Position paper 3 | philosophy 1330 | Prince George’s Community College


This  paper should address the theme of ‘Ethics and the Individual,’ which  brings together the three readings from the third part of our course  (Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus).

Very  broadly, we have been examining questions about ethics and the  individual, such as: ‘where do our ethics come from?’, and ‘do we need  an ethics of society to act ethically as individuals?’  Also, “what is  individual freedom,?”, and “how does our understanding of freedom affect  the way that we act, make ethical decisions, and find meaning and value  in our lives?”  

As before, for the assignment , I would like you to write a short essay of 1000 to 1200 words (in Times New Roman -12 point font, 1.5 spacing, with a Title at the beginning, and a Works Cited page at the end).  

Again, you are asked to take a position on one (or two) of the philosophers that we have examined in this second part of the course.

What this means is that you can write your paper on one of the following philosophers from Part III of the course:

1. Friedrich Nietzsche (The Madman and The Heaviest Weight)

2. Jean-Paul Sartre (Existentialism is a Humanism)

3. Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus)

Or, you can compare two of these philosophers’ ethical theories:

1. Sartre and Nietzsche (on ‘human freedom’, ‘individualism’)

2. Sartre and Camus (‘existentialism,’ ‘the absurd.’)

3. Camus and Nietzsche (‘repetition’ ‘the eternal return,’ etc.). 

As before, the main point of the assignment is that you take a position in your essay on the reading(s). 

In  close detail, and from the texts that we have examined, clearly and  accurately describe the ethical theories of the philosopher (or  philosophers) that you have decided to write about. 

And  also, tell me why you agree or disagree with the ethical theory (or  theories) as it relates to the theme of ‘Ethics and the Individual.’  (You may agree with some aspects of a philosopher’s ethics, but disagree  with others. Or you may entirely agree or disagree with their main  ethical theory).

Also  in your paper, as before, argue for the applicability (or  in applicability) of the ethical theory (or theories) in the world today,  and in our contemporary society. For example, what can these theories  help to teach us about ethics and the individual, when confronted with  the problems that we face today? 

Above  all, as you were required to do in your previous papers, take a clear  argumentative position, and argue for it convincingly throughout your  essay.

Suggested Question and Topic:

As  before, you are free to develop your own original topic for the essay,  as it relates to the philosophers and the readings we have examined in  this third part of the course.

You  are also free to bring back certain theories or ideas from earlier  parts of the course, if they will help to strengthen your main thesis. 

Here is a suggested essay topic that may help to guide you with the assignment.

1. (Ethics and Individual Freedom)

The theme of human freedom is central to the ethical philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. 

With two of his parables in The Gay Science (1882), ‘The Madman’ and ‘The Heaviest Weight,’  Nietzsche famously addresses the ethical implications of a world  without God. He asks us to question where our values in fact come from.  And he also forces us to confront the: either completely terrifying,  and/or totally liberating sense of freedom that results from this  realization. 

In his essay outlining his own philosophy of existentialism, ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’  (1946), Sartre famously makes the following two arguments: that  “existence precedes essence,” and also, that as individuals, we are  “condemned to be free.” For Sartre, in his own words, “man is  nothing…but the sum of his actions.”   

And finally, in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus  (1942), Camus argues that as humans, our lives are eerily similar to  the ancient Greek myth in which as punishment, Sisyphus is sentenced to  roll his rock up and down a mountain, for all of eternity. Life is  “absurd” for Camus. And whatever freedom we may have as individuals, we  must also confront the consequences of this absurdity.

To  return to the above questions then, for each philosopher, “what is  individual freedom,?”, and also, “how does our understanding of freedom  affect the way that we act, make ethical decisions, and find meaning and  value in our lives?”   

Also,  for each philosopher, ‘where do our ethics come from?’, and ‘do we in  fact need an ethics of society to act ethically as individuals?’, (What  is the relationship between the two: ethics of society vs. ethics of the  individual)?  

(*Again, you are only required to write on One or Two  of the above philosophers. You may mention all three in your essay, but  the main focus of your paper should be on only one or two).

(As always, please remember to use examples from the text to support your arguments).

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