WESTERN VISION AND AMERICAN VALUES: THE KIRKPATRICK SIGNATURE SERIES READER (KSSR):
Plato: ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ 46 [Note: The shadows on the cave wall are typically taken to symbolize the traditions, conventional knowledge, social mores, governmental systems, and the institutions of society that most people accept without questioning because it’s more comfortable not to question things. Plato thought, however, that courageous questioning through the use of reason could enable people to liberate their minds from these shadows and discover the truth. Plato believed that truth was single and absolute and that it could be attained only through a process of reasoning.]
Plato: “Crito” 137 [pay special attention to Socrates’ idea of the “implied contract” between the citizen and the state]
Thucydides: “Pericles’ Funeral Oration” 133 [Note especially what Pericles has to say about democracy.]
Hanson and Heath: from “Who Killed Homer?” 119 [Note: You should cover as many of the specific points from this essay possible.]
Lind: from The Second Fall of Rome 165 [Pay particular attention to what Lind says about our debt to Rome for our republican form of government.]
IN DEFENSE OF THE WEST:
Chapter 3: The Western Vision
NOTE: Dr. Devine’s book is intended to provide historical and philosophical context for the ideas in the main readings each week. You do not have to refer to ideas from his book in your threads each week, though you may (briefly) if you wish.
Writing Assignment 2.1:
Post to the Week 2 forum of the Discussion Board by midnight (11:59 p.m. Central Time) of the Sunday of Week 2. Please write only the following in the subject line: 2.1 and your last name.
Scenario: You are a castaway on a large tropical island with the other members of your class. Already on this island is a group of people, the Yahoos, who are governed by a benign dictator. This woman has absolute power in all political decisions. The Yahoo society is hierarchically arranged with a very rigid class structure. There are essentially three classes of people. The highest class consists of the ruling elites—the dictator and her closest advisors and protectors. The small middle class consists of educators and other professionals. The lowest class, and the largest of the three, is the underclass made up of unskilled, usually illiterate laborers.
Among the Yahoos, social stability is maintained by communalistic sharing of all wealth and profit. The Yahoo queen receives no more income than the lowest laborer and lives in a residence no larger than that of the lowest laborer. Because of the plentiful natural resources, life among the Yahoos is generally prosperous and satisfying. Therefore, Yahoos have never questioned their lack of civil rights. One vulnerability is that their society is relatively static and incapable of adjusting to unexpected changes. It has never been tested by external threats.
Our group of immigrants would like to peacefully co-exist with the Yahoos and would like to avoid being perceived as a danger to their society. However, coming from the USA, our group is understandably uncomfortable with such a political system. Our group believes that the Yahoos are equivalent to the prisoners in Plato’s cave and are in need of your compassionate attempts at liberation. Because we are also apprehensive about the warlike nature of the Yahoos, we believe that their political conversion is in our best interest.
USING IDEAS FROM THE FIVE ASSIGNED READINGS FOR THIS WEEK AND THE DEFINITION OF VALUES FROM WEEK 1 (COPIED BELOW), CREATE AN ARGUMENT FOR A DEMOCRATIC FORM OF GOVERNMENT (THUCYDIDES SHOULD BE HELPFUL HERE) AND FOR THE VALUES NECESSARY TO SUSTAIN SUCH A GOVERNMENT (1,000 WORDS MINIMUM), TO BE DELIVERED BY AN EMISSARY TO THE YAHOO RULER, QUEEN BELLICOSE. NOTE: MUCH OF YOUR ESSAY WILL BE CONCERNED WITH VALUES.
Values Definition (Created by the Winter Evening 1998 Signature Series Cluster Students):
A set of fundamental, deeply held, highly complex personal beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of certain behaviors, beliefs which are often instilled by society and family, and which provide continuity of meaning through generations; which are relatively permanent (i.e., not easily changed by circumstances); and which affect our opinions about all issues that face us in our lives. Examples are integrity, compassion, honesty, honor, courage, fairness, loyalty, egalitarianism, the worth ethic, responsibility, and tolerance. When values are corrupted or perverted, they can become powerful catalysts for hatred and destructiveness. When we compromise our values, we may cause pain to others, but we always hurt ourselves (we are diminished in our own eyes).
Prewriting Suggestions for the Week 2 assignment:
To help prepare yourself to write the assignment, you may wish to do some exploratory writing or brainstorming on relevant aspects of the readings (this is not required). This writing/brainstorming is very informal (and maybe fragmented and disorganized and is not going to be submitted for review by your classmates or the instructor. However, sentences or paragraphs that you write on the topics below may be incorporated into your essay.
Topics to Consider:
1. Is there a “social contract” (“Crito”) in the Yahoo society? If so, what are its terms? What would be the “social contract” of the immigrant society?
2. What are Pericles’ specific ideas on democracy? What impact would they have on Yahoo society?
3. Hanson and Heath list a number of major Greek ideas, values, or ways of viewing the world. These derive from a democratic time in Greek history. Which of these ideas or values would Yahoo society share? Which ones would it not share? Why? Which ones would benefit the Yahoos? Why?
4. Lind discusses both the totalitarian society of the Roman Empire and the representative democracy of the Roman Republic. How is Yahoo society like and unlike that of the Roman Empire? Which ideas about our Roman Republican inheritance would the immigrants draw on in their attempt to open the Yahoos’ minds to a new type of political governance?
5. What might be some of the social and political benefits of Yahoo society?
6. What are the limitations of Yahoo society?
7. What are the advantages of the democratic society brought to the Hidden Island by the immigrants?
8. What is ultimately more important, personal freedom or social stability?
Important Notes on the Assignments:
1. Comment on specific ideas from ALL of this week’s assigned readings to support your position.
2. Keep your focus on offering critical thinking opinion, NOT summarizing (though a little summary/paraphrase will be necessary to establish each idea you’re commenting on). Please remember that supplying reasons for opinions is what distinguishes critical opinions from ordinary opinions.
3. DO NOT SUMMARIZE THE WHOLE READING BEFORE GIVING YOUR OPINIONS ON ITS IDEAS. Instead, take up one idea at a time, first paraphrasing the idea and then offering your critical thinking opinion on it; when you’ve finished writing about one idea, proceed to the next. Aim for a ratio of 1 part summary to 3 or 4 parts critical thinking opinion.
4. Do NOT fill up your essay with quotations, as these eat up space unnecessarily. Instead briefly reference the points you’re going to comment on and then proceed to make your critical thinking points on them. If you do use quotations, keep them short (no more than one sentence at a time) and provide an in-text citation at the end of your sentence. The in-text citation should give the Author’s last name (unless you’ve used it in your sentence) and the page number for the quotation. The author is the author of that particular reading, not Devine (who is the main editor of the Signature Series Reader).