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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.