March 16, 2009

Welcome back

Reading for Thursday: De Botton Consolations 73-113.

Intro to Ethics
Writing Assignment 4
First Draft Due by Email: Sunday, March 22
Final Draft Due by Email: Monday, March 30
Target Length: 750 words

Three Options:

Option 1: Friendship -- Epicurus believes that friendship is very important for a happy life. His exact idea of a happy life isn’t totally clear; he emphases the absence of pain, long term contentment or satisfaction, and occasional bursts of good feeling. Lots of people like to have friends, but others are satisfied with cordial relations with people, neighborliness, that sort of thing. Do you think that close friendships, in general, make it more or less likely that one will live a happy life?

Whichever view you take on this question, start with the other one, in your essay. If you think that having close friendships will – in general -- make it more likely that a person will live a happy life, then start your paper this way: “Some people think that having close friendships makes it less likely that a person will live a happy life.” Then, give the best arguments you can think of for that that position – the one you don’t agree with. Then, answer those arguments, one at a time. When you have done all these things, then give your own arguments about why friendship makes a happy life more likely.

Note: you may need to make some distinctions among sorts of close friendships in the course of writing this paper.

Option 2 – Happiness

Epicurus thinks that philosophers can help people to be happy, that they can know more about a person’s happiness than can that person him or herself. Do you think that you are the ultimate expert on your own happiness, or that it is likely that somebody else knows more about your happiness than you do?

As in the first option, if you believe that you are the ultimate expert on your own happiness, begin your paper with the sentence, “Some people think that others can know more about their happiness than they do.” Then, give the best arguments you can for that position and answer those arguments, one at a time. Only after doing this, go on to give your own arguments that you are the ultimate expert on your own happiness.

Option 3 - Pursuit of Power and Fame


Epicurus believes that one cannot be happy if one spends one’s life pursuing power and fame (as for example in competitive business or competitive politics). Do you think that he is right: is competition for power and fame compatible with happiness?

As in options 1 and 2, if you think that you can be happy pursuing power and fame, begin your paper with the sentence “Some people think you cannot be happy pursuing power and fame.” Give the strongest arguments you can for that position, then answer them, one at a time. Only after doing this, go on to give your own arguments for your own position.

March 4, 2009

Notes for Thursday, March 5

The schedule is a bit rough this week, because I had to cancel the 9 am class on Tuesday; my car overheated a mile out from my house.

So, first of all, please do the following for Thursday:

1. Review the reading notes on Thoreau.

2. Read the second chapter in DeBotton, Consolation for Not Having Enough Money, and be clear on what Epicurus thinks is needed for happiness and about how Epicurus thinks about the various goods that people propose as necessary for happiness, to determine whether they are in fact necessary – his method.

3. Watch the Kahneman video; link is posted on the website. Make a list of the conclusions he reaches about happiness and of the experiments he does to test ideas about happiness. Make special notes of what surprises you.

I will try to finish the grading and commenting today. We may need to move the final draft deadline for paper three out a bit to allow for time to take account of comments. We will talk about that in class on Thursday.

March 3, 2009

9 am class on Tuesday, March 3 cancelled

Because of car trouble, I had to cancel the 9 am class. I will meet the 2 pm class as usual. Check the website for information about Thursday's class.

February 27, 2009

Epicurus on Happiness -- for March 3/5

The topic for this week will be De Botton's summary of the views of Epicurus, pages 43 to 73 in Consolations. There is one other assignment. View the lecture by Nobel laureate David Kahneman at this address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7cECaUAnTQ .

On the Epicurus, know what he means by thought, freedom, and friendship, and know how he determines whether a good is something that we truly need to be happy. On the Kahneman, be able to summarize his experiments and their results. Make a list of the facts about happiness, especially the surprising facts, that Kahneman claims fall out of his research work.

We will spend the first part of Tuesday wrapping up the Thoreau section. Review the second chapter of Walden.

February 26, 2009

Class Cancelled Thursday February 26

Because of the dire warnings about snow and freezing rain, I am canceling today's class. Be prepared to discuss the second chapter of Walden on Tuesday. Remember that the first draft of paper 3 is due on Friday. Please check the course website tomorrow for further information about next week's work.

February 25, 2009

Class tomorrow? Stay tuned.

The snowstorm might force me to cancel class tomorrow. I will send out emails and post a notice on this blog, to let you know whether class will happen. Please check both places tomorrow morning.

This link will get you a nicely edited version of the second chapter of Walden, with good notes available as needed: http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/thoreau/walden/chapter02.html

Work for Thursday, February 26

The next writing draft is due Friday. Here's the assignment: Download file

This is the Thursday reading assignment:

Reading Assignment for February 26
Walden: Please read this section: “Where I lived and What I Lived For.”

“Where I lived and What I Lived For”

This section begins with thoughts about ownership and imagination: can one use one’s imagination to derive from a place much of that value that one could have by owning it? What, after all, do we want from a place? Why is it important to us?

Thoreau next describes where he lives, and the virtues of his house and the land around it. This shades into a discussion of what attitude was made possible in him by the place where he lived. This discussion begins, “Every morning was an invitation to make my life of equal simplicity…” It continues to the end of the chapter.

This last part of the chapter divides between an account of Thoreau’s ideal in life, which he calls awakening or being awake, and the distractions and normalizations and sleepiness offered by civilized life. He is perhaps trying to explain why he must go some distance from civilization to pursue this ideal of attention or wakefulness.

February 14, 2009

Walden for Tuesday, February 17

Read the notes for the first chapter of Walden, and then read that chapter, using the notes as a reference guide: Download file

February 11, 2009

Writing notes

Here are the notes from the talk I gave on writing on Tuesday: Download file

The second writing assignment: Download file

Preparing for the quiz on Republic IV -- February 12

Here are some questions to think about, in preparing for the quiz on Thursday:

1. In one way, Plato’s Republic is a giant meditation on the advice, “Mind your own business,? as that applies to the classes within the city and to the corresponding parts within the person. What does Plato mean by this, in each case, and what disasters does he see happening when a class within a city ignores this advice? When the parts within a person ignore this advice?

2. How does Plato set up the parts of the city, and what are the corresponding parts in the human soul?

3. Why is Plato so concerned to regulate music and poetry in his well governed state?

4. What is Plato’s fear about the democratic soul (for this, see 561 a-d especially)?

5. Plato’s well-governed state is set up to be resilient, to endure challenges from internal disorder and external attack. What features account for this resilience?

February 9, 2009

Another day

I will need another day, Monday, to finish comments on the first paper. We'll talk about that paper in class on Tuesday. I apologize for the inconvenience.

February 6, 2009

For Tuesday, February 10

Reading notes for next assignment: Download file

BE SURE TO READ THE NOTES FIRST, AND TO USE THEM AS A GUIDE TO READING THE TEXT.

My comments on the first writing assignment drafts will appear in your email this weekend. The new final draft deadline is Friday, February 13.

February 4, 2009

Preparing for the quiz -- Feb 5, 2009

Here are some questions to review with respect to book 3 of Republic. The quiz may cover other matters though, and any material from previous quizzes is fair game, so do a careful review. Pay particular attention to the summary notes on this blog.

What kinds of stories does Plato want to exclude from his ideal city? What are his reasons for excluding the stories he excludes?

Why is acting in a play more dangerous than reading a story, if the actions depicted are of the wrong sort?

What stance does the Republic take on the following matters:

Physical and artistic education?
Erotic relationships between grown men and boys?
Medicine?
Food?
The economic status of rulers and soldiers?
The proper criteria for selecting rulers?

What is the function and point of the myth of the metals, at the end of book 3.

January 28, 2009

Reading for Tuesday, February 3

The assignment for Tuesday is most of book 3 of the Republic. Here are the notes: Download file

January 27, 2009

Preparing for class -- Thursday, January 29

Here are some questions to help you prepare for quiz 2: Download file

Note that the reading assignment listed in the last posting as margin numbers corresponds to pages 30 to 47 in the Grube translation. Please read these very carefully.

Anything on quiz 1 is fair game for quiz 2.