DIRECTIONS: As reported in Plato’s account The Apology, Socrates famously claimed at his trial that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” You have had the opportunity to examine your own life and reality through the thoughts of the Ancient Greek philosophers. The purpose of this touchstone assignment is for you (1) to engage with the philosophical ideas presented in this course and (2) to reflect on how these philosophical ideas have impacted your own life.
Part I: Philosophical Thinking
In the first part of the touchstone, you will be distinguishing between the three primary branches of philosophy.
Consider the three following questions:
- What is knowledge?
- What is reality made of?
- What is the good life and how ought I to live it?
These are the basic questions that were considered in different forms by the major figures in Ancient Greek philosophy. But they are also critical questions for our own lives today, whether we are philosophers or not.
Part I of this assignment should be approximately 1-2 pages (300-600 words) and cover each of the following steps:
- First, you should define philosophy and then distinguish and define each of the three main branches of philosophy covered in this class.
- Then, identify which of the above questions is associated with each branch of philosophy.
- You should illustrate the differences between the three branches of philosophy using examples from the course. For example, explain how Socrates would answer the question “What is knowledge?” or how Epictetus would answer the question “What is the good life?”
Part II: Reflection
For the second part of the touchstone, now that you’ve distinguished between the three main branches of philosophy, you will focus on one of those three questions from Part I and use that as a starting point and guide for your personal philosophical reflection.
The purpose of Part II is for you to reflect on the philosophical mindset and some of the ideas presented in this course and apply them to your own life. This reflection is more open-ended than Part I, but should include reflections on the following questions:
- What does it mean to think philosophically? How can thinking philosophically help me in my own life?
- What impact do the ideas of the Ancient Greek philosophers have on my own views and opinions?
- Then, based on these reflections, you should give your own answer to whichever of the three questions from Part I you chose to focus on. (“What is knowledge?”; “What is reality?”; “What is the good life?”)
Part II of this assignment should be approximately 1-2 pages (300-600 words). You should write at least one paragraph for each of the three prompts listed above.
In answering these reflection questions, you are free to draw from your own experiences as well as bringing in the ideas of different Ancient Greek philosophers. Please note: Some philosophers will be more suited for particular questions than others. For example, Epictetus has a lot to say about “What is the good life and how ought I to live it?” while not saying much about knowledge or reality. Plato and Aristotle wrote a great deal about all three questions.
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