Week 8 Philosophy Assignment

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We looked at “Freedom”
this week, but as the term ends, it is always a good idea to try to tie
together different ideas in order to see the coherency.

While you
are writing, please do not use the textbook or any outside materials.
You can mention things in the textbook, but you will not have time to
look them up. The paper you write is intended to give you the
opportunity to express your philosophical viewpoints.

Please take
a few minutes to read through the two choices for the first part, to
choose one of them, to figure out your views, and to scribble down a
skeleton outline for an argumentative essay. You will be trying to prove
that your view is the best one.

Make sure you include:

  1. An introductory paragraph with a clear thesis statement,
  2. At least two evidentiary paragraphs, each offering supporting points,
  3. A brief summary of the opposition’s main point and a refutation of it, and
  4. A summarizing conclusion.

After you have answered either Question A or Question B in Part 1, go to Part 2 and answer the single question there as well.

PART 1

In a well-developed short essay, address the prompts for one of the choices below:

Question A

Freedom and Morality.
In Chapter 18 of The Prince, Machiavelli offers advice for future
rulers: “Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is for a political leader
to keep his word and to behave with integrity rather than cunning.
Nevertheless, our experience has been that those leaders who have done
great things have considered keeping their word of little account and
have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning.
Occasionally, the words of leaders must serve to hide the facts. But the
lies should be told in such a way that the general population does not
become aware of them; or, if the lies are discovered, excuses must be
ready at hand to be produced immediately. In the end, the leaders most
likely to reach their goals and sway the people are those who have not
relied on integrity or on keeping their word.”

Contrastingly,
Aristotle said that we are not free if our actions are caused or
influenced by external compulsion (including deceit or insufficient
evidence).

The old joke asks, “How can you tell a politician is
lying?” And, the classic answer is, “His lips are moving.” Americans
have always suspected that their politicians leaders tell falsehoods,
and recent national leaders have even admitted that they “misspoke”
(i.e., lied) on numerous occasions to the American people.

Define freedom
in your own terms, specifically outlining those aspects of yourself
that you consider the basis of your own conception of “acting freely.”
To what extent can people truly be free if they are living in a society
where their leaders routinely lie to them in order to gain the common
man’s compliance? To what extent is it possible or impossible for a
person to be “acting freely” when he lacks the relevant (and truthful)
information needed for his decision-making? Explain which type of
government you believe provides the most individual freedoms and that
you personally believe would be more preferable to live in—an immoral
and powerful government that lies to the people or a weak but moral
government in which the leaders always tells the truth. Defend your
position for why your choice is more desirable than the alternative.

Question B

Freedom
and Self. Define freedom in your own terms, specifically outlining
those aspects of yourself that you consider the basis of your own
conception of “acting freely.”

An idea we were left with from the
textbook is that people are so largely influenced by both nature and
nurture that it is difficult to make any sort of decision which has not
already been affected by both internal and external influences; our
“self identities” are not a creation of own but largely the product of
biology and relationships. But, choosing to “act freely” implies that we
are choosing freely, without influences affecting our choices.

Think
back to our discussion of the “essential self” in Week 4 as you address
the following questions. To what extent does your conception of “acting
freely” include playing roles and interacting with other people? To
what extent do other people limit your freedom? How can your “essential
self” be free choose to “act freely” while living in a world in which
you are bound by obligations to various kinds of other people? Under
which conditions would you be confident to declare that you had freely
chosen a “free act”?

PART 2

In no more than one or two paragraphs, answer the following:

As
you reflect on your work and your learning in this class, what has been
the most important skill you have mastered, insight you have secured,
or knowledge you have gained? With respect to the skill, insight, or
knowledge you have identified, why is that thing important to you and in
what ways, and to what ends will you be able to use it later on?

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