For your Unit 5 assignment, you will write a paper based on the themes of Character, Dignity, and Self-Respect. You will choose to view the movie A Man for all Seasons, the movie Glory, or another movie that has been approved by your instructor, and will interpret the movie and relate one or two of the movie's characters to the philosophies of Aristotle, Epictetus, and Saint Augustine.
You will relate your character selections to the following:
Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived from 384 to 322 B.C. His ethical theory centered on the attainment of the Good Life and on his theory of happiness. This is not the type of happiness one normally thinks about as in the statement, "I am happy." Rather, you should understand happiness as a sense of well-being or the overall quality of one's life. Yet, this "happy" life does not just happen. It is the result of specific actions and qualities.
To accomplish the Good Life one should look at the nature of action. Aristotle wrote in his book the Nicomachean Ethics that all actions have both an excess and a deficiency. Accordingly, all actions have a mean between those two extremes that is suited to a specific individual. This is a mean that is suited to us as an individual, as a member of society, and leads toward the Good Life. And, it does not have to be the same for everyone. So, how do I find the mean suited to me?
To begin, Aristotle directs us to the nature of habits and the formative influence they have in our lives. He felt that habits have an essential role. They are the creators of one's character, and ultimately one's destiny. In other words, habits produce character and character produces a destiny. And destiny is our life. And what is more interesting, he believed that if we do not like the person we have become, we have the ability to change our habits, and therefore, our character and ultimately our destiny.
In your paper, address how the characters you have selected from the movie represent Aristotelian ethics. How have they demonstrated a mean between excess and deficiency? How have they demonstrated a change in habit or character? How have they made a conscious decision to change?
Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher and lived from 55 A.D. to 135 A.D. This was the time of the Roman Empire and the result had been a loss of personal and ethical control over one's life as considered against the needs of the Empire. This sense of personal and intimate control over one's decisions and actions had been a part of the small Greek City-States from the time of Aristotle and had formed the basis of ethical theory. Now, the Roman Empire had created events and actions that were no longer in the control of the individual person. One simply lived at the mercy of events no longer directly connected to the individual and over which one had no control.
Thus, the Stoic philosophy concentrated on the following:
Epictetus decided that he should control the only thing within his absolute power: His response. He believed that, while he could not control what occurred outside of himself, he could control how he responded: That was the only true freedom he had, and the source of his personal worth and dignity.
As you study the characters from the movie selection, identify those actions and scenarios that depict the philosophy of Epictetus. Ask yourself the following:
St. Augustine lived from 354 to 431 A.S. and authored a book titled Confessions. I think the title says it all. He is considered one of the founders of Christian Theology and his influence is felt in all aspect of our civilization. For St. Augustine, the foundation for the Good Life lies in the act of confession and the knowledge of God. He approached the ideas of dignity, character, and self-respect from a straight forward religious perspective. Meaning: We attain those personal qualities and live the Good Life through our relationship with God.
He believed that our souls are restless and cannot find character, dignity, and self-respect until they find the greatest good, and for him that would be knowledge of God. He believed that our relationship with God cannot be lost once it is attained, and no matter what befalls us we have a lasting relationship to the Greatest Good. As such, he believed that no one can take that God-given concept of self-worth from us.
As you look at the various scenarios and characters in your movie selection think about how a religious attainment of the Greatest Good or the knowledge of God inspired and motivated choices that lead to the Good Life.
As you write your paper, consider the following questions: