4. Assignment by Interest – #2 – Please select and complete the assignment that interests you the most.
Option A. Life at the Death Camps
Please review the assigned excerpts from An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps by Terrence Des Pres and respond to the following question.
Does Terrence Des Pres think the human moral sense is an idealistic illusion or an evolutionary survival strategy? Please explain your answer and whether you agree or disagree with Des Pres’ analysis. Cite at least one numbered paragraph for support.
Option B. Lincoln’s Great Depression
Please read the following article, titled Lincoln’s Great Depression by Joshua Wolf Shenk and respond to the following question.
What is the thesis of Joshua Wolf Shenk’s article about Abraham Lincoln? Identify three of Lincoln’s coping strategies (skills, habits, or ways of thinking) that helped him use depression to achieve his greatness.
Option C. Darwin’s Eyes Exercise
Please review the following exercise called the Darwin’s Eyes Exercise and respond to the following questions.
4a. According to scientist Michael Tomasello, why do humans have ”whites in our eyes” whereas apes do not?
4b. What are the implications for human cooperation as a survival strategy? Is this consistent with a ”survival of the fittest” view of the world?
Option D. The Righteous Mind
Please listen to minutes 32:00 to 41:00 from the following podcast (feel free to the whole thing!): The Righteous Mind with Jonathan Haidt at EconTalk, and answer the following questions:
4a. What does Jonathan Haidt mean when he says that human morality is 90% chimp and 10% bee?
4b. Based on the discussion in the podcast, what does 10% bee have to do with “people going to football games in sub-zero weather painting their faces and taking their shirts off”?
4c. What are the implications for human cooperation? In your view, how powerful is our inner chimp versus our inner bee?
5. Assignment by Interest – #3 – Please select and complete the assignment that interests you the most.
Option A. Pleasure v. Happiness
The Declaration of Independence refers to the “pursuit of happiness.” Should the word “pleasure” be substituted for “happiness”? Why or why not?
You may find the discussion of this topic in the Sample Dialogue: A Case of Cheating to be helpful.
Option B. Help Henry Exercise
Please review the University of Maryland’s Help Henry Exercise (reading all parts) and respond to the following questions.
a. If you were Henry, would you hire Packer or Stacker? Why?
b. How does this hiring decision relate to themes from the Alan Greenspan speech and the value of honesty and integrity in the workplace?
Option C. Friendship, Fidelity, and Academic Integrity
Please review Friendship, Fidelity, and Academic Integrity by Gary Pavela and respond to the following questions.
5a. What qualities do you value in your friends?
5b. Do your friends help make you a “better” person? If so, identify the qualities that make you “better.”
5c. Do you try to help your friends become better people? If so, how?
6. Statement of Gratitude
Please read Book One of the Meditations of Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Then write a concise statement of gratitude (400 words or less) identifying the ethical and intellectual debts you owe to family members, teachers, friends, and the broader society as a whole. Fictitious names are permitted, but the statement of gratitude should be genuine.
7. A Good Life
How is a good life defined, and what is your plan to achieve it? Please refer to themes from the assigned readings to support your answer.
Important: Not making reference to the assigned themes or readings in your answer to this question may result in requiring revisions to your seminar answers.
Remember to reference the readings in your essay responses to demonstrate that you have read and understood the material.
There are no length requirements, but high quality answers are expected. The main aim of the seminar is to encourage serious thought and reflection.