Which Life is Best?
Mon. December 6, 2021
Which school offers the best approach to living a good life?
The Stoic way of life
The Confucian way of life
The Existentialist way of life
The Calliclean way of life
The Aristotelian way of life
Our penultimate class session will be devoted to a debate between (and among) the four ancient schools on whom we have focused this semester, plus Callicles’s position and the modern Existentialists’ position, each one represented by all the students in a single section. We will determine which section represents which position before the guest lecture on Monday, November 29.
Throughout the debate, the moderators will give each group numerous opportunities to speak. One of our goals in this debate is that each student speak, and so comments or questions should be focused and brief—not listing a whole range of issues. No student in a section will be allowed to make a second comment until each member of the section has spoken.
- At the start of the debate, the moderator will call on each group in turn to offer a brief opening statement (maximum two minutes) on why their school offers the best path to a good life.
- The moderator will then call on each group to respond. Students can raise problems for other schools, highlight the strengths of their own school, or reply to challenges that other groups have posed. This discussion will continue, with each group getting multiple opportunities to speak. Again, our goal here is that everyone participates.
In order to be ready for this debate, your dialogue session on Friday, December 3 will be devoted to preparing. Come to this meeting ready to discuss:
- What are the central tenets of your school’s approach to the good life? Why is the position of your school superior?
- What distinguishes your school’s approach to the good life from those of other schools?
- What are potential vulnerabilities for your position? You’ll need to be prepared to defend your position against these criticisms.
- What are the weaknesses of the other positions that you can highlight to demonstrate the overall superiority of your own position?
While you must work from the historical version of these philosophies as found in our texts, if you feel that modifications would make the doctrines stronger without violating the essential spirit of the philosophy, you can include such ideas as long as you make clear that they are reasonable developments.
At your meeting, discuss the above four questions and compile a list of at least four answers to each question. Your Dialogue Facilitators should record these answers on Friday and share them with the three professors in advance of the debate, as well as the name of the student who will make the group’s brief opening statement.