Social Utopias: Will Saada Fall 2015

December 15, 2015

Final Self Evaluation

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:42 pm

There are a few components of argumentative writing that I have learned and become more aware of throughout the semester.  First, is the complexities of most arguments which I tended to simplify.  In high school I would make a thesis and find a couple points that supported the thesis.  Although this can be effective to write a more compelling argument it is important to include more.  I’ve learned that is it important to include counter arguments more seriously inside an argumentative paper.  By thinking critically on what the evidence and reasoning that goes against one’s own thesis then you can make your arguments stronger.  An argumentative essay that gives reasons the counter arguments are wrong is very strong.  As the arguments itself becomes more complex it is important to present a clear argument that is argued point by point in a cohesive manner.

The introduction of an argumentative essay is very important to the flow of the entire paper.  Although I have still stuck to a similar style of writing introductions from high school I now understand what I need to do to make them stronger.   Before my introduction tended to be a very broad analysis of the topic.  It would work as a funnel starting broad and narrowing in on my topic.  However, this strategy, along with a lack of focus in my intros, made my introductions weak in setting up the rest of my paper.  Because began with broad concepts many ideas I presented in my introduction are not included within my paper.  This can be confusing for the reader who will then not be able to understand my main argument until they have made it through most of the paper.  It is important to use the introduction to introduce the concepts and the arguments that drives the paper.  The introduction should be written last so that the writer knows the arguments and the order it follows.  Each piece of evidence should be presented in a logical order each point building of the last.  The organization of an argumentative essay is key to the clarity of the argument.  The introduction is an important tool that must be used to effectively introduce the reader to the ideas that will be examined within the paper.

In addition to the introduction of a paper I found it important to spend more time preparing an outline before I began to write.  When you start writing a lot of times you expand upon your thoughts and find new ideas.  By making an outline prior to writing you can explore every important topic you want to hit in the paper.  Then you can organize these points in a logical fashion.  I used to write without planning ahead, essentially just writing without an end goal in mind.  This can be dangerous because once you develop the end you may be half way through the paper.  Thus, the first half may seem to have a different purpose than the second half and the paper is not cohesive.  It is important to think about what you want to write before hand rather than just jumping in.

In the course we did a lot of reading including: The Republic, Utopia, A Discourse on Inequality and the Utopian Feminist.  These four books were not easy to read and understand, thus, it was necessary to ready each book slowly and actively to understand the concepts and arguments introduced within the books.  The idea that brings each of these four books together is the critique of the society they live in by offering ideas and systems for a better or “perfect” society.  These ideas have had a strong influence on my opinions.  By reading about a critique on society we can think critically about the society we live in.  The readings we did in the course do not verify an accepted form of thinking.  However, they challenge popular or current ideas which dominated the society they live in.  For example, in book one of Utopia through Hytholoday, More presents many different problems in England and how they could potentially be solved.  Ultimately, the ideas in the books are very strong and encourage the reader to question and challenge the world they live in.

In order to fully understand the complex and thought provoking ideas and arguments in the reading we did, one must be able to think critically and see beyond the words on the paper.  This practice called explicating, which involved reading very carefully and understanding the important ideas that are conveyed by the text.  This process is very important especially when analyzing quotations.   Quotations are a significant part of a paper, however, one can not simply use a quote and simply expect the reader to fully understand it and how it relates to your argument.  Thus, it is important to both introduce the quote and explicate the meaning of the quotation.  In this sense critical reading is important in the writing process.  Not just to form one’s own ideas but to explain them and use other writer’s arguments to help your own.

The final component of this course work is the one I need to develop the most: oral communication.  Before entering this course I had been exposed to different forms of oral communication.  First, looking simply at class participation and attended a high school in which many courses involved a participation grade.  I learned a lot about my oral communication and how to maximize my potential.  Some people have the ability to speak of the top of their head improvising what they say as they go along.  I have never been good at improvising because I struggle to find the correct word choice and the underlying idea until I finish a thought.  Essentially I must fully explore my thought before I put it into words, otherwise it would be confusing for others to understand.  I am most successful in class discussions when I have thought about an idea or concept prior to the discussion.  When a new idea is brought up in a discussion I tend to remain silent because I have not formed my own well though out opinion on the topic.  Ultimately, I have learned that the key for me is preparation.  When I actively read something the prior to the class and thought critically about the discussion topics I felt that I was able to participate within the discussion.  When a new idea or topic was brought up that was not in the reading or that I had missed, I found it difficult to be a part of the discussion.  Preparation is key when it comes to oral presentation not only in discussion but especially in speeches and presentations.

In the class we were given 3 opportunities to give presentations to the entire class, the final one being our research presentations.  I thought I did good research on my topic and found many sources to help my claim.  My weakness, however, was a lack of preparation for the presentation itself.  I did not have a clear idea of how long it would take me and was forced to skip some important points to fit within the time limit.  Additionally, I had a difficult time with the diction of my presentation.  If I had spent more time preparing my presentation, I could have found the correct words for certain situations.  I forced myself into a couple of situations where I had to improvise what I was going to say and as I said above improvising is difficult for me to do successfully.  More preparation is helpful for any speech because it allows the speaker to focus more on the delivery rather than the content.  If the message is planned and memorized prior to the speech, then all the speaker needs to worry about is speaking clearly and effectively.  He or she can use eye content and gestures to help further their message.  I learned how significant preparation is for oral presentation not just for myself but for any speaker.

Response Paper 1: Take 2

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:39 pm

The Paradox of Utopia

Over the course of the class my idea of what a Utopia is has shifted more from a society where people work together and hold the needs of the entire community above the needs of individuals to simply being idea of hope that is different for each individual.  However, it has changed to become more of an idea and a state of mind than an actual place.  When asked to write our first response paper on what we thought of as a Utopia my response was a simplified and different version of the Utopia Thomas More creates.  Essentially, a community in which everyone is as happy as they can possibly be, not individually but as a whole.  As a result of the many different kinds of Utopia and a deeper look into Thomas Moore’s Utopia I formed a new idea: that Utopia is only an idea that is different between each individual rather than an actual place.

For our research project we each chose a Utopian community and were given the task to ask a research question and then answer it with what we could find.  The majority of students chose relatively similar questions that examined whether or not the given community can be considered a Utopia.  We examined the social and political structure of our chose community and found connections between the Utopian ideas that were presented in our readings such as communal ownership and self-sufficiency.  The questions of “Is this place Utopian” is a paradox in the sense that there is no answer.  Some have chosen to use Thomas More’s Utopia as the definition: a community which seeks to appeal to the largest number of citizens within the community.  The problem with this is that involves using abstract concepts such as happiness to define the community.  Ideas such as happiness and community are formed within an individual and not a society.  Thus, their really is not clear Utopia.  A more in depth look at Thomas More’s Utopia shows that he may agree with this idea.

The first piece of evidence is that the term “Utopia” actually means no place along with perfect place.  This suggests that Utopia is not an actual place it is just an idea that is conceived within the minds of individuals.  Thus, Utopia can not exist within the real world it is just a figment of our imagination that we will one day be in a better place.  More evidence of this is used within Bradshaw’s article which tries to make sense of Utopia.  He essentially finds book two as the best possible solution to all of the problems present in book one.  He acknowledges how book two is something that we could never emulate in real life.  The world is too unpredictable and people are too different to all follow the same patterns of the members of Utopia.  However, we can strive to be like Utopia in order to improve upon our own society.  This final claim is what gives the books some meaning if even the writer knew that it was impossible to reach this goal.  Ultimately, by examining Utopia it becomes clear that Thomas More is only presenting an idea that he thinks can help the society he lived in improve, rather than an actual society that could one day come into existence.

Utopia is an idea which is within each and every individual, but everyone’s idea is different because everyone is different.  One way to describe this is by thinking back to the first response paper in which we were all asked to explain our own Utopia.  Although there were likely similarities between each answer, no two responses were identical to each other.  This is because everyone has a different Utopia.  The best way I could describe Utopia is the idea or place that enters one’s mind when they are hoping for a better life.  Everyone had a different perception of what they believe will improve upon society.  That why so many different communities have been created in attempt to create an ideal situation.  However, the downfall of most of these communities is conflict between their direction.  Everyone has a different idea of what will make things better and this conflict has lead to the ruin or break up of many communities.

Everyone sees it different that is why Utopia is an idea inside the individual rather than a concrete ideal.  Each of the four books we read offered a better society in response to the world they lived in.  When Plato thinks of a better place he sees a Republic with philosopher kings as its rulers.  Rousseau sees world before man was civilized finding Utopia in the savage man.  These conflicting ideas of Utopia all come from the same problem, unhappiness with their current situation.  When life is hard it is helpful to imagine something better.  Everyone is guilty of this practice.  Ultimately everyone seeks out a better life, but everyone has a different idea of what this life will look like.

It is significant to understand Utopia because it still plays a role in shaping the society we live in.  Politicians argue with one another over the best course to set our society on.  Communities argue over the best plan to improve.  Everyone is striving to find this better place and it is important to study Utopias and determine the parts that are beneficial to society.  In striving toward a better place we may be able to make our world a better place.

 

 

  1. Bradshaw, Brendan. “More on Utopia*.” J. The Historical Journal 24, no. 01 (1981): 1-27. Accessed September 30, 2015.

 

Response Paper 3: Take 2

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:26 pm

The Philosopher King makes Kallipolis a utopian society because he seeks true knowledge and he rules for the benefit of the city not himself.  A philosopher’s soul desires the truth above all else.  This enables him to be the best ruler for the happiness of the city as a whole.  Socrates’ ship analogy explains how a philosopher is better suited to lead than other members of society because leads for the betterment of society not to fulfil personnel desires like so many leaders do.  He refers to a ship captain who is clearly not competent for his position.  Each crew member plots a way to become the captain themselves by the use of force, trickery or persuasion.  Consequently, the new captain is not the one who is most fit to navigate the ship but it is the one who was able to overthrow or convince the old captain to gain power for themselves.  Naturally, the captain should be the one who is most knowledgeable on navigation and running a ship.  In terms of a city, it is the one who is most knowledgeable on what is truly right and wrong who should rule: a philosopher. This makes it utopian because the ruler is not selfish and is very knowledgeable on how to rule.  In most societies rulers come to power because they are wealthy, persuasive or powerful.  However, none of these traits make a good ruler.  In fact, these traits tend to be associated with people who are selfish and greedy.  For example, in Plato’s time, the democracy was dominated by those who had wealth and could convince citizens to accept their ideas. Someone who is wealthy can use money to get their way, which leads to unjust laws.  A philosopher will never make decisions for personal gain.  Additionally, he will not make decisions to gain honor and praise, but he will make decisions to be benefit the entire community.  The knowledgeable part of his soul, which overpowers the other two parts, makes him just and thus fit to rule a utopian society.

And important component of the Philosopher King is their unwillingness to rule which makes them the best fit to be the leader.  One of Socrates subjects notes that the Philosopher King will be unhappy and reluctant to rule after being properly educated.  Socrates responds by saying that they will have a sense of duty to pay back the city for their upbringing.  One who rules out of duty rather than for personal gain will be a better ruler.  They are chosen and rule for the benefit of the entire city, which will also erase conflict over who shall rule.  It is utopian because no one part of society benefits at the expense of another.  Each member of the society does their part by sacrificing some of their freedom.  The Philosopher King, for example, would rather not rule, but he does because it is his duty.  This is utopian because the happiness of the city as a whole is prioritized over the happiness of individuals.  A philosopher would rather not associate themselves with people of less intelligence, however, by ruling he will benefit the entire community.  Many ideologies seek to create a better means of government such as communism and democracy.  But in both of these societies the wealthy and powerful benefit at the expense of everyone else.

In understanding Plato’s Republic, it is important to understand the time he lived in and what he is speaking against.  Essentially, he sees an oligarchy with philosopher kings as the rulers as a better form of government than democracy.  This is demonstrated in the allegory of the cave in which he explains how the uneducated members of society only see shadows rather than what things actually are.  It is up to the philosophers who understand the truth, to lead those who do not understand the truth.  In practice a democracy gives everyone in society a say in the government.  This can be very dangerous because in some cases people take advantage of the masses lack of knowledge.  Demagogues arise by appealing to the emotions of the masses, even when they have no understanding of governing.  This can even be seen within our democracy with people like Donald Trump who appeal to the masses despite having no idea how to lead.  Plato saw the fall of Athenian Democracy because people who could convince the masses were given power.  Thus, an oligarchy in which the leaders are trained, humble, and intelligent would be better than democracy which is essentially an oligarchy with leaders who gain power through popularity rather than merit.  Ultimately the Philosopher Kings are ideal rulers.  By giving power to the masses, power resides in people who only see shadows and do not know the truth.  By using education and other limits to the philosopher’s lifestyle, Plato creates a king who rules for society and not for power.

 

I pledge that I have neither received nor given unauthorized assistance during the completion of this work.

 

Bibliography

 

  1. Plato, and C. D. C. Reeve. Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2004.

Response Paper 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — William Saada @ 4:20 pm

In Flora Tristan’s Utopian Feminist, she recounts her travels to England: the great industrial power of the world.  Despite the tremendous wealth London has accumulated she is very quick to point out the corruption and inequality that result from their industrialization and poverty.  During this time period woman all over the world were oppressed by men and considered to be the inferior sex.  In England, the class differences and dominant stereotypes for English women amplified these issues.

In England there were three classes who each resided in a different part of the city.  By far the largest class, the proletariat, resided in the suburbs.  The way of life for working class men and women was very misfortunate.  The majority of men worked in factories where they were worked to death and not given a sufficient amount of money to pay their taxes and feed their families.  This lead to many vices such as theft, drinking, and prostitution adding to the miserable conditions of the suburbs.  The wealthy men of England hoard the country’s wealth and force the lower class to live a life of labor and misery.  Tristan highlights how women specifically are affected by this when she writes, “Girls born in the poor class are pushed into prostitution by hunger” (Tristan 69).  Women are excluded from most crafts and because so many women are left without a husband and sometimes a child to support they must turn to prostitution to avoid dying of starvation.  Some women worked in factories, but this craft was almost as dehumanizing as prostitution.  Prostitutes were so numerous in London, because single women had no other way to support themselves and their children.  Many women were left widows because so many factory workers died.  Because of the income inequality in England and a lack of opportunities for women to work the masses were subject to a laborious and miserable lifestyle, women were specifically forced into prostitution because they had no other source of income.

In addition to the extreme poverty in England the stereotypes forced women to live as secondary citizens, exempt from participation in political affairs.  In an attempt to learn more about England and its government, Flora Tristan made the bold decision to dress up as a man to witness the English Parliament in action.  Everyone sees through her disguise and reacts in such a way that allows the reader to understand how English men viewed women.  When she first asked a man if she could pretend to be him she explained his response, “My tory friend paled in freight, blushed in indignation, took his cane and hat, arose without looking at me, and told me that he could no longer visit me.  His last words were: ‘Woe to the maker of scandal’” (Tristan 57).  His response is difficult to understand in the modern age because women are not only allowed to spectate but also to participate in government affairs.  Women in England were subject to stereotypes that limited their ability to participate in society.  They were excluded from most occupations including farming.  The thought of a women entering parliament was considered to be a scandal.  Ultimately poverty and stereotypes were the two biggest contributions to the suppression of women in 19th century England.

I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance in the completion of this work.

 

 

Works Cited

  1. Tristan, Flora, Doris Beik, and Paul Harold Beik. Flora Tristan, Utopian Feminist: Her Travel Diaries and Personal Crusade. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Response Paper 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — William Saada @ 4:19 pm

The Amish way of life is very different from the lives of modern and old societies: their lifestyle has its benefits and its downfalls.  From the outside looking in, it is difficult to understand why one would subject themselves to their historic way of life.  Humans have a strong interest in technology and modern advancements.  The Amish decided they do not need much to be content.  Most of its inhabitants are perfectly happy with their way of life despite their intense workload and lack of technology.

The lives of the Amish are very simple, which keeps them focused on what is important.  In the newspaper article the Amish women describes how the Amish stick to one kind of clothing.  She writes, “The members simply adhere to one style of dress, while the world about them, the vain, pleasure-seeking, novelty-thirsting world, changes their style of its dress with the four seasons or oftener.”  This high critical explanation describes how the Amish only have one style of clothes which they never change despite the weather.  Essentially, from her criticism we can see how she finds her kind of life beneficial.  The Amish do not worry about how they look contrary to everyone else.  They follow the guidelines of their community.  By giving up the freedom to wear whatever they want, they are rewarded the freedom to not worry about what they wear.  Their clothes are just one example of living simply but they have other rules such as the removal theatre.  By keeping life simple, the Amish avoid problems people create for themselves, such as worrying about how they look.  Without having to deal with these problems and concerning themselves with various luxuries, they save time for necessities.  Therefore, members of the community focus on what is significant like completing their immense work load.

The Amish have a significant amount of work to complete: women are required to take care of the home and men must take care of the fields.  In her article, she repeatedly comments on how much work she must do including: cooking, cleaning, making clothes and other household chores.  This workload is so abundant that in a footnote she notes how difficult it was for her to spend so much time writing in addition to her hefty workload.  On the surface and intense amount of hard work may seem like a burden on one’s happiness.  Yet so many people in this community are willing to do this.  Amish communities have survived for a long time and spread all across the United States.  First, by working hard the Amish allow themselves to remain busy focused on their task.  Some people find it more enjoyable to do nothing, however, most people will become bored very easily.  One-way people counter depression and sadness is by keeping busy so one does not have time to dwell on their misfortunes.  Additionally, completing tasks gives people a sense of self-fulfillment.  By working hard, they are able to complete difficult tasks.  After a long and difficult farming season, the Amish can feast knowing that they did a great job and have a plentiful supply of food for the future.

I have neither given nor received unauthorized information in the completion of this work.

Bibliography:

 

  1. “One Day in the Life of an Amish Woman.” 1903.The Independent …Devoted to the Consideration of Politics, Social and Economic Tendencies, History, Literature, and the Arts (1848-1921), Jun 11, 1393.

Response Paper 6

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:18 pm

Rousseau challenges the idea presented by Hobbes in his book the Leviathan arguing that man is naturally aggressive only wiling to accept a “social contract” with a ruler solely for the purpose of survival.  In essence, Hobbes’ argument takes a pessimistic view of the savage man contrary to Rousseau.  Government and rulers are necessary in order to keep mankind from constant conflict with one another.  This argument is the opposite as Rousseau’s claim.  Hobbes’ saw man as naturally evil.  Civilization is a means for man to protect himself from the brutality of other men.  There are similarities between the arguments but ultimately, Rousseau uses strong evidence to make his claim that man is naturally good and in the state of nature man is peaceful.

He uses concrete and abstract evidence to prove that man is not naturally even, in fact he is even somewhat compassionate.  Rousseau’s argument stems from the idea of man in the state of nature who knows nothing but his immediate surroundings and what he needs to survive.  Man has no clue what vice and virtue are.  From that Hobbes claims that since man knows no good he only knows evil.  However, Rousseau counters that claim first by arguing that compassion is nature within the savage man.  He argues, “An animal never passes the corpse of a creature of its own species without distress. (Rousseau 99).  This quotation projects his belief that creatures have compassion for their own kind.  This compassion is natural to the savage man.  Although he does not know right or wrong that does not mean he is left with brutality alone.  Man is more complex, even in the state of nature.  He goes further into this idea, claiming that man cares about the self-preservation of his species.  In seeing his own kind suffer he will naturally feel empathy and distress.

In addition, he makes an abstract argument in which he argues that man does not have the ability to commit vice, to the extent Hobbes argues, because they do not understand what it means to do good, and they have their needs under control.  First, man does not understand the difference between right and wrong.  He has no moral code and acts on instinct alone.  With no laws in place, man will act in order to satisfy his needs.  Rousseau claims, “… but the calm of the passions and ignorance of vice which prevents them from doing evil. (Rousseau).  By the “calm of his passions,” he means that man’s natural needs are satisfied in nature.  With sufficient food and shelter man will have no reason to harm one another. Additionally, he does not understand evil and what it means.  Since he feels compassion for the pain of his own kind than he will not be inclined to cause any violence unless there is a reason.

This contributes to his overall argument that civilization is what caused the inequalities among men because it helps the reader understand the steps man took toward this inequality.  It was not to stay safe in an otherwise dangerous environment, but it was our will too improve and the ambitions of men that formed societies.  If this is wrong then Rousseau’s entire argument, that man is more peaceful in the state of nature, falls apart.

I have neither given nor received unauthorized assistance in the completion of this work.

Works Cited

  1. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Maurice Cranston. A Discourse on Inequality. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1984

Midterm Reflection

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:06 pm

At the midway point in the semester I have developed a stronger understanding of my writing; what I do well and what I need to improve upon.  Each FYS class shares the common purpose of improving students writing and reading ability.  Therefore, we have done a lot of reading and writing in this class.  Personally, I feel like I have not made significant improvements in my writing ability yet.  The first large paper we wrote on Plato’s Republic was difficult for me.  The prompt was challenging and required more critical thinking than any assignment I have done before.  What happened was I failed to organize my thoughts under a strong central argument.  The result was a paper which I believe had many strong points and arguments but lacked focus and clarity.  After meeting with my teacher and writing assistant I am more aware of what I need to improve on.  I plan on spending more time constructing a thesis and an outline for my next big writing assignment before I begin to write.  In my first essay I did not know my thesis until I was halfway done with the paper.  Because of this my paper was unorganized.  By making an outline I can create a main argument before I begin to writing so I stick to one main idea.  I have a tendency to digress from the central argument of my essay, which can be confusing for somone who reads it.  I believe this will immensely improve my next argumentative essay adding more strength and clarity.  Despite failing to make significant strides in my writing I am now more aware of my writing habits thanks to the constructive criticism I have received from my teacher and writing assistant.  I plan to use this new found awareness on my future assignments to make my writing is more persuasive and focused.

Along with an awareness of my writing this class has helped to expand my awareness of the world in which we live.  From studying both Plato and Moore there is a focus on the problems we face as a society.  This theme surfaced in our visit to Chat where we saw an effort to improve an impoverished society.  This experience along with the reading assignments we’ve had have forced me to think about the many problems in our society today and how they can be fixed.  By studying utopia, there is a visual goal to strive toward.  This has allowed me to find a more profound meaning for taking this course aside from just reading and writing.  I can say that I don’t look at the world the same way.  I have a better understanding of the problems that occur in a society and where they are caused from.  For example, in Plato’s republic a lot of time is spent discussing temperance and its importance in combating greed.  The issue of greed is still just a much of a problem today as it was in the past.  These are problems that I never devoted much thinking to but I am now starting to understand their importance.  This class examines the true issues within a society as we read from people who provide possible solutions to these issues.  From this I have thought a lot more about this and have a better understanding of the many problems in our world and more resolve to make the world a better place.

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