Northern Arizona University/Environmental Ethics/Handouts/Term Paper

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Philosophy of Law

Paper Topic[edit | edit source]

Due Date: If you would like help from me in the form of written comments, then put together an outline of your paper and bring it to office hours. The term paper is due at the beginning of class at the time of the final exam.

Length: The paper should be from 8 full pages minimum to 10 pages maximum. All papers must be typed and double-spaced (indented quotes, etc. should be single-spaced if you use them). There is no penalty for exceeding the maximum number of pages by a small amount so long as the paper is well written and edited.

Mechanics[edit | edit source]

The quality of your paper as a piece of writing (spelling, punctuation, style, grammar, and--especially--clarity) will count in the determination of your grade. Essential to expressing your ideas effectively is writing clearly and with precision. All I (and your other readers) have to go on in evaluating your arguments is what you have written down. You may think you have it 'clear in your head', but you need to lead the reader step by step through your argumentation. It might help to have a friend read the paper to let you know where your paper lacks clarity. You're trying to develop reasoned arguments to justify a position. So try this test: cross out all occurrences of 'I think', 'I personally believe', 'I feel', or 'it's my opinion that'; then you'll see if you have backed up your opinions with reasons and evidence. For the reader is not interested so much in the fact that your convictions are yours, but rather the clarity and cogency of the reasons, arguments, and evidence you have in support of your opinions (so that your opinions are well-founded). Where you do need to indicate that a view is yours and not one of the authors covered in the course, start your discussion with an "I will argue", 'I will try to show', or 'My thesis is' and the transition will be plenty clear. Don't waste time and space with Vague Generalities (e.g. 'Justice is often cited by philosophers as being important,' 'the question of rights has perennially plagued thinkers,' 'Grotius did a really good job arguing...'). Rather, dig right into the arguments: 'Holmes holds that...and argues for it by claiming that...' 'An objection to the above premise is...' 'I maintain that...' etc. Cross out anything that might be considered 'FLUFF' in your rough draft. Try to capture the arguments in your own words. Be sure that your paper is yours and not merely a string a quotes from the texts. Here is a rule of thumb for this paper: a quote or two from Mill and a quote or two from Kant are fine (especially if the quotes are brief) if they are needed to demonstrate that these authors actually hold the position that you are attributing to them in your paper; seven or ten quotes is too many--especially if the purpose of the quotes is to avoid the hassle of putting the argument in your own words. If you do use the phrasing of other authors, you must quote and footnote them or it is plagiarism. NOTE: this is not a research paper, your time will probably be better spent going over and over the relevant passages and developing the argument rather than exploring the literature. If you do refer to sources outside of the required readings for the class, you must footnote any ideas taken from such sources.

Assignment[edit | edit source]

Pick a topic, locate a dispute, state your thesis, argue for the thesis, consider one or two central objections, develop responses, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your argument.