Philosophy Exam Essays:
1. Explain what reasons Socrates gives in the Crito for not fleeingAthens, even though
staying means certain death. Explain why you do, or don’t, find these arguments sound.
In the Crito Socrates has just been sentenced to death and Crito intends to persuade him
to not stick around Athens, and rather escape. Crito uses 3 arguments in the intention to
persuade Socrates to leave. He says that Socrates has young children who need their
father to raise them, if Socrates does indeed not escape people will criticize his friends for
not helping him escape, and if he doesn’t escape he is doomed for certain death. Socrates
responds to this by saying that his children would be better in Athens then in Exile, his
friends should not care what others think about them, and that he would rather die then
live with an unjust soul. Socrates claims that the action of escaping would be corrupting
his soul because he feels as though Athens is a parent to him, and by escaping Athens it
would be like doing bad to a parent, which corrupts the soul. Socrates says its better to
die then live with a corrupted soul. I find Socrates arguments to be indeed questionable
when it comes to soundness. This is because for one living with a corrupted body is
indeed not worthless. Many people live completely normal and fulfilling lives with
disabilities, and just because they are disabled does not mean they should die. As well
Socrates states that Athens is like a parent, but would it be a just action for a parent to
wrongfully punish their child for openly speaking their mind.
2. In the Apology Plato claims that "no evil can happen to a good man”, but in the Crito
he suggests that “life is not worth living with a corrupted body”. Explain why one might
think that these two views are in tension with each other when you consider, for instance,
a good person whose body is corrupted through no fault of their own (say, they are
paralyzed by someone who wants to make an example of them). Do you think that there
is a way for Socrates to resolve this tension? If so, suggest how he could do it. If not,
explain why not.
One might find these two views in tension with one another because in the Apology he is
talking about the evil happening to the soul, but in the Crito he is referring to the physical
body. In his first piece we learn that no evil can happen to a good man because if the
person is truly good nothing will be able to pass that goodness. Also he says that a truly
good person, regardless of the actions of others will not get damaged, only their physical
body. I find that the only way for this tension to be relieved is to either specifically
decipher between whether he was talking about the body or the soul and to put the body
at the same level as the soul. Plato and Socrates both state that the soul is of more
importance then the body but if they were put to be equal they would both be able to not
be harmed. In ancient Greece the body was looked upon as important and almighty, and if
one was to separate the idea of external beauty from the soul and its virtue then the body
will be on its way to being equal to the soul.
3. Socrates claims that "no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death",
whileAristotle argued that external events could seriously damage the quality of a
person's life. Leaving aside the question of whether the good person can be harmed after
death, present these competing positions about what harm can be done to the good person
during their life, and explain why you find one or the other more persuasive. On one side we have Aristotle who argues that man can be harmed in life if they are in
bad circumstances. He believes that the goodness of your life is based upon whether you
are lucky or not. He says that if someone is unlucky, no matter how good they are, they
will still have a bad life. He believes that we indeed need external goods to be happy but
one also needs virtue. He claims virtue to be higher then external goods when he states
that one can be not happy but virtuous, but one cannot be happy and not virtuous.
Therefore linking ones happiness with virtue. On the other side Socrates argues that what
we view as evils such as death are not really evils. The only evil that one faces in life is
ones that damage their souls. He takes the body to be of lesser importance then the soul.
Saying that only acting unjustly can damage our souls. I agree with Aristotle’s claim
more because we do need external goods to be happy but I also believe that it is just as
important to focus on our internal needs with virtuous good.
4. How does Epictetus recommend that we view our friends and family, and why does he
make such a recommendation? Would you adopt this sort of attitude towards them if you
could (and this attitude would include not being lonely, not missing them, etc.), explain
why, or why not.
Epictetus recommends that we have no interest in friends and family. He says that they
are not important because we cannot control whether they live or die. He believes that
you get too attached and then when they die you will be disappointed. Epictetus
recommends that we would be better off if we didn’t desire things that we could not
control. He does however agree that this is not very plausible, but believes we should try.
He says that there are 3 steps in order to follow this recommendation. He says that we
have the desire, which is the want for friends and family, but when they die we become
sad, then there is the action which is to separate us from our friends and family and the
third one is assent which is when we realize friends and family aren’t important for our
overall happiness. Personally I would not take on this attitude. Although I would not feel
lonely or miss them, I still believe that friends and family provide for many pleasures,
that even if they are short lives or non controllable I would rather experience them then
not. I believe that friends and family provide not only physical feelings but also fill
emotional gaps which can only be felt through the love and connections through other
5. What reasons do Epicurus and Socrates give for not fearing death? Explain why you
do, or don't, find their arguments sound.
Epicurus believes that we should not fear death because it is inevitable and since we
cannot escape it there is nothing to fear. He also believes that death is not a bad, and even
if it is we should not worry about it. He says that it does not cause any harm when we are
alive or when we are dead. He says we should only fear what causes us suffering, and
since death does not cause us suffering then we should not feae it. On the other hand
Socrates also states that we should not fear death because there is nothing bad to it. He
claims this because he believes that his oracle would warn him about all bad things, and
since his oracle did not warn him about death, death cannot be a bad thing. Socrates also
states that death is either an endless sleep or has an after life. If it is an endless sleep then
there is no suffering so we don’t feel anything, and if it is an after life then there is only
good to come. I find their arguments to be sound because they both explain how death does not cause any harm, meaning there is nothing to fear. Socrates also makes a valid
logical statement by saying that his oracle warns him about all bad things, his oracle did
not warn him about death, therefore death cannot be a bad thing.
6. What is Epicurus’s conception of the human good, and what problems does Nozick's
discussion of the "experience Machine" pose for it? Do you find Nozick’s criticisms
Epicurus believes that the human good is to have pleasures, which exceed the pain.
Stemming from his egoistic hedonism view he believes that as long as the pleasures out
way the pain one will have a good life. He believes that in life there is only pleasure and
pain, but the pleasure should be the only thing pursued because it is good. Nozicks idea
of the experience machine is to stimulate an alternative reality where we could have a
completely different life experience. Nozick believes that humans would not actually
want to be plugged in because we want to feel, and by being plugged in he says to many
would be like committing suicide. This concept of the machine goes against Epicurus’s
idea of egoistic hedonism in its descriptive sense, but believes from his normative
perspective he can argue that even if we would not want to be plugged in, it is a good
idea to do so because it gives us pleasure. His criticisms are indeed persuasive because by
plugging into the machine, although not receiving a real reality, it is in our best interest.
He says that by plugging in we are guaranteed to live a happy existence, although not
“real” rather then living a “real” but miserable life.
7. Why does Epicurus think that a life that focuses on pleasure should still be a just (i.e.
law abiding) one? Explain why you do, or don't, find his argument sound.
Epicurus believes that a life that focuses on pleasure is the best type of life because
pleasure is good. He says that in order to live peacefully and pleasurably one has to live a
just life. He believes that the idea of living a just life comes form “mental pleasures”
which is the highest form of pleasures because they have no pain. He believes this is
only attainable when life is free of anxiety. Epicurus says that by one living a law abiding
life they have nothing to worry about because they have not done anything bad. Epicurus
says that it is not necessarily the action of going against the law, which causes anxiety,
but it is rather the fear of getting caught and the consequences that coincide. Therefore he
says that in the end it is never in ones best interest to act unjustly. I find Epicurus
argument that a life, which focuses on pleasure, must be a law abiding one because he
clearly recognizes the fact that if one behaves he will not have anxiety. He says one
cannot live a pleasurable life if they are constantly anxious about the future. He also says
that since anxiety can never be escaped it will produce an overall unjust life.
8. Compare the views of Nagel and Epicurus on the question of whether Death is a bad
thing. Whose views on the subject do you find the most persuasive?
When it comes to Nagel and Epicurus’s ideas about death they tend to have relatively
contrasting opinions. Although Epicurus focuses a lot on pleasure he strongly opinionates
that death cannot be bad thing and even if it is we should not worry about it because it is
inevitable. He believes that by worrying about death it causes anxiety and through
anxiety one will live an unjust life. He also believes that death causes us no harm while
we are alive or when we die. He believes that we should only worry about things we
know cause us harm. On the other hand Nagel is strongly against death because he
believes that once we die, it deprives us of all the additional pleasures and experience that
we wont experience after death. Nagel’s point in simple would be the fear of missing out because you miss out on life after death. I find Epicurus’s arguments more persuasive
because he takes a much more optimistic outlook on the inevitable topic of death. He
clearly makes out that there is really no reason to worry about death because in the end
we cannot control when we dieit is inevitable. He believes we should rather fill our time
on this earth striving for pleasures and enjoyment instead of causing anxious feelings that
will only lead to us having an unjust existence.
9. Aristotle thinks that a human life is a 'happy' one to the extent that it fulfills the human
function. What does he take that function to be? Explain what arguments he gives for his
position and why you do, or don’t, find such arguments sound.
Aristotle believes that like all things, humans have a specific function. He contends that
we must have a specific set of characteristics that define our function because as being a
theorist of human nature he argues that we ought to have a given human function. He
takes our function to be the act of