Importance of Self-Reflection and Individuality

Choose one of the following essay questions to answer in 5-6 pages. You should discuss at least two thinkers from our final unit (which includes Fr. Kevin DePrinzio, O.S.A.), but you are welcome to (encouraged to!) also include thinkers and ideas from throughout Ancients (ACS 1000) and Moderns (ACS 1001).

A) Many of our thinkers we read in our final unit embody the importance of self-reflection, individuality, and time apart, whether this is beneficial for ourselves, others, or both. How do these figures think we should incorporate more self-reflection, solitude, independence, and originality into our lives, and for what reason? Is it to better understand ourselves? To help others? Both? Neither – that is, for something else? In your discussion, you should also assess how well you do this in your own life and to what end.
Consider activities you’ve engaged in over the past year that might have helped you in this area (e.g. Mindfulness Mondays, meditation, retreats, academic coaching, inspirational talks, mental health workshops, service activities, fundraising events) and where you have failed to engage in this. How can you work on self-reflection in the future?

B) In our final unit, we are confronted with Alexandra Horowitz’s experiment in looking closely at the world by “looking” through the eyes of “expert observers” as she walks around her familiar surroundings. Which thinkers from ACS have shown you how to “look carefully” at the world and what have they revealed to you about that world and about yourself? You should include 2 thinkers from the final unit, but can include another from Ancients/Moderns. There are two possible approaches to this paper:

a. Literally, take a walk around Villanova “with” your thinkers you chose! Take a physical walk around campus (at least ~20-30 minutes, the longer the better) like Horowitz and consider: what would your thinkers observe/pay attention to on campus? Where would they go? Whom would they speak with? How would they understand and explain what they witness and experience? What would they tell us about Villanova as a place and about Villanova’s culture? Things you/your thinkers might observe:
• Human interactions (student interactions with each other, with faculty/staff, interactions between faculty/staff)
• Physical spaces (buildings inside and out, landscaping, position of Villanova on the Mainline, etc.)
• Events on campus (talks, fundraisers, service activities, worship)
• Flora and fauna (animals and plants you encounter on campus)
b. Consider the wider context of which you are a part, and apply the thinkers to your own personal experiences. Take a metaphorical walk with them through an important experience in your life. What have they taught you about the human experience generally, and how does that help you understand your own personal experience of the world?

C) We’ve been exploring the big questions of human life over the course of the year, asking ourselves about how to live well, the importance of love, what we owe to each other as human beings and citizens, how to think about and evaluate the world around us, our response to death, how to improve ourselves and lead others, etc. As developing young adults, you will be tasked with asking (and trying to answer) these big questions for the rest of your life. For this prompt, the question is up to you. You must get your question reviewed by me by Friday, May 3.

You should not use any secondary sources (no text summaries, no AI, no outside analyses, etc.). If you do use secondary sources, you must cite them. Failure to do so is plagiarism and you will earn a zero on the assignment.

Formatting guidelines
• 5-6 pages
• Times New Roman, double-spaced, 12pt font, 1” margins
• No four line header or cover page; only include last name and page number in page header, top right corner
• Submitted as a Word document, not a PDF or Google Doc
• Include consistent in-text citations for all quotes and paraphrases
• Include a Works Cited page at the end of the paper

In-text citation guidelines
Plays (e.g. Shakespeare)
“Quote” or paraphrase (Author, Act#, Scene#).

Texts with section numbers (e.g. Locke, Francis I, etc.)
“Quote” or paraphrase (Author, Page#, §#).

Texts without section numbers (e.g. Rousseau, Horowitz, Douglass, Lorde, etc.)
“Quote” or paraphrase (Author, page#).

Talks (e.g. Fr. Kevin)
“Quote” or paraphrase (Speaker). = “Quote” or paraphrase (DePrinzio).

Works Cited guidelines
Works Cited page should follow MLA guidelines. See for general formatting, then check the different source guides for specific formatting rules.

You are evaluated on three dimensions: evidence, analysis, and writing.
We use and cite specific evidence from the text in order to: 1. Show that we read and understand the text, 2. Provide a basis for the claims that we want to make when answering the question we’ve chosen, and 3. Allow the reader to “fact-check” the paper to see if the text really says what we say it does. Below are examples, with comments indicating the good and bad points of each.
Does not meet standard:
Socrates says that he only listens to his daimon and he denies the existence of Apollo, so he’s impious. He tells Meletus that he believes in daimonia, so he must believe in them, and the Athenians believe in daimonia too. When Meletus is talking to him, Meletus says that Socrates doesn’t believe in the gods at all, even though Socrates believes in daimonia, making Meletus look foolish. Socrates can’t prove he believes in the daimonia, though, so he can’t prove he’s pious.
Nearly meets standard:
Socrates says that he “will obey the god rather than [the Athenians],” but then says that his daimon directs his actions (Plato 29d). Socrates was trying to refute the oracle earlier, so it is not clear if “the god” is Apollo or the daimonic voice, calling into question Socrates’ piety. If the daimon turned him away from something Apollo told him to do, it seems like Socrates would follow the daimon instead.
Meets standard:
Socrates says that he “will obey the god rather than [the Athenians],” but then says that his daimon directs his actions (Plato 29d, 31c-d). Since Socrates tried to refute Apollo’s oracle, his claim to be obeying the god is questionable (Plato 21c). Also, even though the Athenians believe in daimonia, Socrates claims to have a personal daimon, which is not an orthodox Athenian belief (Plato 27b-e). The daimon allegedly turns Socrates away from doing wrong things, so even if Apollo wanted him to question the Athenians and exhort them to virtue, Socrates would not have done this if his daimon wasn’t on board (31c-d). The daimonic voice is the standard Socrates uses to judge his actions, not the Athenian gods.
While everyone knows the oracle speaks in riddles and the meaning is not straightforward, Socrates’ approach to figuring it out is to try to “refute the divination” and show it to be wrong (Plato 21c). Even though he proves the Oracle right, he was impious to try and prove it wrong (23a-b).

We want to make a claim in response to a question. First, we need evidence that supports our claim, but then we need to explain why that evidence supports our claim. We have a piece of evidence that Socrates tries to refute the Oracle – some people think this shows he’s impious while others think this shows he’s pious. How would each of those arguments go?
Impious Pious
Socrates is trying to prove the Athenian god, Apollo, wrong (Plato 21c) Evidence
Socrates is trying to prove the Athenian god, Apollo, wrong (Plato 21c)
This shows Socrates is impious Conclusion
This shows Socrates is pious

  1. Socrates immediately assumes the god is wrong because of his knowledge of himself (he doesn’t think he’s wise), rather than assuming the god is right, which is the pious orientation towards the gods
  2. Socrates actively tries to show the god is wrong by examining others to prove they’re wiser than he is
  3. Even though it turns out the god is right, no one is wiser than Socrates, that doesn’t change the fact that Socrates didn’t believe the god, set out to prove the god wrong, and would do it again if he got a new divination; he relies on his reason (and maybe his daimon) to figure out what is true and what is not, rather than accepting what the gods say without question
  4. Socrates also asks himself questions “on behalf of the god” as if he knows what the god would ask him, and assumes his method is exactly what the god wanted him to do (with no evidence) Argument
  5. Socrates immediately assumes he does not understand the divination, because he doesn’t think he’s wise even though the Oracle says no one is wiser than him, and because divinations are never clear, direct, or literal
  6. Socrates wants to understand what the god is saying because he takes the divination seriously, he doesn’t just ignore it or claim it’s wrong without thinking about it
  7. His only way to understand what the Oracle is saying is to figure it out on his own; he comes up with an experiment to find anyone wiser than him, and if he can’t, then the Oracle was right and Socrates learns what wisdom is; he’s still willing to believe the Oracle could be right
  8. When he proves the Oracle right, he accepts this and spends the rest of his life examining others and exhorting them to virtue “in service to the god”
    These arguments both clearly lay out the steps showing how we get from the same piece of evidence (Socrates tries to refute the divination) to very different conclusions. In response to both arguments, I would push the writer to consider the counter-argument and explain whether that counter-argument has any merit, whether it poses a problem for their own argument, and why their original argument is actually the better one. Otherwise, the argument is incomplete.
    • Did you proofread your paper? Take 5 minutes to look it over, use the “Read Aloud” feature in Word to catch any mistakes, make sure there are no red squiggles under the words (unless they’re names that Word doesn’t like).
    • Is it 5-6 pages long? These questions are designed for the page length; you cannot fully answer them in fewer pages, but it’s also a challenge to stay focused and write a concise argument in this space. This gives you practice eliminating unnecessary fluff.
    • Do you have a Works Cited page? This is part of the paper, too.

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