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Week 1 Introduction

Page history last edited by Andrea Brownstein 15 years, 11 months ago

Introduction to the course of study

August 20 -22 


Wednesday. Welcome!

= Introduction to the class: Scheme, texts, philosophy. Handouts,

Homework TurnIn

Homework for Thursday: Read Epicurus (handout & on the wiki), for discussion.=

Assignment 1. For Friday. Response to More’s Utopia. See portal; use Homework TurnIn.

Thursday. One Idea about happiness

= Discussion: What makes individuals happy? Who do you know who is happy? How do you know? What does our culture say about happiness?

=Assignment 2. For Monday. Pleasure and gratification. See portal; use Homework TurnIn.

Friday. Shared Values

=Exercise: Shared values

=Our utopian classroom. To be posted on the wiki.

= Assignment 1 should be turned in by end of the day.

= Homework for Monday. Read the Introduction (pp 1-4) to The Utopia Reader.

Comments (3)

Andrea Brownstein said

at 12:59 pm on Aug 20, 2008

Rather than asking why they were in the class, I began by asking what ideas or associations they had with the word "utopia"--responses ranged from ideal, fantasy, and imaginary, to stupid (because it was a place that could not be real). Once person said she had not heard the word until she had signed up for the class. My invitation to them is for them to become philosophers--all their responses shared the understanding that there is such a thing as an ideal. Walked them through the texts, discovering which were not yet in, and asked them to think about what their utopian classroom would be like. Near the end of the class someone asked whether a particular book was a satire, which gave us a chance to make a working definition of satire. A fitting way to end the class.

Andrea Brownstein said

at 1:42 pm on Aug 21, 2008

Opening Question: what statements can you make about Epicurus’s ideas about happiness? First observation, that he was contradictory: that one should live a life of pleasure AND/BUT that pleasure alone is not sufficient for a good life (and in fact the consequences are 10x worse). He says that bad people’s pleasures are not as good as good people’s; by bad he means profligate (we stopped to define this and find examples in contemporary life: Pete Rose, Charles Barkley, the grandmother who drinks away her money); by good, he means what is part of the natural life.
We saw that he said that living a life of physical pleasure alone is not as good as living directed by reason. This comes from living a just, honorable and wise life. We talked specifically about what it meant to live a “just” life—examples ranged from living according to laws to behaving justly toward your neighbors (digression for exploration of the Golden Rule). We had an interesting discussion about whether people in Saudi Arabia lived in a just society. While most of us would prefer not to live under Shariah law, someone pointed out that from the Saudi’s point of view, their society may seem just. We observed that there is a distinction between the legitimate interests of sovereign powers and laws that transcend national preferences ( the legacy of the Nuremberg Trials). We also talked about the legitimacy of feelings (natural life) and the value we place on governing those feelings (reason). Aristotle has a section about this.
Students are sure that happiness is about how you feel and that there can be no formula for attaining happiness.
We ended by looking at his statements about “groundless opinion”—more tomorrow.
Distributed assignment 2, pleasure/gratification. Thanks to Sky for her notes.

Andrea Brownstein said

at 1:05 pm on Aug 22, 2008

Discussed 2 ads for the good life: Toyota's use of tiaras and ascots for the aspirations of the middle class, Aston-Martin's reference to a car as art for those with more money. Rush Kidder's shared values exercise. Their list: Trust (no requirements, just do the right thing--Justice); Honor (no cheating, do your best work, keep your word--Honesty), Respect, Moral Passion (the benefit of others--Compassion), Liberty with limitations (Responsibility)--they are all there! Talked about excavating what you mean by asking "why is this important?" three times to get to the foundational values you hold.

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