Law and Philosophy


The philosophical underpinnings and implications of law have been a central concern for as long as there has been law. Ultimately, law is a system of rules to regulate society, and the goodness or badness of any rule must be judged by its success in promoting a more just society.

Not surprisingly, then, what justice requires in a given sphere of activity and what set of rules will best achieve it are foundational questions in virtually every area of law—questions answered by scholars exploring the intersection of law and philosophy. In the past century, legal philosophers have made major contributions in areas as diverse as the justification for criminal punishment; the meaning of consent in private contracts; the moral basis of private property rights; distributive justice in tax regimes, the welfare state, eminent domain and allocation of citizenship rights; a rights-based versus welfarist account of the tort system; the state’s right to regulate family relationships; the justness of preventive war; the moral basis of legislation; intergenerational justice in environmental law; biomedical ethics; and the values of free speech and democracy in campaign finance reform.

The opportunities to open up new legal questions to philosophical inquiry, as well as shed new light on old questions, are virtually limitless. In many cases, this work requires thorough grounding in both legal institutions and philosophy—and Stanford’s JD/PhD program in law and philosophy is designed to provide that foundation. Although the program may be most relevant to aspiring academics, anyone hoping to work in policy positions in fields such as biomedical ethics and environmental ethics or even tax may find this joint degree useful.

Course Requirements

As many as 54 quarter units of approved courses may be counted toward both degrees. No more than 31 quarter units of courses that originate outside the law school may count toward the law degree.

The maximum number of law school credits that may be counted toward the PhD in philosophy is the greater of: (i) 12 quarter units; or (ii) the maximum number of units from courses outside the department that PhD candidates in philosophy are permitted to count toward their degree under general departmental guidelines or in the case of a particular student’s individual program.

Stanford Philosophy Department

Note to applicants: The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program awards full funding to Stanford graduate students from all disciplines, with additional opportunities for leadership training and collaboration across fields. Joint Degree applicants are encouraged to apply to the KnightHennessy Scholars Program.  Please be aware that the Knight-Hennessy Scholars applications are due in early Autumn one year prior to enrollment. View dates and deadlines:


Joshua Cohen 1

Joshua Cohen

  • Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society
  • Professor of Political Science, Philosophy and Law, Emeritus
Henry T. Greely

Henry T. Greely

  • Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law
  • Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences
  • Professor, by courtesy, Genetics
  • Chair, Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics
  • Director, Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society
Barton H. Thompson, Jr.

Barton Thompson

  • Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law
  • Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment
  • Professor, Doerr School of Sustainability
Allen S. Weiner

Allen S. Weiner

  • Senior Lecturer in Law
  • Director, Stanford Program in International and Comparative Law
  • Director, Stanford Humanitarian Program
  • Director, Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation