Intro to Philosophy Term Paper & Group Project
Plato’s allegory of the cave presents a powerful vision of the transformative power that education in general, and philosophy in particular, can have on our intellectual, moral, and existential understanding of the universe, and our place in it. When you experience a powerful and all-encompassing epiphany of the kind that philosophy can provide, there’s no going back: your life will never be the same. This may not always translate into immediate happiness, but it will translate into increased meaningfulness, thoughtfulness and depth, both of intellect and of character.
Based on the theoretical framework assigned to you for your group oral presentation, you will write a paper, in dialogue form, in which the main character explains the basis of the theoretical framework in question to an interlocutor, and then proceeds to apply such an interpretation to an object or phenomenon of your choice (the vehicle could be a film, a work of art, a demographic trend, some geopolitical phenomenon, a song, a social issue, a work of literature, etc.). The idea here is for you to provide a modern version of Plato’s allegory of the cave as we try to understand our own world of shadows through the theoretical constructs posited by some of the greatest and most interesting minds of the past century.
Keep in mind when writing this paper that the main character in this dialogue ought to provide a thoughtful and accurate exposition and application of the philosophers’ ideas, and the interlocutor ought to provide a theoretical critique that’s fair and charitable, but also one which challenges and tests the proposed account for internal coherence (does it somehow entail logical contradictions or self-refuting assertions?) and external consistency (is there empirical evidence that might falsify it or at least make it suspect? are there alternative interpretative lenses that might do a better job of explaining the same phenomena? etc.).
You’ll obviously want to read works written by the most important philosophers relevant to your topics, but one of the best places to get started with your research, and to get acquainted with the main ideas before you dive into the primary literature, is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (this link will include many other resources that you might find helpful as you get started with this project).
Feel free also to check out John Storey’s Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, or Jonathan Culler’s Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction (also available in audio format), which provide nice introductions to many of these ideas, and which do a nice job of helping you understand how to apply these theoretical constructs to our understanding of modernity.