University of Kansas, Spring 2005
Philosophy 674: Philosophy of Law
Paper assignment no. 2
For this paper, first choose one of the following topics (or propose your own
to me, and I might approve it—but do not write on a topic other than any of
these, or on a variant of any of these, without getting my approval first).
- In Griswold v. Connecticut, Justice Douglas uses the concept of a
penumbra in order to argue that the Connecticut law prohibiting the use of
contraception is unconstitutional. Many people think, however, that the
concept of a penumbra—at least in the way Douglas uses it—is so vague (or
otherwise problematic) that Douglas’s argument is seriously flawed. Write a
paper offering the most sympathetic reconstruction of Douglas’s argument that
you can. In other words, what should we see Douglas as trying to say with the
concept of a penumbra, even if he does not quite say it? (Writing a paper on
this topic is essentially an exercise in interpretation, as Dworkin explains
that concept: it requires that you improve upon Douglas’s argument as much as
you can, as long as what you propose that we see Douglas as trying to say
fits with what he actually did say. Remember, you are reconstructing
Douglas’s argument, not replacing it. (You do not have to talk about Dworkin
in your paper. I just mention this Dworkinian aspect of this assignment in
order to clarify the nature of your task.))
- In “The Philosophers’ Brief,” Dworkin et al. argue that the Supreme
Court’s decision in the Casey case implies that the liberty interest at
stake in Washington v. Glucksberg is protected by the Constitution.
Rehnquist disagrees. Write a paper that explains and evaluates this
disagreement by answering the following questions. On what basis do Dworkin
et al. claim what they claim, and on what basis does Rehnquist disagree?
(That is, what does Rehnquist say is the correct interpretation of the
Casey decision, instead of the interpretation asserted by Dworkin et
al.?) And what is your own view of how the Casey decision bears on
the physician-assisted suicide case? (You should, of course, give an argument
in support of your view.)
- In his 1859 essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill asserted what has
come to be known as the harm principle. Write a paper that evaluates the harm
principle by answering the following questions. What does the harm principle
say or imply about when punishment is legitimate? Is the constraint that the
harm principle places on punishment justified? (That is, should we make sure
we don’t punish people for any sorts of actions besides the ones the harm
principle says it’s legitimate to punish people for? Why or why not?)
Following is a protocol for preparing your paper, turning it in, and further
tasks. (As before, I require strict compliance; deviations will be penalized.)
Your paper should be formatted just as your first paper should have been
formatted (mutatis mutandis). Here are the main guidelines:
- Use one side each of up to three sheets of business-sized (8.5” x 11”) paper.
- Use margins of at least one inch on all four sides.
- Staple the pages together.
- Use the font Times New Roman, or (if not available) the nearest available
- Use a type size of at least 12 points.
- Use the same font and type size throughout your whole document.
- Double-space all the lines.
- Make the lines flush-left—that is, don’t right-justify them.
- Number each page at the bottom, in the center. (This can be in the
bottom margin, rather than above it.)
- On the first line of the first page (not every page), list the following items, separated by commas:
- Philosophy of Law
- paper 2
- topic X (where Y is the number of the
topic, from above, being answered)
- answer Y (where Y is the three-digit code that will be used for this sheet
and no other)
- Start each paragraph of your paper with a half-inch indentation.
On Wednesday, April 13, bring three copies of your paper to class. On that
day, you will get comments on your paper from some of your classmates, and you
will read and comment on their papers. Two copies are for this purpose; the
third copy is to turn in to me. But I will not look at it until I grade the
paper you turn in on Friday, April 15 (see below), and then only to make sure you really
had your paper substantially finished on Wednesday.
- If you are absent on Wednesday, then by 12 noon on that day you must e-mail me
a copy of your paper (as an attachment, in Word format, not in the text of
your e-mail message). After I grade the hard copy you turn in on
Friday, I will download and print the attachment and make
sure you really had your paper substantially finished on Wednesday.
On Friday, April 15—after you have had a couple of days to revise your paper
in response to your classmates’ comments—bring a hard copy of your paper to
class to turn in. (Remember to change the date to 4/15/05.) When you are printing the hard copy you are going
to turn in, print a second hard copy for yourself. You will be required, later,
to have a duplicate of what you turn in on Friday.
- If you are absent on Friday, then by 12 noon on that day you must e-mail me
a copy of your paper (as an attachment, in Word format, not in the text of
your e-mail message). I will print and grade electronically submitted papers,
but only with a 5-point penalty. (Note that this is still less than my
lateness penalty of 10 points per day.)
Before going on, let me answer a few frequently asked questions.
- “Will you read rough drafts?” No, for three reasons. First, I have too
often have the experience of giving comments on a rough draft, judging the
final draft to be something short of perfect, being told something along the
lines of “I thought I made all the changes you asked for,” and ending up mired
in a discussion about what did or did not get said in the previous
conversation about the rough draft rather than about what is good or bad about
the paper itself. Second, I am setting aside a day in class for you to get
feedback from your classmates. Since they are capable of catching much of what
I usually end up catching—typographical errors, grammatical errors, lack of clarity, structural problems, etc., as well
more specifically “philosophical” problems—their feedback should be a good partial
substitute for mine. Third, I am perfectly willing to meet with you to talk
about your ideas.
- “Oh, so you will meet with us in advance?” Absolutely. I would be glad to
talk to you about the material, or help you think through the ideas in your
paper, if you’d like. You can even write a draft of your paper and bring it to
your meeting with me, and describe what you do in your paper, and I will tell you whether it
sounds like you are on the right track. This might compromise the anonymity of
your paper, but I believe that cost should be borne in order to help you get
as sound an understanding of the material as you can.
- “Can we e-mail you with questions, too?” Only if it is a simple procedural
question. If it’s a substantive question, please find some time to let me give
you my answer in person.
O.k., back to the assignment. At any time before or after you turn in your
paper (e.g., as soon as you read this would be fine), and definitely by the end
of Friday, April 15, send me an e-mail message letting me know of some times when
you are available to meet during the week of April 18. (Don’t tell me your
paper’s code! I will read and grade all
the papers, maintaining their anonymity, by April 18.) At our agreed
time, we will meet, and I will give you comments on your paper that you should
take into account in revising it. To meet individually with each of you will be
logistically challenging for me, so I am setting up the following rules to try
to minimize unnecessary inefficiencies:
- When you suggest some times, keep them open for at least a few hours, so
that if I can pick one and let you know quickly (as I hope to do), then we’ll
be all set.
- Be on time to our scheduled meeting.
- Bring any relevant texts, a copy of the paper assignment, an exact
physical duplicate of the paper you turned in to me in class, and something to
write with. (It is imperative that you bring a copy of the paper that you
turned in, so that you can see what I am referring to when I refer to
particular passages in your paper, and so that you can take accurate notes
when we talk about your paper.)
- Know the answer code you used, so that I can find your paper when we meet.
(Not until then will I know which paper is yours.) This answer code should, of
course, be on the copy of the paper you bring with you to our meeting, since
that should be an exact physical duplicate of what you turned in.
After we meet, you will have until Monday, April 25, to revise your paper,
with a length limit of up to four pages. This version of your paper should be
prepared in the same way as your previous versions, except that the date should
say 4/25/05. (Use the same answer code as on the previous versions.)
For general advice about writing a philosophy paper, see my “Guidelines for
Writing a Philosophy Paper” (http://www.ku.edu/~utile/courses/paper_guidelines_2.html) which contains
not only general advice, but also information about additional, more
extensive, sources of advice.