huang

  • Harold R. Medina Professor of Procedural Jurisprudence