Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

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gilagarta
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Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby gilagarta » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:27 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm realizing much of what's going over my head in class discussion involves information about philosophy and history that professors and other students throw about as if they're common knowledge.

Examples: "Oh, well that's similar to Locke's view on slavery..."
"Well when looked at in the lens of the underlying motivations behind the Civil War..."
"Compare that to what we all know about the Founding Father's views on property rights..."

For whatever reason (poor undergad institution, inability to retain knowledge), I don't have much of this background knowledge that my professors and fellow students seem to be relying on. My question is, are there any good go-to sources or background reading that I can do to help bring me up to everyone else's level? I'm willing to put in the work that's necessary, but does anyone know of any good primers or any books or study guides that particularly pertain to how these subjects relate to the law? I'm particularly concerned about legal philosophy.

Thanks for any suggestions. I've got to do something to help me feel like less of an idiot in all my classes.

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mrmangs
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby mrmangs » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:30 pm


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traehekat
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby traehekat » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:30 pm

Honestly, I probably wouldn't worry about it, unless you have evidence from past exams from your professors that you actually need knowledge of this kind of stuff to do well. A lot of times I think professors talk about this stuff just because they get bored and it can be more interesting than just going over the same cases/teaching the same law every year. They would rather have an interesting conversation in class than actually teach you anything you can use on the exam, sometimes.

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gilagarta
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby gilagarta » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:36 pm

Thanks mrmangs, this looks really helpful and a lot more comprehensive than wikipedia :)

2011Law
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby 2011Law » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:49 pm

gilagarta wrote:Hi everyone,

I'm realizing much of what's going over my head in class discussion involves information about philosophy and history that professors and other students throw about as if they're common knowledge.

Examples: "Oh, well that's similar to Locke's view on slavery..."
"Well when looked at in the lens of the underlying motivations behind the Civil War..."
"Compare that to what we all know about the Founding Father's views on property rights..."

For whatever reason (poor undergad institution, inability to retain knowledge), I don't have much of this background knowledge that my professors and fellow students seem to be relying on. My question is, are there any good go-to sources or background reading that I can do to help bring me up to everyone else's level? I'm willing to put in the work that's necessary, but does anyone know of any good primers or any books or study guides that particularly pertain to how these subjects relate to the law? I'm particularly concerned about legal philosophy.

Thanks for any suggestions. I've got to do something to help me feel like less of an idiot in all my classes.


Locke's view on slavery is not really common knowledge. The people who say those things probably majored in philosophy / history.

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vanwinkle
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby vanwinkle » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:59 pm

2011Law wrote:Locke's view on slavery is not really common knowledge. The people who say those things probably majored in philosophy / history and are eager to justify that choice before their peers.

FTFY.

You can do very well in law school without a philosophy or history background, by studying solely the concepts your professor is teaching you and supplements that fill in the gaps on rationale and policy. Really, the only reason you ever need to know history on an exam is either 1) to give more background for why a rule should be applied a certain way or 2) to say a competing view is outdated and not applied by modern courts anymore. In either of these situations the only history you need is the history of that rule, which you should sufficiently learn in class.

I do wonder sometimes how many folks at the bottom of the class are former philosophy or history majors who wrote essays about philosophy or history on their finals.

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gilagarta
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby gilagarta » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:07 pm

vanwinkle wrote:2011Law wrote:
Locke's view on slavery is not really common knowledge. The people who say those things probably majored in philosophy / history and are eager to justify that choice before their peers.


This is the attitude that I had first semester. However, now that I got my grades back (yuck) and I'm trying to figure out ways to improve this semester, I'm wondering if this is the kind of background that I need to gain in order to do better. Do you guys have any more general recommendations for how to move from what I thought was a really solid understanding of the law, which got me Bs, to whatever I need to do to get As?

2011Law
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby 2011Law » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:16 pm

gilagarta wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:2011Law wrote:
Locke's view on slavery is not really common knowledge. The people who say those things probably majored in philosophy / history and are eager to justify that choice before their peers.


This is the attitude that I had first semester. However, now that I got my grades back (yuck) and I'm trying to figure out ways to improve this semester, I'm wondering if this is the kind of background that I need to gain in order to do better. Do you guys have any more general recommendations for how to move from what I thought was a really solid understanding of the law, which got me Bs, to whatever I need to do to get As?


I'm a 0L, majored in poli sci and minored in political philosophy, and I know nothing I learned will really help in law school (except if I take a class in philosophy of law, since I took that). The only thing that a degree in that really helps you with is to force you (hopefully) to become a better writer and analyzer of texts.

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vamedic03
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby vamedic03 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 4:46 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
2011Law wrote:Locke's view on slavery is not really common knowledge. The people who say those things probably majored in philosophy / history and are eager to justify that choice before their peers.

FTFY.

You can do very well in law school without a philosophy or history background, by studying solely the concepts your professor is teaching you and supplements that fill in the gaps on rationale and policy. Really, the only reason you ever need to know history on an exam is either 1) to give more background for why a rule should be applied a certain way or 2) to say a competing view is outdated and not applied by modern courts anymore. In either of these situations the only history you need is the history of that rule, which you should sufficiently learn in class.

I do wonder sometimes how many folks at the bottom of the class are former philosophy or history majors who wrote essays about philosophy or history on their finals.


I'm with VW on this. You really don't need any sort of philosophical or historical background.

Two further thoughts on this:

(1) Even if you get into more theoretical areas (i.e., jurisprudence), the literature will borrow terms from philosophy and it's helpful to look up the terms so that you're on the same page. Conceptually, however, you already have the tools you need from your 1L classes.

(2) A lot of people, professors included, like to use complicated language. The best writing, on exams, in academic works, and especially court briefs, is simple and straightforward. Don't let yourself be intimidated by the use of excessive, flowery language couched in complex, run-on sentences.

As to your performance, this probably has more to do with (a) learning how to take law school exams and (b) learning the gray area in addition to just knowing black letter law. Go see your professors and go over your exams. (always remember 3 things: (1) answer the question asked (not the question you wanted to have asked); (2) always focus on applying law to fact; (3) your professor's opinion is the controlling opinion (your professor, because she grades your exams, is like the Supreme Court))

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Amy wineBerry
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby Amy wineBerry » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:30 am

traehekat wrote:Honestly, I probably wouldn't worry about it, unless you have evidence from past exams from your professors that you actually need knowledge of this kind of stuff to do well. A lot of times I think professors talk about this stuff just because they get bored and it can be more interesting than just going over the same cases/teaching the same law every year. They would rather have an interesting conversation in class than actually teach you anything you can use on the exam, sometimes.


I found this to be the norm. The only time philosophy comes into play is on a policy based question; and I'm sure you can ask your professor if he or she will give one on an exam. I was terrified in my torts class last semester because I could not "properly" articulate abstract concepts in the same manner as my peers. However, on the exam, abstract philosophy and policy related determinations were out of place, since the exam was straight issue spotter. I probably used the most simple writing for this exam; although, I didn't get an A, I did better than I thought I would. (I went into the exam like this :| and came out like :cry:. Got my grade back and was like 8) (well, until I saw my other grades, but whatever).

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Borhas
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby Borhas » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:18 am

mrmangs wrote:For philosophy.


purdy much

though really, there's no point to using that in law school... and no point at all to read random liberal arts stuff during school
Last edited by Borhas on Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

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NZA
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby NZA » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:21 am

Borhas wrote:
mrmangs wrote:For philosophy.


purdy much


TITCR

I love the SEP.

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A'nold
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby A'nold » Tue Feb 01, 2011 11:25 am

Your time will be MUCH better spent learning how to effectively take law school exams. There are a ton of threads on here that deal with subject. Maybe you could tell us your approach and your thoughts on what it takes to "get an A" on law school exams and then we could give you our tips developed over our time in law school. There are many "A getters" on this site and even this thread. Good luck!

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homestyle28
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby homestyle28 » Tue Feb 01, 2011 11:29 am

mrmangs wrote:For philosophy.


+ a bunch.

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Gamecubesupreme
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby Gamecubesupreme » Thu Feb 03, 2011 1:17 pm

Putting aside helpful law school related advice, I personally think having a decent knowledge of philosophy/history is good for you in the long-run. It might even come up during interviews or cocktail parties, you never know.

rejectmaster
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby rejectmaster » Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:10 pm

in con law it is really apparent who majored in gov't or US history

meanwhile i hadn't read about that stuff since us history in high school

also there are a few canadians who really have never been exposed to this kind of stuff so it is really intimidating because it appears that some other people know everything already.

in reality though it is the same as the response you'd get from mentioning some really basic aspect of calculus to someone who doesn't know anything about it.

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kswiss
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Re: Legal philosophy/history for idiots - need help!

Postby kswiss » Thu Feb 03, 2011 7:23 pm

gilagarta wrote:
vanwinkle wrote:2011Law wrote:
Locke's view on slavery is not really common knowledge. The people who say those things probably majored in philosophy / history and are eager to justify that choice before their peers.


This is the attitude that I had first semester. However, now that I got my grades back (yuck) and I'm trying to figure out ways to improve this semester, I'm wondering if this is the kind of background that I need to gain in order to do better. Do you guys have any more general recommendations for how to move from what I thought was a really solid understanding of the law, which got me Bs, to whatever I need to do to get As?


Honestly, not knowing the philosophy of law was not why you didn't get an A. You are barking up the wrong tree. Go to your profs and ask, and I guarantee they won't say, "Well your exam didn't show a thorough understanding of Kant's justifications for punishment." They will say, "You didn't apply law to fact as well as your peers."

If you start concentrating on stuff aside from the raw skills required to take an exam, your grades are likely to get worse, not better.

FYI: I am in the exact situation as you regarding history/philosophy, and I excelled last semester.




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