Classes in  Detail: Legal Argumentation
Legal Argumentation, Advocacy and Citizenship    
Class Description:
Legal Argumentation is one of the most complex and fascinating fields in rhetoric. It centres on the triangle of relationships of people, their actions and the norms in society. Legal argumentation concerns us all, be it as active citizens, moral agents, voters or members of diverse civic, religious or ethical groups. The course will be divided into three sections, analysing fundamentals of argumentation theory, basics of legal reasoning and special topics in legal argumentation. 

After finishing the course students should have a complete overview over the most important topics and theorems of argumentation theory and practice with a special emphasis on legal and moral reasoning. This objective will be reached with a mixture of theoretical overviews and practical applications that focus on an understating of modern legal and moral questions. Topics covered in this course include argumentation schemes and structures, probative burdens of arguers, kinds of legal and moral norms, interpretation and reconstructions of texts and their meaning and analysis of recent Supreme Court cases. 

I use Carter & Burke: Reason in Law as main textbook, as well as parts of Van Eemeren: Crucial Concepts in Argumentation Theory which is unfortunately currently out of print. In addition to that we read texts by Fred Kauffeld, Douglas Walton, Robert Alexy, Paul Grice, George Kennedy, and Richard Fogelin, as well as excerpts from the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Geneva Conventions.    

Sample Syllabus:  Download (pdf)

Student evaluations of this class: 
(all scores out of 5.0 maximum)

4.9 (Spring 2012)
5.0 (Fall 2011)
4.8 (Spring 2011)
4.9 (Spring 2010)

Selected student comments:
  • Spring 2012: "Professor Hoppmann is hands down the best professor I have encountered in our university. His level of acumen, enthusiasm, ability, and effectiveness are unrivaled by his peers. His intelligence and wit are complemented by his amazing communicability and respect that is evident in his interaction with students. He grades fairly, transfers vast amounts of information with efficiency and zeal in an engaging manner, and receives the utmost respect from his students who in my interactions before, during, and after class gush with admiration. When I learned he would teach another course the following semester, I instantly enrolled with no regard for scheduling or credit requirements. I doubt I will ever again find a professor of his caliber."
  • Spring 2012: "Legal Argumentation is the best and most difficult class I have taken at Northeastern thus far. Mostly everything covered in this class will be extremely beneficial to me in the future. The assignments were fantastic because they required different methods of presentation/preparation, and covered many aspects of the course."
  • Fall 2011: "This course is excellent and truly fascinating. The intensity of the material combined with the in-class debating and questioning make every class entertaining and a little bit nerve-racking. I enjoyed going to class everyday because it was always something different and it was never dry."
  • Fall 2011: "Michael is an excellent professor. He is truly skilled in what he does and really spoke to me as a student. He is quite possibly one of the smartest guys I have ever met. He never ceases to amaze with what he is capable of doing. He can be very intimidating at first but once you get to know him he is a great person who really cares about his classes and material. I would recommend him to anyone as long as they have the confidence to deal with Michael. Like I said, Michael can be intimidating. He is not hostile, but he is challenging. I loved the challenge though and I'm definitely a better student for it."
  • Spring 2011: "Professor Hoppmann is a fantastic professor, I looked forward to his classes every week. He articulates his thoughts very well and is the first one to challenge your argument, asking questions meant to catch you off guard and require improvisation. Given the opportunity I would definitely take another class with him."
  • Spring 2011: "Professor Hoppmann is obviously a brilliant rhetorician. He was able to explain concepts in enough detail to cover the tested material, but also evoked the students' personal interest in most of the argumentation topics, providing us with more information than "needed." This was probably his biggest strength - making the information clear yet just barely unfinished so that we would want to learn more. He was very effective and tons of fun to have in class."
  • Spring 2010: "One of the best Professors I have ever had at Northeastern and one of the best classes I have ever taken -- ever. Professor Hoppmann makes students think critically, doesn't accept an answer for the sake of an answer but challenges you to think it through, understand what you are saying, and the implications of what you are saying. Professor Hoppmann is a gem at Northeastern and the university should be scrambling to make sure he doesn't get snatched up by schools of a higher caliber."
  • Spring 2010: "Very good professor. The best I ever had! Very smart and know the subject very well! Friendly and always willing to help."
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