Philosophy of Law and the State


The main focus of the course is the origin and the philosophical and juridical foundation of the State. The students will discuss and analyze the origin of the State from different perspectives (political, legal, anthropological, historical). The goal is combining these perspective and clarifying crucial concepts such as individual, person, community, society. Two main dichotomies will be helpful in understanding the theoretical framework: individualism / institutionalism, contractualism / conventionalism.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Giovanni Damele


Weekly - 3

Total - 280

Teaching language



Not applicable


Hans Kelsen (ed. by N. Urbinati and C. Invernizzi Accetti), The Essence and Value of Democracy, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2013

Hans Kelsen, General Theory of Law and State, Cambridge, Harvard U.P., 1945

Lars Vinx (ed.), The Guardian of the Constitution. Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt on the Limits of Constitutional Law. Cambridge, Cambridge U.P., 2015  

Teaching method

Teaching - Lectures introducing the major themes of the course (50%), and discussion of selected texts (50%).

Evaluation method

Available soon

Subject matter

Kelsen's theory of the State and the debate about sovereignty.

The course will focus on Hans Kelsen's legal and political philosophy, starting from the controversy with Carl Schmitt about the guardianship of the constitution and the "state of exception". We will focus our attention particularly on a comprehensive analysis of Hans Kelsen's theory of the State and on his approach strongly influenced by political realism and by the attempt of resolving the tension between liberalism and democracy.