The Founding Fathers: Deism & Christianity

As was traditional of the time period, the Founding Fathers did have a Christian upbringing. For instance, in Virginia, founders such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Patrick Henry all grew up under the influence of the Anglican Church. Further north, in New England, founders John Adams and Benjamin Franklin emerged from a Puritan rearing. Each of the Founding Fathers had a religious background — though it may have varied in denomination — which was an influence many of them would carry forward into their adult life. All of the previously mentioned men, with the exception of Franklin, would continue to attend church (however sporadically), marry under church law, entrust their children to its care, and be buried by members of the clergy.

Additionally, whether or not they agreed with all of the religious doctrines, most of the Founding Fathers recognized the vital role religion played in defining a nation’s, and a people’s, morality. Religion, they believed, was necessary for morality, and morality was necessary for a republic to operate free from corruption. Therefore, religion was needed for the correct function of a republican form of government. Even if they themselves did not practice, or believe in all that the Christian church taught, the Founding Fathers still recognized the importance of religion.

However, around the same time Deism was gaining momentum and unseating Christian orthodoxy in institutions of higher learning, several of the Founding Fathers were enrolled, or about to enroll, in college. Since Deism was, at the time, considered a novelty, and taking into account the fact that young, college-enrolled individuals are more willing to embrace novelty, it is not far-fetched to assume that many of the Founding Fathers were influenced by Deism.

Interestingly, believing in, or having Deistic tendencies, did not mean that one had to completely reject the Church and its teachings. Nor did it mean that an individual did not believe in the Christian God. In fact, the main principles of Deism stated that there is a God, that he should be worshipped, that humans should repent their sins, and that there is a life after death where good is rewarded and evil is punished, all of which are beliefs synonymous with Christianity. However, the way that Deism differs from Christianity lies in its renunciation of revelation, and its belief that virtue, not God (or “Nature’s God, as Deists called him), is the principal element of worship.

The Founding Fathers never completely abandoned their Christian roots — under the influence of Deism, several began to examine them with a more critical eye, applying reason and logic to Church doctrine. When a sacrament or teaching did not uphold the test of reason, like communion or the Resurrection, many of the Founding Fathers rejected it. For instance, George Washington, who regularly attended church, always left the service before communion because he did not find it logical that the bread and wine was converted into the body and blood of Christ.

In fact, most of the founders can be divided into three categories, depending upon the degree to which they embraced Deism or rejected their Christian upbringing. First, Non-Christian Deists were the ones that embraced Deism the most — founders who fall into this category stopped attending church, and were extremely critical of all biblical revelations. Second, Deistic Christians regularly attended church, were active in some of the church sacraments, and believed in some Church doctrine. Finally, orthodox Christians were active church-goers, and adamant believers in all Church doctrine.

The Founding Fathers, in their establishment of this nation, carried with them the influences of both Christianity and Deism — neither holds precedent over the other.

The Happiness of an Aristotelian

To be happy is, arguably, one of the greatest challenges, and greatest adventures, of life. For happiness is the end, the complete end, in which everything else is done for. It is praised as “one of the most divine things,” as “the prize and end of virtue,” as “the best thing in the human world,” making it seem as though it belongs only to the gods (I.9 1099b17, I.9 1099b12-13). But even if happiness was “sent by the gods,” or if mankind attained it “through virtue” or “some sort of learning or training,” it nevertheless remains the one phenomenon mankind, without fail, never ceases to strive for (I.9 1099b15, I.9 1099b16).

The school of thought headed by Aristotle is propelled by the belief that happiness, while being “both divine and blessed,” is attainable through the actions and standards one holds themselves to (I.9 1099b18). For, as Aristotle iterates, “happiness is pretty much a kind of living well and acting well,” which suggests that in order to achieve happiness, there is, indeed, a correct way of living (I.8 1098b23). From there, the advocacy of the Aristotelian definition of happiness continues, with Aristotle stating that “in life it is those who act rightly who will attain what is noble and good,” and “happiness. . . is the best, the noblest. . . thing” (I.8 1099a6-7, I.8 1099a24).  Furthermore, as Aristotle advances his argument, he states that “our account of happiness is in harmony with those who say that happiness is virtue or some particular virtue” (I.8 1098b30-31). Thus, Aristotle draws the conclusion that happiness is virtuous activity, or activity that causes one to act well, and therefore live well.

However, one who abides by Aristotelian thought readily admits that one’s happiness does not solely rely on virtue, or virtuous activity. In this particular account of happiness, there is a place and a role for both external and material goods. Unabashedly, Aristotle admits that “happiness obviously need the presence of external goods as well, since it is impossible, or at least no easy matter, to perform noble actions without resources” (I.8 1099a31-33). Additionally, as Aristotle is quick to identify, “in many actions, we employ, as if they were instruments at our disposal, friends, wealth, and political power,” indicating that we use things, or external goods, to help us carry out and complete certain behaviors (I.8 1099b1). The virtuous activities that we are meant to execute in order to achieve happiness require certain resources, equipment, materials, and opportunities. As Aristotle states, “there seems to be an additional need for some sort of prosperity” (I.8 1099b7). External goods, according to Aristotle, serve as a mean for one to carry out virtuous activities – they enable us, they help us, they are a springboard on which we can catapult ourselves from towards virtuous activity, towards happiness. As Aristotle eloquently states, “for the generous person will need money for doing generous actions. . . and the courageous person will need power, and the temperate person opportunity, if they are to accomplish any of the actions that accord with their virtue” (X.8 1178a29-34). Therefore, Aristotelian happiness can be more thoroughly defined as virtuous activity, which is enhanced and enabled by the presence of external goods.

In tandem with the aforementioned theory, there is another concept, which is interconnected with external goods, that Aristotle asserts as having the ability to impact happiness. Simply put, that concept is fortune, or one’s luck in life. Fortune, and a change in it, encompasses and includes external goods – a stroke of good fortune is often complementary with an increase in external goods, while a stroke of bad fortune is often complementary with a decrease in external goods. However, while fortune does have the capacity to impact happiness, it is not the sole determinant of it, for, according to Aristotle, “to entrust what is greatest and most noble to chance would be quite inappropriate” (I.9 1099b23-24). For how cruel it would be to have happiness, “one of the most divine things” in life, rely on chance, on fortune’s roll of the die (I.9 1099b16).

Aristotle states “many things, however, both large and small, happen by chance,” and that these things have the potential to “affect the balance of life,” presumably either for better or for worse (I.10 1100b23, I.10 1100b24). Additionally, a “many great events, if they are good, will make a life more blessed, since they will themselves naturally embellish it, and the way a person deals with them can be noble and good” (I.10 1100b25-27). Thus, good fortune, if reacted to in a good way, has the ability to embellish, to add to, the happiness in a life. However, given the previously stated truth, it therefore must also be true that many great events, if they are bad, will make a life unblessed, since they will themselves detract from the happiness in one’s life. Thus, if great events “turn out the other way” from good fortune, making it bad fortune, “they will oppress and spoil what is blessed, since they bring distress with them and hinder many activities” (I.10 1100b27-29). For bad fortune to have the power to oppress, spoil, distress, and hinder is to suggest that the mere occurrence of misfortune does have the power to diminish one’s happiness. As Aristotle clarifies, “no one calls someone happy who meets with misfortunes. . . and comes to a wretched end” (I.9 1100a9).

Furthermore, Aristotle states that one “will not be shifted easily from happiness. . . not by ordinary misfortunes, but by many grave ones,” and that one “would not recover from these to become happy again in a short space of time” (I.10 1101a9-11, I.10 1101a11-12). These two statements are concrete support of the idea that one can move in and out of happiness due to a significant change in fortune. Therefore, even if one is wise about the matter of virtuous activity, the chance of circumstance still retains the power to make one unhappy. Consequently, it is possible, according to the definition of Aristotelian happiness, for a wise person to be unhappy. For, as Aristotle concludes, “the happy person is the one who, adequately furnished with external goods, engages in activities in accordance with complete virtue” (I.10 1101a14-16).

However, Aristotle does not condone the idea that one’s happiness should depend entirely on a change in fortune or an amount of external goods – for the things that “really matter for happiness are activities in accordance with virtue” (I.10 1100b9-10). Aristotle is adamant in his conviction that an individual’s happiness arises from committing virtuous activities, and that fortune and external goods are “complementary” goods to a human life (I.10 1100b9). Therefore, in light of the question of whether or not the Aristotelian version of happiness strengthens or weakens one’s commitment to virtue, it can be stated that this account of happiness does not lessen one’s moral resolve. Even if one is presented with the opportunity to better one’s fortune, the individual who abides by an Aristotelian version of life “always does the noblest thing in the circumstances” (I.10 1101a2). Thus, no matter the circumstance faced, whether it be dangerous, tempting, or full of misfortune, an Aristotelian shall do the “noblest thing” (I.10 1101a2). Instead, what is unique about this approach to happiness, and perhaps what causes the question of a lesser moral resolve to even arise, is the notion that this approach acknowledges and accounts for the adversity an individual will face when trying to act with the correct, the appropriate, amount of virtue. “Anyone can get angry, or give and spend money,” Aristotle states, for “these are easy; but doing them in relation to the right person, in the right amount, at the right time, with the right aim in view, and in the right way – that is not something anyone can do, nor is it easy” (II.9 1109a27-30). “This is why it is hard to be good, because in each case it is hard to find the middle point,” Aristotle declares, and that “only the person with knowledge” of how to, is able to do so (II.9 1109a24-26).

However, when one has the liberty to compare the Aristotelian viewpoint to other viewpoints that also allege that happiness is derived from virtue, for instance, the Stoic viewpoint, there arises fundamental differences. Concentrating specifically on the Stoic and Aristotelian perspectives, one finds that while they both believe happiness is congruent with virtue and virtuous activities, the two schools of thought differ in how they interpret virtue, which causes the individuals from each school to come to different conclusions as to what virtuous activity is.

In the case of courage, both a Stoic and an Aristotelian would agree on the proclamation that courage is a virtue, and that to act in a courageous manner is to carry out virtuous activity. However, it is to the extent that one should act with courage, or any other virtue, that the two viewpoints conflict. For instance, in presenting a Stoic and an Aristotelian with the situation of a person trapped inside of a burning building, which is liable to collapse at any moment, an individual who abides by Stoic philosophy would not hesitate to run inside, while an individual who abides by Aristotelian philosophy would have the capability of choosing not to run inside. For a Stoic adamantly believes that happiness is derived solely from virtue, and no matter the change in fortune that may occur from acting virtuously, the virtuous action is what should be done. However, for an Aristotelian, happiness is only partially derived from virtue, since this perspective accounts for the impact of both fortune and external goods on happiness. While an Aristotelian “always does the noblest thing in the circumstances,” they will also do what is “the most strategically appropriate thing,” for themselves and for others (I.10 1101a2-3). Since Aristotelian philosophy emphasizes the idea that fortune, or circumstance, has a part to play in happiness, what is considered virtuous to a Stoic may not be considered virtuous to an Aristotelian in a particular circumstance.

Concerning the case of the burning building and the virtue of courage, it was stated previously that a Stoic would not hesitate to enter the building, while an Aristotelian had the ability to choose not to enter the building. Fundamentally, this difference between the two schools is derived from them putting different amounts of emphasis on the consequences of virtuous activity – a Stoic disregards any consequence, no matter how severe it may be, while an Aristotelian regards the consequence as a factor to be considered in deciding what a virtuous activity is. For an Aristotelian will always consider whether or not “he is losing the greatest goods” when determining the virtuous course of action, while a Stoic will not, which results in the two philosophies having different accounts for what virtue and virtuous activity consist of (III.9 1117b14).

To summarize, as the happiness of an Aristotelian is outlined, there remains the need for an individual to partake in virtuous activity. Nevertheless, no matter how crucial virtue may be in the definition of Aristotelian happiness, Aristotle is keen on making clear that it is not what happiness solely relies on – there are other things, such as fortune and external goods, that act as fundamental components of happiness. However, accounting for those other things does not lessen an individual’s moral resolve, or make them less virtuous – simply, it means that Aristotle’s interpretation of happiness has the capacity to encompass the circumstantial. At its core, what makes the Aristotelian version of happiness unique is its rigidness to accommodate a sense of virtue, yet its pliability to allow for the chance occurrences of life.

 

Works Cited

Aristotle, and Roger Crisp. Nichomachean Ethics. Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.

News Analysis of Josh Hawley’s Senate Campaign

To: Kyle Plotkin

From: Remy Berinato

Re: Online Campaign Strategy

Date: October 31, 2018

As we enter the homestretch of this election cycle, we must increase our efforts, doing everything to propel Josh Hawley, the Republican candidate for the 2018 Missouri Senate race, to victory. It is my intention, in examining Hawley’s social media presence on Twitter and YouTube, to evaluate the strengths and weakness of Hawley’s online campaign, and thus be able to present recommendations that will be beneficial to his campaign in the final days of this election.

Beginning with Hawley’s Twitter account, we will start by analyzing the photographs. Similar to Dahmen’s discovery about Twitter profile pictures, Hawley used a family picture, featuring his two sons, for his profile picture. However, Hawley deviated from Dahmen’s findings with header images, using another family picture rather than campaign graphics or a landscape photo. Additionally, both images had good quality and sharp resolution, lending to the pleasing aesthetic quality also discussed by Dahmen.

Moving on to analyze Hawley’s Twitter images from a behavioral standpoint (evaluating the torso, arms, and face) as outlined by Dahmen, Hawley consistently scores favorably in all three categories. Concerning the torso aspect, Hawley is constantly depicted as standing or upright, which is deemed favorable behavior according to Dahmen (one digression from this pattern includes an image from October 22 where Hawley is kneeling to hold the hands of an elderly woman at one of his rallies). Concerning the arms aspect, Hawley is almost always depicted with active arms, either shaking hands with supporters, gesturing when addressing a large crowd, or holding/hugging his family, which is considered favorable. There were only a few deviations from this pattern, one being an image from October 10 in which Hawley is pictured with his arms hanging by his side. Concerning the facial aspect, Hawley is always either pictured smiling/cheerful or confident, which is favorable. However, a noticeable pattern can be seen with Hawley’s facial expressions – when he is with his wife, children, or a very small group of supporters, Hawley is always smiling, but when he is with a large group of supporters, Hawley is always depicted as serious, but extremely confident. For instance, in an image posted on October 21, Hawley is smiling with one of his sons, and in an image posted on October 12, Hawley is with a large group of supporters, and is more serious and confident. From the context standpoint also outlined by Dahmen, Hawley is also rated as favorable. In several of his images, the American flag and the colors of red, white, and blue appear extremely often – especially at Hawley’s meetups and rallies (for instance, Hawley’s campaign bus the color scheme of red, white, and blue, and appears in images posted on October 13, 15, and 23). Additionally, from the perspective aspect outlined by Dahmen, Hawley is once again viewed as favorable. The majority of the images posted are close-ups of him meeting supporters or engaging with his family (for example, the images posted on October 22, 21, and 20), and any images that depict him far away only do so in order to capture the number of supporters attending his meetups/rallies.

Progressing onwards to study Hawley’s Twitter feed using the criteria outlined by Lee and Xu, Hawley had varied results. Firstly, Hawley’s Twitter feed did align with Lee and Xu’s findings about a candidate’s tweets promoting issue agendas. Several of Hawley’s tweets, like one from October 19, address healthcare, specifically talking about the increase in premiums. Additionally, as also suggested by Lee and Xu, the majority of Hawley’s tweets dealt with his opponent’s (Claire McCaskill) problems, and attacked her character, her policies, and her beliefs (for example, Hawley’s tweets from October 19, 18, and 16). However, in deviation with Lee and Xu’s findings, Hawley’s attack tweets were not effective in drawing out voter reactions. While Lee and Xu found that voters were more likely to retweet or favorite attack tweets than positive/neutral tweets, Hawley’s number of retweets and favorites for positive, neutral, and negative tweets remained consistent. Additionally, in contrast to Lee and Xu’s study, Hawley’s use of hashtags (he only used one hashtag – #MOsen, which is neutral) and multimedia (images, links, etc.), did not have an impact on the number of favorites or retweets he received. Overall, Hawley’s Twitter account does not draw much attention from voters.

With Twitter, our candidate has a multitude of strengths. The patterns uncovered in his Twitter images – concerning favorable behavior, context, and perspective – are all strengths. When Hawley portrays himself to be actively engaged with his voters, surrounded by patriotic colors, or depicted close up and on the same level in the different images he tweets, he is giving himself an unfiltered, positive image that voters can refer to when evaluating him. This type of image is a strength to our campaign because it gives Hawley a positive public perception, which has the possibility of influencing voters. Additionally, his emphasis on his family, using them as his profile and header images, and posting images/tweets about them, is another strength. This specific aspect shows Hawley as a family man, which both personalizes and humanizes him to the general public. Furthermore, it sends the message that Hawley values family very highly, imparting that he will, as Senator, do what is best for families.

Concerning weaknesses, the only real weakness Hawley has is that his Twitter page doesn’t receive a lot of attention overall, whether that attention be in the form of favorites, retweets, or media scrutiny. For instance, the highest number of favorites Hawley received in the last month was 573, occurring on October 24. To remedy this weakness, I recommend that Hawley increase the number of people which he follows – the more people he follows, the greater the chance is that people will follow him back, increasing his follower count and therefore his potential to garner more favorites and retweets. I also recommend that Hawley begin to post more controversial statements – as we draw closer to election day, launching a Twitter attack on McCaskill will cumulate more attention from both the media and McCaskill herself, which will increase the amount of awareness about Hawley’s Twitter and give Hawley a chance to criticize McCaskill without giving her the chance to respond in time before the election.

Switching over to Hawley’s YouTube channel, I found that the channel only consists of 51 videos, a number which is obscenely low compared to the video sample Ricke studied in 2012 concerning Obama and Romney. Out of those 51 videos, around 30 videos are attacks on McCaskill, either in the form of negative advertisements (like “Claire McCaskill for Hillary Clinton”) or soundbites of McCaskill speaking and Hawley offering commentary on her statements (like “McCaskill calls Trump Presidency ‘incomplete’” and “McCaskill lies about legislative record”). Similar to Ricke’s findings about Romney’s YouTube channel, advertisements made up most of the videos available on Hawley’s channel, with the majority of them being negative (attacking McCaskill), and only a handful of them being positive (presenting issues, or introducing Hawley’s biographical information). The remaining few videos that aren’t attacks on McCaskill or advertisements are clips of Hawley on television – whether it’s his appearance on Fox News (“Josh Hawley on the Fox News Network”) or his closing remarks during a campaign debate (“Josh Hawley Closing Statement”). Overall, Hawley’s YouTube channel does not have a lot of variety in its content – its main focus is attacking McCaskill, so the majority of videos do just that.

However, the strength of Hawley’s YouTube channel lies in is his emphasis on attacking McCaskill. In relentlessly bombarding McCaskill negatively, Hawley may be forcing McCaskill to issue responses, therefore deviating her time and effort from promotion/campaigning to responding. Nevertheless, despite that strength, the many weaknesses of Hawley’s YouTube channel outweigh it. One immediate weakness of Hawley’s YouTube channel is that a voter cannot glean much information about Hawley himself. There are very few biographical or issue ads that present Hawley’s policies, future plans, or character to the general public, making it hard for a voter to gain any knowledge about Hawley as a candidate. Additionally, there are no videos that actively engage voters – Hawley does not make it a point to address the role of voters in elections, which deviates from Ricke’s findings about Obama’s YouTube channel. Furthermore, Hawley’s YouTube channel is not linked to any of his other social media accounts, like Twitter, which makes it difficult for viewers to share, therefore promoting, any of Hawley’s videos.

In order to remedy some of these weaknesses, I recommend that the Hawley campaign immediately release a five to ten-minute video that explains who Hawley is, his stance on current issues, his plans for the future, and a message to all Missouri voters about how he needs them to make Missouri better. This will help fill the absence of positive, biographical, and issue ads, as well as convey Hawley’s desire to connect and engage with voters. Additionally, I recommend that Hawley implement links to his other social media accounts/campaign website in all of his videos, making them readily available to share. Furthermore, I would strongly advise that Hawley offers a fundraising option in each of his videos and on his homepage – none of his videos address how voters can help support his campaign, so incorporating that information would be a method of educating viewers.

Callicles and the Epicureans: A Take on Happiness

Happiness, and what it entails, is a question that has been unrelentingly tormenting philosophers throughout the ages. For however many schools of thoughts that seem to be in agreement with each other on the answer, there are just as many schools of thought that disagree, and still more that only partially agree with each other. Pinpointing a specific example, the perspectives of both Callicles (from Plato’s Gorgias) and the Epicureans both assert that the highest good is pleasure, and that pleasure is what leads to happiness, but the two viewpoints diverge in their methods of achieving pleasure. To be more precise, Callicles and the Epicureans deviate from each other in their beliefs on the role of desire and the importance of virtue.

To begin, the establishment of Callicles’ viewpoint is needed. In his lengthy discussion with Socrates, it is revealed that Callicles believes that pleasure is the highest good, and that doing what is pleasurable will lead one to happiness. Expanding on that, it is the process of doing something pleasurable that attains happiness – therefore, one should consistently do things that consist of a pleasurable process. Furthermore, Callicles regards some of the virtues, such as justice, self-discipline, and self-control, as an obstruction to achieving pleasure. “What in truth could be more shameful and worse than self-control and justice?” Callicles asks, effectively criticizing those virtues, and adamantly denying that they play a part in achieving happiness (492b). For virtues, in Callicles’ eyes, are what we use to “mold the best and the most powerful among us, taking them while they’re still young, like lion cubs, and with charms and incantations we subdue them into slavery, telling them that one is supposed to get no more than his fair share, and that that’s what’s admirable and just” (483e-484a). Virtues contradict nature in such a way that restricts one from obtaining all the pleasures they can, Callicles argues, stating that “these contracts of men. . . go against nature,” for nature “itself reveals that it’s a just thing for the better man and the more capable man to have a greater share than the worse man and the less capable man” (492c, 483d). Additionally, Callicles is an advocate of unrestrained desire. “The man who’ll live correctly,” he states, “ought to allow his own appetites to get as large as possible and not restrain them” and that “living pleasantly consists in this: having as much as possible flow in” (491e, 494b).

Now, like Callicles, the Epicureans also upheld the belief that pleasure is the highest good, and that pleasure is what brings one happiness. However, that is where their similarities end.

The first point of Callicles’ viewpoint that the Epicureans would critique would be how Callicles believes that one’s desires (or as he called them, appetites) ought to be continuously filled and unrestrained in order to achieve happiness. The Epicureans regarded desire as a commodity which should be deliberately restricted, for “desire is insatiable: it destroys not only individuals but whole families; often it can even bring an entire nation to its knees” (I, 43). In plainer words, the Epicureans believed that too much desire was a destructive thing, liable to corrupt any being or entity. Furthermore, the statement made by Callicles that deemed “pleasant and good are the same,” meaning that all the pleasurable desires are good, is another concept the Epicureans would contradict (495d). The Epicureans perceived desire as a threefold category, believing that not all desires were natural, necessary, or good. Their division of desire consisted of the first kind of desire as something “both natural and necessary; a second kind as natural but not necessary; and a third as neither natural nor necessary” (I, 45). Stated more clearly, desires could either be natural and necessary, natural and unnecessary, or unnatural and unnecessary. This meant, according to the Epicureans, that not all pleasurable desires were actually good, and did not always contribute to achieving happiness – therefore, one cannot leave their desires unfettered and unchecked as Callicles would have them be. Thus, as stated by the Epicureans, desire “must be choked off” (I, 51).

Additionally, the Epicureans were sure to address the consequences of untamed desire, laying out what would happen if one did allow their desires to run rampant. “It is from desire that enmity, discord, dissension, sedition and war is born,” the Epicureans warned, illustrating the effect uninhibited desire could have on a nation or city-state (I, 44). Furthermore, the Epicureans cautioned that “desire not only swaggers around on the outside and hurls itself blindly at others: even when desires are shut up inside the heart they quarrel and fight amongst themselves,” which insinuated the conflict an individual can experience on a personal level (I, 44). Overall, the Epicureans firmly believed that “the inevitable result” of desire left unrestrained would be “a life of great bitterness” (I, 44). This is what will happen, the Epicureans believed, if one allows “as much as possible” to “flow in” (494b). Therefore, unrestrained desire does not lead to happiness, as Callicles said it does. Indeed, the person “who is always happy” is “one who sets desire within limits” (I, 62). Hence, one must curb their desires in order to guard themselves from its inevitable consequences.

The second point made by Callicles that the Epicureans would critique would be his blatant disregard for some of the virtues. While Callicles viewed some virtues as “contracts of men” that “go against nature” and as obstructions to one acquiring the most pleasurable desires that one is able to, the Epicureans placed great emphasis on the virtues, believing that they were a part of what enabled one to recognize and choose between the natural and unnatural desires (492c). For instance, temperance, or self-control, is “what bids us follow reason in the things we seek and avoid” and what holds us “to adhere to what we have decided” (I, 47). In using temperance, one is able to avoid becoming “defeated and debilitated by what spectre of pleasure” comes their way. It was this particular virtue, the Epicureans argued, that was crucial in restricting one’s desires, therefore avoiding “a life of great bitterness” (I, 44).

Additionally, the Epicureans believed that “the root cause of life’s troubles is ignorance of what is good and bad” and that the mistakes one makes in choosing between what is good and bad “often rob one of the greatest pleasures and lead to the harshest pains” (I, 43). So, in order to secure oneself against choosing wrongly, the fear of choosing wrongly, and undergoing “the harshest pains,” wisdom, which is a virtue, “must be brought to bear” (I, 43). It is wisdom, the Epicureans believed, that “drives misery from our hearts,” “stops us trembling with fear,” and “represents our surest guide to the goal of pleasure” (I, 43). It is with wisdom that “one can live in peace,” confidently enabled with the skills of choosing between the desires that are natural and unnatural.

Furthermore, justice, in the eyes of the Epicureans, is not used to “mold the best and the most powerful among us, taking them while they’re still young, like lion cubs, and with charms and incantations we subdue them into slavery” as Callicles believed it to be (483e-484a). Instead, the Epicureans regarded justice as a proponent in choosing what pleasures are natural, good, and right. “Not only does justice never harm anyone,” the Epicureans say, “but on the contrary it also brings some benefit” (I, 50). This belief of the Epicureans, that justice is an asset, is in stark contrast with what Callicles advocated. While Callicles would shun justice as a method of subduing “the best and the most powerful among us” in slavery, the Epicureans state that justice and the threat of what it will bring, “bad conscience, legal entities, and the hatred of one’s fellow-citizens,” is enough to outweigh “any contribution that wicked deeds can make to lessening the discomforts of life” (483e; I, 51). Justice is not suppression, as Callicles would say it is. Instead, justice is a method of determining between what is good and what is bad under the Epicurean ideology.

The virtues, the Epicureans insist, are the things that enable us to choose well and correctly among the countless pleasurable desires that exist, and are therefore vital in achieving happiness through pleasure. Thus, the Epicureans would criticize Callicles’ view that some of the virtues serve as unnatural obstructions, saying instead that they are what empowers one to accurately choose amidst the plethora of options.

Superficially, both Callicles and the Epicureans appear to be in agreement about their take on happiness. Simply put, the two put forth answers that revolve around the importance of pleasure in achieving happiness. However, while Callicles and the Epicureans both use the same word, pleasure, to define happiness, the two viewpoints do not attach the same meaning to it. For the Epicureans, it is the pleasure achieved through virtue that will lead to happiness. For Callicles, it is the pleasure derived from doing a pleasurable act that will lead to happiness. Hence, to the Epicureans, happiness is a state of being, while to Callicles, happiness is an emotion one feels, leading to the conclusion that the two viewpoints never were in accordance with each other.

 

Works Cited

Cicero, Marcus Tullius, and Julia Annas. On Moral Ends. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print.

Plato. Gorgias. Translated by Donald J. Zeyl, Hackett Pub. Co., 1987.

Socrates & Callicles: The Discussion of a Rascal

Plato’s Gorgias is an interesting text in the way that it captures both the relevance of the philosophical ideas being presented and the interpersonal dynamics that occur between each of the intellectuals involved. For instance, the moment where Socrates states, “what a rascal you are” in reference to Callicles, can be viewed as a pivotal occasion in both the intellectual atmosphere and the relational atmosphere – the implication of this statement goes deeper than it, superficially, appears to (499c). So, in order to elucidate the true meaning of Socrates’ rascal statement in reference to Callicles, one must thoroughly examine the denotation, the opposition of ideas, the tone, the relationship that exists between Socrates and Callicles, and Socrates’ level of sincerity, for all of those elements play a key part in the explanation.

By definition, a rascal is one who is mischievous or cheeky, and is usually called so by someone in an affectionate manner. However, Socrates is doing much more than affectionately calling Callicles a rascal – there are several other elements that must be studied in order to grasp the true connotation of Socrates’ sentence, and what he actually means by calling Callicles a rascal.

To begin, one must first examine the surrounding context in which the statement “what a rascal you are” appears (499c). Socrates and Callicles find themselves to be on intellectually opposite sides of their discussion, with the main difference being this: Socrates believes that “we should do all things for the sake of what’s good,” and that “good things are not the same as pleasant ones,” while Callicles believes that “pleasant and good are the same” (499e, 497d, 495d). Examining Socrates’ beliefs first, it can be surmised that Socrates is in favor of a lifestyle where one commits acts, whether pleasurable or painful, in favor of what is good, and that what is good may not necessarily be what is pleasant. Shifting to Callicles’ view, one can conclude that he encourages a lifestyle that pursues pleasantness and pleasure, for, in Callicles’ eyes, what is inherently pleasing to one must also be inherently good for one.

Each of the lifestyles that Socrates and Callicles are promoting are extremely distinct, with one in pursuit of pleasure, and the other in pursuit of what is good. Ultimately, these two lifestyles, however different, can be related back to the idea of happiness, and how one can live a life that will bring one happiness. According to Socrates, one achieves happiness by doing what is good, but according to Callicles, one achieves happiness by doing what is pleasurable. So, throughout their discussion, each participant is trying to convince the other that they are correct in their interpretation of what is good, what is pleasant, and what is best for achieving happiness.

Eventually, the dialogue reaches a point where Socrates has backed Callicles into a corner, and has him at a point of defeat, stating, “Doesn’t it then turn out that the bad man is both good and bad to the same degree as the good man, or even that he’s better? Isn’t this what follows, along with those earlier statements, if one hold that pleasant things are the same as good things?” (499a-b). However, Callicles has figured out, perhaps a split second before Socrates states it, that this is what all of his previous declarations actually amount to.

And so, to avoid losing face and proving Socrates right, Callicles backpedals, insisting that what he truly believed was “that some pleasures are better and others worse” and not that “pleasant is the same as good” (499b, 495d). Socrates recognizes that this is what Callicles has done – that he has switched his position to avoid embarrassment – and then chooses to seize upon the moment in order to subtly, and intellectually, jest with Callicles for no other reason than to let Callicles know that he understands exactly what has transcribed. “Oh, Callicles! What a rascal you are,” Socrates exclaims, pausing the discussion for the sake of drawing attention to what Callicles has done. (499c). For both Socrates and Callicles know and understand the sudden change of Callicles’ position to be an admittance of defeat on Callicles’ part – Callicles understood that he was about to be proven wrong, so switched his claim, and Socrates knew that he was about to prove Callicles wrong, so retaliates Callicles’ switch by throwing jabs. “You treat me like a child,” Socrates accuses, which portrays Callicles as one who does not consider Socrates worthy enough to be taken seriously (499c). “At one time you say that things are one way and at another that the same things are another way, and so you deceive me,” Socrates continues on, further emphasizing that Callicles has been treating the discussion thus far as undeserving of his sincerity and therefore, undeserving of his honesty (499c). Then, as one last jab, Socrates forges on to say that he has been “deceived intentionally” by Callicles (499c).

Yet, Socrates is fully aware of the fact that Callicles did not begin this conversation with the intention of purposefully deceiving him – in fact, Callicles was completely sincere in his previously stated belief that “pleasant and good are the same,” and entered the discussion, in part, to convince Socrates that his view was the correct one (495d). However, in addition to Callicles’ wish to honestly convince Socrates of his way of thinking, Callicles has another reason in entering the debate. More than anything, this discussion can be considered as an intellectual match, and Callicles makes no effort in keeping his intent to claim victory a secret, with his quip, “tell me, Socrates, are we to take you as being in earnest now, or joking?” being proof of that (481c). This then presents the idea that honest persuasion and victory of an intellectual contest are the two main themes Socrates and Callicles are grappling with, in which each of the two men are aiming to outperform the other in both areas. It is in this instance that illustrates that Socrates is not being entirely straightforward in what he is saying and in what he is accusing Callicles of doing. Because Socrates is fully aware that Callicles began with the intention of presenting an honest case in order to persuade him, his remarks about being “deceived intentionally” and treated “like a child” are erroneous (499c). But, since this discussion is an intellectual contest of sorts, with each participant vying to win by proving the other wrong, Socrates wants to take full advantage of Callicles’ backpedaling – and so he does. Socrates drags out the moment, making Callicles squirm, for each jab made in jest that Socrates throws towards Callicles is synonymous with a victory point.

Then, after Socrates has had his bit of fun, he goes on to state that he has “no choice but to ‘make the best with that I have,’ as the ancient proverb puts it, and to accept what I’m given by you” (499c). At this moment in the dialogue, Socrates is responding to the challenge that Callicles has now put forth by changing his position – for a challenge has been silently issued. Although Callicles has admitted his defeat by changing his stance, he presents Socrates with the difficulty of proving him wrong, of making his point, while they appear to be in agreement on the matter. Nevertheless, despite this dilemma, Socrates is enjoying himself immensely during this moment, for none of the other intellectuals he talked with, including Gorgias and Polus, presented him with such an entertaining fight. Regardless of the fact that Callicles did indeed do a rascally thing by renouncing his earlier stance, Socrates takes it in stride, thinking, perhaps, that his victory over a challenging and worthwhile opponent will be that much sweeter.

Overall, while Socrates may have used the word rascal in jest as a way to make fun of and call out Callicles, he is being entirely sincere with his usage of the word. To put it simply, it is the culmination of everything aforementioned: Socrates and Callicles beginning their discussion under the guise of possessing opposite views, that Socrates’ immediate victory was snatched away, that Callicles switched positions, and Callicles’ posture as a challenge. This explains why Socrates had legitimate reasoning in calling Callicles a rascal. Everything is an element that backs Socrates’ position, even though most of these reasons are not explicitly expressed in the sentence itself. Yet, as the discussion concludes, it is with the subtle nuance of the different characters that Plato chooses to incorporate in contradicting Socrates that truly exhibits the mastery of the Gorgias in presenting the different perspectives on what is good, what is pleasant, and what is best for achieving happiness. For, truly, what is good is not what is pleasant, and what is good is what should be pursued in one’s journey to achieve happiness.

 

Works Cited

Plato. Gorgias. Translated by Donald J. Zeyl, Hackett Pub. Co., 1987.

Reflections on a Seminar

October 30, 2017: What Bacteria Can Teach Us About Stress Response – Amy Cheng Vollmer

Amy Vollmer, Professor of Biology and Chair of the Biology Department at Swarthmore College, came to R-MC to give a talk about bacteria and how they respond to stress.

Bacteria is the oldest creature on this planet – if these unicellular organisms had not learned how to cope with stress, we, and the rest of the organisms that make up this world, would not exist.

In this case, stress is something physical or chemical that upsets the steady-state balance of the cell, and a stress response are the adjustments made by the cell in an attempt to restore the cell to its steady-state.

In order to measure the amount of stress in a bacterium, Vollmer explained, luciferase is inserted into the DNA of the specific bacterium being studied. Luciferase is any type of protein that produces light, but it is only activated if the bacterium is exposed to stress. This means that as soon as stress is introduced to the bacterium, it lights up. And the more the bacterium lights up, the more stress they are experiencing.

We can put a unit of measurement to the amount of stress the bacterium is under by measuring the level of light in lux (lx). The brighter the light, the higher the lux level, which means a greater amount of stress.

With the ability to numerically measure stress, scientists are now able to study how and why a particular bacteria reacts to certain stimuli.

Overall, I thought the science behind this subject matter was fascinating. Mrs. Vollmer was engaging, and able to explain the subject matter in a way that even I, an individual who has little aptitude for biology, was able to understand the science and its implications. At the end of the seminar, I found I was amazed, learning about the miraculous things that happen without us seeing.

The Economic Impact of Golden Rice

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants, animals, or microorganisms that have had their genes altered in such a way that does not naturally occur. This type of technology, commonly known as “biotechnology” or “gene technology,” allows for individual genes to be transferred from one organism to another. Genetically modified (GM) crops are developed and marketed because there is a perceived advantage to them – they cost less and supposedly have a greater benefit to them in terms of durability and nutritional value. Initially, the main purpose of GM crops was to improve the durability of individual plants in such a way that increased their resistance against diseases that were caused by insects or viruses, and increased their tolerance to herbicides. Some of the most common genetically modified crops are cassava, wheat, potatoes, soy, and rice, all of which can be considered staple foods in certain regions of the world.

This picture shows different rice varieties the Green Revolution resulted in the center rice, while the rice on the right is closer to what modern-day Golden Rice look like. Image Source: http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/rice/img/rices2.jpg

The biotechnology produced in both Green Revolutions was vital in creating Golden Rice, which is a strain of rice with increased amounts of vitamin A. It was invented by Peter Beyer, of University of Freiburg, and Ingo Potrykus, of Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich University, in 2000. Beyer and Potrykus developed Golden Rice by transferring phytoene synthase (PSY) and carotene desaturase (CrtI) genes, found in both daffodils and maize, to rice. This action dramatically increased the concentration of the B-carotene, or vitamin A, in rice.The rise of genetically modified crops on the market occurred because of the Green Revolution, a movement that can be divided into two parts: the First Green Revolution and the Second Green Revolution. The First Green Revolution began in the 1930s and ended in the late 1960s, and jumpstarted the development of biotechnology. The First Green Revolution was led by Norman Borlaug, who was dubbed the “Father of the Green Revolution,” due to his leadership and contributions during the movement (Briney 2017). Borlaug was recruited by the Mexican Agricultural Program to begin working on genetically modifying crops, with a focus on wheat breeding. Eventually, Borlaug developed different strains of wheat that were resistant to rust (a fungal disease) and able to grow in any part of the world, regardless of environmental and ecological conditions. This biotechnology that Borlaug produced took off in the 1950s and 1960s, spreading beyond Mexico to India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, and lent a hand in producing several other genetically modified plants. The crops developed during the Second Green Revolution (Though there is some debate as to whether a Second Green Revolution has started – some countries have called for a second one while others remain skeptical about the topic.) were mainly those of high yield varieties, or crops that were bred specifically to have higher production rates.

Image source: http://www.businessinsider.com/un-world-population-projections-2015-7

This increase in productivity made it possible to feed the growing human population, preventing starvation in many developing countries (most notably in the Pakistan and India). By developing staple crops (specific crops that are regularly consumed in high quantities), such as wheat, this set a precedent for other types of genetically modified foods to be produced.

The first thing to consider when discussing the economic viewpoint of Golden Rice is its overall price. When compared to price of regular, white rice, Golden Rice is exponentially more expensive. In the United States, the price of one pound of white rice equates to $0.69 (Statista 2016). The average cost to produce a pound of regular rice is $0.06, but the price can range anywhere from $0.0399 to $0.0894 (Livezey and Foreman 2004). On the flip side, Golden Rice is perceived to have annual costs of around $199 million, not including an additional one-time administrative fee for implementing the Golden Rice program and whatever it will cost to maintain the program (Wesseler 2014). It is estimated that Golden Rice would cost around $100.00 for every life it

This figure shows the price per pound of rice in the U. S. from 1995 – 2016. Image source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/236628/retail-price-of-white-rice-in-the-united-states/

saved from vitamin A deficiency, and when that price is multiplied by the number of people in the developing countries that would benefit from Golden Rice (ex. India, Bangladesh, or the Philippines), those countries are looking at calculated prices of well over a billion dollars (Lomborg 2013).

Vitamin A deficiency is a problem faced by most developing countries, and is considered one the most harmful forms of malnutrition. It can cause blindness, limit the natural growth rates of individuals, and weaken the body’s immune system. With the development of Golden Rice, it was thought that vitamin A deficiencies would decrease in most of the developing countries, since rice is considered a staple food and would be readily accessible to the masses. However, the economic consequences, both positive and negative, of Golden Rice may outweigh any benefits it has.

 

Image Source: https://medium.com/nestle-usa/vitamin-a-a-dangerous-deficiency-infographic-eb6e166ae388

 

The price of Golden Rice in itself can be considered an economic disadvantage. The cost of production, maintaining, and distributing Golden Rice is too expensive for the developing countries that need it. Currently, the only countries that can afford Golden Rice are first-world and developed countries, but there is no market for this product in those types of countries because vitamin A deficiency is not a widespread or detrimental problem.

This shows 400g of rice, the average amount of rice eaten in one day in countries where rice is a staple crop. Image source: http://bronmarshall.com/2010/spring/perfect_gohan_japanese_steamed_rice.html

This high fee for Golden Rice also puts it at a disadvantage as a product on the competitive market. Since it is one of the most expensive solutions to fixing the vitamin A deficiency problem, developing countries often choose alternatives. Cheaper methods of addressing vitamin A deficiency, such as reinforcing flour with more vitamin A through processing methods, increasing the availability of fortified milk and ready-made meals, and simply raising awareness about the consequences of a vitamin A deficiency, are more appealing to developing countries simply because it costs less than implementing Golden Rice (GM Watch 2013). There has also been speculation that it would take 3 kg of Golden Rice per day for a child to meet their vitamin A requirement, which is an obscene amount of rice to eat in one day since the average amount of rice eaten in countries where that grain is a staple is 400 g, and continues to up the price on Golden Rice (Free Rice 2017).

The figure shows the relationship between Marginal Cost (MC), Average Total Cost (ATC), Supply (S), and Marginal Revenue (MR) for a monopoly in the market. The box created by the intersection of the Marginal Cost and Average Total Cost shows the total economic profit of the monopoly. Monopolies do not function on the intersection of supply and demand; they function where Marginal Cost and Average Total Cost intersect which yields the market price of the product. Additionally, monopolies are harmful to society because they produce Deadweight Loss, a phenomenon in which portions of consumer and producer surplus are lost to the market. Therefore, monopolies are inefficient and often supply less than quantity demanded, requiring higher prices to yield economic profit.

Another economic disadvantage to Golden Rice is the fact that it encourages monopolistic behavior. When Peter Beyer and Ingo Potrykus invented Golden Rice, they needed an industrial partner that would be willing to both the humanitarian use and commercialization of this product. In 2001, Beyer and Potrykus exclusively signed over the rights to Golden Rice to Syngenta, an agrichemical and seed company located in Switzerland, which effectively gave them a monopoly on Golden Rice (Golden Rice Project 2016).

While Syngenta was the sole owner of the Golden Rice commercial rights, they had agreed to allow access to Golden Rice for humanitarian uses, free of charge, so that developing countries who would greatly benefit from this genetically modified crop could do so (Golden Rice Project 2016). However, the creation and production of Golden Rice involved several patented technologies, or licenses that conferred the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling a certain type of technology. When Syngenta obtained the rights to Golden Rice, they also managed to obtain a license that allowed them access to all the technology (patented by companies such as Bayer AG, Monsanto Co., Orynova BV, and Zeneca Mogen BV) needed to create Golden Rice, further strengthening their monopoly on Golden Rice in a commercial sense. Fortunately, the companies that owned patents on the technology needed for Golden Rice also allowed access to Golden Rice for humanitarian use.

In spite of allowing humanitarian access to Golden Rice for free, Syngenta has faced opposition over their monopoly on Golden Rice. In the countries where Golden Rice has been planted, groups of farmers have risen up against Syngenta, protesting its monopoly and want to profit from Golden Rice (Sustainable Pulse 2013). This controversy is detrimental to the market and commercialization of Golden Rice because it presents Syngenta with the potential for huge economic losses.

Image source: https://sustainablepulse.com/2013/08/09/philippine-farmers-uproot-syngentas-gmo-golden-rice-field-tests/#.WihzH0qnFPY

Even though Golden Rice has obvious disadvantages, it does have some advantages.

The most obvious economic advantage of Golden Rice is that it has the potential to feed and nourish more people, which leads to those people having the ability to contribute back to the economy through the workforce. Any type of nutritional deficiency has the possibility to impact labor outcomes by limiting labor productivity and human capital accumulation. The vitamin A deficiency, which is considered one of the most severe forms of malnutrition, can cause blindness, weaken the body’s immune system, and hinder the natural growth rates of individuals, all of which are factors that cripple one’s ability to work (Golden Rice Project 2016). This is especially detrimental in developing countries, where most of the workforce is centered around labor. With the introduction of Golden Rice, the percentage of the population affected by malnutrition decreases, which allows the potential for capital growth to increase. Since nutrition is positively related to cognitive ability, an increase in nutrition, due to Golden Rice, would result in an increase in labor productivity, which benefits the economy as a whole (Wesseler 2014).

Another economic advantage of Golden Rice is that it has the possibility to widen the market of GMOs. The development of new markets, with the potential for high returns, is always beneficial to the economy and its growth. If Golden Rice is successful, there would be a dramatic increase in the production of genetically modified foods and crops, which would lead to the development of new GMO companies, which would lead to thousands of new jobs that needed to be filled. There would then be a decrease in unemployment rate, a sure sign of a strong, and growing economy.

Essentially, Golden Rice has the potential to start a chain of events that are beneficial to the economy, but will only occur if Golden Rice itself takes off.

The figure displays the relationship between supply (S) and demand (D) in the short-term market. As quantity demanded decreases or quantity supplied increases, price (P) decreases in response to the shift.

Unfortunately, the market for Golden Rice is non-existent; however, predictions regarding the behavior of Golden Rice upon introduction into the market can be speculated. Since price is determined at the intersection of supply and demand, speculating the price of Golden Rice in relation to white rice will provide insight into the potential influence of Golden Rice in the market and the consumers’ perceptions of the product.

According to the International Rice Research Institution (IRRI), Golden Rice should not surpass white rice in shelf price (if it should ever take off in the market); in fact, the IRRI predicts that Golden Rice will be slightly less expensive than white rice. These predictions indicate either the presence of a smaller demand, or larger supply of Golden Rice in comparison to the demand for and supply of white rice. However, even if the shelf price of Golden Rice is predicted to be less than the shelf price of white rice, the production costs of Golden Rice will continue to make the price of Golden Rice substantially higher than white rice.

The figure to the left describes the relationship between Marginal Cost (MC), Average Total Cost (ATC), and the Demand in the rice market. Marginal Cost and Demand are stagnant; however, Average Total Cost moves vertically. If Average Total Cost is below the Demand, farmers in the market for rice will have long-run economics profits, which would encourage perspective farmers to produce rice. This occurrence causes increased substitutes in production for rice and subsequently lowers the demand for rice. As demand decreases, the Average Total Cost increases to mimic the figure above. Therefore, the introduction of Golden Rice into the rice market would cause an increased Average Total Cost and no economic profit to be made by farmers in the rice market, which makes an unattractive product to the producers.

Even though Golden Rice possesses many benefits to combat the widespread Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, the fact remains that the demise of Golden Rice in the market is inevitable. In order for Golden Rice to generate demand, it must overcome the substantial production costs and the negative perception of genetically modified foods in each country that opts to implement it. Though these deterring factors can be combatted through educating consumers about genetically modified crops, finding ways to lower production costs, and implementing government subsidies to encourage farming of Golden Rice, these efforts are partially impeded by the presence of the Syngenta monopoly over Golden Rice. In order for Golden Rice to become truly beneficial to developing countries, some sort of action (whether in the form of government or other competition presented by other GMO companies) must be taken to eliminate, or break up, the monopoly. Though Golden Rice holds possible potential in the future, it is currently trapped in economic conditions that make it an implausible product on the market.

 

References

Briney, A. (2017, May 17). All you wanted to know about the Green Revolution. Thoughtco. Retrieved from: https://www.thoughtco.com/green-revolution-overview-1434948

GM Watch. (2013, Oct. 16). New briefing on Golden Rice shows many better alternatives. GM Watch. Retrieved from http://www.gmwatch.org/en/bills-test/15115-new-briefing-on-golden-rice-shows-many-better-alternatives

Golden Rice Humanitarian Board (2016). Golden Rice Project. Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. Retrieved from http://www.goldenrice.org/index.php

International Rice Research Institution. (2015). The second Green Revolution has begun: rice, food security, and climate change. International Rice Research Institution. Retrieved from: http://irri.org/the-second-green-revolution-has-begun

International Rice Research Institution (2017). Will Golden Rice be more expensive than regular rice? International Rice Research Institution. Retrieved from: http://irri.org/golden-rice/faqs/will-golden-rice-be-more-expensive-than-regular-rice

Livezey, J. and Foreman, L. (2004, Mar.) Characteristics and production costs of U.S. rice farms. United States Department of Agriculture 974: 1 – 30.

Lomborg, B. (2013, Feb. 17). The deadly opposition to genetically modified food. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/project_syndicate0 /2013/02/gm_food_golden_rice_will_save_millions_of_people_from_vitamin_a_deficiency.html

Statista. (2016). Retail price of white price (long grain, uncooked) in the United States from 1995 to 2016 (in U.S. dollars per pound). Statista. Retrieved from: http://www.statista.com  /statistics/236628/retail-price-of-white-rice-in-the-united-states/

Sustainable Pulse. (2013, Aug. 9). Philippine farmers uproot Syngenta’s GMO Golden Rice field tests. Sustainable Pulse. Retrieved from: http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/08/09/-philippine-farmers-uproot-syngentas-gmo-golden-rice-field-tests/#.WihzH0qnFPY

Wesseler, J. 2014. The economic power of the Golden Rice opposition. Environment and Development Economics 19: 724 – 742.

World Food Programme. (2017). Free Rice. World Food Programme. Retrieved from http://freerice.com/content/how-much-rice-does-it-take-feed-person-day-how-many-grains-rice-gram

 

 

Experiences With Group Work

One of the worst projects I ever worked on was in my sophomore year of high school. It was in Spanish III, an intermediate/advanced course. The project was to write a script, entirely in Spanish, that described different outdoor parks and the animals and plants contained in each one, and then make a video with images and a voiceover of our script. It was the huge end-of-the-year project for my class – it counted for 20% of our final grade. My peers and I were assigned it a month before it was due, which was plenty of time to plan and complete it. Our teacher even let us choose our own partners – naturally, I paired up with a friend.

What made this project so terrible wasn’t the assignment itself, or the grade I received at the end. It was my partner. From the very beginning, she was completely useless – it was like I was trying to cross the finish line with a deadweight attached to my ankles. What should’ve been a slightly challenging project became an absolute nightmare that included sleepless nights, several breakdowns, tears, and a general increase in day-to-day stress levels.

When my partner and I got the assignment, I immediately made a Google Doc so we could pool our knowledge and work on the project independently while still having access to what the other one was doing. We began by brainstorming, which went well. By the end of the first day we had enough material to write our script.

We agreed to meet the next day to start creating an outline, but she didn’t show up. When I asked her where she was, she responded that she had a prior commitment and couldn’t make it. I ended up creating the entire outline by myself.

For next meeting we scheduled, this time to begin writing the first section of the script, she was late, and spent the entire time doing anything but working on our script. Once again, I ended up doing all of it. At the end of that meeting, we both agreed that we would each write one of the remaining two sections, meet again to look over what the other had done, then start the editing/revising process.

As the date of our third meeting drew closer, I grew anxious because I noticed my partner hadn’t added anything to our Google Doc. I began to remind my partner constantly, both in person and through emails, but she always brushed me off, saying that she was going to get around to it. Finally, the day of our third meeting arrived, and she still hadn’t done her share of the work. She showed up to our meeting, but instead of helping me, she spent the entire time on the phone. I cut the meeting short and went home to finish the entire script – which took me three hours to do since I had to double-check grammar and vocabulary constantly.

By the time the script the was complete, there were two weeks left until the due date. I sent an email to my partner and asked her to start gathering pictures that we could use for our video. She never responded, but I went ahead and scheduled another meeting where we could start work on the video. She didn’t show up again. Forging ahead, I gathered all the pictures we would use and began to organize them in the order we would show them in our video. I met up with my partner in class and told her that the only thing left for us to do was to record us reading our script. We set a time and a place for us to do so.

She arrived that time, and I showed her what she had to say and recorded it. At this point, I had given up any sort of hope that she was going to help me finish this project so I told her that I would take care of everything else. Within a week, I managed to create a video that followed the guidelines of our project rubric. We turned our project in and got a 95, but I was exhausted by the end of it. I went into this enormous project expecting to do 50% of the work and ended up doing 95% of the work, which naturally took a toll on me.

There was no technical reason why our group collaboration shouldn’t have been successful. My partner and I employed all three methods of collaboration during our project, which normally would have been effective. We brainstormed, wrote, and recorded our voiceover face-to-face, used the divided method to write and gather pictures, and employed the layered method when editing/revising the script – all which were suited for the type of project this was. Both of us had constant availability to the whole of our project through the Google Doc, and there was plenty of communication both in person and through email with constant reminders of what had to get done. We made decisions together to meet at regular intervals in order to update each other on what we had done, and set specific deadlines for when we wanted certain sections of the project to be completed. Technically, with all of those things combined, this project should have been completed in an efficient and stress-free manner.

The difficulties of this assignment came directly from my partner. From the very beginning, she was unwilling to put in the same amount of work and effort that I was. At the end, I eventually just took over the project and cut her out of it because I knew she wasn’t going to follow up on what she said she was going to do.

In hindsight, completely taking over the project wasn’t the best thing to do. After the first couple of times my partner missed deadlines and meetings, I should have gone to our instructor and explained to her the issue. I should have pursued a meeting between my, my partner, and our instructor to see if there could be some sort of resolution about work load and final grades (if my partner was going to put in less work, would she be alright with getting a lower grade? etc.).

Our project, overall, was successful in meeting the objectives of the assignment rubric, and we both received a satisfactory grade, but it was one of the most stressful, frustrating, and time-consuming projects I have ever completed. It was also impacted the friendship I had with my partner – we never again worked together on any sort of project, and gradually drifted apart.

In the future, to avoid situations like the one previously mentioned, it would be beneficial to implement certain strategies. At the beginning of a group project, or any group collaboration, two documents should be created: a team charter and a task schedule. The purpose of the team charter is to outline the broad/end goals of the group. This allows every group member to know what is expected of them in order to achieve those goals, and uncovers how much work/commitment each person is able to put in. On the other hand, the task schedule should be incredibly detailed, with deadlines, specific tasks, individual responsibilities, and time to brainstorm and revise so that there is no confusion about who needs to complete what by what date. Having something that maps out the group’s progress is extremely beneficial – it keeps the group on schedule, encourages slackers, prevents procrastination, and eliminates duplicate effort.

Another element to include when working in groups are meeting minutes. These are notes that help the group keep track of their progress by including meeting attendance, the decisions made, things to be done, and the next steps the group needs to take in completing their goals. Having meeting minutes allows groups to save time, avoid forgetting important details, and pick up exactly where the group left off.

It is also important to develop a culture among the group that is both diverse and encouraging of constructive feedback. Teams that are composed of people who think differently are more likely to be creative when problem-solving, and also prepares people for an increasingly-diverse workplace (as our cultural becomes more global, it becomes necessary for people to be able to work alongside and understand those of different background). In addition to having a diverse group, it is advantageous to build an environment that is welcoming of feedback. Without constructive conflict, and without discussing the pros and cons of different solutions, a group is at the disadvantage. Feedback provides the opportunity to expose flaws and potential problems that will lead to a final result that has been drastically improved.

While all of the previously listed strategies can lead to a successful group project, one has to keep in mind the personal styles of group members who will be contributing to the project.

For example, using the self-assessment tests in the book Team Writing, my discussion style is Highly Considerate, my presentation style is Self-Deprecating, and my problem-solving style is Holistic. Each of these qualities has an impact on how I contribute and lead in group projects.

In group projects, my Highly Considerate discussion style is ideal for brainstorming and editing situations. Using this style ensures that everyone will have the opportunity to voice their thoughts on the project without getting immediately shut down or rejected. Often times, I can be found drawing the quieter members out of their shells and gently cajoling them into speaking (allowing for everyone to supply their insight), or nodding/making sounds of verbal consent when someone is talking. These techniques I employ are valuable because they allow each group member to contribute directly to the project. Having someone with a Highly Considerate style is the most practical choice for leading a discussion because they are able to balance out the contribution level of each group member.

My presentation style is Self-Deprecating, which means I tend to display modesty about my abilities and am more likely to talk about my shortcomings. When working in groups, this quality is a disadvantage. It negatively impacts the group by taking attention off of the problem itself and shifting it towards the person and their abilities, which in turn causes group members to doubt a member’s capability to even contribute to the project. In order to prevent this from happening, one needs to work diligently, do the best job they are capable of doing with the skills they possess, and ask for help when needed. When working in a group with someone who has this presentation style, I would recommend keeping a close eye on them and regularly checking up on them. If needed, offer support and assistance to help them finish their work.

Lastly, my problem-solving style is Holistic. This suggests that I consider things as a whole, in a big-picture sense, and refrain from acting until a problem is completely understood. In group projects, we Holistic-style problem-solvers are more beneficial at the beginning. At this stage, Holistic problem-solvers are able to plan how a group should proceed in order to get the best possible result. The best thing to do with these people is to simply let them work out the procedural details of the projects and then, as problems arise, let them solve them. This style is highly beneficial to producing quality work because it takes the time to fully understand how to produce results that overcome specific issues.

When working in a group on any sort of project, it is best to organize the group members so that the people who are best suited to do certain tasks are assigned those tasks. Allocate people where they will be able to thrive. For example, put those with the Highly Considerate discussion style in situations where they can mediate conversations, and those with Holistic problem-solving skills where they can fully analyze problems in order to solve them. In group projects, it is important to play people according to what their strengths are in order to get the best possible end result.

 

References

Wolfe, Joanna. Team Writing: A Guide to Working in Groups. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

My Thoughts On a Liberal Arts Education

Today, most institutes of higher learning have mastered the art of producing students who know nothing but the skill of regurgitation – most of what students encounter in school “emphasizes memory” (Tough Choices or Tough Times 30). Generations of graduates enter the workplace lacking the necessary skills to succeed in a competitive environment and find themselves unprepared for what coworkers and bosses require of them. It is “the quality of education” that a student has that matters when they enter the workplace and begin to construct their own life (Tough Choices or Tough Times 16). In short, colleges today do not provide the type of education required for one to become a cohesive, intelligent, and competent individual.

Modern employers want workers who can read and write critically, and who are capable of communicating effectively. They want individuals who are problem-solvers and well-rounded. They want people with a broad spectrum of knowledge and an understanding of how to apply that knowledge. It is with these qualities in mind that a college education should be fashioned.

Reading and writing are basic skills that everyone learns at the age of five or six. Students learn to carefully pen their names using dotted lines, and they begin to understand how letters form sounds which form words. And then they are stopped by an educational system that demands nothing more from them. Today, students are only taught rudimentary reading and writing skills, but they are not taught how to read and write critically, which is an entirely different thing.

In the time of the Ancient Greeks, the great philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates understood the importance of reading and writing. When discussing education, Aristotle stated that reading and writing are “taught because they are useful for life and have many applications” and that they are essential for “acquiring further learning” (Aristotle 229, 230). Even as the modern world progressively moves into a digitalized age, students must still learn how to read and write. In the workplace and in life, those skills will allow them to analyze and interpret, and summarize and critique the information they receive. In order to develop these skills, colleges must enforce mandatory English, literature, and writing courses throughout the years a student attends. Students must be forced to write constantly and consistently about a manner of subjects, such as history, science, the arts, and literature, if they hope to gain true reading and writing skills.

Communication is the ability to transfer information to others in such a way that is understandable. This is a foundational skill for all individuals to possess. Learning to effectively communicate with others will help one in the workplace with clients, coworkers, and bosses, and in life, with day-to-day interactions.  To impart this essential skill to students, colleges should implement mandatory rhetoric and communications classes. Students should have to give presentations and speeches throughout their years at college to acclimate them to public speaking. And since speaking “is the source of freedom for mankind itself,” students should learn how to effectively wield it to their advantage (Plato 9).

Problem-solving is a skill that is rapidly degenerating in this “society inebriated by technology” (Wieseltier 1). As Wieseltier passionately states, we have become a world “governed by the values of utility, speed, efficiency, and convenience” – thus we have no room for creative problem-solving. As we become more and more dependent on computers to do things for us, we lose the creative aspect of humanity because we no longer employ it. And this needs to change.

The workplace, and life, is often unpredictable and random, enough so that one can never be truly prepared for what might happen. Employers value those who are capable of coming up with creative solutions to unprecedented problems. Individuals benefit from being able to think through situations they encounter throughout life. Unfortunately, the way the college educational system is set up today, the “typical curriculum. . . is inimical to the development of strong, creative abilities,” which is the exact opposite of the skill set students need (Tough Choices or Tough Times 30). To remedy this issue, colleges should make it an obligation for students to take art and theater improvisation classes to nurture creativity. And other classes – such as math and science – should become logic and reason based, allowing students the opportunity to come to solutions on their own, in their own way and on their own time. As Tough Times or Tough Choices suggests, we must demand of “our students to create something new.” By fostering the concept of creativity, colleges will be able to produce students who possess highly-developed problem-solving skills, which is something that will help them not only in the workplace, but in daily life.

To become well-rounded, or to become “citizens of the world,” “students should develop an understanding of the history and character of the diverse groups that inhabit our world” (Nussbaum 39, 38). In order to do that, colleges should require students to take courses in foreign languages, non-Western cultures, religion, and philosophy. It is vital that students learn “the language and literature of any other cultivated and civilized people” because it allows them to become comprehensive of others (Mill 4). “Without knowing the language of a people, we never really know their thoughts. . .” therefore, without the proper knowledge to give insight to other cultures and peoples, students cannot fully understand someone different from themselves (Mill 4). And one does not make it far in life without being able to comprehend others.

Now, while colleges lack the proper curriculum to produce competent individuals, the biggest mistake they make is forcing their students to choose a major. Most institutes require their students to declare their area of study by the end of sophomore year, and then junior and senior years are dedicated solely to that subject. This, plainly speaking, is wrong.

In the time after the Civil War, the ideals of higher education changed. Colleges shifted from institutions that taught the meaning of life to places that exist “primarily to sponsor research” (Kronman 59). Colleges of “the early nineteenth century institutionalized the idea of research and gave it, for the first time, the authority and prestige it has had ever since” (Kronman 59). As a whole, institutes of higher learning became obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge. Every subject, and every department of knowledge has become “so loaded with details, that one who endeavours to know it with minute accuracy, must confine himself to a smaller and smaller portion of the whole extent” (Mill 2). And “in order to know that little completely, it is necessary to remain wholly ignorant of all the rest” (Mill 3).

This is what colleges today are doing to its students. They demand that each individual become so enamored with one subject that they have no awareness of others.

But life and work do not coincide with that educational approach.

As previously discussed, creativity and problem-solving are two highly valued skills. Problem-solving stems from the ability to think creatively about solutions, and creativity must be nurtured so that students develop it. But in order to be creative, one has to understand what they are being creative about. Creativity itself “requires both deep knowledge and technical expertise with one area and very broad knowledge of many, apparently unrelated areas” (Tough Choices or Tough Times 30). Creativity “depends on being able to combine disparate elements in new ways” (Tough Choices or Tough Times 30).

If life and work both demand an individual to have a wide basis of knowledge and an understanding of how to apply that knowledge, colleges should not force their students to declare a specified major. Colleges should be more focused on teaching their students a variety of subjects – everyone should learn math, science, history, writing, literature, foreign languages, and art, and they should learn them in such a way that they come out with an in-depth understanding of each of the topics. This will enable students to creatively produce solutions in life and in the workplace.

College education needs to change to cater to the skills students will need in the workplace and throughout life. Higher institutes of learning must emphasize reading and writing critically, and teach its students how to effectively speak and communicate with others. They must teach students how to think and how to problem-solve when presented with a situation they have never been exposed to. They must promote global understanding of other peoples. And they must give students a wide, overarching basis of knowledge that can be applied in any type of environment. Essentially, it is a college’s responsibility to nurture “those intellectual. . . habits that. . . form the basis for living the best life that one can” (Kronman 49).

In the end, the ideal college education should produce “self-determining agents” who are capable of individual thought (Gutting 4). It should produce students “who have gained the confidence that their own minds can confront the toughest questions” (Nussbaum 39). It should produce students who have learned the “necessary mental implements for the work they have to perform through life” (Mill 2). And above all, a college education should develop “persons capable of informed and intelligent commitments” (Gutting 4).

 

References:

Aristotle. Politics. Translated by C. D. C. Reeve, Hackett Publishing, 1998.

Gutting, Gary. “What Work Is Really For.” The New York Times 8 Sept. 2012: NYTimes.com Web. 11 Oct. 2017.

Kronman, Anthony T. Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

Mill, John S. “Inaugural Essay.” Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, edited by John M. Robson, University of Toronto Press, 1984, pp. 1-12.

Nussbaum, Martha. “Cultivating Humanity and World Citizenship.” Forum for the Future of Higher Education, 2007, pp. 37-40.

Plato. Gorgias. Translated by D. Zeyl, Hackett Publishing, 1987.

Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print.

Wieseltier, Leon. “Perhaps Culture is Now the Counterculture: A Defense of the Humanities.” Commencement Ceremony of Brandeis University, 28 May 2013, Brandeis        University, MA. Guest Lecture.