writer’s choice


The meta-examined life or The Social Construction of ‘students’.

Select ONE of the topics below and write a 5-6 page paper, double spaced, submitted as per directions given in class. Your essay needs to have a thesis, which will be an overall claim, conclusion or theme that is supported by the conceptual analysis provided in accordance with your chosen prompt.  Your thesis needs to appear at the beginning and the end of your paper.  Your essay should not include outside sources.

1.Value and Meaning: Explain and critically evaluate Nozick’s definitions of value and meaning in chapter 15 and the supporting arguments he gives for these definitions. Apply his definition first by explaining how either an emotion or a ‘we’ would have value and meaning (according to his definitions) and then  to your  life by explaining which aspects of your life currently have value and meaning (according to his definitions) AND what changes in your life would make it more valuable and meaningful (according to his definitions) than it is now.

2. Love: Critically evaluate Nozick’s account of love by (a) proposing counterexamples to his definition, considering how he would reply, and your overall evaluation of his definition.  Then explain how the autonomy and unconditional love objections and how they can be answered. Finally, based on your analysis above, explain how you would answer the question: What is love?

3. Emotion: Based on pages 87-90 of the Examined Life, explain how Nozick would argue against these two claims: (a) emotions are feelings and (b) there are no criteria of emotional evaluation.  Then, evaluate his argument and develop your own argument regarding the plausibility of these two claims.  Then, support an affirmative or negative answer to the question “ Would I be better off without emotions?”, and support a claim about the specific value of emotions for a negative answer or support a claim about the specific deficiency of emotions for an affirmative answer.

4. Happiness: Answer the two thought experiments ‘the direction of happiness’ and ‘the experience machine’.  Based on your answers to the thought experiments, how would you answer the questions: What is happiness? Is a happy life the same thing as a meaningful life?

5. The Social Construction  of ‘students’ or Making up ‘ students’.

Drawing upon the following resources, explain how the concept of being a student and the reality of being a student are currently being constructed, and whether you see these constructions as conducive to individual flourishing or social justice, or whether these constructions are working against either or both.  You essay must include: (a) discussion of one theory of social construction (either Searle’s from Chapter 5 or Ian Hacking’s from “Making Up People”) (b) discussion the links below on recent discussions about testing teachers, standardized testing, measuring ‘learning outcomes’, etc, and (c) your evaluation of the current social construction of ‘student’ in terms of its impact on individual flourishing and social justice.

*Resources for (a): John Searle’s chapter 5 from our book, and/or Ian Hacking’s essay “Making Up People” http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcbiopolitics2.htm

*Resources for (b):

*NY Times Opinionator piece from David Brooks on Testing Teachers 


Academically Adrift – recent book causing a stir.





*How to destroy education while making a trillion dollars http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/29-0

*Merit Pay For Teachers?