The Life of Action

Mon, Apr 25

What should you focus your time and attention on if you want your life to be more meaningful? Should philosophy be put in the service of action? Or is the main role of philosophy to feed our contemplative sides? Today we consider one proposal -- the good life is one dedicated to justice and action on behalf of the good.  

By the end of this session, you will:

  1. Understand the ways in which Martin Luther King uses the image of Socrates to defend activism
  2. Consider whether King's argument for civil disobedience is sound
  3. Debate the role that social structures play in determining the value and meaning of individual lives
  4. Consider current social and political structures that King's arguments might apply to.

Read This:


Interactive Essay: Letter from a Birmingham Jail (Martin Luther King Jr)

APPLICATION ARTICLES (Access on "Perusall" via Canvas):

Becoming Greta: Invisible Girl to Climate Activist (NYTimes)

Do This:

Complete these steps before you come to class

  • Consider the following prompts (you may want to write responses to these in your journal or talk about them with a friend):
    • Consider some social or political cause you care about. Why haven't you devoted yourself to this cause as a full-time activist?
    • What is one way King uses a philosophical consideration about the good life to defend his decision to march on Birmingham? Use a passage from the text to back up your discussion. Are you convinced that the good life requires activism?

After you've finished today's reading, make sure you complete the reading quiz, which you can access through your section's Canvas page.

Watch This: