Q&A with Senior Thesis Writer: Jonathan Slifkin

March 20, 2017
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What is the subject of your thesis?

I am writing my thesis on a topic in the history of legal philosophy. To put it as briefly as possible, I am offering a new interpretation of the debate between two of the most influential legal philosophers of the 20th century (H. L. A. Hart and John Finnis) by tracing it to its heretofore unrecognized roots in the philosophy of social science.

How did you decide on this topic?

I started reading books in “legal philosophy” a few years ago, since I already had independent academic interests in law and in philosophy. I found that the work of many important legal philosophers, such as H. L. A. Hart, was far more philosophically sophisticated than most contemporary legal scholars seemed to understand, leaving an opening for a significant contribution to legal scholarship from a philosophical perspective.

What have been the challenges and rewards of writing your thesis?

From my perspective, the challenges of writing a thesis consist in the time, sustained concentration, and extreme anxiety and frustration involved in working on a project of such scope and such high academic stakes. The reward is, in the best possible outcome, the completion of a project of such scope and academic success as could not have been achieved without the aforementioned costs of time, concentration, anxiety, and frustration.

Do you have any advice for concentrators who are approaching the thesis writing stage?

My advice would be to make sure you have an absolutely solid argument that you want to make before you begin the project of writing a thesis. I know that this advice is at odds with most people’s views and experiences. In my experience, however, it was only my confidence in my overall argument that enabled me to weather the otherwise crushing frustration and difficulty of the actual writing process.