Excerpt from Genesis.
- What is the order of creation? What values does the order suggest to you?
- How does the blessing pronounced by God at the conclusion of creation differ from the blessing pronounced after the flood? What are the implications of the difference?
- Why does God withhold "knowledge of good and evil" from humanity? What is the nature of the curse pronounced by God upon man and woman?
- What implications do you see in the different treatment accorded the sacrifices of Abel and Cain? What is the significance of "the brand of Cain" ?
- Why does God demand the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham? Was Abraham right in obeying God?
Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
- What is Creon's position at the outset of the play? In answering, bear in mind (a) that it is the very next day after an unsuccessful attempt to conquer his city; (b) the usual attempts at conquests always tried to enlist the aid of any group within the city who were disaffected or at odds with the leadership and normally secured this aid before any campaign was launched (modern equivalents are called "fifth columnists" and "traitors within"), so that Creon's fears about traitors within are not entirely unreasonable; (c) the person whose burial he forbids (Polynices) is his own nephew, who has turned against his family, and the duty to bury such a person would normally fall upon him.
- What is Antigone's position at the outset of the play? Granted that the ritual burial of kin is a sacred obligation, but only a ritual (it need only be a token sprinkling, which is all that Antigone can supply), why is it so important to her? Is Ismene (caught-in-the-middle Ismene) an ethical weakling, a mere fence-sitter, or does she represent a reasonable position? Is it ever a good idea to say about someone that they are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem?
- Antigone represents "family values" but at the same time something "deeper" (if not higher), connected with religion, the unwritten dateless laws. Why unwritten? Why dateless? Explore the connection between family values and "greater", other-than-general values. Take a modern case of the quarrel between the duties of office and the imperatives of religion: a doctor is devoted to reducing pain and preserving life but Christian Science parents refuse permission to let the doctor give a necessary bone-marrow transplant; in their view, faith alone does the healing and what is more, permitting the treatment would endanger the child's life because it would issue from lack of faith. (A case of this sort was in the papers about a three years ago. In this case, the child died and the parents were tried by the law for criminal neglect.) Is the doctor being stubborn, or betraying weakness, or is he just being a doctor? How about the other side? One wants to follow the precepts of "getting to yes" by giving each side their due, but to compromise here by giving half a transplant would defeat both sides and accomplish nothing.
- Consider three kinds of loyalty: (1) To an absolute or transcendent obligation. Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice Isaac, his son, as a test of faith, and Abraham proceeded to do it. Did he do well? Compare his response to Antigone's (2) To a group and (perhaps) to the values that it stands for. Would you die for America? Democracy? Your home town? Your dorm-group? (3) And finally: To one's history. How important is it to defend the values of our ethnic origins?
- The play ends by seeming to validate Antigone. Is it possible to ignore the way in which any work of narrative distributes rewards and punishments at its conclusion and take a stand against the suggestion that this distribution represents poetic justice?
II. Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail
- Compare the authorities appealed to by King and by Antigone in justification of their actions. How do they differ? What points have they in common?
- King likens himself to Antigone at one point. Is he right to do so? Which in your view is the stronger character, King or Antigone?
||Plato. The Republic. Parts I and II (pp. 61-128) [327a-376c]**.
- What sort of a man is Cephalus? A good man, perhaps, but is he wise? What is his view of the passions?
- A definition of what is right, borrowed from a poet. Are poets good sources for knowledge? When trying to discover what is the right thing to do, do we crave a definition?
- Justice seems to come from a kind of practical knowledge [the Greek word is techne], how to act in this or that circumstance. The question has shifted from "what sort of a thing is justice" to "what sort of knowledge produces justice". Are the questions more or less equivalent? Does knowing what justice is carry with it the knowledge of how to act justly?
- Can it be just to harm one's enemies? Harming someone or something, says Socrates, means making it to conform less to its "standard of excellence", making it, in other words, less exemplary of what it is. (Harming a horse makes it less of a horse.) What objections can be made to this turn in the argument? The knowledge that goes into caring for horses cannot have as its function making horses worse; in like fashion, the exercise of justice cannot ever function to make human beings worse. What objections can be made to this point. Why does Socrates think it follows naturally from his argument?
- Thrasymachus interposes. Socrates takes it for granted that justice is "human excellence" [the word for "exeellence" and "virtue" are the same in ancient Greek]. Thrasymachus challenges this assumption. How good are is arguments? How does Socrates defeat them? Is the conclusion (justice is not a form of human excellence, not a virtue) attractive nonetheless?
- The challenge of Glaucon: what is his account of the nature and origin of justice? Would you wish to possess the ring of Gyges? Why? What is the nature of the challenge that he poses to Socrates?
- Adeimantus says that Glaucon has left out the most important point. What is it?
- What are the essential points in Socrates's account of the character of a community? How will talking about the character of a viable community aid in discovering whether justice is an excellence or not in individuals?
- Glaucon insists that a community cannot confine itself only to necessities; it must have some luxuries as well. What does their admission do to the analogy between the community (as Socrates is outlining its nature) and the individual member of the community?
- How well does Socrates locate in the commuity the four "classical" virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance (or self-control or self-discipline; the Greek word is sophrosyne), and Justice. As Socrates describes them, the last two sounds somewhat alike. How do they differ?
- How well does he align the three elements or classes of people to be found in any community with the alleged three parts of the human psyche? The Greek word has got into our language; what other word(s) might be synonymous with it?
- Socrates says that two of the elements must be in charge of the third, which is appetite. Why should the element responsible for "courage" be in charge of appetite? How can reason control appetite? Is appetite, as Socrates says, "the greater part of everyone's make-up and naturally insatiable?" Is, for example, thirst an appetite; and is it always insatiable?
(c) 471c-521b, 576c-592a:
- How good is Plato's argument that it does not invalidate an ideal pattern of a state to show that it cannot possibly exist? Does the defense of the validity of an ideal pattern (a "paradigm"; Greek=paradeigma) extend to other things?
- If appetites are insatiable, so (says Socrates) is reason, insatiable for knowledge of all sorts. What the philosopher craves is not instances or examples but the paradigm itself, the standard of excellence by which something is judged to be good or bad of its kind. Most people are incapable of grasping these standards, which do not change with time or circumstance. How is the distinction between the few and the many here correlated with a distinction between universal knowledge and random, changeful "opinion" or "belief". How valid do you think the assertion that there is no universal knowledge, only relative belief?
- How does the parable of the Cave fall in with the distinction between knowledge and belief? with the exposition of the divided line? Why, in the parable, do those who have never seen the source of all light turn on the one who has and kill him?
- The rich, the brave and the wise each maintain that their way of life is best, but the wise are right and the other two wrong. How do we know this?
||Plato. The Republic. Part III, section 2 (pp. 166-176) [403d-412a]; Parts IV and V (pp. 177- 24) [412a-445d].
||Plato. The Republic. Part VII (pp. 260-325) [471c-521b], Part IX, section 10 (pp. 398-420) [576c-592a].
||Aristotle. Excerpt from Nichomachean Ethics.
- Glaucon (in the Republic) said that there were three kinds of good thingsBthings good as means, things good in themselves, and things good both as means and as good in themselves. Give some examples of these three kinds. Which of the three do you think Plato values most? Which does Aristotle value most?
- Aristotle says in effect that all things add up, that there must be some overall good that is the end of every other good. What is his argument? He also says that if we desire only means, we do not desire anything. Is he correct?
- How does the view that ethics is a subject that can be taught only to those who are already ethical (not, therefore, to young or to the incontinent, those who cannot control themselves) fit in with Aristotle's general viewpoint? Is he right? If so, what is the use of "preaching to the converted"?
- Is it possible, asks Aristotle, that a carpenter or tanner has a function (Greek=ergon) but a human being, considered just as a human being, has no appropriate function? Is this a sensible question? Aristotle thinks that it a good question and that he knows the answer. Do you agree?
- Aristotle says (I, 8) that one who does not enjoy acting well cannot be good. What would Plato say? He employs an example here, in competitions, it is not those most qualified to win who win. Is this a good example to make the point? Why does he use it?
- How does Aristotle understand eudaimonia--happiness or well-being? Does he mean by it what the writers of the Declaration of Independence meant when they spoke of "the pursuit of happiness"? Why does Aristotle reject pleasure and honor (the esteem of others) as the end of life?
- Virtue (or excellence; as with Plato, the word arete means both) is a state of being or an aspect of character (ethÇs) and does not come by nature. Is it unnatural, then? How are the virtues acquired, in Aristotle's view?
- Why does Aristotle think that virtues, as aspects of character, are dispositions to act? Explain the notion that virtues are means between extremes. Can you give examples from your own observations that would support this view?
- Plato was much concerned with deciding whether we think that something is good because we wish for it or we wish for it because we think it is good. What do you think Aristotle would say? How does Aristotle (III, 4) deal with the notion that no one can really wish for what is bad, but one deceives onself about what one wants when one craves bad things? How does his view here differ from Plato's?
- Aristotle says repeatedly that we do not deliberate about ends but only about the means to ends. Is this a peculiar use of the notion of deliberating, making a self-determined choice? Or is he right about this? How does the opinion fit into his general viewpoint?
- Aristotle says (VI, 13) that there are natural virtues and the virtues appropriate to "practical reason" (phronesis). Does this contradict what he said at the outset of Book I? He also seems to say that you cannot have one virtue without having them all. How does this follow from his general view? Does it seem a valid opinion?
- Which is better, in Aristotle's view, a life of contemplation or of action? What was Plato's view on this point? What advice does Aristotle offer us in choosing one or the other?
||Aristotle, excerpt from Nichomachean Ethics.
||Excerpt from The Gospel According to St Matthew.
- What do you think the three temptations in the desert represent? What implications do you draw from the replies?
- The word translated as "temptation" also means "test". Hence in the Lord's prayer, "Lead us not into temptation" means "Do not test us." Why is being tested a bad idea?
- What is the meaning of the phrase, "Do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing"? Why should we follow this injunction?
- Why is it a blessing to be "poor in spirit"? Why should we not resist evil?
- Why is it bad to be rich? Why are the disciples confused by this doctrine? What is the meaning of the "parable of payment" which Jesus offers in answer to their confusion?
Dante, The Inferno
- The general scheme of the Inferno derives from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, k VII, chapter 1, where the ethical states to be avoided are divided into incontinence, viciousness, and mad brutishness. Do the types here represent what Aristotle was talking about? What has Dante added by way of circles in Hell to Aristotle's scheme and why has he added it?
- The place most like the conventional image of Hell as Dante inherited it was Malebolge, which comes complete with devils and pitchforks. How are the punishments endured by the damned in areas above and below Malebolge different from the punishments endured within it?
- What, in your view, is the dark wood? What is the mountain that Dante is trying to climb? Why, in the poem, is Dante required to pass through Hell to get to Paradise?
- "Love made me," says the inscription on the gates of Hell. How is Hell an expression of divine Love?
- Does the punishment in Hell always suit the sin? Are the characters in Hell fully defined by the sin that has determined their position in Hell or do they exhibit traits that might be termed "redeeming", were it not for the fact that they did not effect the redemption of the person who bore them? Find three cases in which the latter is true and try to account for the portraits of the sinner in each.
- There are transitions in the journey from circle to circle, but major transitions from group to group. One of these is the battlements and defenses of the city of Dis. Hell is a city, then? The Erynes or Furies are there, and Dante is protected from looking at them. Virgil is denied entrance and appears to be angered and perplexed. How would you interpret the symbolism here?
- Those in Hell know the future and the past but not the present. What does this mean?
- There is a two-fold division within Aristotle's category of the vicious, what does it signify? Comment on the three-fold division of the violent, who occupy the outer and higher half of the realm of the vicious. Does it seem sensible? Dante is moved to scorn in the innermost circle of the incontinent; he displays anger at numerous points in the circle of the vicious; and he is downright cruel in the circle of the treacherous. How would one justify this behavior?
- Dante's geography of Hell obviously admits of a hierarchy of sins, from least to most sinful. However, his arrangement is sometimes puzzling to our modern eyes. For example, he places the prodigal higher than the spendthrift, murderers higher than the noble Ulysses, and counterfeiters right next to the bottom, wherein are placed the worst of the lot. Can you explain this? There are also judgments upon sins that we might not share. How would you explain the condemnation of usuryBthe sin of making money by the use of money? How would you explain the condemnation of Ulysses, who urged his men never to stop searching for knowledge?
- Unless loss of personality is part of the punishment, Dante's figures are deeply personified in very few strokes of his pen. Yet they are also meant to be allegorical, to stand for something. What does it mean to say that one "stands for something", has become an emblem, so to speak? Do you stand for something in this sense? Certainly, we are familiar with figures who stood for something in history, Lindburgh, for instance, or Nathan Hale. Does this "standing for" carry a judgment on features of one's character?
||Machiavelli. Excerpt from The Prince.
Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.
||Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.
||Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.
||Thomas Hobbes. Excerpt from Leviathan.
- Hobbes put certain ideas at the forefront of attention in ethical philosophy. He was not the first to entertain these ideas, but he was the first to express them as elements in a systematic view of the world. As a result, even though some of his contemporaries and successors thought them disreputable, nevertheless it became increasingly difficult to think of them as unworthy of important consideration. The basic idea was to take a materialistic view of human nature. In this connection, he begins his text by asking the reader to consider whether machines cannot be considered an artificial form of life? What would be involved in thinking of machinery in this way? What implications would it have for the consideration of human beings?
- In Hobbes's view, each human being can be regarded as an array of appetites and aversions, continuously stimulated into existence by sensory events, and continually changing in character, so that there is no overall aim for human action over the course of a lifetime, no such thing as a summum bonum or "highest good", no condition of being that mankind tries to achieve in order to suit its nature. The value of anything is determined by what we just happen to want at one moment or another, and the idea of a permanent goal or an enduring satisfaction is just an illusion. Compare this view with Aristotle's. Which do you think is closer to the truth?
- Appetites and aversions, moreover, are not simple qualities but composites. At any given moment, they are the overall resolution of innumerable differing responses both to stimuli and to our thoughts about stimuli, in which so much of each response is traded off against so much of every other to produce the collective result, an impulse to motion. Hobbes calls this process deliberation, and its resolution into an impulse he calls the will. Again, compare this view with Aristotle's view of deliberation. Which do you think is closer to the truth?
- All reasoning about general truths Hobbes says is akin to calculation; as creatures capable of reasoning, we are akin to calculating machines. One conclusion he draws is that when we make an error of fact, we simply misstate what is the case, but when we make an error about general truths, we fail in calculation, and the result is an absurdity, something that looks like speech but is actually senseless, mere gabble. Would you agree that much strenuous argument about the nature of reality is mere gabble, in this sense: "it does not compute"?
- The worst gabble in Hobbes's view is gabble about what is good and evil, virtuous and vicious, for we all mean different things by these words and arguments will not be settled until we purify speech of the differences in the ways that we conceive such things. Can you think of any examples where this dictum would be true? Again, how does Hobbes's view compare with Aristotle's view (III, 4) about the relation between desire and what is good?
- The feature of Hobbes's thinking that most concerns us here is that appetite and aversion must be understood as changing vectors, temporary compromises between differences in the strength and direction of initial responses to stimuli. Since value in human life is determined by the relative strength of appetites and aversion, and these are the composite vectors of multiple forces, it follows that every value is the result of a trade-off between measurable quantities. The value of any resulting composite, however desirable at any given moment to some human beings and undesirable to others, is nonetheless representable in principle as equivalent in value to some quantity of any other. Appetite and aversion are, so to speak, the universal currency of mankind.
Although Hobbes lived before the advent of a fully-fledged market economy, he captured here the notion that underlies it, namely, that the value of any one thing can measured in terms of the value of any other, provided they are either things to be acquired or avoided. Some things may be very dear and others cheap, but all have a price, a value in terms of each other.
It is all very well to put a value upon apples in terms of oranges, or of goods in terms of services, or even of a surgically-transplanted kidney (and therefore of a human life) in terms of so many television sets, but what about our more fundamental human obligations? Our obligation to our parents, for instance: they want more than you care to give, you want more than they care to give. But according to Hobbes, all these "wants" are themselves the result of trade-offs among impulses, not independent sources of value, and so the working result, in free market conditions, is due measure. Parents and children can settle up between themselves, each "buying out" the obligation to the other, which can be determined by bargaining, as in a divorce settlement. Hobbes, of course, doesn't go this far, but the notion of buy-out is implicit in his argument. We might here consider as a case of uncompromising antagonism the quarrel between Creon and Antigone, or indeed, of quarrels with a religious antagonism behind them of any sort. Is it the case that when we deal with uncompromising people, we are dealing with ignorance or bad thinking?
- We have, Hobbes says, an obligation to preserve our lives. What is the source of all other obligations, in Hobbes's view? Do you think that he is right in this?
- Describe the state of nature as Hobbes understands it. Does he think that it actually existed? If so, does he think that it still exists?
- Hobbes says more than once that the object of all voluntary acts is some good to oneself, even acts of charity and apparent self-sacrifice. What are some of the implications of such a view?
- How good is the response that Hobbes makes to the "fool" who has said in his heart that justice is contrary to reason and that it is reasonable to be unjust whenever you can get away with it?
||Herman Melville. Billy Budd.
- The story deliberately sets itself as describing events taking place before steam had replaced sail, another, distant-seeming world. At the time, England and other European states were leagued in war against France, represented by Napoleon Bonaparte, who was thought by many in the United States to represent the force of republicanism, if not democracy, and the end of the political authority and privilege royalty and nobility. Indeed, the story tells us at one point (chapter 8), that veterans of the American revolution hoped that he might carry his conquests across the Atlantic. The events of the story, therefore, take place during a war against France whose purpose was to make the world safe from democracy, not for democracy. How does this circumstance color the story as a whole?
- Billy is an ordinary seaman, impressed into service (as the law allowed) by a man-of-war to make up the loss of a seaman upon it. Why does Billy offer a farewell salute to his ship, The Rights of Man? How should his cry of farewell be taken?
- The narrator contrasts the vices of ordinary sailors with the vices of those who claim "respectability". What is the point of the contrast?
- Chapter four offers an account of Nelson, who died at Trafalgar. There is, throughout, an implied contrast with Captain Vere. How would you develop the contrast?
- The three main characters, Billy, Vere, and Claggart are described at some length before the story gets under way. How would you sum up Billy's character? Why was he called "the peacemaker"? How did he bring about peace on the only occasion that we know about before he joined Vere's ship? What is the significance of his stammer?
- How would you describe Vere? His belief in the justice of the English cause is tied to a mistrust of "innovators" and political revolutionaries; his suspicion of those who would destroy aristocratic privilege is, the narrative says, "disinterested". Does the narrative admire him? Does it, on the whole, take his side?
- Describe Claggart and his role upon the ship. What is his effect upon his subordinates? Why does the narrative wish that it could resort to Biblical usage to describe him? Who in the narrative does resort to Biblical references to describe events? The wish to use Biblical language is expressed during the narrative's attempt to explain why Claggart hates Billy. How does the narrative explain the hatred? Is the explanation a good one?
- The old Dansker says that Claggart always has a good word for Billy because Claggart hates Billy. What does he mean by this?
- Does Claggart believe the charges that he levels against Billy? How would you support your answer?
- Why does Billy strike Claggart? Did he commit murder? Does Vere think that he committed murder? Why does Vere convene a court-martial aboard ship? Why does the doctor think that Vere has gone mad?
- If you were on the court-martial and Vere did not speak before a verdict was to be rendered, how would you vote? Would Vere's speech make a difference to your vote?
- The narrative can tell us what passed through Billy's mind when he is summoned to Vere's cabin? Why does the narrative pointedly refuse to tell us what passed between Vere and Billy after the court-martial?
- The narrative compares Vere to Abraham and Billy to Isaac. Is the comparison justified?
- The narrative offers three consecutive endings to the story, chapters 28, 29 and 30, any one of which could have concluded the story by itself. What is the point of this device?
- At the end of chapter 21, the narrative draws a distinction between the viewpoint of those in authority during emergencies and those under authority or protected by it. What are the ethical implications of this distinction? Are they legitimate considerations in judging those in authority?
||Herman Melville. Billy Budd.
||Kant: Excerpts from Metaphysics of Morals.
- What does Kant mean by a maxim? What is the difference between a categorical and a hypothetical imperative?
- Kant gives three versions of the categorical imperative. How would you distinguish the first two? Why does Kant believe that they come down to the same thing?
- Compare the view of freedom expressed by Kant with the treatment of it by Hobbes. The two philosophers each make the claim that being ethical means much the same as being rational (recall Hobbes saying that to behave unjustly was akin to a contradiction, in that it was absurd) i.e., without the possibility of calculation. And yet there views of reasonable conduct are different. How would you describe some of the differences? Kant has harsh words for the notion of the "pursuit of happiness". Would Hobbes have agreed with him?
- What does Kant mean by "autonomy". Are human beings autonomous?
- Kant offers four examples of the application of his notion of the categorical imperative. How do they illustrate his argument? Are they well-chosen?
- Kant distinguishes between duties to oneself and duties to others. How important is this distinction to Kant's argument? Can you have duties to yourself, or is the phrase just a colorful manner of speaking? Isn't it rather like owing yourself some money to owe yourself to do something or to behave towards yourself in a certain way?
- Kant does not believe in the authority of "role-models". He says, in effect, that you cannot "imitate Christ" until you recognize his perfection and this recognition depends upon your already knowing what it means to be perfect. Jesus, it would appear (although Kant does not say this), cannot teach us anything that we do not already know. What do you think of this argument?
||J. S. Mill. Excerpts from Utilitarianism.
- Happiness, says Mill, is pleasure and the absence of pain. Suppose that Aristotle could be made aware of the context in which Mill makes this claim. Would he agree with it?
- For Hobbes, pleasure is pleasure; there is no talk about the importance of differences in kinds of pleasure. But for Mill, the differences in kinds matters. How important is it to the argument? Plato made a similar distinction in The Republic. Is Plato=s distinction important in the same way? How does Mill take into account simultaneously the inherent distinction between kinds of pleasures and such things as their intensity and duration? How would he compare in value a brief experience of higher pleasure with a lengthy experience of pain? Does the distinction between higher and lower apply to pains as well as pleasures?
- Mill says that most of the so-called evils in life, even when they are due immediately to chance or foolish thinking or bad conduct, are "in themselves removable, and will, if human affairs continue to improve, be in the end reduced within narrow limits." Do you share this view? How does it fit in with the overall position that Mill is taking with regard to the nature of ethics?
- Mill says that it is business of ethics to offer a decision-procedure with regard to action. What would Aristotle think of this view? What would Kant think of it?
- Mill distinguishes between acting from a sense of duty and abstaining from a sense of duty. Explain the distinction. How important is it to his argument?
- How good is Mill's proof of the principle of utility? Does he think that people should be spending time calculating the net effects of their actions if they wish to act morally? When should such calculations take place?
- Mill resorts at times to the notion that what most people think they want and what they really want are different things (e.g., the last paragraph of chapter three in our readings). How can this distinction be established? Did Plato rely on such an idea? Did Aristotle? Do you think that the distinction is valid?
- What are the criticisms that Mill levels against Kant? How would Kant reply to them?
- Mill says that the utility principle is just gabble, a "mere form of words", unless one person's happiness should count for no more than another's. Can you think of instances which might contradict this view? How would Mill deal with them? How does the view square with Mill's earlier assertion that it is better to be Socrates unsatisfied than a pig satisfied?
||Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment. Part I.
- One of the most important moments in Mill's exposition of utilitarianism occurs when he writes of most "moral associations"(meaning by the phrase both vested ideas about morality and social conduct and the institutions that such ideas support), that they are wholly artificial and yield with the advance of civilization to "he dissolving force of analysis" (Chapter three, Utilitarianism).How important is "he dissolving force of analysis"to the story? Which characters in particular exhibit the dissolving force of analysis in their expression of ethical or social views?
- Raskolnikov overhears a conversation about God and it confirms his intention to act. What is the substance of the conversation? Does the student in the conversation express a reasonable opinion? Can one be moral if one does not believe in God?
- Raskolnikov is not an atheist, or so he seems to say during his first interview with Porfiry. How is it possible to "elieve in God and the New Jerusalem"and still commit murder?
- Outline Luzhin's views on new ideas, ethics, religion. Razumihin immediately accuses him of licensing murder, and Luzhin stoutly denies this. What is the nature of their disagreement?
- Luzhin seems to believe that a wife should look upon a husband as a benefactor, and Raskolnikov takes a dim view of Luzhin on this account. What is wrong with the belief? What does it imply about Luzhin's character? The story earlier offers an example of a man marrying a woman in order to save her, Marmeladov. Does the reason for the marriage have anything to do with the nature of it?
- Raskolnikov intervenes in behalf of a young girl who has evidently been raped, engages a policeman to help her, then suddenly tells the policeman to mind his own business. What motivates his sudden change in character? But Raskolnikov can turn upon himself in the course of two sentences. "Man is a scoundrel," he muses, after encountering the prostitute Duclida.. "And he is a scoundrel who calls him a scoundrel." What is the meaning of this remark? The encounter with Duclida first prompted a meditation about "a square yard of space", a thought that recurs in the novel. What does it refer to? What is there about the episode with Duclida that prompts such reflections?
- Hearing Raskolnikov's theory about superior sorts of persons, Razumihin says that it is an excuse for bloodshed and adds that it is worse than the official excuse for bloodshed. What is the official excuse? Why does Razumihin think Raskolnikov's is worse? "The only novelty in your ideas," says Razumihin, "is that you sanction bloodshed in the name of conscience, as a duty." Does that sound like a novelty still? What situations can give rise to a duty to shed blood?
- Describe the character of Svigdrigailov. What is his history? He sees ghosts. Who are they and what is his response to them? Why is he so interested in Raskolnikov? Why is he so interested in Sonya? Near the end of the book, he describes his technique for seducing women. How would you describe the technique?
- There are five dreams in the novel. What does the first dreamBRaskolnikov's dream about the mare--mean? The next to last concerns an abandoned child and the dreamer is Svigdrigailov. What is the meaning of this dream? Are the dreams realistic? Do dreams in life reflect reality or comment upon it?
- Raskolnikov identifies with Sonya and tells her why? Both of us, he says, have transgressed. Why does he think that the transgressions are similar? Is he right?
- Raskolnikov offers himself and Sonya various explanations of why he killed the pawnbroker. What are they? Do they all add up? If not, which one is closest to the truth?
||Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment. Part II, Part III, Chap. 1-3.
||Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment. Part III, 4-end, Part IV, Part V.
||Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment. Part VI, Epilogue.
||Conrad. "The Secret Sharer."
- How would you describe the way in which the nameless narrator was promoted to command of his ship? Is it meant to be typical of appointment to authority? What is the significance of the "alone-ness" of the narrator at the outset of the story? Is the condition good, bad, indifferent?
- The narrator distinguishes himself from his crew in that they "had simply to be equal to their tasks", whereas he had to measure up to "that ideal conception of one's own personality that every man sets up for himself secretly." Can this view of the distinction between the one in authority and those under authority be justified? Where would you draw this line and what is the meaning of it?
- Why did the second mate withhold the knowledge of the Sephora until the end of the meal?
- How would you evaluate the narrator's initial moves as captain?
- The name "Leggatt" is pronounced, legate (as in delegate) and means someone sent on commision from higher authority. Is the name appropriate here?
- Why did Leggatt go overboard? Is he guilty of murder or even manslaughter? He makes a distinction between swimming till he sinks and committing suicide; is this distinction justified? He also distinguishes between swimming 'round and 'round and swimming straight forward (again, until he sinks). Why is this difference important?
- Both Archbold (if that is his name) and Leggatt claim to have given the order that saved the ship. Who is telling the truth? Is one of them lying?
- Leggatt kills one man while saving ship and crew. The narrator risks ship and crew to save one man. Is this recklessness? The narrator says that this was "a matter of conscience". What does he mean by this? One might say that the narrator has created a crisis on the ship. Is it ever a good thing for someone in authority to create a crisis?
- The narrator speaks of "the chapter of accidents which counts for so much in the book of success." Explain the phrase. Do you think it is applicable to most careers?
- What is the point of the floating hat at the end of the story?
||Shaw. Major Barbara.
||Shaw. Major Barbara.
||Flannery O. Connor. "The Displaced Person.
- The economics of the situation is important to the story. Try to describe the farm as a small company. Does this help to explain the relationships between the three-tier hierarchy? Does Mr Guizac represent something to be feared? What threat is posed by him to Mrs McIntyre (senior management), to Mrs Shortley (the employee's wife, but clearly the dominant figure in the marriage and therefore something like a line manager), Astor and Sulk (the unskilled laborers)? Does Mr Guizac pose the same threat to each of these three? How clearly is it grasped by each of them?
- In the story, we see almost everything through the eyes of either Mrs Shortley or Mrs McIntyre. (There is only one exception to this rule, and this occurs early in the story, a brief exchange between Astor and Sulk, just after Mrs Shortley has been suggesting that Mrs McIntyre might discharge them, which neither Mrs Shortley nor Mrs McIntyre are in a position to overhear.) How would you describe the relationship between the two women? Why is Mrs Shortley pleased to discuss "trash" (the families who previously occupied the position now held by the Shortleys) and "niggers" with Mrs McIntyre, yet thinks of Mrs McIntyre with contempt?
- In the conversation just alluded to, Astor tells Sulk: "Never mind, your place too low for anybody to dispute with you for it." Is this the way in which he speaks when talking to either Mrs McIntyre or Mrs Shortley? Is the portrait of the blacks superficial? Black people are often offended by the presentation of blacks in this story; this is one reason why it no longer figures prominently in university curricula. Are they right to be offended?
- Does Mrs Shortley mean it when she says that she has "always been a friend to niggers and poor folks" and that she "aims to stand up for the niggers"? The story hints that Astor has discovered what Mr Guizac is up to and told Mrs Shortley. Why have neither of them told Mrs McIntyre? Why does Mrs McIntyre, despite her attachment to Mrs Shortley, discharge the Shortleys rather than Astor and Sulk? Why does she tell Mr Guizac that she can run her farm without him but "I cannot run this place without my niggers"?
- Mrs Shortley has a religious vision, in which uncleanliness of all sorts and abominations done to the human body are associated with Mr Guizac and "the stinking power of Satan". Mrs McIntyre, in contrast, regards religion as an irrelevance. Nonetheless, she seems to have turned the empty safe in her office into a kind of shrine. What is the meaning of this symbolism? Furthermore, she has a vision of Mr Guizac as a monster, whose "whole face looked as if it might have been patched together out of several others." In a non-religious way, she becomes convinced that she has a moral duty to discharge Mr Guizac and feels guilty for doing nothing about it. Is this emphasis upon the monstrous and the abominable appropriate to the story?