3-4 pages each All essays should be written in Times New Roman, double-spaced (noCourier New or oversized font) in 12pt. font.
Need to choose one of the following:
1) Soren Kierkegaard, in his On the Concept of Irony, points out that a rigid society produces persons who share common thoughts and values. These social stereotypes no longer have to think for themselves, instead they rely on dogmatic answers. Would a sociologist agree that Socrates' use of irony and satire poked holes in conventional wisdom and undermined the common person's dogmatic answers? Is Kierkegaard right in his claim that it is terrifying for us to take personal responsibility for ourselves? Is Socrates being prosecuted solely because he was a constant irritation and threat to the status quo?
2) Explain for each case, according to Tolstoy, why understanding of the fields of knowledge (science), abstract science (mathematics and metaphysics), or speculative understanding (philosophy) cannot yield substantive meaning to life? Do you agree with his assessments?
3) Compare Tolstoy's conception of faith from "A Confession" with Soren Kierkegaard's conception of faith in "Truth is faith". What is faith according to them? In what sense is faith a kind of truth according to these two thinkers? On what grounds would you accept or reject the possibility of counting faith as a kind of knowledge which can be said to be true?
4) Explain the Buddhist teaching of "no-self" as understood from the Questions of King Milinda, Thanissaro Bhikku's writing, and passages on the Four Noble Truths. Include a discussion of the 5 Skandha's (our text is an older translation and omits the "S"). For what reasons would you accept or reject this teaching?
5) Why is it difficult to talk of mind, self and soul as distinct things? Is there a "self" which contains or unifies these things and/or our experience? Explain. If there is a self, what is it, or even, where is it?
6) Interpret and explain Daniel Dennet's position from his story "Where am I?"
7) Do you think that you have a free will? Defend and justify your position (you can appeal to any works necessary to help you explain your position).
8) Interpret and explain Jean Paul Sartre's viewpoint. How would a determinist, like Spinoza, respond to Sartre's claim that we are radically free?
9) Why does Voltaire think that the concept of free will doesn't make any sense? Explain his position. Can you think of other reasons why free will might ultimately be a nonsensical concept?
10) Even if we are completely determined, does this mean that our lives have no meaning? Why or why not? What does it mean for life to have meaning? Does life have meaning? How would we make life meaningful? Remember, determinism is not the same as fatalism and predestination.
11) Explain how Epictetus says we can attain the good life. Clarify the distinction between things in our control and things outside of our control. In what ways might Epictetus be arguing that we are both determined and free?
12) Why and how is death not to be feared, according to Epictetus, Epicurus, and Socrates? Do you fear death? Why or why not?
13) In what ways might Epictetus' philosophy be similar to the teachings of the Buddha? In particular, you may want to compare it with the Dhammapada verse and/or the Parable of the Arrow.
14) What is Samsara and how is it related to the First Noble Truth? Describe "the Wheel of Existence." Describe how one escapes from the "Wheel of Existence." How is suffering to be overcome? What is Nirvana? Can one experience Nirvana while living?
15) A clear number of our texts seem to indicate that the simple contemplative life is the best life and is the life that is most likely to lead to happiness or "the good". Considering the readings which have commented on this what do all descriptions of the simple life seem to have in common? How does one live the simple life? What does such a life look like? Is simplicity a necessary component to living the good life?
16) Many of our readings suggest that we need to control or train the mind in order to come to peace and find happiness. Concisely summarize some of these views and explain why it might be so important to train the mind. In what ways is the mind responsible for the way we experience life? Is how life goes for us largely a matter of perception? Is our sense of reality dependent on how we interpret it?