Foundations of American Legal Thought Explores Legal Theory Past and Present


A public lecture series exploring the foundations of American legal thought returns to Yale Law School this month.

The Program in the Foundations of American Legal Thought takes a closer look at canonical authors and movements in American legal theory past and present, connected to a formal course offered each spring.

“The goal of the series is to start conversations about the biggest ideas in American law, now and in the past,” said John Fabian Witt ‘99, Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale Law School. “The lecturer lineup includes a wide array of different voices, all of them asking a crucial question: what do ideas do in the law?”

The series began Jan. 17 with Witt delivering a lecture titled “American Legal Thought in Three Big Ideas.” 

This spring’s course is its fourth iteration. While each year’s lectures have presented unique, but overlapping, takes on legal scholarship, the goal of the course is for students to engage with and challenge their instructors’ reconstruction of the past, present, and future ideas about the law.

In the course, students will look at subjects such as legal formalism, legal realism, and the legal process school, as well as critical race theory, law and political economy, and topics in constitutional law. Lectures will explore links between law and other disciplines, including economics, history, literature, and philosophy.

Alongside Yale Law School faculty Scott Shapiro ’90, Aslı Ü. Bâli ’99, William Eskridge ’78, Ian Ayres ’86, Monica Bell ’09, Amy Kapczynski ’03, Anthony Kronman ’75, Reva Siegel ’86, and Ketan Ramakrishnan ’21, this year’s series will feature three guest speakers. New York University’s Noah Rosenblum ’17 will present on the topic “The Administrative State,” Boston College’s Aziz Rana ’06 will speak on the topic “Creedal Liberalism and the Victory of the Court,” and Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, will conclude the series with a lecture titled, “What is Natural Law?”

All lectures are free and open to the public and will be held on Wednesdays from 12:10-1 p.m. in the Sterling Law Building. Please visit the Yale Law School events calendar for dates and locations and to RSVP.