I was doing a little research this morning, and I stumbled across a paper by Frances Howard-Snyder, which I think I'd read before but hadn't thought about in a while, called "Rule Consequentialism is a Rubber Duck." I think that might be the best paper title in the world. At least, I haven't thought of one I like better in the last hour or two.
And it makes me a little sad. It seems that, as a group, we philosophers don't work very hard at titling our papers and books. A title should cultivate interest in the project--make us want to read the paper--first and foremost. It should also give a clue as to what the paper is about, I suppose, but if I know what the paper is about but I still don't feel like reading it, the title didn't work. "Rubber Duck" doesn't tell me what the paper is about, exactly (though it gives a clue--bath time), but it does make me want to stop what I'm doing and find out. And in my view that makes it a pretty good title.
If you're not going to give your paper a snappy title that grabs me and makes me want to put down what I'm doing and read the paper, I guess I am okay with the titling convention that lists the two or three topics that the paper addresses. "Blank and Blank" or "Blank, Blank, and Blank," or "Blank and Blank in the Context of Blank," or maybe "On Blank," or "The Nature of Blank," or "A Theory of Blank," or even "Principia Blankica." These are fine, and if you have to use one it will do.
One convention that I don't really care for is when the title is identical to the question the paper attempts to answer. I would much rather know, for example, that the author thinks that time does, in fact, pass than to merely know that the author has taken up the question of whether time passes. And it would be even better for the title to give me a hint about what argument for the passage view the paper defends. So, "Does Time Pass?" is not as good as "Time Passes" or "A Defense of the Passage View of Time," which is not as good as "A New Version of the Irreducibility of Tense Argument for the A-Theory." Or whatever.
But I'm not in love with that kind of title, and I increasingly feel like I don't have the knack for coming up with snappier ones. So instead I'm going to start doing what Plato did, and that's name the paper after one of the principal people the paper is in dialogue with. So, for example, my paper defending consequentialism in normative ethics from objections based on integrity is going to be called "Bernard Williams." The only problem is, my paper attacking mental functionalism is called "Hilary Putnam," but so is my other paper defending it. I'm worried that people might get confused.