Discussion Paper Practice

Here are four sample discussion paper topics that we can work on in groups. Try to come up with an outline for an essay-length discussion of these questions. Make sure to include a thesis statement and a short description of what each paragraph of the essay will discuss. I suggest that you also try to include a few helpful quotations either from Aristotle or from Lear that help bolster your point. Over the weekend, I'll try to post some comments on each group's work so that you can all get a better idea of what goes into writing a philosophy paper.

Group 1: In Book I, Chapter 7 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle asks what "eudaimonia" is. Translations of this Greek word include: happiness, human flourishing, the good life. But these translations don't really give us a full answer to the question "what is eudaimonia?" because they don't give us any pratical insight into what we are seeking. In Chapter 7, Aristotle tries to fill out our concept of "eudaimonia" by giving us several criteria for what a flourishing life is. What do you think the most important criteria are in this chapter? What sorts of life are ruled out, on Aristotle's criteria, as being bad, or non-ideal ways of living?

Group 2: To what extent does eudaimonia depend upon living in a community, according to Aristotle? Would just any community be sufficient for happiness? What does community contribute to the possibility of human flourishing? Suggested chapters to look at: N. Ethics Book I, Chapters 3, 7, and 9, and Book II, Chapter 1.

Group 3: What is a virtue? Take the particular example of Crow courage. How was an act of Crow courage a mean between two extremes? How did it fit within the larger Crow conception of happiness, or flourishing? What happens to this virtue as the traditional Crow way of life begins to disappear?

Group 4: What is the relation between reason, habit, and pleasure in the cultivation of virtue, according to Aristotle? This is a difficult question, and to answer it you would need to start by looking closely at Book II, Chapters 1-3.

Group 5: Jonathan Lear claims that when the traditional Crow way of life began to disappear, the crisis the tribe faced was of a unique sort. The crisis was of course a result of death, disease, and restriction of their lands. But Lear argues that the Crow also faced an ethical crisis. What are the important ethical resources the Crow lost that put their conception of the good life in crisis?

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