Social Science

Answer any 3 questions from each units in about 100 words minimum.

UNIT 1(Chapter 1-3)

Chapter 1: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

1. What are some things the allegory suggests about the process of enlightenment or education?

2. The allegory presupposes that there is a distinction between appearances and reality. Do you agree? Why or why not?

3. What sometimes happens to people when the illusion is shattered and reality is revealed? Can you give an example from your own or a friend’s experience?

Chapter 2: Plato’s Euthyphro

4. What it is that makes Socrates “philosophical” while Euthyphro is not?

5. What sorts of questions does Socrates ask and what sorts of answers does Euthyphro give?

6. The dialogue ends inconclusively: Euthyphro has not been able to arrive at a satisfactory definition of the pious. Does this mean the whole discussion between Socrates and Euthyphro was a complete waste of time? Why or why not?

Chapter 3: Plato’s Apology of Socrates

7. Socrates is famous for saying that “an unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” What does he mean by this? What’s so valuable about examining one’s life?

8. When Socrates is suggesting that his “penalty” be free meals in the Prytaneum, he compares himself to the victor in an Olympic race. He says that while victory brings the Athenians only the appearance of success, Socrates brings the reality of success. What service does Socrates think he is doing for the Athenians that cannot be matched by the winner of an Olympic race? How does examining the citizens of Athens bring them true success?

9. Socrates thinks that the person who is aware of his ignorance is wiser than the person who thinks he knows something when he doesn’t. But if neither person knows anything, how can one be wiser than the other? What kind of wisdom could Socrates be referring to here?

UNIT 2(Chapter 4-6)

Chapter 4: Epicurus

1. Although Epicurus is a hedonist, he is clearly opposed to vulgar hedonism. Can you find additional arguments for or against the theory of vulgar hedonism? Is it not terribly “ judgmental” for us to claim that some pleasures are “higher” or “ lower” than others? Shouldn’t we just tolerate and accept differences of opinion in this area? Or does it make more sense to argue that there is a natural hierarchy of pleasures and pains?

2. Epicurus believes that fear of divine retribution is the greatest source of fear and anxiety. Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?

3. Epicurus argues that the best and happiest way of life is one in which one seeks to satisfy on the most basic, natural and necessary desires. Do you agree that embracing such a life of simplicity (no honor, fame, luxury or wealth) is really more conducive to happiness and tranquility than trying to “keep up with the Joneses”? If you said “yes,” then are you already taking measures to live in the Epicurean manner?

Chapter 5: St. Thomas Aquinas

4. How would St. Thomas defend himself (if, indeed, such a defense is possible) against the charge of being “homophobic” (a word that did not exist in his time, but which is fairly common today)? Would you find his defense plausible? Why or why not?

5. If one is not at all religious, is it still possible to take St. Thomas’ natural law principle seriously? Could it still be relied upon as a guide to living well? Explain.

Chapter 6: Thomas Hobbes

6. Do you think that being self-interested is a bad thing? If so, why? If not, why not?

7. Compare Christ’s Golden Rule with Hobbes’ Golden Rule. Which do you think is more effective in getting people to obey the laws, and why?

8. Do you agree with Hobbes that our natural condition is one of lawlessness and violence? How do you think you would behave if you knew you could get away with whatever you wanted to? Do we only obey the laws out of fear of punishment?

UNIT 3(Chapter 7-9)

Chapter 7: Nietzsche

1. If Nietzsche were alive today, would he describe the contemporary United States as being governed by master morality or slave morality? Explain, and be specific.

2. Do you agree with Nietzsche’s claim that “every elevation of the type ‘man’ has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society and so it will always be”? Why or why not?

Chapter 8: Ortega y Gasset

3. Do you agree with Ortega’s claim that we are (as of 1929, when he wrote The Revolt of the Masses) living in what he calls a hyperdemocracy? Explain.

4. Who exactly is the “ mass man” according to Ortega? Do you agree with his assertion that “the mass crushes everything different, everything outstanding, excellent, individual, select, and choice”? Is Ortega just a petulant snob, or is he on to something? Explain.

Chapter 9: Sartre

5. What does Sartre mean when he says “existence precedes essence”? Do you think this is a correct characterization of the human condition? Why or why not?

6. Do you agree that if “God does not exist, everything is permitted?” Why or why not?

7. In what sense is existentialism empowering, and in what sense is it burdensome, or even terrifying? Do you see yourself as an existentialist? Why or why not?

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