ETHICS AND LOGIC IN HIGH SCHOOL
For a Course In
HIGH SCHOOL ETHICS
EXTRACTS CONCERNING ETHICS FROM THE MANUSCRIPT
ETHICS AND LOGIC IN HIGH SCHOOL
The following pages outline an extract for the implementation of a public high school ethics (or moral values) course as has been successfully taught by me for ten years (1972 -1982) at Holly wood Professional Academic School, Hollywood California.
1. Extracts Concerning ETHICS from the Manuscript
"ETHICS AND LOGIC IN HIGH SCHOOL"
2. Course Outline for Ethics Course
3. A Preliminary Teacher's Manual for Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics
4. A Preliminary Teacher's Manual for Plato's The Republic
5. Selections of Students' Evaluations of High School Ethics Course, and Writing Assignments on
The following compendium consists of extracts from a more comprehensive treatment of parts 2 and 3 of the ethics segment of my manuscript, Ethics and Logic in High School. These extracts deal with my personal experience of teaching these subjects at the high school level, grades 10 through 12. Should some of the statements in these extracts seem somewhat incomplete or arbitrary, I would suggest the reading of the entire manuscript in order to derive a broader perspective and understanding of this crucial subject matter concerning the teaching of moral values at the secondary level.
HIGH SCHOOL ETHICS AS A STUDY
The teaching method of the class is ethical enquiry, not moral instruction.
The class is directed from an analytical, psychological, humanistic approach.
Such concepts as happiness, virtue (or moral excellence), moral responsibility, friendship, justice, integrity, the distinction between a moral act and a moral agent, etc., are discussed in depth and in relation to practical living.
As a disciplined academic study, there is no place for sermonizing, moralizing,, indoctrinating, reforming,, nor the resolving of personal problems.
High School Ethics not Taught in a Religious Content
Ethical enquiry (or philosophical ethics) is not a religious study.
Moral conduct nowadays is based more on humanistic motives than on religious considerations.
Altrusim, self-realization, moral honor, moral obligation, utilitarianism, are some motives other than religious ones for acting rightly.
Religious morality is too rigid and self-denying for most of the younger generation to ascribe to.
For ethics (or moral values) to have meaning to most young people, it must be more earthward, closer to man, humanistic.
However diverse one's moral motives and incentives may be (religious or otherwise), I can see no reason why anyone cannot learn and profit by different perspectives to the same subject matter other than one's own perspective.
ACADEMIC ADVANTAGES AND RELEVANCE OF HIGH SCHOOL ETHICS
Ethical enquiry fosters the student's analytic powers through discussion and writing.
Ethical enquiry sharpens the student's readiness of mind to be better able to deal effectively with moral situations.
Ethical enquiry can and does contribute significantly to constructive, effective thinking and learning in matters closest to us as moral beings.
Our culture has reached a crucial stage in its moral consciousness which can no longer be ignored; this holds especially in such areas as equality, justice, respect, integrity, consideration.
Young people nowadays are more aware of moral and social issues than ever before; and so are more receptive, perceptive, capable, and in need of moral guidance and discussion.
My own observations of student discussions on ethical matters bear out their good sense and keen recognition of falseness and insincerity.
PROPOSED PROCEDURE, CONTENT, AND MATERIAL IN TEACHING ETHICS
Ethics cannot be adequately taught through, or as an adjunct tog, other studies, such as history, psychology, literature, etc. However, ethics can be introduced through these subjects.
The home and church, while helpful, are generally not sufficiently qualified teaching agencies to be capable of dealing adequately with today's complex and existential issues and concepts.
Two Problems to be Considered:
1. The teaching procedure of ethical enquiry.
2. The question of qualified teachers.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, OBSERVATIONS, AND SUGGESTIONS IN TEACHING ETHI C S
The teacher must recognize that not all students are interested in the subject matter, or with class discussions, for various reasons.
The class has to be conducted on two fronts: (1) teaching the subject efficiently and challengingly, (2) moderating efficiently, class discussion.
Such controversial topics as religion, politics, sex, are best avoided by adhering to text material.
The teacher must be neither dogmatic, absolute, attitudinal, nor partial to any one student to the exclusion of, or fairness to, the ideas of others. Ideas, and not personalities, are what count.
Comments and criticisms of students' ideas by the teacher are to be given in fairness and respect for their efforts., however erroneous, or "ridiculous."
I begin each semester by imparting the following information to the students:
1. That the subject matter of ethics deals with moral conduct and values with which they are all more or less familiar.
2. That the procedure and progress of the course depend largely on class participation: questions, evaluations, comments, criticisms.
3. That they will doubtlessly hear ideas, and points of view contrary to their way of thinking, and perhaps not to their liking; but that If they are open-minded and objective enough, they will learn that many views can be held on one subject, that not everything is either black or white, or only as they considered it to be.
4. That they should feel free to criticize constructively text material, my interpretation of it, as well as the views of other students, without fear of displeasing the teacher and thereby jeopardizing their grades;-as a matter of fact, I reassure them that their critical comments can only benefit their grades, because then I know that they are interested, and are thinking about the material.
5. That no personal problems are to be discussed, though any personal experiences which may supplement class material is welcome.
6. That the course does not include moralizing, or moral instruction; rather, that it is concerned with what it means to be good, not with making the students good -- if that results, fine; but that is not the main purpose of the course.
7. That the two main objectives of the class are to enhance and refine the student's moral consciousness, and to clarify as well as verify his own feelings and thoughts on ethical matters.
8. That most certainly they will at first be confused by the complexities of the subject-matter; but to' be patient, and they will gradually see their way clear. I inform them not to expect hard and fast answers to the Issues that arise, and that in fact we will often leave a topical discussion more confused than when we started. I impress upon them that though absolute answers are extremely hard to come by in the realm of ethical conduct, still there are constructive answers to be had, and that our inquiries will help stimulate clear thinking when confronted with moral perplexities.
9. That they will be writing philosophical papers on text and 'discussion material, which will require precise, specific thought.
10. That the study of ethics is to understand the material rather than to memorize it; and consequently because of the difficulty of the subject, we will proceed slowly but surely.
After these opening comments, I then proceed to introduce the class to the general scope of the subject-matter by presenting various definitions of 'ethics'.
Next, I present the class with various moral problems in order to give them a feel for the complexities of resolving such problems.
As Regards Textbooks
I briefly introduce our two authors and their works scheduled to be studied for the year: first semester, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (The word "Nicomachean" in the title refers to Aristotle's son Nicomachus for whom the book was posthumously titled); second semester, Plato's Republic.
These two unique classics of Western thought I consider to be ideal because they examine in considerable detail and with rare simplicity the fundamental problem of human conduct which in one way or another deeply affects us all for good or for ill: namely, the relationship between happiness and virtue (i.e. right conduct).
I discountenance of any textbook which presents a comparative approach to various ethical theories, because too many contrasting ideas would be too much for the student's mind to absorb sufficiently, or to derive a clear understanding of any one theory. Too much knowledge at one time would diffuse as well as confuse the beginner's mind. Besides, the object of this course is concerned not so much with expounding moral theories as it is with providing reasons for being moral. Hence the historical approach would defeat the purpose of an in-depth study of the subject.
My 10 years experience of teaching high school ethics has thoroughly demonstrated to me that, taken slowly, and in conformity with the general intellectual level of the particular class, high school students can very easily comprehend the profound and abstract thoughts of Aristotle and Plato; and that after the initial stumbling blocks in introducing the style of these authors, students generally "catch on" and continue to move fairly easily through difficult material. There is an essential procedure to be pursued here; namely: be sure that most students understand each fundamental step of the subject matter before moving on to the next.
There is material in each text that is beyond the ken of most students, and so the teacher will accordingly gauge the material to be omitted. The teacher's manual will guide them in this.
The fundamental good sense that issues from both philosophers has a very apparent and satisfactory appeal to .practically anyone's sense of right conduct.
Both Aristotle and Plato have a rudimentary, though sound understanding of human nature; so much so, that on reading them, it is evident that though moral conventions have changed through the centuries, human nature intrinsically has not.
Both philosophers indirectly deal with the crucial distinction between social morality, which varies with time and place, and moral virtues which are permanent intrinsic habits of mind and action not subject to variation of time and place. [I discuss this distinction to some length in the manuscript, pp. 59-61.]
Contrary to chronological order, I teach Aristotle first semester and Plato second for the following reasons: (1) Aristotle's treatment of the relation of virtue and happiness is an easier introduction to the subject, and (2) whereas Aristotle's study is wholly positive, Plato introduces sharp criticism to the moral life of which he. must answer, and does convincingly.
As to my manner of teaching these two masterminds, I do so slowly, and step by step. I read a passage, and depending on the range of difficulty and pertinence, I ask questions on the materials expand the topic, sometimes critically evaluate it, and answer questions and comments by the students. Once I am certain there is a general satisfactory understanding of each pertinent passage, I then move on to the next.
I do not intend to cover the whole of either book in a semester,, nor do I think it necessary to do so; since there is more than enough matter for discussion packed into practically every paragraph of these two thinkers to keep a class busy and interested through the school year.
With Aristotle, I normally cover the first two books (or chapters, in our method of book division) including the sections on the various virtues in books three and four.
With Plato, I normally cover the first part of his Republic (approximately 143 pages) Which takes us through a critical analysis of various overgeneralized definitions of justice, to the -projection of an ideal society, to the definitive meaning of justice (or right conduct). Excellent fundamental psychology is included in the text.
By not being rushed to complete "so many pages each day," I am able to maintain a rather relaxed attitude, which contributes very effectively to the learning process of a difficult subject.
THE QUESTION OF QUALIFIED TEACHERS
Properly moderating the class in an orderly disciplined manner is essential.
The teacher must be perceptive to the sensibilities of the students as well as to the topics in discussion.
The teacher must ever be alert not to inject his own personal biases or prejudices into discussion.
It is to be hoped that a high school ethics course would not only help to enhance young people's ethical awareness academically, but practically as well, inasmuch as this awareness might contribute to the improvement of family relationships. Hence, for a teacher to teach the class in such a way as to offend either the intelligence or feelings of the students would be to automatically defeat this possible purpose of improving family relationships; for he would turn parents against the course. [A briefly extended discussion (pp 64-65) on how an ethics course can help improve family relationships is presented in the manuscript.]
My experience in teaching high school ethics bears out that the first imperative for the instructor is that he teach the text material faithfully; and that when he does expand or deviate from it, always to keep the author's view in mind; otherwise the students will surely recognize, to their chagrin, that he is interested in expounding his own ideas than Aristotle's or Plato's. He is to keep his own personal feelings, opinions, biases, and peculiarities at the barest minimum.
An ethics teacher, especially, is more or less on trial by the more perceptive students until he has gained their confidence and respect. This is true of an ethics teacher mainly because of the subjective nature of the study. He or she must riot only "know his business," but be able to maintain the delicate balance between interpersonal rapport and professional distance. This balance establishes mutual respect, and forms a common humanity which can inspire the students to feel that the instructor in his professional dignity is nevertheless "one of us."
As regards the professional qualifications of the ethics instructor, I would propose that perhaps the most suited would be those of the philosophy graduate who has not only specialized in ethics, but has had a comparatively liberal education. As a matter of fact, I think that a liberal education in the humanities, literature, history, science,, and so forth, is the main requisite of an ethics teacher regardless of his special field; though, of course, the philosophy graduate would be the most qualified; with the exception of social studies instructors, and perhaps even English teachers. Social studies instructors have the advantage of being trained in history, sociology, political science, and so forth, which would be an important advantage in teaching Aristotle and Plato since they both recognized the inseparable link between ethics and politics, as is witnessed in their treatments of ethics.
In any case, trial and error I think will reasonably determine this thorny issue. One thing is likely though, and that is, that instructors who are dedicated to teaching moral values to young people, and who are sufficiently prepared with a background of research and interest In the subject, and who have foresight and sensitivity, will be successful in imparting this knowledge.
COURSE OUTLINE FOR HIGH SCHOOL ETHICS
Title of course: ETHICS
Requirements met by course:
College Preparatory x
Grade Levels: 10, 11, 12
Credit: 5 units per semester
Course is an Introductory study of moral conduct presented through the ethical Writings of Aristotle and Plato. Such topics as the nature of happiness, and the foundations and development of moral virtue will be examined and critically evaluated in light of the principles of human nature and conduct.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
To attain an enhanced awareness and deeper understanding of ethical concepts., such as, justice, right action, integrity, friendship, responsibility, honor, practical judgment, &c., in relation to personal and interpersonal conduct.
To Instill in the student a well-balanced perspective and insight into the fundamentals of human nature and behavior.
To develop a more discerning outlook of the various instances and consequences of ethical situations.
To provide a more panoramic viewpoint of moral conduct in contrast to a narrow, subjective, opinionated view.
The student will do the following:
Critically comment and evaluate text material in open discussion.
Paraphrase in writing, daily, pertinent text material.
Write a philosophical term paper on independently chosen textbook chapter.
Be responsible for homework writing assignments once or twice a week based on discussion material.
The student will be able to do the following on completion of course:
Correctly identify, explain, and spell the basic terms of the course.
Explain orally, or in writing, the fundamental insights he has gained from the course.
Be better able to evaluate ethical situations and standards.
Be more conversant with the motives and intentions underlying moral conduct.
Be able to demonstrate a more objective, comprehensive, and understanding attitude toward the basic notions of moral values in their manifold settings.
Textbooks: Nicomachean Ethics, and The Republic
Textbook: Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (translated by Martin Ostwald, Bobbs-Merrill)
A comprehensive study of justice (or right conduct) in relation to the individual and the state.
Textbook: The Republic, Plato (translated by Francis MacDonald Cornford, Oxford)
A TEACHER'S MANUAL [Sample]
Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics
CENTRAL IDEAS OF ARISTOTLE'S ETHICAL PHIL0SOPHY
1. The highest good attainable by human activity is happiness which results from both moral virtue in action and of contemplation of universal and eternal truths. Happiness also requires sufficient external goods to ensure health, leisure, and the opportunity for virtuous actions.
2. Moral virtue is a disposition or habit of mind which consists in observing a relative mean between two extremes of excess and deficiency in actions and emotions. Moral virtue is not possible without practical wisdom which deals with what is just, noble, and good for man.
3. Moral virtue is acquired by a combination of knowledge, habituation, effort, and self-discipline.
4. Virtuous acts require conscious, voluntary choice motivated by right reason. Some people are more naturally disposed to virtue than others.
5. Man is morally responsible for his actions.
6. A morally strong person enjoys bodily pleasures moderately and is rot overcome by them; a morally weak person is one who pursues bodily pleasures to excess and contrary to right reason.
7. Friendship is of two general types: perfect and imperfect. Imperfect friendship is either one based on mutual utility or usefulness, or one based on mutual pleasure. Perfect friendship is ore based primarily on the goodness of character between people.
8. Pleasure in itself is a human good, but the pleasures proper to man are those which complement him as a rational being engaged in virtuous and contemplative activities.
9. A life active in conformity with virtue contributes essentially to a happy life, but the highest degree of happiness is attained by the wise man engaged in contemplation.
10. Moral virtue involves social interaction, and so favorable social conditions are necessary for moral action. Accordingly, ethics and politics are closely related, for politics is the science of creating a society in which men can live the good life and develop their full potential.
TOPICS COVERED IN THE NIC0MACHEAN* ETHICS
Book 1, Chap. 1-3: The nature of Ethics and methods of studying Ethics.
Book 1, Chap. 4-12 Extensive discussion of the nature ofHappiness as the highest good of
Book 11, Chap. 1-9: Discussion of the nature of moral virtue and its attainment.
Book 111, Chap. 1-5: The meaning of free choice and its relation to virtuous action and moral
Book 111, Chap. 6-12, and Book IV: Discussion of particular virtues.
Book V: Justice.
Book Vl: The Intellectual Virtues relating to excellence of thought.
Book Vll, Chap. 1-10: Continence (moral strength) and Incontinence (moral weakness).
Book Vll, Chap. 11-14: Discussion of pleasure.
Book Vlll and IX: Friendship.
Book X, Chap. 1-5: Further discussion of pleasure.
Book X, Chap. 6-8: Happiness as the end of human life.
Book X, Chap. 9: The relationship between ethics and politics.
The essential topics of the text, happiness and moral virtue and the relation between them, are discussed in Books 1 and 11 including an extensive discussion of the particular virtues (truthfulness, generosity, courage, gentleness -- or calmness, wittiness, friendliness) in Book 111, Chapters 6 -12, and Book IV.
A well-covered one semester course will normally leave little time for further discussion of the other six books, which is just as well, since they are generally highly abstract, and I think above the intellectual capacity of most students. However, they do contain some extremely interesting and pertinent subjects, such as, friendship, pleasure, free choice, moral strength and weakness, contemplation, which the teacher can assign to the students as a term project.
CHAPTER OUTLINE OF BOOK 1 WITH SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
BOOK ONE: HAPPINESS AS THE CHIEF END OF MAN
Ch. 1: The Good as the Aim of all Action
All human endeavors aim at some definite good as their end.
There is a diversity of ends, some of which are activities solely (e.g. singing), and others, products as the result of activities (e.g. a ship as the result of shipbuilding).
The end (e.g. a ship,) is more important than its means (shipbuilding).
There are as many ends (or goals) as there are actions, arts, and sciences; e.g. the end of medicine is health, the end of strategy is victory.
Some ends are subordinate to a more essential or master end, as for example,, the purposes of carpentry, plumbing, plastering, painting, etc. owe their existence to the master science of architecture. Accordingly, the ends of the master sciences are preferable to the subordinate sciences.
LEADING IDEA FROM TEXT.. BOOK 1, CH. 1
(a) "...the good, therefore, has been well defined as that at which all things aim."
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
By "the good," what does Aristotle mean: (1) good as the proper end of an activity or function? (2) good as an ideal aimed for though never perfectly achieved? (3) good as being pleasurable? (4) good as being happiness?
Do "things" aim at what is good, such as an acorn, planetary motion, earthquakes, and other such natural phenomena?
What is the difference between "things" which aim at the good, and "man" who aims at the good? Consider the difference between acting by choice and natural movement, as the earth on its axis.
Consider the problem that some people seem to aim at self-destruction and evil rather than good. Is this their good?
Ch. 2: Politics as the Master Science of the Good
If our actions aim at an end which we desire for itself, and this end determines all other desires as means toward its attainment -- then surely this end is the good that is absolutely good.
Knowledge.of this good will be a great help in human living since we should be more likely to act rightly in particular circumstances.
It would be wise then to get at least a general idea of the nature of this absolute or highest good, and to know which of the sciences or arts it belongs.
Since politics is the most comprehensive of the practical sciences, it obviously is the study of which this good belongs. (Supplementary remarks: The purpose of politics is to create the most favorable conditions in which citizens can lead a good life, and this can only be attained by a knowledge of the good. The study of ethics, which is also concerned with human good, is a branch of politics.)
Though the good of the individual coincides with that of the community, it seems much better and more perfect to secure the good of the community before the Individual, since the community is made up of many individuals.
LEADING IDEA FROM TEXT, BOOK I, CH. 2.
(a) "Thus it follows that the end good for man."
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
In what sense of "the good for man" is politics concerned? Is it the citizen's material and social well-being, or is it his personal well-being as regards his moral character, or is it his spiritual well-being? What is the difference between these three types of well-being? Which type falls under the study of ethics?
Can a person fulfill the potentialities of his moral nature without the security, the economic resources, and the educative agencies of a politically organized society? And if not, does this imply that natives of a primitive culture, without these agencies, do not "fulfill the potentialities of their moral nature
(b) "For even if the good is the same for the individual and the state, the good of the state clearly is the
greater and more perfect thing to attain and to safeguard."
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
What should be more important, the good of the individual, or the good of the state? Or more specifically, is it ever right to sacrifice one life in order to save many? A stock illustration of this dilemma is the overcrowded lifeboat situation.
Is it true that the good is necessarily the same both for the individual and the state? What if the good of an oppressive government is to rule by force and injustice. Is such a government conducive to the individual good? Do the people have the right to overthrow such a government if it cannot be changed otherwise, for example, by legal means or by civil disobedience?
Ch. 3: Limitations of the Study of Ethics and Politics
Precision of scientific treatment depends on the subject matter.
Matters of what are noble and just (the subjects of politics and ethics) present so much diversity and differences of opinion that to many people they exist as matters of convention and not as absolute standards of conduct resulting from human nature or from the nature of things.
Because of poor judgment, many have been harmed even by good things, as is instanced by men who are ruined by wealth, or others by courage. Thus all the more does this matter of good present much irregularity.
Because of the variability of this subject, one must be satisfied with a rough approximation of the truth, with probable conclusions from probable premises. An educated person seeks precision relative to the subject matter; he does not accept probable reasoning from a mathematician, nor strict demonstration from a public speaker; since everyone who has been long trained in his specific field is a good judge of what he knows, and he who has been well educated in all subjects, a good judge in general. It seems to follow that the young are not properly prepared to be students of polities or ethics, for they are not experienced in the business of life which is the basis of these subjects. Besides, the young, as well as those immature in character, are too swayed by their emotions for this study to have any practical effect on them. Those, however, who desire and act according to right reason will benefit greatly from a knowledge of this study.
LEADING IDEA FROM TEXT, BOOK I, CH. 3
(a) "Problems of what is noble and just, which politics examines, present so much variety and irregularity that some people believe that they exist only by convention and not by nature."
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
Although Right and Wrong are not abstract and immutable as are the principles of mathematics, do they nonetheless exist on by mere convention? Are there not some acts right or wrong regardless of convention or opinion - murder, adultry, theft (wrong); honesty, consideration, truthtelling (right)?
A distinction should be made here between the general favorable attitude toward moral virtues (courage, Integrity, generosity, loyalty, selfcontrol, affability, etc.) which is not subject to change as the attitude of people toward shifting standards of social morality.
(b) "...a young man is not equipped to be a student' of Politics [ethics included] for he has no experience in the actions which life demands of him, and these actions form the basis and subject matter of the discussion, moreover, since he follows his emotions, his study will be pointless and unprofitable, for the end of this kind of study is riot knowledge but action."
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
Is it true that a young person has "not" experience "in the actions which life demands of him"? Does Aristotle's statement apply to young people of our day? Is there not a vast difference between our culture and his?
Do young people follow their emotions rather than right reason all the time? Do only young people follow their emotions; are not many adults governed by their emotions? Besides, are not many young people more mature in character than a good number of adults? Even granting that a young person is especially subject to his emotions, does this fact necessarily imply that a study of ethics would be "pointless and unprofitable"? What then would be the value of a high school ethics course?
Ch. 4: Happiness is the Good, but Varying Views are Held about it
(1) The purpose, or good, of politics as a science is the highest good-achievable by action, ind this good is called by both uneducated and educated alike Happiness, by which is meant "living well" and "acting well".
(2) People differ, however, about the meaning of happiness; most think it is some obvious and tangible good, such as sensual pleasure, material well-being, or honorable status,, and so on. Often a person's view of happiness changes with his circumstances, in which case., when he is sick, he thinks it is health, and when he is poor, that it is wealth, or if he is ignorant that it is knowledge. Some thinkers have even claimed that there exists some abstract and absolute good which determines all other human goods.. There are many other views held about this highest good, happiness.
(3) There would be little point in examining all the views held on the meaning of happiness, so only-those which are most krown, or which seem to be based on good sense, will be examined.
(4) As regards the method of this examination, it will proceed from arguments which lead up to fundamental principles (inductive reasoning) rather than from arguments which proceed from fundamental principles (deductive reasoning).
(5) Since this subject Is to be approached from the standpoint of what is known to us, it is necessary that the student of ethics have a proper moral upbringing so that he will be able to grasp the fundamental principles of ethics, which are the fourdation of this study.
LEADING IDEA FROM TEXT, BOOK I, CH. 4
(a) "...let us discuss what is in our view the aim of politics, i.e., the highest good attainable by action... happiness"
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
In light of political history, is it true that the main concern of politics has been the happiness or well-being of the people? Is it rot more concerned with the preservation of the state regardless of citizens' happiness? Are riot a good many politicians concerned more with personal honor and with remaining in office than with the good of the state? Certainly the aim of politics should be the "highest good attainable by action"; but why isn't it?
Granting that happiness or well-being is the highest aim of politics, with what kind of happiness is it concerned: personal happiness or social happiness?
(b) "...both the common run of people and cultivated men ... understand by 'being happy' the same as 'living well' and 'doing well'."
Suggested Topics for Discussion & Writing Assignments:
Can a person be happy who lives well (i.e. materially, healthily, comfortably, successfully) yet who does 'not do (act) well; and vice versa? In other words, are "living well," and "doing well" mutually inclusive for happiness?
Below is a brief selection of moral issues and situations which can be integrated into class discussion of text material, or as alternative material at the teacher's discretion.
A BRIEF SELECTION OF MORAL ISSUES AND SITUATIONS
What constitutes a truly generous act?
Is he who darts "blindly" into a burning building to save a life, courageous?
Is it ever right, or justified, to take the life of one person in order to save many?
Is it true that everything is relative, i.e. the point of view that what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another; or are there some modes of conduct that are intrinsically right or wrong?
How does honesty differ from truthtelling?
Plato held that if a person really knew what was right and good, he could not but act accordingly? Is this-true?
Is a good-hearted person necessarily a morally virtuous person?
Is it true that virtue is its own reward?
Is that which is right necessarily good; and vice versa, is that which is good necessarily right? What is the difference between the terms 'good,' and 'right'?
Why be moral?
Can selfishness ever be justified? Can selflessness, or altruism, ever cause "more harm than good"?
Consider the moral rule: "Be honest." Must this rule be upheld in all cases? Consider this situation: Does honesty compel you to return the one penny too much change that the clerk has given you, even if to do so means driving back fifty miles to the town where the purchase was made? And if not, how much money should determine whether you should go back -- fifty cents? a dollar? two dollars?
Consider the moral rule: "Do not steal." Are you stealing if you take something that you think belongs to you, but,as it turns out, really does not? Are you stealing if you enter the apartment of someone who has stolen from you and take from him your possession; or if he no longer has it, take from him an object of equal value?
What should you do if you discovered that the company you worked for was illegal? Should you just ignore it and continue receiving the income you desire and need to support your family, or should you stand on principle and resign regardless of the inconvenience and loss?
A committee of three students arranging for a dance given by their class is allowed $150 for a band. When the three find that they can get a satisfactory band for $120, they feel justified in keeping the remaining $30 for themselves. comment on this action.
Which of the following are a matter of moral 'concern? Why?
a. cheating at cards
b. cheating on examinations
d. keeping your car washed
e. stooping your car in a traffic jam simply for the fun of it and letting the cars behind you try
to get past
f. getting drunk every couple of days
g. doing two hours work for eight hours pay
h. not mowing my front lawn
Do you think you have the right
a. to open mail addressed to your son, aged five?
b. to open mail addressed to your son, aged fifteen?
c. to open mail addressed to your son, aged fifteen, marked "personal"?
The following is a sample final test on Aristotle's ethics.
1. According to Aristotle,, how does a person become just? self-controlled? courageous'?
2. Explain briefly how the mean (virtue) of self-control is destroyed by each of its two extremes.
3. Why does Aristotle believe that moral virtue is concerned with pleasure and pain?
4. What are the three essential characteristics of the morally excellent person?
5. Aristotle argues that virtue is a characteris tic (or habit) of the moral agent, and not an emotion or
capacity. Why is virtue neither an emotion nor a capacity?
6. What does Aristotle mean that virtue is a median "in relation to us"? How does th median differ
from the median in terms of "arithmetical proportion"? [An example to illustrate the difference
between these two types of median will help answer this question.]
7. How does the generous person differ from the extravagant person?
8. Aristotle says that bad-tempered people are worse to live with than apathetic people. If you
agree with him, why do you think he believes this? If you don't agree with him, give your reasons.
9. Aristotle claims that the friendly person "will be the same toward those he knows and those he
does not, toward people with whom he is familiar and people with whom he is riot, except that in
each particular case his behavior will be appropriate to he person." What do you think he means
A TEACHER'S MANUAL [Sample]
The Republic of Plato
PART I (Book I). SOME CURRENT VIEWS OF JUSTICE
CHAP. I Cephalus. Justice as Honesty in word and deed.
II Polemarchus. Justice as Helping Friends and Harming Enemies
III Thrasymachus. Justice as the Interest of the Stronger .
IV Thrasymachus. Is Injustice more profitable than Justice?
PART II (Books II - IV). JUSTICE IN THE STATE AND IN THE INDIVIDUAL
V The Problem stated. .
VI The Rudiments of Social Organization
VII The Luxurious State
VIII The Guardian's Temperament
IX Primary Education of the Guardians
§ 1 Censorship of Literature for School Use
§ 2 The Influence of Dramatic Recitation
§ 3 (398 C-400 c). Musical Accompaniment and Metre
§ 4 (4°0 c-403 c). The Aim of Education in Poetry and Music
§ 5 (4°3 C-412 B). Physical Training. Physicians and Judges
X Selection of Rulers: The Guardians' Manner of Living
XI The Guardians' Duties. .
XII The Virtues in the State
XIII The Three Parts of the Soul
XIV The Virtues in the Individual
NOTE: Parts 3 through 6 of the book are omitted in the course, as they deal with more involved philosophical topics, such as whether such an ideal state could ever come into existence, and if it can, then that state would have to be ruled by philosopher kings, who would have to have a very specialized education. But even were there such rulers, human fallibility would eventually limit them to grasp the whole of human psychology, that is, it's destructive side; and so the ideal state would gradually decline, generation after generation, to unjust forms of government until finally the unjust, despotic, rulers predominate. But these despotic rulers, and their followers, all the way down to, citizens, are the most unhappy of men, simply because the wrong part of their “soul” is ruling them, either by their desiring or appetitive parts rather than their reason, which in the end, define man as human.
It is the just person who is happy overall because he has attained a relatively just balance between the desiring, appetitive, and rational parts of his soul.
So an unjust society is as much out of balance as an unjust person; and conversely, a just society is as much in balance as a just person. And since not much good can come out of the former state of affairs, it is obvious enough that a well-balanced (just) person would lead a much happier life than an ill-balanced (unjust) person; and a well-balanced (just) state would be much more beneficial to its citizens than an ill-balanced (unjust) state. It is therefore, justice that pays, not injustice, however it may seem to pay on the surface, in the short run. Hence. Socrates has proved his original point.
PART I (BOOK I)
SOME CURRENT VIEWS OF JUSTICE
The main question to be answered in the Republic is: What does Justice mean, and how can it be realized in human society? The Greek word for 'just' has as many senses as the English 'right.' It can mean: observant of custom or of duty, righteous; fair, honest; legally right, lawful; what is due to or from a person, deserts, rights; what one ought to do. Thus it covers the whole field of the individual's conduct in so far as it affects others - all that they have a 'right' to expect from him or he has a right to expect from them, whatever is right as opposed to wrong. A proverbial saying declared that justice is the sum of all virtue.
The demand for a definition of Justice seems to imply that there is some conception in which all these applications of the word meet like lines converging to a common centre; or, in more concrete terms, that there is some principle whereby human life might be so organized that there would exist a just society composed of just men. The justice of the society would secure that each member of it should perform his duties and enjoy his rights. As a quality residing in each individual, justice would mean that his personal life-or as a Greek would say, his soul was correspondingly ordered with respect to the rights and duties of each part of his nature.
A society so composed and organized would be ideal, in the sense that it would offer a standard of perfection by which all existing societies might be measured and appraised according to the degrees in which they fell short of it. Any proposed reform, moreover, might be judged by its tendency to bring us nearer to, or farther from, this goal. The Republic is the first systematic attempt ever made to describe this ideal, not as a baseless dream, but as a possible framework within which man's nature, with its unalterable claims, might find well-being and happiness. Without some such goal in view, statecraft must be either blind and aimless or directed (as it commonly is) to false and worthless ends.
In the first Part of the Republic Socrates opens up the whole range of inquiry by eliciting some typical views of the nature of justice and criticizing them as either inadequate or false. The criticism naturally reveals some glimpses of the principles which will guide the construction that is to follow.
CEPHALUS: JUSTICE AS HONESTY IN WORD AND DEED
The whole imaginary conversation is narrated by Socrates to an unspecified audience. The company who will take part in it assemble at the house of Cephalus, a retired manufacturer living at the Piraeus, the harbour town about five miles from Athens. It includes, besides Plato's elder brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, Cephalus' sons, Polemarchus, Lysias, well known as a writer of speeches, and Euthydemus; Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, a noted teacher of rhetoric, who may have formulated the definition of justice as 'the interest of the stronger,' though hardly any evidence about his opinions exists outside the Republic; and a number of Socrates' young friends. The occasion is the festival of Bendis, a goddess whose cult had been imported from Thrace. Cephalus embodies the wisdom of a long life honourably spent in business. He is well-to-do, but values money as a means to that peace of mind which comes of honesty and the ability to render to gods and men their due. This is what he understands by 'right' conduct or justice.
Writing Assignment: According to Cephalus, what is right conduct. How does Socrates criticize his view?
POLEMARCHUS: JUSTICE AS HELPING FRIENDS AND HARMING ENEMIES
The argument now becomes more serious. Polemarchus, though puzzled, clings to the Ibelief that it must be right to help friends and harm enemies. This was a traditional maxim of Greek morality, never doubted till Socrates denied it: no one had ever said that we ought to do good, or even refrain from doing harm, to them that hate us. Socrates' denial rests on his principle, later adopted by the Stoics, that the only thing that is good in itself is the goodness, virtue, well-being of the human soul. The only way really to injure a man is to make him a worse man. This cannot be the function of justice.
Writing Assignment: What are Socrates' criticisms against Polemarchus' definition of justice as benefiting your friends and harming your enemies? What two absurd conclusions are arrived at if such a definition is followed?
THRASYMACHUS: JUSTICE AS THE INTEREST OF THE STRONGER
Socrates has opposed to the popular conception of justice one of his own deepest convictions. Polemarchus'" ready acceptance of this provokes a violent protest from Thrasymachus, who represents the doctrine that might is right in an extreme form. He holds that justice or right is nothing but the name given by the men actually holding power in any state to any actions they enjoin by law upon their subjects; and that all their laws are framed to promote their own personal or class interests. 'Just' accordingly means what is for the interest of the stronger, ruling party. Right and wrong have no other meaning at all. This is not a theory of social contract: it is not suggested that the subject has ever made a bargain with the ruler, sacrificing some of his liberty to gain the benefits of a social order. The ruler imposes his 'rights' by sheer force. The perfect example of such a ruler is the despot (the Greek 'tyrant'), whose position Thrasymachus regards as supremely enviable. He is precisely the man who has the will and the power to (do good to himself and his friends and.to harm his enemies.'
The discussion begins by clearing up the ambiguities of Thrasymachus' formula. The word translated (stronger' commonly means also ('superior' or 'better'; but ('better' has no moral sense for Thrasymachus, who does not recognize the existence of morality. The superiority of the stronger lies in the skill and determination which enable them to seize and hold power. ('interest,' again, means the personal satisfaction and aggrandizement of the ruling individuals.
Thrasymachus has already shifted his ground. At first 'the stronger' meant only the men ruling by superior force; but now their superiority must .include the knowledge and ability needed to govern without making mistakes. This knowledge and ability constitute an art of government, comparable to other useful arts or crafts requiring special skill. The ruler in his capacity as ruler, or the craitsman qua craftsman, can also be spoken of as the craft personified, since a craft exists only in the man who embodies it, and we are considering the man only as the embodiment of this special capacity, neglecting all personal characteristics and any other capacities he may chance to have. When Socrates talks of the art or craft in this abstract way as having an interest of its own, he means the same thing as if he spoke of the interest of the craftsman qua craftsman. Granted that there is, as Thrasymachus suggested, an art of government exercised by a ruler who, qua ruler, is infallible and so in the full sense 'superior,' the question now is, what his interest should be, on the analogy of other crafts.
THRASYMACHUS: IS INJUSTICE MORE PROFITABLE THAN JUSTICE?
Socrates now turns from the art of government to Thrasymachus' whole view of life: that injustice, unlimited self-seeking, pursued with enough force of character and skill to ensure success, brings welfare and happiness. This is what he ultimately means by the interest of the stronger.
Socrates and Thrasymachus have a common ground for argument in that both accept the notion of an art of living, comparable to the special crafts in which trained intelligence creates some product. The goodness, excellence, or virtue of a workman lies in his efficiency, the Greek arete, a word which, with the corresponding adjective agathos, 'good,' never lost its wide application to whatever does its work or fulfils its function well, as a good knife is one that cuts efficiently. The workman's efficiency involves trained intelligence or skill, an old sense of the word sophia, which also means wisdom. None of these words necessarily bears any moral sense; but they can be applied to the art of living. Here the product to be aimed at is assumed to be a man's own happiness and well-being. The efficiency which makes him good at attaining this end is called 'virtue'; the implied knowledge of the end and of the means to it is like the craftsman's skill and may be called 'wisdom: But as it sounds in English almost a contradiction to say that to be unjust is to be virtuous or good and wise, the comparatively colourless phrase 'superior in character and intelligence' will be used instead.
Where Socrates and Thrasymachus differ is in their views of the nature of happiness or well-being. Thrasymachus thinks it consists in getting more than your fair share of what are commonly called the good things of life, pleasure, wealth, power. Thus virtue and wisdom mean to him efficiency and skill in achieving injustice.
Writing Assignment: How does Socrates contradict Thrasymachus' statement that justice is in the interest of the stronger?
SELECTIONS OF STUDENTS' EVALUATIONS OF HIGH SCHOOL ETHICS COURSE
J. A. / Male
On a personal basis, this course has helped me to understand more clearly the underlying motives of people's actions; lt has better acquainted me with ideals of conduct, along with sound, logical arguments for their fulfillment; it has helped to give me a greater incentive to try to make sure I do the right thing, make the right judgment, and act in the right manner in my dally life; and it has enabled me to engage in intellectual intercourse, exchanging ideas and concepts with other people, while at the same time learning to listen to their opinions and judge them in an objective light.
From ny experience with this course, I would recommend it highly for anyone who has a mind eager to reach out and grasp philosophical concepts such as, justice, generosity, friendship, happiness, and the good, and can discuss them intelligently with a sense of purpose.
This course would have a profound sociological effect if it could be taught to more young people oil a larger scale (that is, if it could be more widespread in the world's high schools).
Reading over what I have written, I realize that it might sound like some sort of propaganda to promote this course, but in all honesty, I cannot find a single point on which to criticize this course; I have only praise for it. I sincerely hope what I have said here will help convince people that a course such as this one can be successfully taught to high-school students as an integral part of their moral upbringing; for a better world awaits us if all students can gain the knowledge that I have from this course. I felt that the depth and range of understanding was very clear, and wasn't hidden and subdued.
G.C. / Male
Of all the classes or subjects I've ever taken, this class has by far been the most relevant, important, and meaningful. In high school I have experienced very little challenge, but ethics has brought about a real challenge In and out of class. Discussion isn't possible in most classrooms, but it is essential in ethics, and that made the course in-the classroom unique. But even though writing in other classes, when at home or something, I've found no real attraction to the subject. Ethics, on the other hand, requires more effort than the other subjects, but doesn't bog the mind or make one bored. It's nicer to learn and study about oneself and those around you.
Of the varied instructors, you have been... Even though our worlds are of great differences, ethics brought about a common ground, and this made me understand you more.
I know I've gained something from this ethics class, but I can't pinpoint it. One of the things I've noticed is that now, before I do anything like making decisions, I think twice before doing it (or not doing it.
I feel that when we talked about the elements of the soul, it helped me understand myself better. I've noticed I don't get really angry anymore, and instead of criticizing things (and people), I try and find what makes them tick, and why.I have negative reactions about them. It also makes me look at myself, and try to find out what makes me tick.
About the "Justice" part of the course, I've always heard as a little girl growing up that "crime does not pay." I always thought: Then how come people get away with it. This course has made me take a deeper insight on it. I think if everybody could understand this [Plato's theory of the nature of justice], there wouldn't be as much crime and violence. That's why I feel the government should use this book in their rehabilitation programs. Seriously.
M.A. / Female
When I first started ethics, I didn't really enjoy it, because I didn't understand what was going on, or what was being said. Because I eras not used to the style of writing. I was used to understanding everything I read without having to read it over. But in this course, even if you didn't want to really put that much attention to what was going on, the reading caught my mind, and I wanted to understand it. After awhile it became more and more interesting. I wanted to know what was being said, so I put attention to everything that was going on. But I still didn't find lt easy reading over and over. I kind of had to read between the lines, and that made it easier.
At this point, I.can think better; it's not so much that, but that before I want to do something or make up my mind about something, I think about it a whole lot more than before. I give reasons for my actions, and I ask for reasons for other people's actions. I don't want to accept things so fast; I want to be sure. I just feel that ethics has helped my way of thinking.
C.F. / Female
This class has been an eye-opening experience for me because it has given me and others the chance to discuss and exchange things I have been thinking and wondering about for some timee.. Because the subject is so contemporary and meaninpful, even though Plato's Republic was written over 2000 years ago, I found it interesting and the course instructive. The systematic and logical exploration of the various ideas and ideals that accompany the concept of justice has helped me to more clearly define and examine my own ideas about justice and related concepts. In some ways my ideas became wore liberal (for example, in judging other people), and In some ways they became more conservative (as in solidifying and substantiating my concept(s) of justice). Participation in this course has made me more critical of what I read and hear, and has contributed to my growth as a human being.
The only negative points I have to make is, that sometimes the teacher dominates the class too much and does not really hear what we're saying.Sometimes also, some students who do not grasp the whole context of ideas, bring up totally irrelevant and unimportint questions that are dwelt upon too long. [NOTE:Though I directed the students not to include a teacher evaluation in their papers, some nevertheless did as is evident in this paper. The reason I did not delete this particular statement is to indicate one area in which an ethics teacher can lose perspective of the proper balance in conducting the class.]
Except for these two points, I find the class interesting and challenging. I recommend taking it as part of the permanent curriculum.
M / I Female
What I got out of ethics is a better understanding of things I have thought of at one time or another. The way the class is set up (discussion) gives everybody a chance to get different views on a point, and that is what helps to clear things up; but it also leads to confusion at times. On some days, I was bored because I felt everyone was talking in circles about things as obvious as "The grass is green," while on other days, I got something out of what was being said.
Although I liked the subject of Justice, I felt that Plato's Republic was too wordy, and took unnecessarily long to get to the point at times which made me prefer Aristotle.
G.R. / Female,
As far as I'm concerned, this ethics course has been the most stimulating class I have ever attended. It has been somethin new for me, although I have always enjoyed this kind of discussion class. It raises for debate the conventions we have of the way life should be lived. It has brought me the knowledge of some of the wisdom of hundreds of years ago. Because it is an elective, the majority of those who take it are kids that are really interested In meaningfully spent classtime; and I have found that the subject matter provides that meaningfulness. I appreciate having a course that Is interesting, challenging, and fun. Plus, it offers me an opportunity to get the feeling of a course I might enjoy In college. I have truly enjoyed the time I have spent in this class, and I feel benefited because it has made me more aware of myself without my ever realizing it. Aristotle was a man I truly enjoyed getting to know, for he presented subject matter always fascinating to explore: human beings.
B.M. / Male
Ethics was the most enjoyable class I have ever taken. It's so different and fresh compare to all the other high-school subjects. It's a course where you understand the subject matter instead of memorizing it. The way it is written may be confusing because of how long ago it was written; but a teacher that knows it will explain these parts ...
It takes a keen mind to evaluate and digest what this course expounds upon. It presents an understanding of the way society works and brings to light how everybody might react to things occurring throughout their lifetimes.
The teaching method is straightforward and hard to improve on, maybe refining but not altering.
G.G. / Male
The ethics course did not, of course, change ny life, but it provided me with a sort of evaluation system. In other words,, many situations I have been in, instead of acting immediately as I would earlier, I now give it more thought with a little more analysis. I have been a little hasty at judging others. I find myself looking deeper for the reasons behind their actions. Before acting in a way which might benefit or harm someone else, I think: "Is the 'benefit' really helping them, and is the 'harm' really hurting them?" Possibly the benefit will turnout .to be like giving a kid candy a lot; although he will be happy and grateful (most of the time) it has a bad outcome for his teeth. Thus the 'benefit' becomes,in the long run, a harm.
I also received knowledge for its own sake from the course: some historical facts, something about the wit and wisdom of Aristotle and Plato. I don't believe you could change a person's life With the course but at least the people who participated came out of the course with a little deeper understanding of human nature. The course is also good In that lt clears away idealisms from the minds of most of the kids who take the course. It is nice to think of the idealistic world and believing in it, but it is an obstacle to human relations. Knocking down these idealisms is a step in growing for the mind, and I think it was a step which the ethics course helped us achieve.
NOTE: The next few papers are not evaluations as such, but are .responses to an extemporaneous question I asked my present students who are now near the end of the first semester of the year-long ethics course. I think it important to include these papers, because they answer Aristotle's strong point that young people are not fit for a study of ethics, since they are governed by their emotions.
The question I had them answer was, "Granted that young people are governed more by their emotions than right reason, what then is the value of an ethics course?"
The value of an ethics course remains even though it may be true that young people are governed more by their emotions than by right reason. Often enough, we wonder "why we are here"; other times we wonder "What's the good of this or that?" The study of ethics gives us a better understanding of our higher nature, and may be helpful in answering some of our questions. There have been many times when I have wondered, "What makes an act right?" In fact, I have for many years thought about such "right and wrong" moral questions. Ethics is helping me find some answers.
The study of ethics does not demand that we act ethically. It simply gives us a better awareness of ourselves, and of others. Then later in life, we can act well and thoughtful with a better understanding of why and how. In a sentence, there is nothing wrong in listening to a man [Aristotle] with thought provoking ideas.
P.M. / Female
Assuming that it is true that young people are governed more by the emotions than by right reason, young people's emotions are based on facts the way they were brought up, and these facts may often pertain to right reason; if they do not, young people may still get something out of an ethics course. I think that some logic and truth is bound to sink in at least a little; and though young people are mainly governed by their emotions, they are not constantly governed by them; therefore, they have little gaps where Aristotle's words may seep in. Also, though young people may be governed now by their emotions, most will grow out of it, and then all the heated arguments will not be wasted. Heated arguments have a way of sticking in the mind; and so you can go back and sift through them and get facts pertaining to the present problem, and suddenly it dawns upon you that Aristotle had some decent points that do pertain to your life.
I do not think young people are governed by their emotions the majority of the time. Our society has brought us up to grow up in the mind much faster than in earlier cultures. We have many ideas which are new and relevant, at least to us. In class they are often brought up in discussion, and we are able to hear other students' opinions. Normally, when talking to friends, there is never any reason or opportunity to discuss our abstract ideas. Aristotle's views are the straight path, and ours, the winding ones. Interestingly enough, ours often cross and intersect his. That is why I believe the ethics course can, and is within the understanding of young people, and is of some pertinent value.
Yes, I believe that they are governed more by their emotions than by right reason. Because a lot of times when you're young You don't tend to use your better judgment as well as you do when you're older.You let your feelings and emotions get in the way. The best example is love. When you're young and in love, you can do some foolish things, and you can get hurt; but nothing can stop you from it. Your emotions overrule. Whereas, when you're older, you're more mature, and-you know better. The value of this course is to help you realize that emotions do get tn the way, and it helps us reason things out so that when we get older we don't keep making the same mistakes over and over.again without even realizing that there were mistakes. Moral standards and conduct help us exercise our virtues; this way we can see things more clearly, and with an open mind.
If young people lack the proper judgment of rationalizing maturely, and let themselves be totally governed by their emotions, then I am sure the student will not likely benefit from this class. But if the student is able to comprehend some of the things Aristotle says, then this class will help shed a little more thought and inner knowledge as to what lt means to be truly mature as in adulthood. Since Aristotle basically talks about morals to mature people who have already dealt with these experiences in life, the young person can basically gain a pictorial knowledge, thus giving him something to strive for as an example on his way to full maturity. That's all the benefit I can see.
The list of books given below is not Intended to be exhaustive., but contains suggestions for further reading and study in preparation of both an ethics and logic class as set forth in this work.
Aquinas, Thomas St. Commentary on the NICOliACHEiN ETHICS. 2 vols. Henry liegne Gompany, 19-647-
William, F.R. Hardle. Aristotle's Ethical Theory. Oxford Clarendon, 1968
Joachim, H.H. Aristotle: The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford, 1951
Ross, Sir David. Aristotle. UniversityPaperbacks, 1964
Stewart, J.A. Notes on the Nicomachean Ethics. 2 vols. Arno Press, 1973
Veatch, Henry B., Rational Man: A Modern.Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics. Indiana University Press,
Walsh, J. and Shapiro, H., Aristotle's Ethics: Issues and Interpretations. Wadsworth Publishing Co.
Bloom, Alan, The Republic of Plato: Translated with Notes and an Interpretive Essay. Basic Books
Cross, R.C. and Foozley, A.D., Plato's Republic: A Philosophical Commentary. St. Martin's
Sesonake, A., Plato's Republic: Interpretation and Criticism. Wadeworth Publishng Company,
Vlastow. G,. Plato: A Collection of Critical Essays, Anchor Books
Brandt, R.B., Ethical Theory. Prentice-Hall
Hospers. J., Human Conduct, An Introduction to the Problems of Ethics. Court, Brace & World
Fromm, B., Man For Himself. Fawcott, 1947
Lillie, W., An Introduction to Ethics. University Paperbacks
Because logic is so closely allied to critical thinking, and because critical thinking is the central motif of this website, and because the visitor to this site most likely will not read the complete manuscript, Ethics and Logic in High School I've decided to post the entire logic rather than offer an abridgement or outline of the logic part of my manuscript.
As I forsee it in the future of education, critical thinking as a school subject in itself will be taught in the primary and secondary grades, whereas practical logic will be taught at the high school level.
To write now In support of a logic class in high school after the extended account given on an ethics course might seem somewhat anti-climactic; yet I feel that logic is also an important study relevant to the advanced level of intelligence of young people in our generation. I will try to be brief and to the point as possible, since much of What I have written in support of ethics applies also to logic.
I have mentioned already that adolescents are more informed and articulate on current events and human behavior than ever before. But that they are more informed and articulate does not automatically mean that they are more analytical and precise in their thinking and study habits. They are more critical, more skeptical, yes, but these do not make them more logical in their thought patterns. is a matter of fact, their comprehension generally lags far behind the stockpile of information they have acquired mainly through the mass media. Young people today are accustomed to receiving much of their knowledge through an admixture of pictures and the spoken word (television, cinema), and accordingly they have little difficulty comprehending many of the ideas presented through this medium since they are presented pictorially and in the least complicated verbal manner. There is no denying that this form of learning has its advantages; and there is much truth to the saying that "one picture is worth a thousand words."; but one "picture" will not teach a person to read, much less understand one sentence.
I have had long enough experience as a private tutor to know that without good reading habits, all the pictures and film in the world will not teach a student how to think and comprehend effectively. For one thing, with film, the individual is fed the necessary images to understand a particular situation,, or body of knowledge, and so does not have to make the effort to visualize, reflect, or think through it himself. Consequently, through the years, his imaginative powers can become stunted if his viewing of film is not supplemented by reading. Understandably, reading will be boring and unprofitable for him; for he will not have developed beforehand the ability to imagine, and more importantly, he will lack an appreciation of -meaning which is the alpha and omega of a fine and clear understanding of the printed word. The disimilarity between learning through images and learning through reading can be simply illustrated by the immense difference between viewing a film of Tolstoy's War and Peace, and reading the majestic book itself with its wealth of literary description, characterization,, human behavior, philosophic import. So very much of these aesthetic experiences are lost in any film version.
Knowledge, then, received almost exclusively through the medium of television or the movies, while they are important sources, cannot teach the individual to think cogently about the knowledge he receives thereby. Such information has to be amply supplemented by reading matter in order for one to fully comprehend and be articulate with the issues. Without an adequate vocabulary to express oneself, without the ability to grasp and phrase intellectual ideas, the individual is intellectually
helpless regardless of his intelligence and the extent of his information.
Another deterrent to clear thinking is the strong feelings and emotions with which young people are especially beset. Trues this is a fact of adolescence, but the sooner students learn to control the emotional side of their nature where lt can interfere with straight thinking in everyday affairs, the sooner they will be capable of making sound decisions which can be very serious to their lives. This intellectual discipline permits them to see through the faulty and beguiling reasoning inherent in so much of the half-truths and deceptions to which we are all exposed. Language is slippery and replete with pitfalls; the unscrupulous take advantage of this, and the unwary suffer for it. So, as advanced and sharp as young people may appear in our day, still they generally do not possess the acuity of perception to penetrate through faulty reasoning, their own and others. They may sense that something is wrong either in their reasoning or another's., but normally would be unable to identify the flaw. Words are used ambiguously and vaguely, and conclusions are hastily arrived at or through slipshod reasoning, mainly because the meanings of words are not fully understood and so remain shadows for many people; and because of this, words are not used precisely; and because of this, their ideas and concepts remain unclear; and because of this, statements are frequently misunderstood; hence their reasoning is generally fallacious on relatively complex issues.
It is one thing to know the general facts of a particular situation, and certainly another to apply the proper words to the meaning of these facts; and still another to have a clear conception of the relationship these facts have one to the other; and still another, to arrive at a sound conclusion based on all these facts. So, while I may know some of the facts behind an alleged unjust war to contain communism, or any other destructive ideology, I may completely misunderstand the difference between a war to contain communism per se,, and simply an unjust war. I could very well not even comprehend what it means for a war to be unjust, or even what the term "unjust" really stands for. With this confusion in my head, how would it be possible to reason correctly, to discuss the matter significantly? I know the facts, but I fail to understand the meaning of these facts.
These few comments may give some idea of the gap between knowing something and understanding it; and that it is the careful analysis of the facts as well as an adequate understanding of the terms representing these facts which make possible sound reasoning. And,of course, all this requires careful thingthe most difficult thing in the world.
We might say in a very general way that it is at the college level where students are trained especially to think, i.e., to digest, assimilate, and reason through learned knowledge. To succeed in college, the student must not only read and memorize, but he must also think specifically and rigorously. As a matter of fact, this is one of the primary functions of higher learning; and as Einstein said somewhere: The one important advantage of university training Is that it teaches one to think.
In the secondary schools, however, the emphasis is largely on storing the student's mind with facts, on the memorization of these facts, and hopefully, on inculcating some understanding of these facts. Thinking, reasoning$ through complex ideas, while it is a part of high school education, is not its primary function; since before the student can think and reason effectively, he must have assimilated much information (often confounded with much misinformation) as the data for reasoning. But many, high school students today are more than ready for deeper mental investigation and assimilation, and eagerly welcome the opportunity for enlightenment. This status is, of course, due in large part to the immense effect the mass media has had on the younger generation, as has been discussed in part one.
As I have mentioned, there is some extent of reasoning and rigorous thinking taught in secondary education, such as occur In mathematics, science, and written expression of complex literary meaning. Given this fact, the obvious question is: What more would be needed to help prepare students for college and for life? Why add a logic course to the high school curriculum? Surely students can wait till they reach college before they study logic. I think I can best state my case by concentrating on the two essential studies of mathematics and English (grammar, composition, and literature).
Since geometry is the branch of mathematics most related to logical reasoning, I will use it as the basis of the following comments-though these comments also apply varyingly to algebraic and scientific reasoning (chemistry, biology, physics). The first thing to be said about geometric reasoning is that it entails a highly abstract and complex language of postulates, axioms, theorems and methods. To understand and apply mathematical language, the student must understand language itself well; and this, first of all, requires a relatively extensive vocabulary and reading background, and second of all, a strong understanding of syntax and the semantics of meaning. Without this linguistic background, he will hardly be able to comprehend the language of geometry regardless of his natural aptitude for the subject. For example, take these two theorems from elementary geometry: (1) Congruence of segments is an equivalence relation, and (2) Given a correspondence between two triangles (or between a triangle and itself), if two angles and the included side of the first triangle are congruent to the corresponding parts of the second triangle, then the correspondence is a congruence. Now, what average intelligence is going to even come close to understanding such highly abstract and sophisticated language? "Equivalence relation," "a correspondence between two triangles (or between a triangle and itself)," "two angles and the included side of the first triangle" - a comprehension of these abstractions takes an exceptionally firm grasp of the language in which such concepts are cloaked; which is only the first requisite. The next requisite is the more or less native ability in applying these theorems in a logical, deductive, step by step proof after the insight to the problem has been perceived. This latter requisite excludes possibly 75%, more or less, of the student population. And so in the absence of this type of mind, even an excellent understanding of the language will not guarantee the highest results in geometric reasoning. I mean that while an individual may have a fine command of the language, he might not be able to reason mathematically, i.e., in symbols and figures. For him geometry is one mass confusion, and can have little or no influence on his reasoning powers in practical or methodical matters. In fact, his reasoning can be just as affective, if not moreso, than the mathematical minds In practical, pragmatic issues, as in psychology, rhetoric, economics, philosophy,, ethics, anthropology., and so forth. However, it is true, that when he leaves the secure grounding of concrete thought in an attempt to soar to the abstract level of pure mathematics, science, and symbolic logic,he does not stand much of a chance next to one who is mathematically trained.
It is true that geometric reasoning is logical in structure, and modern geometry textbooks usually include a section or chapter on logic in order to establish the essential relationship between the two disciplines. But the logic touched on in these books is mathematically designed for formal, not practical, analytical reasoning. Certainly, formal reasoning is of inestimable value, but not all logical reasoning is formal (abstract). The logical principles of reasoning are as effectively applicable in analytical, methodical, persuasive disciplines as philosophy, psychology, sociology, rhetoric, law, and Political science, to name a few. The logic behind musical composition, literature,painting, and sculpture, does not require mathematical reasoning; they have a logic of their own; which is not to say that this logic is unrelated to the logic of mathematics, less the symbolic, deductive procedure of mathematics. Freud's theories required no mathematical reasoning, nor did Darwin's, nor Shopenhauer's, nor Aristotle's.
This then should cover the practical limitations of geometric, and scientific reasoning in general; as valuable as it is in its own sphere, and in its contribution to sound thinking, still it has little or no relevance and applicability to reasoning through the complexities of our language as used in everyday, practical thinking. And I need not say how vital this form of reasoning is to successful living. There are many advanced, intelligent students who possess a fine perception into language and human, motivation, and who I feel need an opportunity to refine this perception into straight, sound thinking. I do not think the language of geometry can contribute practically to this need for the average bright student, since, for one thing, so many have little or no inclination for mathematics in general. There should be an alternative study in reasoning; namely, practical logic.
Now what of the study of English grammar, composition, and literature? Are these studies adequate and challenging enough to satisfy the intellectual and practical needs of young, alert, and inquiring minds? Well, they come closer than geometry) but still not close enough, if English teachers will forgive me for saying so.These studies, while they contribute significantly to clear thinking and contextual understanding, and writing, of the English language, they nonetheless contribute only minimally to clear reasoning. And there is an important distinction between thinking and reasoning. Memorizing is thinking, but is surely not reasoning; imagining is thinking, but not reasoning; absorbing facts through reading is thinking, but not reasoning. Reasoning involves the understanding ("getting the point") of arguments, of effectively thinking through a series of statements (premises) to a conclusion, of detecting the various uses and misuses of language, of recognizing the various connotations of words. Certainly, successful reading requires understanding of word meanings and varying complexities of phraseology, as is learned in English studies; but there is also written material that can be understood only from careful reasoning from one fact to the next, and simply knowing the meaning of the words is insufficient for comprehension: understanding of syntax, connotation, and inference are additionally required. In reference to this distinction, I remember someone remarking when he attempted to read the philosopher Kant: "I understand all the words he is using, but I don't understand the way he puts them together."
Thus, besides thinking and understanding, reasoning and the semantics of word connotations, are, I feel, essential to the education of our youth of today; and at an earlier age than college, mainly because - as I have stated repeatedly - high school students are simply more informed and knowledgeable than ever, and that this knowledge has to be given expression and be refined two or three years before they reach college. I might almost say that the 13-year olds of today are the 15-year olds of a generation ago; that the 15 and 17-year olds of this day are the 17 and 19-year olds respectively of a generation ago. Theoretically, the youth of today are two years in advance of the young of twenty years ago - so far as knowledge and social consciousness are concerned.
In recognition of this generation difference of youth advancement, the schools have introduced into the curricula such "relevant" courses as psychology, anthropology, sociology, black studies. This certainly is a step in the right direction, noting that with one or two exceptions, most of these courses are social sciences; and as the term "science" implies, there comes with such courses a body of set, methodical knowledge, replete with technical terms. For the student really to benefit from and contribute to class discussion,, he has to be considerably familiar with these terms, theories, and methods; and generally he is not, since extensive reading is necessary for such knowledge. Regardless of these exceptions, I am sure there is ample material for discussion depending on how creatively the subject is taught; and such courses certainly are "relevant" as far as man in society is concerned - but, then, so also are history, literature, art, government (normal elective courses) concerned with man in society. How do the innovative courses differ essentially from the latter when they can both be open to discussion if the teacher io creative and dedicated?
In any case, I do not mean to deprecate these innovative courses, but only to indicate that they still do not serve the same purpose as a logic course does; namely, as a study in straight logical thinking. There is hardly anything bright high school students enjoy more than a vigorous, intellectual discussion. They have a good extent of knowledge, experience, and observation that they would like to express, to test, to boast of. As discussed in the first part of this book, ethics is an ideal course for this dialectical form of learning; and so also is a logic course, not only to learn to think clearly and rigorously as a body of knowledge, but to display what they know logically themselves -- which very often is surprisingly sharp and perceptive.
I believe and know as a result of eleven years of teaching logic, that high school students are more than ready to be introduced to the discipline of straight, logical thinking before they reach college level, and in some cases long before; for I have had a number of ninth grade pupils who have been as logically perceptive, and in some cases more so, than many twelfth graders. I have always been amazed at their precociousness, especially since I use a college textbook. I have found that, generally speaking, if a student is a good student overall, he will profit from such a course, and will enjoy it regardless of Its difficulties; it makes no difference what grade he is in at the time, ninth through twelfth. An average, or below average student as a rule cannot keep up with the subject; it is too far beyond his comprehension level, as are many of his other courses. It is a commonplace that many students who excel in mathematics have difficulty in English and social studies courses, perhaps because of lack of interest; and vice versa, those who excel in English and social studies, normally do not in mathematics, again, no doubt because of lack of interest. But I have found that both types of students generally do well in logic, and enjoy its challenge.
At this juncture, I should emphasize that by logic I refer to traditional logic (which I will explain forthwith),, and not symbolic or formal logic as taught in the colleges and univerities. Symbolic logic is essentially mathematical reasoning employing linguistic symbols in its method of deduction rather than mathematical symbols. With the exception of a cursory treatment of the methods of traditional logic, professors normally pass over this area with the attitude that it is too elementary for sophisticated students of higher learning. This attitude, I believe, is in grave error, because there is no course taught at the high school level which would mentally prepare the average student for the more advanced study of formal logic. Were there such a course, then the professors would be perfectly justified in their attitude.
Before going further, let me briefly explain the subject matter of traditional logic. In the first place, it comes down to us from Aristotle who founded the science of logic. This form of logic is primarily concerned with correct reasoning in language as it is used in everyday discourse, and not in symbols as the name "symbolic" logic signifies. Such a study critically analyzes the uses and misuses of language as it is excercised in argumentation, fallacies in reasoning, proper definition of terms.. and the various valid and invalid forms of the syllogism (All men are mortal, I am a man; therefore, I am mortal.). Also included in traditional logic is the study of the scientific method of reasoning, the principles of probability, and to some extent, the semantics of word meaning, especially synonymy. This traditional logical training serves the purpose of developing a constructive approach to sound, practical reasoning.
This is the traditional procedure of logic and language I believe is needed in high school. Such a course inevitably improves and enhances the analytical and critical powers of the interested student. What more could we ask from an academic course? Through my years of teaching high school logic, I am continually amazed at students' perception and insights into word meaning, into the sense of complex statements, and in their general reasoning ability. Without the least exaggeration, I am continually taught by them. I furnish them the initial information, technical terms, procedure, etc., and they take it from there. This has been true for each of my different logic classes, with the understanding that one class may be more or less alert than another. They are truly capable; eminently so.
My belief, and defense that high school students are more knowledgeable than ever, and so are ready earlier for a course in critical thinking, are not merely theoretical imaginings, but are founded on the facts of my years of experience and observation in teaching the class, as well as, of course, source material research. Offer alert, intelligent students a challenge to think critically, analytically, speculatively, and they take it avidly. They love to sink their teeth into intellectual matters, to question, criticize, expose faulty reasoning -- that of the teacher not excepted -- to argue constructively, even just for the fun of it. By offering them this opportunity to express themselves, they are able to test their ideas under fire, to learn their mistakes in reasoning, to be more conscious of word meanings. Another point: when they become alert to the faulty reasoning in others, they become less prone to make the same mistakes themselves. And most important, is the fact that logic -- and especially so with ethics -- gives the student the opportunity to express himself, to be taken seriously, to contribute to the progress of the course. When he is shown to be right or insightful by his teacher, he can truly feel a sense of gratification and self-importance, that what he has to say means something, is accepted and respected; he is somebody then, and not merely a boy or girl who should listen, be seen and not heard. A logic course can offer this latitude to the student. Together, both logic and ethics studies can contribute significantly to the young person's heightened awareness, understanding, discrimination and sensitivity to the complexities of social intercourse.
As for the procedure of the course, as with ethics, I believe it should be taught slowly and thoroughly so that most of the students understand each segment before passing on to the next. This is crucial, because once they have been left behind, they will not be able to keep up with more advanced material; but., of course,, this is the way it is with most academic subjectsThe teacher should be concerned more with what little they understand fully, than with quantities of material of which they understand little. This, as we know, is the quantity/quality dichotomy; but in logic, as with ethics, it is especially important that the student receives the quality of the course, since, for one,thing, the purpose of logic is to teach one to think and reason clearly and cautiously, and this simply cannot be achieved at a fast teaching pace; and for another thing, it should be kept in mind that the course is designed for them as their own intellectually involved subject-matter; if that is the case, then why run away with it?
The textbook I have been using, and which has been used in college for the past twenty years is Irving Copi's Introduction to Logic. It is a difficult book even for the better students, but with exposition is understandable to them; and this is another reason why the class should be taught comparatively slowly, similar to a college seminar. A criterion to follow would be that what the university or colleges teach in one semester(or quarter, as the case may be), a high school course should require a year to teach. I recommend that the first semester cover the first four chapters dealing with logic and language; and the second semester cover the chapters on syllogistic reasoning, chapters 5 through 7; and whatever time remains of the semesters introduce the student to symbolic logic, chapter 8.
I include in my teaching of the course the important study of the semantics of word meanings through synonymy. Approximately three times a week I discuss the various fine distinctions between words of similar meanings, i.e., synonyms for example, the distinctions between such related words as 'trade,' 'craft,' profession'; between 'beautiful,' 'lovely,' 'pretty,' 'cute'; between 'ambition,' 'aspirations,' 'emulation,' 'competition.' I find this area about the most popular and enjoyable part of the class. After the distinctions have been made between a group of related words, the students are assigned to write sentences indicating the fine differences of meanings of the words. Though this area of my logic class is not treated in our textbook, nonetheless, the importance of such a study is obviously implicit in it, especially in chapters 2 through 4. I will list the various books of synonyms which present essays of synonymous discriminations in the bibliography. As a last word, the value of synonymous discrimination is that the study enhances the individual's appreciation of word meanings, sharpens his power of discrimination of the subtle connotations of words, improves his vocabulary and writing, and finely tunes his understanding of intellectual ideas. Since I have written this, my classroom experience has convinced me even more of the truth of this statement.
As I did in the ethics treatment of this book, I will include (1) some representative student evaluations, which will give a good idea of the course's benefit to them; and (2), a course outline as submitted to the director and the principal of Hollywood Professional School.
In closing, I would suggest that both ethics and logic be electives, and not required courses. the very nature and purpose of these studies do not bland into a mandatory system.
Students' Evaluations of High-School Logic Course
M. M. / Male
As a student of logic, I have become more aware of mistakes that I, and others too, make In their arguments. Sometimes I read material and detect errors in reasoning and although I may not know at first what is wrong with the reasoning, I can usually pinpoint the mistake after I have broken down what is being said,, and have analyzed it.
I can see why an introductory course in logic would be helpful to everyone,, no matter what his interests in life may be, because thinking and reasoning are part of everyday life. Many professions such as law, advertising, etc., involve a great deal of logical reasoning. The following example, which is taken from our textbook,, is one type of fallacious argument that may occur In a court room:
Investigator: Did your sales increase as a result of your misleading advertising?
Investigator: Aha! So you admit that your advertising was misleading. Do you know that your unethical conduct can get you into trouble?
The error in this argument Is that the investigator asks what in known as "complex question." This type of question cannot be answered by a simple yes or no answer such questions presuppose that a definite answer has already been given to a prior question that was not even asked. In the investigator's first question, the prior question (which wasn't asked) may have been, "Did you use misleading advertising?" and the presupposed answer was yes. To answer a complex question, a person must break down and answer each part of the question separately.
A.M. / Male
Most of the students enjoy the class, but this is not to say that it is easy. The material does require a fair amount of concentration in order to understand the text and lectures. Sometimes [the teacher] and the students get into discussions and debates over problematic material in the book, and if the problems haven't been settled during class time, the students usually carry on the discussion outside of class,, and even outside of school. This really makes a person stop and think, which is one reason why I like it.
S.F. / Female
With all of the information being given to students nowadays, a basic course in logic would help them to analyze and assimilate this knowledge, and to reason correctly. As [my teacher] says, "The more students can detect errors in reasoning in others, the less likely they are to make them themselves. "