Philosophy of Globalization: Day 1

Socrates doesn't know, and it's OK.  Image from:

This summer I will be teaching a course titled “The Philosophy of Globalization” for Mississippi Governor’s School. As I work on finalizing the lesson plans, I plan to share them here, both to offer ideas to others and to solicit input and ideas for improvement. Each day is a 3 hour class.

NOTE: Many of the summaries and activities I use in my courses have been cobbled together from journals articles and websites over the years, and unfortunately, I don’t have all the citations. I am not claiming all of this material is my original work, and if you see a missing citation, please let me know and I will be happy to add it. Many of the activities come from the outstanding Little Big Minds by Marietta McCarty.

Day One

Get notecards:

  1. Last name, first name (as it appears on the official roll)
  2. What you prefer to be called
  3. Major or favorite subject
  4. Why you signed up for this course
  5. Describe what philosophy is all about in twenty-five words or less (Their answers here can be very revealing.)
  6. Something unique about yourself that no one else is likely to put on their card (This helps me remember them as individuals.)
  7.  Self Portrait

Discuss willingness to be open to other views as mandatory for this course.

Activity: Pass out mustard and pretzels and a notecard. Have each student write down a one word description of how the mustard tastes. Take up notecards and read answers. Discuss how people’s ideas about life can be as different as the experience of the taste of mustard.

Start with writing prompt:

What is philosophy?

What is the good life?

Then break into groups of 2 to discuss answers and come to consensus.

Have each pair come up and introduce themselves (name, where from, favorite subject or possible major), and then give their answers to the questions.


Thinking Ahead: Final project about 7 minutes to show what we’ve done.


CREATE: Philosophic journal – where they will do a brief nightly writing assignment. Create fun cover.


We will shy away from the history of philosophy you typically get in college classroom and go more toward an applied philosophy, but we will have to do a bit of history along the way, especially to understand what philosophy is.


Define: philo sophia

CREATE: Listen to Haydn’s Symphony No. 22. Draw any idea that comes to mind without using human beings or words.


Current Way to understand philosophy’s lay out:

Metaphysics Study of Existence What’s out there?
Epistemology Study of Knowledge How do I know about it?
Ethics Study of Action What should I do?
Politics Study of Force What actions are permissible?
Aesthetics Study of Art What can life be like?


POETRY: Read “The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. Discuss what Williams was possibly thinking and how just about anything can make us wonder. Scholars write their own poem that sparks their curiosity and wonder.

Explain Plato’s Cave metaphor 


  1. I.               Socrates
    1. Born 470 B.C.
    2. Was a professional soldier for 20 years. When he returned he read the works of the Pre-Socratics and was disappointed that they weren’t asking the right questions. He wants to shift away from nature (metaphysics) and start looking at humans and their virtues and vices (ethics). This is when he starts questioning the citizens.
    3. Was told that he was the wisest man by Oracle at Delphi.
    4. Didn’t understand this, because he didn’t think he was wise. Decided that this meant he was wise because he knew he wasn’t wise, whereas everyone else thought they already had all the answers. “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Set out questioning citizens to see if they really knew what they were saying.
    5. Uses Dialectic Method: (Socratic Method)
      1.                                  i.     Question and answer. (He would ask a priest about piety, he would put himself under someone’s tutoring, and he would get initial definitions from them.)
      2.                                 ii.     Definition gained. Socrates would scrutinize this definition by asking a series of questions.
      3.                              iii.     Read from Socrates Café starting p. 18
      4.                               iv.      He was after an essential definition that would serve as an example for all instances.
      5.                                 v.     Instead he got Elenchis, which is basically a refutation of the definition.
      6.                               vi.     essential definitions: A “general” definition. Defines class membership. What must it have to be a member of a class.  The standard test for the truth value of an essential definition requires that the subject and predicate be reversible. For example, if I reverse our example and say, “A rational animal is a human,” the truth value of the statement remains the same. But if I reverse a statement like, “Humans are creatures with two eyes,” I get “Creatures with two eyes are humans,” which isn’t true.    So what about a chair?
      7.                             vii.     Class activity: attempt to derive definition of chair
      8. This upset parents of children who would crowd around him and he was eventually put to death.
    6. II.             Plato
      1. Socrates never wrote anything down, so everything we know about him comes through the writings of his student, Plato.
      2. Early Works – reflect Socrates most accurately. They did not end with a conclusion and Socrates would profess ignorance. There was more back and forth arguing and a focus on a simple puzzle, usually with ethics

Later works tend to draw more on Plato’s thoughts and have more conclusions.

First definition

Euthyphro offers as his first definition of piety what he is doing now, that is, prosecuting his father for manslaughter (5d). Socrates rejects this because it is not a definition; it is only an example or instance of piety. It does not provide the fundamental characteristic which makes pious things pious.

Second definition

Euthyphro’s second definition: piety is what the gods approve of (6e). Socrates applauds this definition because it is expressed in a general form, but criticizes it on the grounds that the gods disagree among themselves as to what meets their approval. This would mean that a particular action, disputed by the gods, would be both pious and impious at the same time — a logically impossible situation. Euthyphro tries to argue against Socrates’ criticism by pointing out that not even the gods would disagree amongst themselves that someone who kills without justification should be punished, but Socrates argues that disputes would still arise — over just how much justification there actually was, and hence the same action could still be both pious and impious.

Third definition

Euthyphro overcomes Socrates’ objection by slightly amending his second definition (9e). Thus the third definition reads: What all the gods approve of is pious, and what they all disapprove of is impious. At this point Socrates introduces the “Euthyphro dilemma” by asking the crucial question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods (10a)? He uses a typical Socratic technique, analogy or comparison, to make his question clearer and gets Euthyphro to agree that we call a carried thing carried simply because it is carried, not because it possesses some inherent characteristic or property that we could call “carried”. What he is trying to get Euthyphro to see is that we carry something that is already there. This thing exists without our carrying it; our carrying does not bring it into existence. So too as far as piety is concerned, we approve or disapprove of something which is already, in some sense, there; our approving, by itself, does not make an action pious. The approval follows from our recognition that an action is pious, not the other way round. Or, to put it more simply, the piety comes before the approval, yet in Euthyphro’s definition it comes after the approval and is a consequence of the approval. Euthyphro’s definition is therefore flawed.

Without realising that it contradicts his third definition, Euthyphro at this point agrees that the gods approve an action because it is pious. (Later he will return to his earlier definition.) Socrates argues that the unanimous approval of the gods is merely an attribute of piety; it is not part of its defining characteristics. It does not define the essence of piety, what piety is in itself; it does not give the idea of piety.

Socrates’ definition

In the second half of the discussion Socrates himself suggests a definition of piety, namely that piety is a part of justice:

Piety belongs to those actions we call just or morally good. However, there are more than just pious actions that we call just or morally good (12d); for example, bravery, concern for others and so on. What is it, asks Socrates, that makes piety different from all those other actions that we call just?

Euthyphro’s response

Euthyphro then suggests that piety is concerned with looking after the gods (13b), but immediately raises the objection that “looking after”, if used in its ordinary sense, which Euthyphro agrees that it is, would imply that when you perform an act of piety you make one of the gods better — a dangerous example of hubris, which gods frowned upon (13c). Euthyphro claims that caring for involves service. When questioned by Socrates as to exactly what is the end product of piety, Euthyphro can only fall back on his earlier claim: piety is what finds approval amongst all the gods (14b).

Final definition

Euthyphro then proposes another definition: Piety, he says, is a sort of sacrifice and prayer. He puts forward the notion of piety as a form of commerce: giving the gods gifts, and asking favours of them in turn (14e). Socrates presses Euthyphro to state what benefit the gods get from the gifts humans give to them. Euthyphro replies that they are not that sort of gift at all, but rather “honour, esteem and gratitude” (15a). In other words, as he admits, piety is intimately bound up with what the gods approve of. The discussion has come full circle; Euthyphro rushes off to another engagement, and Socrates faces a charge of impiety.

Can we apply any of this to our lives?

Is Socrates being helpful or not?


HOMEWORK: What is the one question you would most like answered? Do you think you will ever know the answer?


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