Critical Thinking Is a Learned Skill
Serious philosophical study is a rigorous activity that facilitates the development and growth of the mind. Learn to think critically. Demonstrate intellectual courage by facing attacks on your own most central beliefs and convictions. Wake up and learn to notice the transcendent, the puzzling, and the wonderful in the everyday. Live a life worth living.
Majors and Minors
- Traditional Track
- Ethics Track
- Pre-Law Track
- Traditional Philosophy Minor
- Ethics Minor
Philosophy and Law School
Undergraduates who plan on attending law school should seek an undergraduate major that will develop the skills that are necessary for success in law school and for success in the practice of law. Among the most important of these skills are analytical and logical reasoning, persuasive argument writing, and research skills. The Law School Admissions Council provides the following description of law school pedagogy. This discription is accurate and makes self-evident the value of philosophy as the ideal undergraduate major for those interested in law school:
Most law school professors employ "the case method" of teaching. The case method involves the detailed examination of a number of related judicial opinions that describe an area of law. The role of the law professor is to provoke and stimulate. For a particular case, he or she may ask questions designed to explore the facts presented, to determine the legal principles applied in reaching a decision, and to analyze the method of reasoning used. In this way, the professor encourages you to relate the case to others and to distinguish it from those with similar but inapplicable precedents. In order to encourage you to learn to defend your reasoning, the professor may adopt a position contrary to the holding of the case.
The case method reflects the general belief that the primary purpose of law school is not to teach substantive law but to teach you to think like a lawyer. Teachers of law are less concerned about rules and technicalities than are their counterparts in many other disciplines. Although the memorization of specifics may be useful to you, the ability to be analytical and literate is considerably more important than the power of total recall. One reason for this approach to legal education is that in our common-law tradition, the law is constantly evolving and changing; thus, specific rules may quickly lose their relevance.
Law is more an art than a science. The reality lawyers seek in analyzing a case is not always well-defined. Legal study, therefore, requires an attentive mind and a tolerance for ambiguity. Because many people believe incorrectly that the study of law involves the memorization of rules in books and principles dictated by learned professors, law schools often attract those people who especially value structure, authority, and order. The study of law does not involve this kind of certainty, however; complex legal questions do not have simple legal solutions.
For the full description, see The Juris Doctor Degree.
Philosophy and Legal Reasoning
Federal Appellate Judge (and former law professor) Richard Posner also notes the connection between philosophy and legal reasoning:
[T]he methods of analytic philosophy and of legal reasoning--the making of careful distinctions and definitions, the determination of logical consistency through the construction and examination of hypothetical cases, the bringing of buried assumptions to the surface, the breaking up of a problem into manageable components, the meticulous exploration of the implications of an opponent's arguments--are mainly the same. (Richard A. Posner, Overcoming Law [Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1995], 9).