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Philosophy final essay Answer ONE (1) of the following prompts in essay form. NB: Use primary texts such as Aristotle work for references, no secondary sources
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Philosophy final essay
Answer ONE (1) of the following prompts in essay form. Please answer every question that
appears under the prompt you choose. Your essay should be a minimum of seven (7) full pages
(excluding bibliography page). You must use a standard font (e.g. Helvetica Neue, Times New
Roman, or Cambria), 12 point, double-spaced (or single, if you prefer). You must support all of
your claims with quotes and in-text citations and/or philosophical argument in order to do well.
In general, I greatly favor essays which extensively utilize the primary text (e.g. Heidegger’s
“The Question Concerning Technology”) rather than secondary sources. (Any semi-educated
person can repeat or paraphrase what some expert or other said, but it takes a real thinker to read
and interpret a primary source and to explain it in his or her own words.) That said, secondary
sources can be very helpful for understanding the material and, if you use them effectively and
sparingly, can actually strengthen your essay. If you do choose to use secondary sources, you
must use legitimate academic sources [i.e. not Sparknotes, Wikipedia, GradeSaver, etc.] and
provide a ‘Works Cited’ page listing all of the sources you used even if they were not quoted
directly (this includes all of the secondary literature I have provided for you on Blackboard). If
you only use the primary text and the course notes posted on Blackboard, I will not require you
to include a formal bibliography, but you still must provide in-text citations which make
reference to the primary text. This final essay exam is, obviously, open notes (both yours and
mine), open book, open internet, open library, etc., but please remember: if you plagiarize any
part of this exam you will fail the course.
Your completed exam must be submitted in PDF format via email to grimwadr@stjohns.edu by
11:59pm on Friday, May 4, 2018. Please put your name in the title of the document:
“JaneSmith2.pdf” and do not submit via blackboard. Please note that LATE PAPERS WILL
NOT BE ACCEPTED. St. John’s University does not allow me to give incompletes to
undergraduate students for any reason.
Optional Extra Credit Assignment: Answer any prompt (from this document or the midterm
essay exam) which you have not already answered on your midterm or plan to answer for your
final. The length of this piece is up to you, but the better (more thorough, well-argued,
interesting, novel, thoughtful, etc.) the essay, the more extra credit it will earn. This extra credit
assignment can earn you up to a maximum of 10 points on top of your final grade for the course
(e.g. a C- can become a B-). I highly recommend this option for any student who has more than
two unexcused absences, poor class participation, missed or failed quizzes, a poor midterm essay
grade, etc. Essay Prompts: (please read carefully)
(1) Interpret and explain Nietzsche’s concept of “the death of God” as it is presented in The
Gay Science, focusing especially upon aphorisms 125, 343-346. In note 125 of The Gay
Science Nietzsche says “God is dead!” (p.120). (He is often interpreted as a cheerful,
irreverent atheist, but this is clearly wrong, for Nietzsche sees this event as one of the
most important events in human history.) Why does Nietzsche put this phrase in the
mouth of a madman? Who is the madman addressing? Why is the madman’s audience
an important interpretive clue here? What is Nietzsche trying to make us realize about
the modern age in his discussion of the death of God and its consequences? Why does
Nietzsche claim that the death of God is such an important event in human history? What
are some of the important the moral, metaphysical, and epistemological consequences
which Nietzsche draws from the death of God? What does this even mean for us? In
note 343 of The Gay Science, Nietzsche explains “How to understand our cheerfulness”
after the death of God. Why is he “cheerful” about this ostensibly most cataclysmic of
world historical events? What, in his view, becomes possible for us after the death of
God that was not possible for us before? Why does Nietzsche – an atheist – see the
“death of God” as such an important event? What can this account teach scientistic
atheists?
(2) Interpret, analyze, and explain Marx’s concept of alienation in “Estranged Labor”. What
is alienation (in general) according to Marx? What is proletarian alienation? What are the
proletarian workers alienated from? What are the four aspects or dimensions of
estranged labor that Marx emphasizes? What is human nature – our “species-being” –
according to Marx and how is it transformed by estranged labor? How does Marx’s
analysis of estranged labor fit into his overall critique of free market capitalism? Do you
find Marx’s analysis of estranged labor convincing – i.e. is he making an important point
about the nature of economic and social exploitation in the capitalist system? What
specifically makes a job alienating? Does alienation come in degrees? Is it possible to
have a completely non-alienating career within a capitalist society? Why does Marx
think that only a revolution followed by socialism will put an end to alienated labor (and
alienation in general)? Is he right about this? If not, then how might we put an end to
alienated labor or at least minimize it? In “Estranged Labor”, Marx primarily discusses
the alienation of the proletariat worker, but he also suggests that the bourgeoisie are
alienated (in a different way) by the economic system of capitalism. How might the rich
and powerful be alienated? What does this show us about the relationship between
exploitation and alienation? How does Marcuse’s account of exploitation in OneDimensional Man relate to that of Marx? How is he critical of Marx? Where do the two
converge, were do their accounts differ?
(3) Explain Beauvoir’s concept of alterity – “otherness” – in The Second Sex. What does
Beauvoir mean when she refers to women as “the Other” and “the second sex”? In The
Second Sex Beauvoir says that in patriarchal Western societies men are “subjects” who
are more able to achieve transcendence, while women have become “the Other” or “the
second sex” and are objectified and confined to immanence (p.27). How have patriarchal
Western societies established men as “subjects” and women “objects” according to
Beauvoir’s account? What does she mean when she says that women are socially
interpreted as “the sex”? What are some of the causes of women’s oppression in her
account? How do societal narratives in the West contribute to the oppression of women?
How does Beauvoir define human freedom – i.e. what does it mean to be free? Why is
freedom more important than “happiness” according to her account? Given Beauvoir’s
diagnosis of the problem, what can we do about it? How can we effectively fight for the
freedom of women to determine their own lives and have a greater chance of achieving
transcendence? How would society have to change in order to end the oppression of
women once and for all? How does the concept of alterity help us to understand
discrimination and oppression within, and perhaps beyond, feminism? Do you think that
Beauvoir’s analysis is still relevant today despite the social and political changes which
have occurred in Western societies since she wrote the book?
(4) Explain and evaluate Camus’ concept of “revolt” as it is presented in The Myth of
Sisyphus. What is the absurd? What are its two constituent elements? What are some
examples of the inherent absurdity of human existence? When have you personally
encountered the absurd in your own life? What is Camus trying to show us about the
human condition by exploring absurdity? How does the question raised by suicide relate
to the absurd? Why is suicide not the best possible response to the inherent absurdity of
human life according to Camus? What does Camus mean by “revolt”? Why is it the
only authentic response to the absurd for Camus? Why does Camus’ reject religious or
intellectual leaps of faith as the only possible responses to the absurdity of the human
condition? What does the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus reveal about Camus notion of
revolt? Do you think that revolt, in Camus’ sense, is possible to achieve? And if so, do
you think that it is the best way to confront the absurdity of life? If not, then how should
one live? How should we respond to the absurdity of the human condition?
(5) Interpret, explain, and evaluate, Heidegger’s conception of Gestell [Technological
Enframing] in “The Question Concerning Technology”. What is technological
enframing? How does enframing reveal the world to us? What does Heidegger mean by
revealing? What are the salient characteristics of modern technological revealing? How
does this mode of revealing differ from other, historical or contemporary, modes of
revealing? What does Heidegger mean by “standing-reserve” [Bestand]? What role does
modern science play in Heidegger’s account of technicity? What is “the danger” of
technological enframing (as a mode of revealing) according to Heidegger? Why is this
danger so worrying for Heidegger? What might we loose if technological enframing
becomes the only mode of revealing? What does Heidegger see as “the saving power”?
Do you think that Heidegger is right to see traces of an alternative mode relating to the
world in poiesis – artistic revealing and making? What is it about art that Heidegger is
attempting to draw our attention to? Many philosophers, environmentalists, and others
who are concerned with the impending ecological crisis facing our planet have seen
Heidegger’s notion of technological revealing as a helpful for understanding what caused
us to end up in this dire situation. Do you think that Heidegger’s account is relevant to
this issue?
(6) Explain Marcuse’s conception of “one-dimensionality” as expressed in “The New Forms
of Control” from One Dimensional Man. Marcuse claims that modern Western societies
are becoming increasingly “one-dimensional” – homogeneous, controlled, and
conformist. Why is Marcuse so critical of modern consumer capitalism as an ideology,
socio-political system, and way of life? How are individuals controlled in supposedly
“free” Western democracies? What are “false needs” and why does Marcuse describe
them as “repressive”? What cultivates these false needs within us and how do they keep
us chained to the current socio-economic system? What role does consumerism play in
his account? What is technological rationality? How does technological rationality
reproduce the ideology of the system while defending it from criticism? How might we
apply Marcuse’s critique of Western post-industrial capitalism in the 1950s to technoconsumer capitalism in the early 21st Century? Has our situation fundamentally
changed? How much of Marcuse’s critique is still applicable today? What parts of his
account are still relevant and what parts might have to be revised?
(7) Interpret and explain Adorno and Horkheimer’s analysis of “the culture industry” in The
Dialectic of Enlightenment. What is “the culture industry” according to Adorno and
Horkheimer? What is the sociopolitical function of the culture industry? How does the
culture industry homogenize individuals and reproduce the status quo ideology of
capitalist business? What is mimesis and how does this compare to real critical thinking?
Be sure to explain the concepts of standardization, universalization, and pseudoindividuality as these are essential to their account. (Optional: Use Adorno and
Horkheimer’s concepts to critique any aspect of 21st Century popular culture and show
how it is a form of social control – i.e. how it reproduces the ideology of consumer
capitalism.)
(8) Explain Foucault’s concept of “panopticism” as it is presented in Discipline and Punish
(pp.195-228). What is “disciplinary power” according to Foucault? How does this form
of power differ from traditional “repressive” conceptions of power? What is the
technique of disciplinary power Foucault calls “panopticism”? How do panoptic
techniques work to normalize deviants? What are the psychological and social effects of
panoptic techniques? What kinds of social institutions utilize these panoptic techniques
to control, regulate, and normalize their “patients”, “inmates”, “students”, “employees”,
etc.? Is Foucault right to see this as one way that power operates in modern societies?
Do we see minor forms of panoptic power in our normalizing social judgments of others
on an interpersonal level? In other words, do our judgments, even if they are expressed
by looks and gazes rather that discursively, have an effect upon the people who are
exposed to them? Where else might we find panoptic techniques of power in operation?
Some scholars have claimed that Foucault’s concept of panopticism is particularly
relevant when it comes to understanding the social and psychological effects of social
media on the general public. Do you think that Foucault’s discussion of panopticism can
help us to articulate the new forms of social control (and normalization) that occur in
contemporary society through our use of social media and other mass communication
technologies? If so, why? If not, why not?
(9) Critically analyze and evaluate Bostrom’s transhumanist argument for genetic
enhancement in “Human Genetic Enhancement: A Transhumanist Perspective”. What is
transhumanism according to Bostrom? What are some of the core attitudes, perspectives,
and values which are characteristic of transhumanism? Why do transhumanists seek to
become post-human? What kinds of benefits do transhumanists seek gain by virtue of
technological or genetic enhancement? What is human germ-line genetic engineering?
What is a ‘designer baby’? What is Bostrom’s argument for the “responsible” use of
genetic enhancement technologies? What is the difference between the genetic
enhancement that Bostrom advocates and the practice of correcting of genetic defects or
deleterious abnormities? What are some of the moral, social, and political problems
raised by the potential use of genetic engineering for the purpose of transhumanist
enhancement? What would the “correction” of supposed defects entail for people who
currently have disabilities and are fighting for their rights? What are some of the
potential negative consequences of genetic enhancement? What are the potential positive
benefits of genetic enhancement? How does Bostrom attempt to counter some of the
objections which have been raised against the idea of genetic enhancement? Do you
think that Bostrom’s arguments are convincing? Do you support the use of genetic
enhancement technologies for the purposes of enhancement? Would you genetically
modify your children. Argue your case.
(10)
Compare Heidegger’s account of technological enframing in “The Question
Concerning Technology” with Bostrom’s transhumanist account of genetic enhancement
in “Human Genetic Enhancement: A Transhumanist Perspective”. In “The Question
Concerning Technology” Heidegger claims that the greatest danger that modern
technicity poses to the human being is that we will transform ourselves and each other
into a “standing reserve” [Bestand] – a malleable resource to be used. In “Human
Genetic Enhancement: A Transhumanist Perspective” Bostrom advocates the responsible
use of genetic enhancement technologies not merely to ameliorate the worst aspects of
the human condition, but to enhance our abilities. It seems evident that Heidegger would
not be an advocate of transhumanism (in general) and would have seen the use of the
kind of genetic enhancement technologies advocated by Bostrom and other
transhumanists as a deleterious manifestation of modern technological enframing. Who,
if anyone, do you think is right about technological interventions into human nature?
Heidegger or Bostrom? Humanism or transhumanism? Support your position with
original arguments derived from the positions presented in these two texts.
(11)
Guided by the goal of Frankfurt School Critical Theory, develop your own
critique of 21st Century American society using ideas discussed in any of the texts we
have read together this semester. Horkheimer, a prominent member of the Frankfurt
School, defined the goal of critical theory as an attempt “to liberate human beings from
the circumstances that enslave them” (Horkheimer 1982, p.244). With this goal in mind,
attempt to offer a critique of contemporary Western society which draws from any of the
texts we have read and discussed together. What social practices, norms, institutions,
etc., serve to oppress, manipulate, and/or control the thoughts, behaviors, and activities of
individuals in the 21st Century? Since this is such a broad topic, I would suggest that you
narrow your focus to a few specific areas of society or try to relate your thesis to a
specific set of issues. In order to do well, you must use ideas from at least three texts
discussed in our course, namely: Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ in Republic; Aristotle’s
Nicomachean Ethics; Machiavelli’s The Prince; Descartes’ Meditations; and/or Hume’s
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, Marx’s
“Estranged Labor”; Beauvoir’s The Second Sex; Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus;
Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”; Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man;
Foucault’s Discipline and Punish; Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender
Constitution”; Appiah’s “Illusions of Race”, or Bostrom’s “Human Genetic
Enhancements: A Transhumanist Perspective”.

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