Socratic Seminar Starter Essay

Customer’s note: Please write a short essay that could be read as the catalyst for a Socratic seminar discussion, using the article below, created by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

“On Happiness

1 It may be said that every individual man and all men in common aim at a certain end which determines what they choose and what they avoid. This end, to sum it up briefly, is happiness and its constituents. Let us, then, by way of illustration only, ascertain what the nature of happiness is in general, and what are the elements of its constituent parts. For all advice to do things or not to do them is concerned with happiness and with the things that make for or against it; whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do; whatever destroys or hampers happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought not to do.
2 We may define happiness as prosperity combined with virtue; or as independence of life; or as the secure enjoyment of the maximum of pleasure; or as a good condition of property and body, together with the power of guarding one’s property and body and making use of them. That happiness is one or more of these things, pretty well everybody agrees.
3 From this definition of happiness it follows that its constituent parts are: — good birth, plenty of friends, good friends, wealth, good children, plenty of children, a happy old age, also such bodily excellences as health, beauty, strength, large stature, athletic powers, together with fame, honor, good luck, and virtue. A man cannot fail to be completely independent if he possesses these internal and these external goods; for besides these there are no others to have. (Goods of the soul and of the body are internal. Good birth, friends, money, and honor are external.) Further, we think that he should possess resources and luck, in order to make his life really secure…
4 To call happiness the highest good is perhaps a little trite, and a clearer account of what it is still required. Perhaps this is best done by first ascertaining the proper function of man. For just as the goodness and performance of a flute player, a sculptor, or any kind of expert, and generally of anyone who fulfills some function or performs some action, are thought to reside in his proper function, so the goodness and performance of man would seem to reside in whatever is his proper function. Is it then possible that while a carpenter and a shoemaker have their own proper functions and spheres of action, man as man has none,
but was left by nature a good-for-nothing without a function? Should we not assume that just as the eye, the hand, the foot, and in general each part of the body clearly has its own proper function, so man too has some function over and above the functions of his parts? What can this function possibly be? Simply living? He shares that even with plants, but we are now looking for something peculiar to man. Accordingly, the life of nutrition and growth must be excluded. Next in line there is a life of sense perception. But this, too, man has in common with the horse, the ox, and every animal. There remains then an active life of the rational element. The rational element has two parts: one is rational in that it obeys the rule of reason, the other in that it possesses and conceives rational rules. Since the expression ‘life of the rational element’ also can be used in two senses, we must make it clear that we mean a life determined by the activity, as opposed to the mere possession, of the rational element. For the activity, it seems, has a greater claim to be the function of man.
5 The proper function of man, then, consists in an activity of the soul in conformity with a rational principle or, at least, not without it. In speaking of the proper function of a given individual we mean that it is the same in kind as the function of an individual who sets high standards for himself: the proper function of a harpist, for example, is the same as the function of a harpist who has set high standards for himself. The same applies to any and every group of individuals: the full attainment of excellence must be added to the mere function. In other words, the function of the harpist is to play the harp; the function of the harpist who has high standards is to play it well. On these assumptions, if we take the proper function of man to be a certain kind of life, and if this kind of life is an activity of the soul and consists in actions performed in conjunction with the rational element, and if a man of high standards is he who performs these actions well and properly, and if a function is well performed when it is performed in accordance with the excellence appropriate to it; we reach the conclusion that the good of man is an activity of the soul in conformity with excellence or virtue, and if there are several virtues, in conformity with the best and most complete.
6 But we must add ‘in a complete life.’ For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one sunny day; similarly, one day or a short time does not make a man blessed and happy.”

Customer’s note: Additionally, please use the format shown below when creating the essay.


Background Information:

7 Seminar Questions:


Customer’s note: I will also attach an example of a completed Socratic Seminar Starter Essay below.

“The Declaration of Independence:” Theory of Government

“Opener: Imagine you move to a country where you are stripped of your freedoms. You can’t practice the religion of your choice. You can’t speak out against the government. All media, television, radio, music, etc are strictly monitored and selected by the government. What other rights might you be stripped of? What rights would you have the most difficult time living without? Background Information:
There were 56 signers of the document, the most notable being John Hancock. Their ages ranged from 26 to 70 (Benjamin Franklin) and included two future presidents (Thomas Jefferson and John Adams). There were signers from each of the 13 colonies; some were merchants, some were doctors, and some were lawyers or judges.
There were many events that led the Declaration of Independence, most of these being ridiculous taxes imposed by the British government. One such tax, or act, was the Tea Act, passed by Parliament on May 10, 1773. It was designed to help the East India Company which was floundering financially and had eighteen million pounds of unsold tea. This tea was to be shipped directly to the colonies and sold at a bargain price. The radical leaders in America found reason to believe that this act was a maneuver to buy popular support for the taxes already in force and to undercut the business of local merchants (Citation). Seminar Questions:
1. What assumptions about human nature are made in the document?
2. According to the document, does the argument for declaring independence depend on belief in God? 3. What is meant by “all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed”? Do you think this is true? (top of page 90) 4. Who is the intended audience for the document? What makes you think so?
5. Are all the listed grievances violations of unalienable rights?
6. Why do the writers appeal to the Laws of Nature as well as to the Laws of Nature’s God in justifying their break with Great Britain?
7. Is the right to overthrow the government an unalienable right?
Closure: In his writings, Aristotle states that a government should first provide the necessities of life to its people, and then provide those things that contribute to the good life. Hobbes says that the government’s job is to bring order and security to its people. Locke says that the government’s job is to preserve the lives, liberties, and possessions of its people. Which do you agree with? Which do you disagree with? Explain.”

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