“Summary Reflection” Essay Topic Possibilities:

This essay is due Friday, November 21st

Instructions:

Choose one of the following topics and write your essay
in accordance with the guidelines regarding the structure and
the content of “summary reflection” essays I posted separately on Blackboard.

Possible Topics:

1) At the beginning of Plato’s Meno, Meno offers Socrates several definitions of virtue
or     arete.  None of the definitions satisfy Socrates.  Reviewing the definitions and
Socrates’ responses to them, what seems to be the major fault of each in Socrates’
eyes?  Do you think Socrates is raising legitimate objections to the definitions?  Why
or why not?  Discuss as critically and creatively as possible.

2) In his attempt to refute Meno’s definition of virtue as “the desire of things honorable
and the power of attaining them,” Socrates argues that “no one desires that which is
evil.”  Explain the definition and Socrates’ refutation of it in detail.  What is Socrates’
argument exactly, and how does it serve to show that Meno’s definition is inadequate?
Do you think Socrates’ argument is legitimate?  Why or why not?  Discuss as
critically and creatively as possible.

3) After attempting to define “virtue” unsuccessfully, Meno finally gives up and admits
that he does not know what virtue is.  Socrates then invites Meno to join a mutual
inquiry regarding the nature of virtue.  At this suggestion, Meno introduces a paradox
which, if legitimate, would make inquiry into the nature of virtue impossible.  What is
the paradox, and how does Socrates respond to it?  What do you think of Socrates’
response?  How, in other words, do you read the nature and the significance of
Socrates’ notion of “learning as recollection”?  Discuss as critically and creatively as
possible.

4) After arguing that all learning is recollection, Socrates lets Meno talk him into an
investigation of the teach-ability of virtue.  How does Socrates approach this question,
and what seems to be his ultimate answer?  Do you think the answer Meno and
Socrates give to the problem is the answer Plato wants us to accept?  Explain your
answer, and in the process, discuss, if you wish, how you think virtue is acquired.
Discuss as critically and creatively as possible.

5) One of the key implications of Plato’s famous “Parable of the Cave” (despite it’s rather
tragic ending) is that true freedom involves attaining knowledge of ultimate reality –
(otherwise, we will be perpetually enslaved to the “shadows on the wall” which are
no more than illusions).  In other words, Plato would have us believe that
enlightenment is liberating.  Of course, in Christianity, this notion is famously
captured by the phrase, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
(It might also be interesting to note the psychoanalytical equivalent of this as when a
patient suffering from a neurosis brought on by repressing some traumatic event can
achieve a type of cathartic liberation from the neurosis by regaining (conscious)
knowledge of the trauma.)  Considering this general viewpoint, then, do you
personally believe that, in gaining true knowledge of ourselves, of others, and the
world, we will simultaneously be gaining true freedom?  Do you think such “true
knowledge” is even possible or is all knowledge “conditioned” or “colored” by the
circumstances, the history, the culture, the particular interests and values, of the
knower?  If you believe the latter, is it still possible for some form of knowledge to be
liberating?  Discuss as fully and as clearly as possible, given the parameters of the
essay, your personal view of the relationship between knowledge and freedom.

6) As Harold Kushner suggests, there are at least three general propositions that seem to
underlie the thematic of the Book of Job, namely, that 1) God is omnipotent (that is,
He is all-powerful or supremely great);  2) God is supremely just and loving;  and 3)
that Job is an essentially good or innocent man.  In order to make sense of the story,
Kushner says that one of the propositions has to be denied, (that is, if you accept any
two propositions, you have to deny the third).  In other words, the three propositions,
taken together, are not compatible with each other.  Which of the propositions are
accepted and which denied by Job’s friends?  Which are accepted and which
challenged by Job?  Is there yet a third or even a fourth possibility?  What is
Kushner’s alternative?  What is your alternative?  In order to make sense of the story,
which proposition do you think needs to be denied?  If you think none needs to be
denied, how do you explain the compatibility of the three propositions?  Discuss as
critically and creatively as possible.

7) Choose one of the three theodicies discussed by Hick, namely, the Augustinian, the
Irenaean, or the Process theodicy, and explain precisely how it answers the problem of
evil.  After explaining the theodicy in as much detail as possible, discuss whether you
think the theodicy adequately solves the problem.  Then discuss how you view the
problem and how you resolve it in your own heart and mind.  Discuss as critically and
creatively as possible.

8) As an alternative to question #7 above, you might take perhaps two of the theodicies,
explain them, compare them, and then discuss which one you think more adequately
solves the problem of evil and why.  If you feel that both fall short of providing an
adequate solution, you should, of course, explain this as well and then go on to
discuss your own perspective on the problem.  Discuss as critically and creatively as
possible.

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