Chapters Bookshelf


Inside Library

In the distance, a small light appears moving slowly closer to you. Soon, you can make out the shape of an elderly man dressed in robes and holding a lantern. As he approaches, he says in a gentle voice, “Do not fret, young scholars. My name is Diogenes, and I can help you find the answers you seek.”

As you look into his eyes, you feel oddly connected to this gentleman with worn sandals and a soothing voice. Your connection is quickly broken by Brutus who barks, “You have answers? Great give them to us. No time to lose.”

“Brutus, you are too hasty in your quest,” replies Diogenes. “You must proceed carefully and with great thought in order to unravel the mysteries of philosophy. I can only guide you as you begin this journey, but the roads you take are up to you. Who among you is willing to pursue a path of learning and discovery?”

You know that you are the one and step forward.

“Ah, yes, ,” Diogenes says to you, his gaze penetrating into yours. “Your love of knowledge will serve you well. Throughout this journey you will search for self-understanding. You will discover a love of wisdom. You will gain knowledge about fundamental moral beliefs. And most valuable of all, you will learn how to question and decide for yourself what you believe to be good and just in the universe. This journey is the quest for freedom and autonomy: the freedom to think and understand, and the autonomy to make decisions. I know you are up for the challenge.”

“But how can you be sure?” you question hesitantly. “My mind seems to be blank! I don’t know where to begin.”

“Yes, your mind is like the tabula rasa, which is Latin for the blank sheet. But your experiences in your journey will quickly fill your mind just as your rewards will fill this once glorious library,” Diogenes replies. “But not to worry. You will have help in your quest for knowledge. While your village was devastated by terrible events, luckily there are other colonies nearby who have already rebuilt their societies and can offer wisdom and advice. Each colony is modeled on a particular ethical theory. You must travel to each of these communities and learn from the philosophers that reside there. These citizens will offer sage advice that you can apply in rebuilding your own community.”

Trying to understand the task before you, you question, “As I travel and speak to these philosophers, what type of information should I seek?”

“That is a great question, ,” replies Diogenes. “Know that a normative approach in an ethical theory pertains to how one should or ought to act. On the other hand, a descriptive approach makes claims about facts in the world, usually asserting what motivates people or what is the essence of human nature, and then exploring the implications. You will encounter both approaches during your journey, and I would encourage you to learn from each, also noting how they work together. You may even encounter some meta-ethics which discusses the meaning of ethical concepts such as ‘good,’ ‘right,’ and ‘just.’”

“Yikes,” you sigh. “This is going to be an arduous journey. There is just so much to learn. How will I know if I’ve mastered the material?”

“Fear not! In each community, you will complete a quiz that will test your knowledge. These quizzes will test what you learned from each community but will also go beyond to assess your overall understanding of the theories. I must warn you; these exams can be quite difficult. In order to demonstrate that you’ve mastered the content, you might need to draw upon all your resources including any ethical textbooks, class notes, or other resources you may possess. If you excel in your task, you will be rewarded with books to rebuild your library and Food, Labor, and Organization (FLO) for rebuilding Theoretic-ville. You will know you are mastering the material as you watch the library grow and your community thrive. Of course you will also have the satisfaction of accomplishment and will gain the virtue of knowledge. The path of knowledge begins, of course, with a test of my own. Upon successful completion of this test, you will be rewarded with a prize more valuable than gold, for this prize will be your guide for the rest of your journey. Let’s begin.”