In your journal entry, your aim is to use this process to explore your own thought on the problem of knowledge and certainty after thinking through the material in Chapter 5 of our textbook. Thus, for step 1, you are to explain your position on the most certain source of knowledge. Is it from sense data (empiricism) as Aristotle believed? Or is it reason (rationalism) as Plato and Descartes believed? You must state which of the theories we examined you believe to be correct (empiricism or rationalism). You must incorporate the arguments, evidence, and ideas that we’ve explored in the modules to support your view (in Step 6). For Step 7, you should consider what the “other side” believes (for example, if you are defending empiricism, consider in this section the objections that a rationalist might give). Make sure that steps 6 and 7 include plenty of material from the chapter to show that you’ve considered the material and thinkers we’ve considered in developing your viewpoint.

Journal Topic and Assignment

This journal assignment corresponds with Chapter 5 of the textbook, but you may also wish to consult your guided notes, module activities, and discussion board posts from modules 8 and 9 as you write this journal entry. This journal entry will follow the ‘Process of Critical Thinking’ that you used to discuss the problem of human freedom in the last unit. If you need to review the process, you may consult section 1.3 of the textbook (and specifically pages 12-15). You’ll remember these steps of the process (below). Please pay attention to the notes I have added and highlighted below.

  1. State your initial point of view.
  2. Define your point of view more clearly.
  3. Give an example of your point of view.
  4. Explore the origin of your point of view.
  5. Identify your assumptions.
  6. Offer the reasons, evidence, and arguments that support your point of view. [this should be a very well-developed, and very thorough section of your journal entry and you should use arguments and evidence that we’ve worked through in the modules] 
  7. Consider other points of view. [Note: this means counter-arguments to your position. This should be a very well-developed, and very thorough section of your journal entry and you should use arguments and evidence that we’ve worked through in the modules] 
  8. Arrive at a conclusion, decision, solution, or prediction.
  9. Consider the consequences.

 

EXAMPLE (DO NOT COPY):

  1. State your initial point of view.
    • I believe that people are capable of choosing freely because when I am faced with choosing among a number of possibilities, I really have the feeling that it is up to me to make the choice that I want to.
  2. Define your point of view more clearly.
    • From my point of view, the concept of “choosing freely” means that when you are faced with a number of alternatives, you are able to make your selection based solely on what you decide, not because you are being forced by other influences.
  3. Give an example of your point of view.
    • An example of a free choice I made was deciding what area to major in. There are a number of career directions I could have chosen, but I chose my major entirely on my own, without being forced by other influences.
  4. Explore the origin of your point of view.
    • I used to believe that everything happened because it had to, because it was determined. Then, when I was in high school, I got involved with the “wrong crowd” and developed some bad habits. I stopped doing schoolwork and even stopped attending most classes. I was on the brink of failing when I suddenly came to my senses and said to myself, “This isn’t what I want for my life.” Through sheer willpower, I turned everything around. I changed my friends, improved my habits, and ultimately graduated with flying colors. From that time on I knew that I had the power of free choice and that it was up to me to make the right choices.
  5. Identify your assumptions.
    • When I say that I believe in free choice, I am assuming that people are often presented with different alternatives to choose from, and I am also assuming that they are able to select freely any of these alternatives independent of any influences
  6. Offer the reasons, evidence, and arguments that support your point of view. [this should be a very well-developed, and very thorough section of your journal entry and you should use arguments and evidence that we’ve worked through in the modules] 
    • Our society is based on the possibility of free choice. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to hold people responsible for their choices and the consequences of these choices. But we do hold people responsible, suggesting that the reality of free choice is an integral part of how humans see themselves.
  7. Consider other points of view. [Note: this means counter-arguments to your position. This should be a very well-developed, and very thorough section of your journal entry and you should use arguments and evidence that we’ve worked through in the modules] 
    • Another point of view on this issue might be that our choices are influenced by people around us, although we may not be fully aware of it. For example, we may go along with a group decision of our friends, mistakenly thinking that we are making an independent choice. Or in a more general way, our ways of thinking may have been conditioned by our family and culture over time, so that while we think we’re making free choices, we’re really not
  8. Arrive at a conclusion, decision, solution, or prediction.
    • After examining different points of view and critically evaluating the reasons, evidence, and arguments that support the various perspectives, my conclusion about free choice is that we are capable of making free choices but that our freedom is sometimes limited. For example, many of our actions are conditioned by our past experiences, and we are often influenced by other people without being aware of it. To make free choices, we need to become aware of these influences and then decide what course of action we want to choose. As long as we are unaware of these influences, they can limit our ability to make free, independent choices.
  9. Consider the consequences.
    • The consequences of believing in free choice involve increasing personal responsibility and showing people how to increase their freedom. The first consequence is that if people are able to make free choices, then they are responsible for the results of their choices. They can’t blame other people, bad luck, or events “beyond their control.” They have to accept responsibility. The second consequence is that although our freedom can be limited by influences of which we are unaware, we can increase our freedom by becoming aware of these influences and then deciding what we want to do. On the other hand, if people are not able to make free choices, then they are not responsible for what they do, nor are they able to increase their freedom. This could lead people to adopt an attitude of resignation and apathy

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