The Myth of Sisyphus

ARLT 101g      Summer 2014         McCann
Topics for second paper
These guidelines hold for all papers prepared for this course.
1.  Papers are to be submitted in .doc, .rtf, or .pdf format via the Turnitin link on the course blackboard website.  Font must be no smaller than 12 point, and the paper should be double-spaced, with at least 1″ margins all around.   Be sure that your name appears on the top right-hand corner of the first page.  If your TA asks you to submit a hard copy as well, please do so, but in addition to the electronic submission via Turnitin.
2.   Keep a personal copy of any paper you submit.
3.  The papers in this class are not research papers.  If you do, however, make any use of the work of others in preparing your paper, be sure fully to document this.  Failure to do so may constitute plagiarism; see Section 11 in SCampus for information on Academic Integrity violations.  If you have any doubts about when and how to document the use of outside sources, see me or your TA.
Topics for the second paper (write an essay on ONE of the topics below (your choice)):
1.   Camus, in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, and Nagel, in ‘The Absurd’, give conflicting accounts of the basis on which human life can be held to be absurd (without meaning, when there is a deeply felt need for meaningfulness in life).  Provide detailed descriptions of their views and the arguments in favor of each of the views.  Then provide a detailed critical analysis of the objections that one of them (Camus or Nagel) might make to the view of the other (Nagel or Camus), and explore the rebuttal that might be made to the objections.  Which view, if either, is the more convincing, in light of the objections and rebuttal
Topic 1 is based on the readings for June 30 (and possibly a bit of June 25).  The prompt really wants you to look Nagel and Camus’s differing views on Absurdism (namely, the meaninglessness of life despite the way that humans feel a deep need for it be meaningful).
Th Jun 25  Camus and Nagel on the absurd.  Reading:  Camus, selections from The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays             
Thomas Nagel, ‘The Absurd”
M Jun 30  Camus on alienation and absurdity.  Reading:  The Stranger (entire)
2.  About a third of the way through Sartre’s lecture ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’ he explains his notion (a notion taken from Heidegger) of abandonment, and connects this with atheism and with the notion that there is no fixed objective (‘a priori’) morality.  After explaining why Sartre thinks the example he gives of his student who was torn between the alternatives of staying by his mother or of joining the Free French forces to fight the Nazis is an illustration of his notion of abandonment and its implications for morality,  reconstruct Sartre’s argument for the claim that atheism entails that there is no objective morality. What objections might be made to this argument, and how would Sartre try to rebut them?  Is he successful in this attempt to rebut them?
General pointers:
A critical analysis of an argument or a passage from a text includes the following:
  (a) a clear statement of the conclusion of the argument, and a brief explanation of its              significance;
  (b) identification of the main premisses of the argument;
  (c) a statement of one or two significant objections to the argument, together with a brief        explanation of the problem it (they) raises (raise) for the argument and a sketch of the            reasons one might give in support of the objection;
  (d) a suggestion as to how the target of the objections might seek to rebut them; 
  (e) a final evaluation of the interchange:  has the objection succeeded?  Why or why not?
Paper length:  5-6 pages
Due date: Thursday, July 3, 2014 no later than 2:00 p.m. 
NOTE:  Please bring a printed copy of your paper to class on Thursday July 3 at 2:00 p.m., and upload an electronic copy of the paper via the Turnitin link on the Blackboard website at or before 2:00 p.m. Thursday July 3

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