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Dr. Evan Rodriguez

You Can Chain My Leg But Not Me: The Ancient Stoics on the Art of Living

The Stoics were a Greek philosophical school that attracted students from all over the known world to learn about living a good life. We focus on the texts of two prominent Stoics: Epictetus, a teacher who rivals Socrates for his ability to inspire, and Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus’ most preeminent student who went on to rule the Roman empire.

Students learn what it would have been like to sit in Epictetus’ classroom through lively philosophical anecdotes. They also gain a sense for how Marcus then applied that philosophy to his own daily life as Emperor of Rome. Along the way we practice the skills of textual analysis and the historical contextualization needed to understand the thoughts and attitudes of those who lived two thousand years ago.

Who Are We? Theories of the Self East and West

One of the great advantages of philosophy is its ability to address the deepest and most important questions from a variety of perspectives, not least of which is the question of who we are. What makes us really us as persons? What is the basis for our personal identity?

In this lesson, students will explore different theories put forward by philosophers from around the world. Descartes famously argued for the familiar idea that that we are more than just our bodies, that an immaterial mind is essential to who we are. Locke went further to identify a continuity of consciousness or memory as what makes us the same from one moment to the next. Contemporary physicalists take the opposing view that we can explain everything, even our own identity, by appeal to complex physical systems. Buddhist philosophers, on the other hand, have long argued that there is no self: the idea of a permanent, continuous essence is simply an illusion.

Students will then be encouraged to try on one of these views for size for an in-class discussion, and ultimately to decide for themselves what explanation they find most plausible. Along the way they will gain familiarity with useful tools both for asking and for answering important questions on their own.

Truth, Facts, and Fake News

In this lesson students will develop the skills for identifying and analyzing claims to truth and falsity, fact and fiction. An essential element of any news, fake or real, is reference to an authority over a given domain. We begin by distinguishing the relevant concepts, then interrogating what factors make a claim to authority trustworthy. Who wrote and compiled the information? How can we tell? Are they in a position to properly assess the evidence? Are there any underlying incentives that could bias their stance?

We engage with real world examples by way of establishing general criteria for when we should treat what others tell us with extra caution. Students then work in groups to analyze new examples of their own and report back to the class as a whole. This empowers students with an awareness of the underlying issues as well as new language and methods for understanding what they see, hear, and read.

State Standards

These presentations meet the following state education standards for high school students:

English Language Arts

Key Ideas and Details

RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

 

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

 

Interdisciplinary Humanities

Anchor Standard 2: Respond to universal themes, issues, and/or movements that express the human experience.

Objective RES1.1 Summarize how the human experience is expressed through the arts and humanities.

Objective RES1.2 Interpret content knowledge from multiple perspectives and/or sources.

Objective RES1.3 Discover how key themes, issues, and/or movements are conveyed through the arts and humanities.