What is needed for more equality? And how does Freire understand the possibility of liberation and freedom for both individuals and groups?


For the assignment, I would like you to take a position on one (or two) of the assigned readings from our course, and write a well argued, critical essay of 1000 words (below or above by 100 words is permitted) (12 point font, in Times New Roman1.5 spacing, with a Works Cited section at the end).

For your paper, you are required to take a position on one (or two) of the philosophers that we have examined in the course, and their corresponding texts.

What this means is that you can write your paper on one of the following philosophers:

1. Plato (The Allegory of the Cave)

2. Epicurus (Letter to Menoeceus)

3. Mill (Utilitarianism)

4. Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

5. Nietzsche (The Madman and The Heaviest Weight)

6. Sartre (Existentialism is a Humanism)

Or, you can compare two of these philosophers’ ethical theories:

The main point of the assignment is that you take a position in your essay on the reading(s).

From the texts that we have examined, clearly and accurately describe the ethical theories of the philosopher (or philosophers) that you have decided to write about.

Also, tell me why you agree or disagree with the ethical theory(or theories) in question? (You may agree with some aspects of a philosopher’s ethics, but disagree with others. Or you may entirely agree or disagree with their main ethical theory).

Also in your paper, argue for the applicability (or inapplicability) of the ethical theory (or theories) in the world today, and in our contemporary society.

Above all, take a clear argumentative position, and make this clear throughout your essay.

Suggested Questions and Topics:

As mentioned, you are free to develop your own original topic for the essay, as it relates to the philosophers and the readings we have examined in our course.

However, here are some suggested topics that may help to guide you with the assignment:

1. (Ethics and Knowledge: Plato and Epicurus)

Both Plato and Epicurus write about the “good” and the “good life” in their writings, specifically in the Republic (380 BC), and Letter to Menoeceus (341-270 BC), respectively. How do these terms relate to each philosopher’s ethical theories? Also, how does each philosopher think we should live the most ethical life? How should we act? And what is the purpose of life for each philosopher? Are there any similarities or differences between them? And most importantly, do you agree or disagree with them?

(Use examples from the text to support your arguments).

2. (Ethics and Society: Mill, Freire)

a. (Mill’s ‘Utilitarianism’)

How does John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism (1861) address the theme of human happiness? How does he propose to improve upon the lives of individuals and groups in society? How do ethics and morality affect the decisions of both individuals and groups in Mill’s theory? Finally, we know that since its publication in 1861, Mill’s theory has inspired many governments around the world to act and govern according to its main principles (especially, governments that see themselves as ‘democratic’ and ‘liberal’ in the classical sense). But is it possible to actually put Mill’s theories into practice? Is anyone ever excluded or ‘left behind’ if we do so?’ And also, what are the main ethical consequences of a utilitarian society? Most importantly, do you agree or disagree with Mill’s theory for an ethics of society?

(Use examples from the text to support your arguments).

b. (Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’)

As you know, the theme of suffering is central to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968). How does Freire address and examine human suffering in his book? What are the conditions that according to Freire, lead to increased human suffering? How is society structured in such a way that maintains a system of inequality between the ‘oppressors’ and the ‘oppressed’? How does the education system also suffer in such a society? And finally, what does Freire propose that we do about the situation? How can the conditions of the oppressed be improved? What is needed for more equality? And how does Freire understand the possibility of liberation and freedom for both individuals and groups? Most importantly, do you agree or disagree with Freire’s ethical theory? And can you apply Freire’s ideas about ethics to the world today?

(Use examples from the text to support your arguments).

3. (Ethics and the Individual: Nietzsche and Sartre)

The theme of human freedom is central to the ethical philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre.

With two of his parables in The Gay Science (1882), ‘The Madman’ and ‘The Heaviest Weight,’ Nietzsche famously addresses the ethical implications of a world without God. He asks us to question where our values in fact come from. And he also forces us to confront the: either completely terrifying, and/or totally liberating sense of freedom that results from this realization.

In his essay outlining his own philosophy of existentialism, ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’ (1946), Sartre famously makes the following two arguments: that “existence precedes essence,” and also, that as individuals, we are “condemned to be free.” For Sartre, in his own words, “man is nothing…but the sum of his actions.”

For each philosopher, “what is individual freedom,?”, and also, “how does our understanding of freedom affect the way that we act, make ethical decisions, and find meaning and value in our lives?”

Also, for each philosopher, ‘where do our ethics come from?’, and ‘do we in fact need an ethics of society to act ethically as individuals?’, (What is the relationship between the two: ethics of society vs. ethics of the individual)?

(*Again, you are only required to write on One or Two of the above philosophers. You may mention more in your essay, but the main focus of your paper should be on only one or two).

(As always, please remember to use examples from the text to support your arguments).