Position Paper 2 (Ethics and Society)



For the assignment (also posted in ‘Course Content’ for ‘Week 8’), as before, I would like you to write a short essay of 1000 to 1200 words (in Times New Roman -12 point font, 1.5 spacing, with a Title at the beginning, and a Works Cited page at the end).  

Again, you will be required to take a position on one (or two) of the philosophers that we have examined in this second part of the course.

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

1. Arthur Schopenhauer (On the Suffering of the World)

2. John Stuart Mill (Utilitarianism)

3. Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

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

1. Mill and Schopenhauer (on ‘happiness,’ on ’suffering.’)

2. Freire and Mill (‘pedagogy of the oppressed,’ ‘utilitarianism.’)

3. Freire and Schopenhauer (the ‘oppressed,’ ‘suffering,’ etc.). 

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

In close  detail, and 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. 

And also,  tell me why you agree or disagree with the ethical theory (or theories)  as it relates to the theme of ‘Ethics and Society.’ (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, as before, argue for the applicability (or inapplicability)  of the ethical theory (or theories) in the world today, and in our  contemporary society. For example, what can these theories help to teach  us about ethics and society, when confronted with the problems that we  face today? 

Above all,  as you were required to do in your previous paper, take a clear  argumentative position, and argue for it convincingly throughout your  essay.

Suggested Questions and Topics:

As before,  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 this  second part of the course.

You are  also free to bring back certain theories or ideas from the first part of  the course, if they will help to strengthen your main thesis. (For  example, Epicurus in relation to Mill and/or Schopenhauer – on happiness  and suffering. Or, Plato in relation to Freire – on education and  liberation, are at least two possible subjects to explore further). 

Here ere  are two suggested essay topics that may help to guide you with the  assignment. Each suggested topic relates to the following questions:

“How can we best address and alleviate human suffering?” 

And also, “Is there an ethical duty to do so?”

1. (Mill’s ‘Utilitarianism’)

The theme of human suffering is central to John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism  (1861). How does his theory of ‘utilitarianism’ address human  suffering? How does he propose to resolve it, or at least to improve  upon this problem in society? What is the role of the individual in  Mill’s theory? 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).

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

As you know, the theme of suffering is also 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). 

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