Describe the Form of some ordinary objects around you, in accordance with Plato’s theory. How do you know whether an object is defined by one Form or another?

Justice and the Good Society

Evaluate the philosophical claims in Chapter 9 from The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy

The Big Questions

Examine the following arguments. Are they inductive or deductive arguments? Are they valid and sound? If they are invalid or unsound, why? Is there anything else wrong with them? (You may want to consult Appendixes B and C.)
1. The philosopher from northern Greece is a well-known homosexual. Therefore, his claim that the universe is ultimately made up of atoms should be ignored.
2. Every event in the world is caused by other events. Human actions and decisions are events in the world. Therefore, every human action and decision is caused by other events.
3. If God exists, then life has meaning. God does not exist. Therefore, life has no meaning.
4. All cows are purple. Socrates is purple. Therefore, Socrates is a cow.
5. William James and John Dewey both called themselves pragmatists. They are the leading American philosophers. Therefore, all American philosophers are pragmatists.
6. Believing in God makes people moral—that is, believers tend to do good and avoid evil.
7. If I try to doubt that I exist, I realize that I must exist if I am doing the doubting. Therefore, I must exist.
8. We haven’t seen a fox all day. Therefore, there must be no foxes in the area.
9. If you don’t agree with me, I’m going to hit you.
10. God must exist; the Bible says so.
11. He must be guilty; he has a criminal face.
12. If she were innocent, she would loudly proclaim her innocence. She is loudly proclaiming her innocence. Therefore, she must be innocent.
13. “The state is like a man writ large.” (Plato)
14. “I have terrible news for you. Mary is going out with Frank. I called Mary on Saturday night, and she wasn’t home. Then I tried to call Frank, and he wasn’t home, either!”

Chapter 1–Philosophical Questions

1. Is there anything you would willingly die for? What?
2. If you had only a few minutes to live, what would you do with them? What if you had only a few days? Twenty years?
3. A famous philosopher once said that human life is no more significant than the life of a cow or an insect. We eat, sleep, stay alive for a while, and reproduce so that others like us can eat, sleep, stay alive for a while, and reproduce, but without any ultimate purpose at all. How would you answer him? What purpose does human life have, if any, that is not to be found in the life of a cow or an insect? What is the purpose of your life?
4. Do you believe in God? If so, for what reason(s)? What is God like? (That is, what is it that you believe in?) How would you prove to someone who does not believe in God that God does indeed exist and that your belief is true? (What would change your mind about this?)
If you do not believe in God, why not? Describe the Being in whom you do not believe. (Are there other conceptions of God that you would be willing to accept? What would change your mind about this?)
5. Which is most “real”—the chair you are sitting on, the molecules that make up the chair, or the sensations and images you have of the chair as you are sitting on it?
6. Suppose you were an animal in a psychologist’s laboratory but that you had all the mental capacities for thought and feeling, the same “mind,” that you have now. You overhear the scientist talking to an assistant, saying, “Don’t worry about that; it’s just a dumb animal, without feelings or thoughts, just behaving according to its instincts.” What could you do to prove that you do indeed have thoughts and feelings, a “mind”?
Now suppose a psychological theorist (for example, the late B. F. Skinner of Harvard University) were to write that, in general, there are no such things as “minds,” that people do nothing more than “behave” (that is, move their bodies and make sounds according to certain stimulations from the environment). How would you argue that you do indeed have a mind, that you are not just an automaton or a robot, but a thinking, feeling being?
7. Suppose that you live in a society in which everyone believes that the earth stands still, with the sun, the moon, and the stars revolving around it in predictable, if sometimes complex, orbits. You object, “You’re all wrong: The earth revolves around the sun.” No one agrees with you. Indeed, they think that you’re insane because anyone can feel that the earth doesn’t move at all, and you can see the sun, moon, and stars move. Who’s right? Is it really possible that only you know the truth and everyone else is wrong?
8. “Life is but a dream,” says an old popular song. Suppose the thought were to occur to you (as it will in a philosophy class) that it is possible, or at least conceivable, that you are just dreaming at this moment, that you are still asleep in bed, dreaming about reading a philosophy book. How would you prove to yourself that this is not true, that you are indeed awake? (Pinching yourself won’t do it. Why not?)
9. Describe yourself as if you were a character in a story. Describe your gestures, habits, personality traits, and characteristic word phrases. What kind of a person do you turn out to be? Do you like the person you have just described? What do you like—and dislike—about yourself?
10. Explain who (what) you are to a visitor from another planet.
11. We have developed a machine, a box with some electrodes and a life-support system, which we call the “happiness box.” If you get in the box, you will experience a powerfully pleasant sensation, which will continue indefinitely with just enough variation to keep you from getting too used to it. We invite you to try it. If you decide to do so, you can get out of the box any time you want to; but perhaps we should tell you that no one, once they have gotten into the happiness box, has ever wanted to get out of it. After ten hours or so, we hook up the life-support system, and people spend their lifetimes there. Of course, they never do anything else, so their bodies tend to resemble half-filled water beds after a few years because of the lack of exercise. But that never bothers them either. Now, it’s your decision: Would you like to step into the happiness box? Why or why not?
12. Will a good person (one who does no evil and does everything he or she is supposed to do) necessarily be happy, too? In other words, do you believe that life is ultimately fair? Will a wicked person surely suffer, at least in the long run? (If not, why should anyone bother trying to be good?)
13. Do you believe that it is wrong to take a life under any circumstances? Any life?
14. Have you ever made a decision that was entirely your own, that was no one’s responsibility but yours? (That is, it was not because of the way your parents raised you, not because of the influence of your friends or television or books or movies, not because you were in any way forced into it or unduly influenced by someone or by certain circumstances.)

15. Is freedom always a good thing?
16. Do you want to have children? If so, why?

Chapter 2–The Meaning of Life

1. Fill in the blank: “Life is _______________________________.”
What does your answer say about you and how you see yourself? What are your ultimate goals? Expectations? Hopes? Fears?
2. Suppose an angel is sitting on a cloud, watching the parade of human activities below—the way we would watch a colony of ants hurrying along in their daily business. What would the angel say about the flurry of activity? What would it amount to, in the angel’s eyes?
3. Name three or four things that you would not like to leave undone at your death. How many of these things have you already accomplished or begun? Which of these things could you now be doing, but are not? (Why not?)
4. The philosopher Albert Camus suggested that life is like the task of the Greek mythological hero Sisyphus, who was condemned to roll a rock up a mountain, only to have it fall back again; and he had to do this forever. Is life indeed like this? How?

1. Give your preference for the following images of life. Rate them on a scale of 1–5, with 5 indicating that you wholeheartedly agree, and 1 indicating near-total disagreement. Are there some (for example, life as disease or frustration) that you think may be right even though you do not like them? Mark these with an X.
Feel free to add other images of your own.
Life is
a game ———
a story ———
a tragedy ———
a mission ———
comedy ———
art ———
an adventure ———
a disease ———
desire ———
nirvana ———
altruism ———
honor ———
learning ———
suffering ———
an investment ———
relationships ———
2. Suppose one of your friends tells you that the meaning of life is nothing other than “get yours while you can.” What would you think of this? Would you try to talk him out of this view of life as selfishness? How would you do so?

3. A traditional Native American saying goes “Leave the earth as you found it.” Many Americans, by way of contrast, are told that they should “make their mark on the world.” What are the comparative virtues and vices of these two very different ways of thinking, and how would you try to reconcile the two? What are the two very different “meanings of life” that they offer?

Chapter 3–God

1. Do you believe in God?
If your answer is yes, you are a theist (no matter what particular conception of God you believe in).
If your answer is no, you are an atheist.
If you say, “I don’t know,” you are an agnostic.
2. What are the most prominent features of God?
Is God all-powerful (omnipotent)?
Is God all-knowing (omniscient)?
Did God create the universe?

Does God care about human beings?

Does God have emotions?
If so, which ones?
Anger (wrath),
Is God distinct and separate from the world he created?
Is God knowable to us?
Can God take or has God ever taken human form?
3. Why do you believe in God? Or why don’t you?

1. Give a general description of God, noting those characteristics without which you would not be willing to use the word “God.”
If you don’t believe in God, say with some precision what it is that you don’t believe in.
2. If you believe that there is a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and concerned with justice and the well-being of humanity, explain how there can be so much evil and suffering in the world.
Pursue as far as you can the responses and objections to one of the various attempts to answer the problem of evil. (A good way of doing this is to have a friend act as devil’s advocate and try to refute your efforts to defend a solution to the problem.)
3. If you believe in God, try to explain to an atheist friend (real or imagined) why you believe in God.
If you think there are good reasons for believing, state them.
If you think there are good arguments for, or a proof of, God’s existence, state the arguments or the proof and defend it against your atheist friend’s objections.
If you think that the only way to believe in God is through faith, answer your atheist friend’s objections that you are being irrational, that you are simply indulging in “wishful thinking,” and that you are escaping from your responsibilities to change the world and, instead, are accepting a fantasy in which God will take full responsibility.
4. Choose one of the traditional proofs of God’s existence and work it out in some detail, answering objections and making the argument as irrefutable as you can. (See next page for further readings.) development of divine types. God degenerated into the contradiction of life, instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yes! God as the declaration of war against life, against nature, against the will to live! God— the formula for every slander against “this world,” for every lie about the “beyond”! God—the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy!
5. If you don’t believe in God, what would convince you that God does exist? If you do believe in God, what would convince you that God does not exist?

Chapter 4–The Nature of Reality

1. How “real” are the following items? (Rate them on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is most real, 1 is least real.)
The person sitting next to you ———
The chair you are sitting in ———
God ———
The planet Uranus ———
Beethoven’s music ———
The headache you had last night ———
Human rights ———
Electrons ———
The woman or man in (not “of”) your dreams ———
Angels ———
The number 7 ———
Water ———
Ice ———
Love ———
Beauty ———
Genes ———
The theory of relativity ———
Einstein’s brain (when he was alive) ———
Einstein’s ideas ———
Your own mind ———
The color red ———
The Nature of Reality

A red sensation (in your own mind) ———
“Unreal numbers” ———
The NFL ———
Your own body ———
Your soul ———
2. Do you believe that the earth is flat and does not move, while the stars, sun, moon, and planets circle around it in more or less regularly shaped orbits? If not, why not? (If so, why?)
3. If a tree falls in the forest when there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Why or why not? If no one ever sees, hears, or touches the tree itself, what sense does it make to say that the tree is “real”?
4. Does the universe itself have a purpose? If so, what is this purpose? If not, is it, as some modern philosophers have argued, just a universe of “matter in motion”—particles and electromagnetic fields acting according to the laws of physics?

Chapter 4–The Nature of Reality

1. Choose one of the elements defended by the pre-Socratic philosophers (water, fire, numbers, and so on) and argue for it as well as you can, preferably with a friend or a few friends who will try to prove you wrong. For example, if you choose fire, an immediate objection would be that fire could not possibly be the essential element in cold objects—a block of ice, for example. A reply might be that cold objects simply contain much less fire than hot things. You might also argue that not all fire manifests itself as flame, and soon, no doubt, you will find yourself moving into more modern-day talk about energy instead of fire as such. The point of the exercise is (1) to see how very much alive we can still make these ancient theories in our own terms and (2) to show how any theory, if it has only the slightest initial plausibility, can be defended, at least to some extent, if only you are clever enough to figure out how to answer the various objections presented to you and modify your theory to meet them.
2. Describe the Form of some ordinary objects around you, in accordance with Plato’s theory. How do you know whether an object is defined by one Form or another? What can you say about the Form of an ordinary object, in the fashion of Plato’s discussion of the Form of triangle? If an object changes, does it change Forms as well? Can an object have conflicting Forms? Can we understand our recognition of objects without some conception of Forms to explain how it is that we recognize them?
3. Categories in philosophy often seem too rigid or too simple- minded to classify the complexity of our views, but perhaps the following checklist will help you understand your own position in the history of philosophy:
a. Are you a materialist? An immaterialist?
Do you believe that ultimate reality can be discovered by science?
Do you believe that ultimate reality is a matter of religious belief?
b. What are the basic entities in your ontology? What is most real?
c. Are you a monist? A pluralist?
If you are a pluralist, what is the connection between the different entities in your ontology? Rank them in order of their relative reality, or explain their relationship.
d. Are the basic entities in your ontology eternal? If not, how did they come into being?
e. Are you an idealist? (Do you believe that the basic entities of your ontology are dependent on the existence of minds?)
f. How do you explain the existence of (or how do you deny the existence of) the following? Minds, numbers, God, tables and chairs, the law of gravity, evil, moral principles, dreams, Santa Claus.
g. Is the experience of seeing a green flash nothing other than having a certain brain event go on inside your skull? Why would someone want to say that? What problems are there with that suggestion?
h. Could a computer have a sense of humor? What would it have to do to have one? What would it have to do to convince you that it had one? (Would it be enough to print out “Ha Ha” and shake around a bit?)
i. Does the universe have a purpose? (Sometimes, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”)
j. What does the word real mean to you? Using your definition, run once again through the items in Opening Question 1 and rate them for their reality in your view.
k. Do you think this world is the real world? Or do you believe that there is an existence more real than our o

Chapter 5–The Search for Truth

1. Some of the information you have been given in your courses in school is, inevitably, not true. How would you start to prove to yourself that all of it is not false?
2. Suppose a friend were to challenge you, “How do you know that 2 1 2 5 4?” How would you answer?
3. Suppose another friend, in a provocative mood, were to ask you how you know that you are not dreaming right at this moment. What can you say? How would you prove to yourself that this is not true?
4. Is thinking rationally always the best way to think? Is the scientific answer to a question always the most true?

1. Does it make sense to say that a statement or belief is true for a particular person? Can a truth be simply subjective? Give some examples, and explain what significance to give to the above expression “is true for.”
2. If a belief makes a person who believes it happier and more secure, does that make it true in any sense?
3. If there were facts, what would they be?
4. Bertrand Russell once wrote, “Better the world should perish than I or any other human being should believe a lie.” Discuss.
Is truth all that important?
5. Are there electrons?
6. Could a scientist give an adequate account of the biblical story of the raising of Lazarus?

Chapter 6–Self

1. Describe yourself as a character in a novel. Describe the gestures, postures, revealing habits, characteristic word phrases you use.
Try to imitate yourself, by way of parody. What kind of person would you describe yourself as being?
2. Explain who you are to a visitor from another planet.
3. Who are you? Compare the descriptions you would provide
a. On a job application.
b. On a first date.
c. In a talk with your parents, as you are trying to tell them what you have decided to do with your life.
d. In a trial with you as the defendant, trying to convince the jury of your “good character.”
e. As the “I” in the statement “I think, therefore I am” (Des- cartes).
4. What is involved in being a “human being”? What (or who) would be included in your characterization? What (or who) would be excluded?
5. Is it ever possible to know—really know—another person?
Imagine what it would be like to suspect that you can never know another person’s true feelings, that all his or her movements and gestures are intended to fool you and that you can no longer assume that what the individual means (for example, by a smile or a frown) is what you mean by the same outward movement. How do you feel about this?
6. You say to yourself, “I am going to move my arm.” You decide to do it, and—lo and behold—your arm moves. How did you do that?

1. When a person says, “I think such and such . . .” is there necessarily reference to a self there, or is the word “I” simply a function of grammar? Would it make sense to say, as Bertrand Russell once suggested, that “It thinks in me” or “There is a thought here” instead?
2. In his play No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre had one of his characters exclaim, “Hell is other people.” What he might have had in mind is that people interfere with each other to such an extent that hell might simply be people torturing each other forever with their comments and their gestures, just as we torture each other here on earth. Do you agree with this picture of human relationships? Why or why not?

3. If a teenager commits a crime and is sent to reform school for a few years, what justification might the individual have, twenty years later, in explaining, “I am an entirely different person now”?

4. Which aspects of your self (or self-identity) do you attribute directly to your upbringing in a particular family, in a particular society, or in a particular neighborhood, city, or other environment? Which do you attribute to “nature” (that is, to instincts and inherited characteristics)? Which aspects of your self (if any) would you say are entirely your own, independent of other people and your biological nature?
5. If you were told (perhaps in a science fiction story) that a certain “person” was a robot, how could you tell if this were true?
6. Does your race signify an essential part of your self? Why or why not?
7. Does your sex constitute an essential part of your self? Why or why not?
8. Marriage is sometimes described as a union of two people. Sexual coupling aside, what does this mean?
9. Does a newborn baby have a self? What kinds of theories and considerations would you bring to bear on this question?

Chapter 7– Freedom

1. It is one of the main themes of American literature and folklore that freedom (or liberty) is one of the few things worth fighting for, even dying for. What does this mean? Describe a set of circumstances in which you would accept this as true. Describe a set of circumstances in which you would not accept this as true. What are the important differences between the two cases?
2. Most of what you do and say reflects the influences, training, education, examples, and rules that have affected you all your life. Some of these come from your parents; there were prejudices and preferences taught to you when you were very young so that you have never even been able to consider the alternatives.
Some have been imposed on you by force (through threat of punishment or nonacceptance), and other people have subtly influenced you through television, magazines, and other forms of mass communication. Does all this make your actions and decisions any less “free”? To what extent would you be more free if you could get outside of all these influences and make decisions without them?

3. Have you ever made a decision that was entirely your own? If so, describe it.
4. We often talk about a person in love being “captive” to that emotion; is this possible? Is a person who acts out of love less free than a person who acts out of deliberate reasoning?
5. If a person commits a serious crime, but is wholly determined or caused to do so by his or her upbringing, by criminal influences, or by drugs, should he or she be held responsible for the crime?
Should society be held responsible? Friends? The drug dealer?
Should anyone be held responsible? Or is that just “the way things had to happen”?
6. Is freedom necessary for living the good life in a good society? Can you imagine circumstances in which freedom would be undesirable, or at least irrelevant? Is giving people freedom always giving them something good?
7. Is a person alone more free than a person bound by obligations to other people? Is it true, as our love songs often say, that breaking up a relationship is “being free again”? Is a person caught up in a web of duties and obligations at work necessarily less free than a person who, by choice, does not work at all?

1. 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 does your conception include playing roles and interacting with other people? To what extent do other people limit your freedom? To what extent can you be really free only when you are alone?
2. Imagine yourself trying to make a difficult decision (for instance, what job offer to accept, whether to get married, whether to enlist in the army). Now consider yourself a determinist and ask yourself,
“What am I going to do in this situation?” How does this affect your deliberations?
3. Consider one of the two compatibilist (soft determinist) positions discussed in this chapter and defend it, or attack it, from the point of view of a hard determinist.
4. Aristotle said that we are not free if our action is caused by “external compulsion.” What counts as external compulsion, in your opinion? Can compulsions be internal as well? Give some examples, and explain how it is that they interfere with our freedom.

1. We sometimes say that to be a good person, one must be “true to oneself.” Do you think this is so? Give examples.
2. Do you believe that a morally good person will, at least in normal circumstances, also be assured of being a happy person? Why or why not?
3. If a sadist were to gain enormous pleasure from torturing his or her victims—in fact, more pleasure than the pain suffered by the victims themselves—would the sadist’s cruelty be justified?
4. Is there anything you would find worth dying for? What? (Camus, in his Myth of Sisyphus, said, “A reason for dying is also a good reason for living.”)
5. Many religious commandments, in sexual and food prohibitions, tell us to abstain from the material, or bodily, enjoyments of life.
Is it possible to be a religious person and deny yourself none of the pleasures of life? Or if a religion encourages us to make money, buy fancy cars, and live well, is it thereby corrupting its status as a religion?
6. Do we in fact always act selfishly, even in those instances in which we appear to be “selflessly” helping others?
7. Is it true that the “bottom line” of business is profit and profit alone? Or, even in business itself, are there other, less tangible goals that are intrinsic to and just as important as making money?
8. Do you believe that abortion is justifiable, even in cases in which the life of the mother is not threatened? How do you justify your answer, and how would you defend it against a person who disagreed with you?
9. Assuming that we agree on a list of injunctions that we all ought to obey, which we call morality, why should we be moral?
10. Would it be possible for a person to be perfectly good and yet cause harm to innocent people? Could a person be wicked even if he or she never caused any harm at all?
11. Which is more important to you, success or happiness? What if you are forced to choose between them?
12. We are a nation ruled “by laws, not men.” What does this say about our view of “men”?

1. What is your conception of the good life? What goals or principles are primary? What are the roles of success, wealth, freedom, and friendship? Are they ends or means? If they are means, how do they lead to the end in question?
2. What qualities do you consider to be the most important virtues a person can possess? What are the qualities most valued by our society?

3. In our sense, is it always the case that everyone strives for happiness? Are there other goals or principles that might be more important?

4. What considerations do you use to tell whether someone’s action is selfish? Is selfishness always wrong? Sometimes wrong? When? Be specific.
5. Under what circumstances, if any, is it permissible to lie? What does your answer indicate about the justification of the principle that one ought not to lie?
6. How would you apply the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative to a specific circumstance? Imagine, for instance, that you are considering stealing a book when no one is looking. How would you decide, according to Kant, that this act is immoral?
7. The British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, “What is morality in any given time and place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike.” Do you agree?
8. A hungry cannibal chieftain looks you over and declares that you will indeed make a fine dinner. What can you say to him to convince him that cooking you would be wrong? (Convincing him that you won’t taste good is not enough.)

Chapter 9–Justice and the Good Society

1. In what kind of society would you prefer to live? A large urban society; a small rural society; some safe suburb; a bustling commercial city; a quiet, more or less homogeneous town in which people more or less share the same values; a multiethnic neighborhood with many different peoples?
2. Do you believe in the death penalty for the most heinous crimes?Why or why not?
3. Should a president of the United States be impeached if his or her subordinates break the law?
4. Should shelter for the homeless be provided at government (that is, taxpayer) expense? Should this be undertaken at the federal, state, or local level? If you say, “none of the above,” what do you think should be done about the problem?
5. Is political power ultimately nothing but the rule of the strongest, the most powerful, the most persuasive on TV? Is a government anything more than the power of those who run it? Why are there governments at all?
6. Does the government have the right (rather than merely the power) to demand a percentage of your paycheck as taxes? Why or why not?
7. What is justice? What aspects of our society make it a just society? What aspects of our society are unjust?

8. Are there any reasons for paying one person less than another for the same measurable productivity?
9. Is there a “human right” to an education? Who has the obligation to make sure that you get one—your parents, the government, you yourself?
10. Do you believe that “all men [and women] are created equal”? What does this mean? In what respects are they equal?

1. What does it mean to say that “might makes right”? In your opinion, what makes a government legitimate?
2. In your opinion, what is the single most important feature of justice? Is it serving the needs of the worst off? Ensuring that people are paid fairly for what they do? Ensuring that people may keep what they earn? Protecting people’s rights? Making sure that everyone is treated equally?
3. What do you think human beings were like before the formation of societies as we know them? What would we be like if we were raised (and somehow survived) outside of any social or societal context? Do you think that such questions are relevant?
4. If you and several hundred other people were about to form a new society (let’s say, as you plunged into space to populate a newly discovered planet), what principles of justice would you propose to your peers? What sort of principles (if any) do you think would gain general agreement? (Examples: “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” “Everyone shares what they’ve got equally with others.” “No one should be punished under any circumstances.” “Anyone who breaks even the smallest law is exiled to space.”)
5. If an already-rich person makes another fortune on a lucky stock market investment, does he or she have the right (entitlement) to the entire gain—or should this be subject to taxation? What does your answer suggest about your sense of justice?
6. Would it be fair to hire or fire a female TV news anchor on the basis of her age or appearance? Why or why not?

7. Is it just that people should receive better schooling, better health care, and better legal aid only because they have more money?
If you think it is just, explain why; if you think it is unjust, say what you think should be done to remedy the situation.
8. In what sense is it fair and in what sense is it not fair to treat everyone equally—for example, in the distribution of salaries and payment for services? Should someone who works hard make more than someone who does not? Why do we believe that hard work should be rewarded? Should a twenty-year employee make no more than a novice? Why should “time on the job” make a difference? Should the owner of a company keep no more in profits than she pays her employees? Why should ownership make a difference? Should a person who desperately needs a good deal of money for a lifesaving heart operation be given more than another person who is in perfect health and has no particular need for the money? Do we in fact consider such need an important measure of “just desert”? Finally, should a person make more because he or she is particularly talented or skilled? After all, he or she was lucky enough to be born with talent or into a family where talent could be cultivated. So why should we treat people unequally just because of luck?

1. Do you believe that men and women think differently? How do you know? If so, to what do you attribute the difference—nature, education, or choice?
2. Do you believe that members of different races think differently?
How do you know? If so, to what do you attribute this difference—nature, education, or choice?
3. When you describe yourself (notably, to yourself), with what do you most closely identify—your nationality, your neighborhood, your social class, your sex, the people you love, your race, your beliefs, your achievements or ambitions, or still something else?
Of what importance to your self-identity are the features you chose not to mention?

4. What makes one culture different from another? How is it possible to translate a practice or a belief from one culture into another? Do you believe that all cultures could understand one another, if only they learned to “speak the same language”?
5. Why do you think it is that white males have so dominated Western cultural life?
6. Before the legal abolition of slavery, was it morally legitimate to own slaves? Why or why not?
7. In India, some wives have been expected to share the funeral pyre with their just-departed husbands. In what terms is it possible for us to criticize or object to such a practice? In some parts of Africa, even very recently, young women have been expected to undergo the painful operation of clitoridectomy. In what terms is it possible for us to criticize or object to such a practice? In many countries today, infant boys (or, sometimes, young men) are expected to undergo the painful operation of circumcision.
In what terms would you criticize or defend such a practice?

1. Do you think that universal truths underlie all religious belief?
Do you think that the different religious traditions and their different views are incompatible? Why or why not?
2. Do you think that patriarchy (rule by men) and racism are institutionalized in Western philosophy and culture? Why do you think so, or not?
3. In what sense are philosophies products of their culture? How or how not, or to what extent?
4. Do you agree that the various binary oppositions in our language are always or basically gender related? Why do you think so, or not?
5. Do you think that African Americans have made significant progress in their struggle for equality? Do you think that integration could be effective in bettering race relations in this country? Do you think that voluntary segregation could be as effective? Why or why not?

1. What is it that makes some human artifacts art (for example, a painting or a piece of music), while others (for example, the mass-produced classroom chair you are sitting in) are not art?
2. Is a copy of a great painting itself a work of art?
3. In what sense is art an imitation of reality?
4. Does the appreciation of beauty make us better (more moral) human beings?
5. What is your (personally) favorite work of art? How would you describe your relationship with it?

Many movies have a philosophical theme or philosophical implications.
Pick one film that you have seen and explain its philosophical implications and its aesthetic effectiveness.

Write a review of a piece of music that particularly moves you (or perhaps turns you off). What is moving (or bothersome or boring) about it? How much of this impact is due to the words (if it is a song with lyrics)? How much is due to the instrumentation, the melody, the harmony, the rhythm, or the quality or nature of the voice(s)?

1. Is there a difference in quality between current popular music and so-called classical music? Is there any plausible argument that one ought to prefer one to the other?
2. In what sense do we believe in objects or characters in fiction?
Does it make sense to say that a work of art (say, a novel) is “total fiction,” that is, that nothing in it is true?
3. Do you believe that art and aesthetic appreciation can make one a better person? How?
4. Why does listening to music move us? Pick a piece as an illustration.
5. Aesthetically evaluate your dorm room/apartment. What are its flaws and virtues? How well does it express you and your sensibilities? How well does it express your attitudes toward school? Toward life?

Describe the Form of some ordinary objects around you, in accordance with Plato’s theory. How do you know whether an object is defined by one Form or another?