So far this semester, we have primarily focused our attention on introducing and defining power as an ideal, and broadly tracing some of the key political and historical developments in terms of power structures from the ancient world through the so-called Renaissance. And by the time you write this first blogpost of the semester, you also will have been exposed to some of Plato’s philosophical ideas about power and justice. For your first written homework of the semester, then, I’d like you to build on this early work, while also starting to make some connections to things we will be covering in the coming weeks. To do this, you are going to respond to three question sets, which are designed to get you to think critically about some key elements of power, past and present. Below are the three question clusters you should answer carefully and thoughtfully, through (at least) a well-crafted, detailed paragraph per section. Your blogposts are due before classtime on 9/18, and I look forward to reading your responses, and learning more about you as a result!
1) The first two full class sessions were designed to introduce two key concepts for us this semester: power and critical thinking. And then we spent a day covering a broad overview of various historical and political systems and structures of power. As you think back to those classes, I want you to reflect on them and consider what you learned. What is it that seems most important to you from those early days in class? Why so? How might you use/apply this learning to the rest of our semester’s work (if not your work in other classes or other social environments)?
2) Now that you have a better basic sense of just what power IS, I’d like you to offer some thoughts about how it is manifest in your own life. On one hand, what are some of the ways in which you, as an individual, have power? And why is this so important to your life, your own well-being and prosperity? On the other hand, what are some key ways in which you are disenfranchised in American society, or at least relatively powerless? How does this lack of power make you feel, and what might be done about it (personally, locally, or globally)?
3) For class today you will be examining brief excerpts from Plato’s Republic – a monument of Greek philosophy and world literature. The main focus of these passages is the topic of justice, a premise that is varied and complex. To explore the theme of justice in the Republic, I would like you to do two things in this section of your blogpost. First, I’d like you to select a single passage from the Republic that you find to be interesting, provocative, or somehow problematic as it relates to the topic of justice. Then, you should analyze the passage itself and try to place it within its historical context. How does this statement fit within Plato’s broader discussion of justice and power, and how does it fit within the political and intellectual climate of ancient Athens? Secondly, what do you think about the viewpoint at hand concerning justice, and why? One way to answer this question would be to consider Plato’s reasoning, and then provide a modern-day example as a test-case. What does your example show us about justice (or lack thereof) in the face of social controversy, and how does it illustrate your own view of justice? What might Plato have to say about your example?