(Note: You'll complete one of these a marking period. Due by midnight on Friday 10/9. Download as Word doc)
TASK: Choose one or more writing prompts as a vehicle for presenting YOUR personal reactions, interpretations and objections after learning about humanity’s most ancient philosophical thinkers: Heraclitus and Parmenides, The Sophists, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, plus Buddha and Laozi.
-Format: Use a simple font, 11 or 12 point, with margins set to normal or moderate, and be sure to double space
-Requirements: Minimum 3, maximum 6 pages; discuss at least one philosopher in depth alongside one other
-Grading: 100* points, 10 off for each day late without prearranged valid excuse
*25 each for: Personality (ontology), Comprehension, (epistemology), Effort (ethics), and Relevance (politics)
PROMPT OPTIONS: Remember, you can write the whole paper on one of these prompts, or you can do short pieces on two or three if you can’t (or don’t want to) write 3+ pages on a single question. It’s your call.
I. Assessing Assessment (Critical)
I’ll be using this assignment as your “Student Growth Objective” (SGO) for the year. In case you don’t know what this is, the NJ Department of Education requires us to “pre-assess” you on some skill early in the year, record results, and then “reassess” that skill later in the year. This is billed as a “method by which teachers can improve their practice while clearly demonstrating” that their “students [have made] progress” toward “specific and measurable academic goals” (AchieveNJ SGO Overview 2015-6). What do you think Socrates, Plato and/or Aristotle would say about the epistemology and ethics behind this concept - meaning, how would they define “student growth” and important “academic goals,” and would they agree that formal assessments can “measure” that growth? Give your own take, too.
II. Learning about the Ancient Greats: Valuable? (Historical)
It is easy to go through high school today without exploring any philosophical questions, let alone learning the ideas of Plato, Aristotle or the Buddha. Why do you think that is? And do you think these ideas are still relevant? Should they become part of the history curriculum, or of other curricula (like English)? Have they helped you understand anything about yourself, your world or your history which you think would make them valuable to a larger audience of your peers? If you want, you can present your answer in the form of a persuasive letter to a politician suggesting curriculum changes (or better, to Bill Gates, whose fortune largely financed the Common Core reforms and accompanying tests).
III. Present-Day Platonic Dialogues (Ethical)
Write about any contemporary (modern-day) ethical issue using a dialogue format (that just means characters talk to each other, so you could write it as a back-and-forth Twitter or Text exchange, even a series of emails). You must include at least one philosopher in the dialogue, but can include yourself and anyone else too. The dialogue can be humorous and have an absurd setting, but the ethical issue has to be serious and seriously-addressed. (Think about immigration, the “war on drugs,” Church and State, economic inequality, political correctness, access to healthcare, technology addiction, the environment, globalization, shallow friendships – anything that asks “what is good?”)
IV. Dear Philosopher X (Creative)
The magazine Philosophy Now used to do a “Dear Socrates” column where people would write in with personal questions, and a columnist would respond to these modern concerns in the ancient philosopher’s style. Make up a question and write your own advice column from any philosopher we’ve studied (I recommended Buddha, Protagoras, Plato or Aristotle – you can do even do multiple short advice columns for this whole assignment).
See me or post in the comments below for questions, especially if you want me to OK your topic idea(s).
Aristotle's dense philosophical system can be summarized as follows:
Ontology - Teleological Realism (a.k.a. "Materialism")
Epistemology - Empiricism with Logical Classification (via the "Four Causes")
Ethics - Virtue as Active Excellence (Eudaimonia, "Flourishing")
Explain ONE of these three concepts in your own words, comparing or contrasting with another philosopher (Plato is the obvious choice, but Buddha and Heraclitus would be interesting too).
Remember, if you need help, see the NOTES AND LINKS page (under the Philosophy tab above): there are videos on Aristotle, notes on the earlier philosophers, and a PowerPoint on Socrates/Plato plus one on "Ancient Ethics" that might be really useful for jogging your memory!
In all three classes, we had very interesting and intense discussions of the ontology of time, meaning, what exactly is it?
This is a space to extend the conversation about whether time is the same thing as change, whether the past and future are "real," and whether our measurements of time are trustworthy. You can also consider how time ties into ethics, as in Buddhism.
Post in the comments below (yes, this counts for extra participation points).
I'll start us off by referring back to Hugh Mellor's quote on time from the Ontology 101 packet: "Nothing about past, present and future is built into time. What IS built into time is the difference between earlier and later," which is like the difference between "north and south." Time has a "direction," but it does not have future and past as really existing things. "We are 'reading' into the world something that [is part of] our relation to it." (Incidentally, that'd mean Parmenides is wrong, and time travel is impossible.)
What do you think??
This post is mainly for my 4B class, who did not get copies of the "Socrates 101" packet. Here is the main information from that packet in the form of a word document - print, highlight key information, and make marginal notes which put things in your own words, connect them to stuff you've already learned, and add helpful examples.
Once you have read and text-marked this information on Socrates and his thought, you should watch this video, which summarizes and animates the argument on Justice, which will be the basis of our second Seminar on Moral Relativism. (Those of you who find the argument interesting should watch the second part of the video, which automatically loads when it finishes, but only the first part is mandatory viewing.)