Watchmen is a tragic story, but also a philosophically interesting one because it contrasts two theories of ethics within its conflict between the characters Ozymandias and Rorschach: utilitarianism and deontology.
The purpose of this final essay is to give you the chance to demonstrate how you can apply what you have learned in this course in summarizing your final thoughts on some philosophical topic. This essay is worth 20% of your final grade.
Here are the requirements: The essay must be a minimum of 1,000 words long; it must include references to some of the academic texts that we have discussed (the comic book Watchmen is not an academic text); and it must defend an argument in reference to the question that you have chosen to answer. The exam must be completed before 11:55PM on Sunday, June 26. No late exams will be accepted.
Below is a list of questions that you can choose from and some suggested readings for each question. The readings listed here are merely suggestions, but please remember that you are required to include some reference to some of the readings from this course. Ultimately, you will be graded on how well you understand the issues, how well you use the readings, and how well you explain your resolution to the problem that you choose to discuss. For more information about how I grade essays, please click here.
Please choose one topic from the list below:
Ethics: Watchmen is a tragic story, but also a philosophically interesting one because it contrasts two theories of ethics within its conflict between the characters Ozymandias and Rorschach: utilitarianism and deontology. In the end, Ozymandias uses utilitarian reasoning to justify his actions, and Rorschach claims that it is his duty to tell the truth to the world about Ozymandias. Which of these characters is morally right here? (Read Chs. 5 & 7 in Watchmen and Philosophy.)
Epistemology: The problem of personal identity is usually spelled out as a metaphysical problem concerning the nature of my being — specifically, how can I be the “same person” throughout my life even while recognizing that I have changed considerably over the years? But the problem of personal identity could also be spelled out as an epistemological problem concerning the limitations of my knowledge — how can I know that I am the “same person” throughout my life even while recognizing that I have changed considerably over the years? How would you resolve the epistemological version of this problem? (Read Ch. 8 of Watchmen and Philosophy.)
Metaphysics: Throughout Watchmen, the character of Dr Manhattan claims to know what the future holds (for the most part). He also claims that his knowledge of the future prohibits him from acting freely — that is, Dr Manhattan denies that he (and everyone else) has free will. This is similar to the problem of theological determinism, which states that if an all-knowing God knows what we will do in the future, then this proves that we do not have free will. Is that correct, or is there some way to solve the problem of theological determinism? (Read Ch. 10 of Watchmen and Philosophy.)
Political Philosophy: Plato’s Republic is often cited as one of the central works in Western political philosophy. The purpose of his book is to define “justice”; however in trying to do so, he also outlines a number of proposals for the organization of a just state. One of Plato’s proposals is that men and women should be equally capable of holding political power in the ideal state. This leads to an interesting question: does justice as Plato has defined it demand equality? Or to put the question another way, is it possible according to Plato’s theory to have a just state that lacks equality? (Read Book 5 of Plato’s Republic and Ch. 13 of Watchmen and Philosophy.)
Aesthetics: In Book 10 of the Republic, Plato claims that truth is not a central concern in the arts. Plato is not saying that we can never learn anything from the arts. Rather Plato is saying that the truth of anything that we learn from the arts is not aesthetically relevant to our appreciation of the arts. Is that correct? Think of Watchmen as an example. What kind of truths could we learn from reading Watchmen? And is the truth of those ideas relevant to our appreciation of this comic book? (For examples of possible truths that one might learn from Watchmen, you may find many throughout the essays in Watchmen and Philosophy. If you want some suggestions, try reading chapters 1, 4, 6, 11, 14, or 15 of Watchmen and Philosophy.)
Books: Watchman, Watchman and philosophy, & republic by plato
You can use any of these book sources,