Northern Arizona University/Environmental Ethics/Handouts/Short Paper

Philosophy of Law

Short paper #3

(1 ½ to 2 pages, typewritten, due March 15th at the beginning of class. If you would prefer to turn it in after Spring Break, just let me know.)

It is time to start thinking about the term paper. Let us use this short assignment as an opportunity to start the process of doing the research and settling on a topic and thesis. For this assignment, pick a topic for your term paper. Start with something that is fairly broad and see if you can narrow it down by picking a dispute over a particular issue. The issue might be something fairly narrowly proscribed, such as the dispute between two Supreme Court justices who have penned an opinion and a dissent in a case of constitutional law. The issue might be something less narrow, such as a dispute between two philosophers about the nature of a form of inference such as analogy and how it can or can’t be used to settle matters in the law. Finally, think about the thesis you would like to work on as you attempt to work through such a dispute. You don’t need to figure out the key ideas in your argument for the thesis—that will be the aim of the next short assignment. Instead, try to clarify the thesis.

So, to sum up what I am asking to you to do in the short paper, here are the three things you need to do. First, identify a topic and explain what it it is about the topic you find interesting. That should take a couple of paragraphs. Second, locate a dispute over a question and attempt to clarify the nature of the dispute. That will take most of a page. Third, state your thesis and attempt to clarify what position you intend to argue for in the term paper. That will take a couple of paragraphs. If, after writing this paper, you change your mind and decide to write your term paper on another topic and another question, then that will be fine. By writing this paper, you may discover that you are heading down what appears to be a dead end, or you might discover that a question that isn’t quite as interesting as you first thought. Better to discover that now than in the last week of classes. If you do discover such a fact, you can always write another short paper #3, and so on, until you settle on a topic and thesis.

Given the aims of this class, there are three general classes of topics you might consider. You might write a paper on the philosophical foundations of constitutional law, or the foundations of international law, or you might look at the relationship between constitutional law and international law.

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