UNT Theses and Dissertations - 7 Matching Results

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Friends of the State Courts: Organized Interests and State Courts of Last Resort

Description: Why do interest groups participate in state courts of last resort by filing amicus curiae briefs? Are they influential when they do? This dissertation examines these questions using an original survey of organized interests that routinely participate in state supreme courts, as well as data on all amicus curiae briefs and majority opinions in over 14,000 cases decided in all fifty-two state supreme courts for a four year period. I argue that interest groups turn to state judiciaries to achieve the dual goals of influencing policy and organizational maintenance, as amicus briefs can help organized interests achieve both outcomes. Furthermore, I contend that amicus briefs are influential in shaping judicial policy-making through the provision of legally persuasive arguments. The results suggest that interest groups do file amicus briefs to both lobby for their preferred policies and to support their organization's long-term viability. Additionally, the results indicate that organized interests also participate in counteractive lobbying in state courts of last resort by filing amicus briefs to ensure their side is represented and to dull the effect of oppositional amici. The findings also demonstrate support for the influence of amicus briefs on judicial policy-making on state high courts, as amicus briefs can influence the ideological direction of the court's majority opinions. Overall, this research extends our understanding of interest group lobbing in the judiciary and in state policy venues, and provides insight into judicial politics and policy-making on state courts of last resort.
Date: December 2016
Creator: Perkins, Jared David
Partner: UNT Libraries

Friendship, Politics, and the Good in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

Description: In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Books VIII and IX provide A philosophic examination of friendship. While these Books initially appear to be non sequiturs in the inquiry, a closer examination of the questions raised by the preceding Books and consideration of the discussion of friendship's position between two accounts of pleasure in Books VII and X indicate friendship's central role in the Ethics. In friendship, Aristotle finds a uniquely human capacity that helps readers understand the good is distinct from pleasure by leading them to think seriously about what they can hold in common with their friends throughout their lives without changing who they are. What emerges from Aristotle's account of friendship is a nuanced portrait of human nature that recognizes the authoritative place of the intellect in human beings and how its ability to think about an end and hold its thinking in relation to that end depends upon whether it orders or is ordered by pleasures and pains. Aristotle lays the groundwork for this conclusion throughout the Ethics by gradually disclosing pleasures and pains are not caused solely by things we feel through the senses, but by reasoned arguments and ideas as well. Through this insight, we can begin to understand how Aristotle's Ethics is a work of political philosophy; to fully appreciate the significance of his approach, however, we must contrast his work with that of Thomas Hobbes, his harshest Modern critic. Unlike Aristotle, Hobbes is nearly silent on friendship in his political philosophy, and examining his political works especially Leviathan reveals the absence of friendship is part of his deliberate attempt to advance a politics founded on the moral teaching that pleasure is the good. Aristotle's political philosophy, by way of contrast, aims to preserve the good, and through friendship, he not only disentangles the good from ...
Date: May 2015
Creator: Pascarella, John Antonio
Partner: UNT Libraries

Montesquieu, Diversity, and the American Constitutional Debate

Description: It has become something of a cliché for contemporary scholars to assert that Madison turned Montesquieu on his head and thereafter give little thought to the Frenchman’s theory that republics must remain limited in territorial size. Madison did indeed present a formidable challenge to Montesquieu’s theory, but I will demonstrate in this dissertation that the authors of the Federalist Papers arrived at the extended sphere by following a theoretical pathway already cemented by the French philosopher. I will also show that Madison’s “practical sphere” ultimately concedes to Montesquieu that excessive territorial size and high levels of heterogeneity will overwhelm the citizens of a republic and enable the few to oppress the many. The importance of this dissertation is its finding that the principal mechanism devised by the Federalists for dealing with factions—the enlargement of the sphere—was crafted specifically for the purpose of moderating interests, classes, and sects within an otherwise relatively homogeneous nation. Consequently, the diverse republic that is America today may be exposed to the existential threat anticipated by Montesquieu’s theory of size—the plutocratic oppression of society by an elite class that employs the strategy of divide et impera.
Date: December 2015
Creator: Drummond, Nicholas W.
Partner: UNT Libraries

Not All Truth Commissions Are Alike: Understanding Their Limitations and Impact

Description: This dissertation project develops a theoretical understanding of how truth commissions achieve legitimacy and thus contribute to peace and stability in the aftermath of major traumatic events (e.g. civil war, mass killings, regime changes). I identify three components of truth commission legitimacy---authority, fairness, and transparency---that facilitate beneficial outcomes for societies emerging from a period of severe human rights repression or civil war. I theorize and test how institutions with these legitimacy characteristics contribute to an increase in respect for human rights and decrease political violence in transitioning societies, thus contributing to peace and stability. In order to test the hypothesized relationships, I create a truth commission characteristic dataset that provides greater detail than existing datasets. This project is a contribution to our understanding of the relationships between human rights, institutions, conflict, and international law. It provides one explanation for the inconsistent findings of extant work concerning the impact of transitional justice, generally and truth commissions, specifically. I provide evidence that there are identifiable "best practices" that truth commissions should consider adopting. This information can assist states, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations alike in making difficult decisions regarding the transitional justice process, which is expensive and time consuming further necessitating an understanding of what practices are most crucial for achieving peace and stability.
Date: December 2014
Creator: Nichols, Angela D.
Partner: UNT Libraries

The Political Philosophy of Rabelais’s Pantagruel: Reconciling Thought and Action

Description: Political thinkers of the Renaissance, foremost among them Niccolò Machiavelli and Desiderius Erasmus, authored works commonly referred to as “mirrors of princes.” These writings described how princes should rule, and also often recommended a certain arrangement or relationship between the intellectual class and the political powers. François Rabelais’s five books of Pantagruel also depict and recommend a new relationship between these elements of society. For Rabelais, the tenets of a philosophy that he calls Pantagruelism set the terms between philosophers and rulers. Pantagruelism, defined in Rabelais’s Quart Livre as “gaiety of spirit confected in contempt for fortuitous things,” suggest a measured attitude toward politics. Rabelais’s prince, Pantagruel, accordingly rejects the tendencies of ancient thinkers such as Diogenes the Cynic who viewed politics as futile. Yet Pantagruel also rejects the anti-theoretical disposition of modern thinkers such as Machiavelli who placed too much confidence in politics. I demonstrate how Rabelais warns against the philosophers’ entrance into public service, and how he simultaneously promotes a less selfish philosophy than that of Diogenes. I argue that Pantagruel’s correction of his friend Panurge through the consultations of experts regarding the latter’s marriage problem shows that fortune will always trouble human life and politics. I also argue that Pantagruel’s rule over the kingdom of Utopia exemplifies a Socratic form of rule—reluctant rule—which relies on a trust that necessity (embodied in the Tiers Livre in the Pantagruelion plant) and not fortune (embodied in the Tiers Livre in Panurge’s future wife) governs the world, including the political world.
Date: August 2015
Creator: Haglund, Timothy
Partner: UNT Libraries

Scripture for America: Scriptural Interpretation in John Locke's Paraphrase

Description: Is John Locke a philosopher or theologian? When considering Locke's religious thought, scholars seldom point to his Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul. This is puzzling since the Paraphrase is his most extensive treatment of Christian theology. Since this is the final work of his life, did Locke undergo a deathbed conversion? The scholarship that has considered the Paraphrase often finds Locke contradicting himself on various theological doctrines. In this dissertation, I find that Locke not only remains consistent with his other writings, but provides his subtlest interpretation of Scripture. He is intentionally subtle in order to persuade a Protestant audience to modern liberalism. This is intended to make Protestantism, and specifically Calvinism, the vehicle for modern liberalism. This is seen clearly in Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Though Weber concludes that Protestant support for capitalism in the late 19th Century is due to its theological foundation, I find that Weber is actually examining Lockean Protestantism. Locke's success in transforming Protestantism is also useful today in showing how a modern liberal can converse with someone who actively opposes, and may even wish to harm, modern liberalism. The dissertation analyzes four important Protestant doctrines: Faith Alone, Scripture Alone, the church and family, and Christian political life.
Date: August 2016
Creator: Kearns, Kevin M
Partner: UNT Libraries

Thucydides’ Sparta: Law, Piety, and the Regime

Description: My dissertation investigates Thucydides’ presentation of Sparta. By viewing the war through Sparta, one is confronted with debates on the moral dimensions of war. Sparta decries the imperialism of Athens as unjust and while the Athenians imply that such claims are merely Spartan ‘hypocrisy’ and therefore that Sparta does not truly take justice seriously, my study contends that the Spartan concern with justice and piety is genuine. While the Athenians present a sophisticated and enlightened view of what they believe guides all political actions (a view most scholars treat as Thucydides’ own) my study argues that Sparta raises problems for key arguments of the ‘Athenian thesis.’ Through a closer study of Thucydides’ Sparta, including his neglected Book 5, I locate details of both Sparta’s prosecution of the war and their regime that must be considered before agreeing with the apparent sobriety and clear-sightedness of the Athenians, thus leading the reader into the heart of Thucydides’ view of morality in both foreign affairs and domestic politics. A portion of this research is currently being prepared as an article-length study on the broad and important issue of hypocrisy in foreign affairs among states.
Date: August 2014
Creator: Hadley, Travis Stuart
Partner: UNT Libraries