Essay on “For Sama”

ASSIGNMENT:  Type, double-spaced a 3-4 page paper on one of the following themes, listed below.   Papers which are less than 2 pages (or 22 lines per page) will not be accepted and will not be read.   Papers may be longer than 4 pages but should not be excessively long.  It is probably better to have a paper which is a little too long than too short, although quality is more important than quantity.
You may borrow elements from more than one theme,  if you can interconnect them in one coherent essay.   Use the questions listed below each theme as reminders of class discussions, but do not simply answer each one separately – don’t treat them as prompts.  Select some of the questions and interweave your answers to them by tying them together into one coherent essay with a thesis and an argument, in which you also apply some of the concepts of this unit to details of the movie. 
Please indicate which theme (or themes) you have selected at the top of your paper.
Your essay should contain
·       a thesis statement within an introductory paragraph;  A THESIS IS A STATEMENT OF YOUR OWN POSITION ON THE THEME THAT YOU SELECTED.  
·        a well organized body which makes a series of clear points or an argument, well-supported by details from the movie (be specific) and by discussion of some assigned readings, and which supports your thesis statement; 
·       and a conclusion which either highlights or draws together your main thoughts
·       and a bibliography of any sources that you used, including reading assignments and power points from class, and any movie reviews or other material you might have read.  THIS IS DIFFERENT FROM THE REQUIREMENT FOR PAPER #1.

Moreover, you are required to footnote or cite, using any official style such as MMA, APA, or University of Chicago stylebooks, any direct quotations from outside sources or from readings in the course or from power points in the course;  and any ideas borrowed from outside sources, even if not directly quoted.   If you don’t include citations, you have plagiarized, for which I may give you a “zero” on the assignment, with no opportunity to make up the assignment.  Serious cases of plagiarism may be pursued through higher channels of the university.  Remember, this is an ethics course, and you are expected to conduct yourself ethically.   
Do not over-rely on direct quotes from the reading we have done from class, although a couple of short quotes shows me that you tried to read the assigned material.  Try to explain the concepts in your own words and don’t take quotes out of context.
HOW TO CITE MATERIAL ASSIGNED IN THE COURSE:  Remember to cite direct quotes.  For citations from the class readings you may use brackets after the quotes, with author and page number.  [Aristotle, 6],  [File on Aristotle’s Virtues], [Classnotes], [Card, page #] [Power Points on Nel Noddings, Caring, slide #3]
You may, and sometimes need to, use “I” in a philosophy paper, especially when you are trying to distinguish your own view from that of either the characters in the movie or the philosophers, such as Aristotle or Claudia Card.

1)     THEME 1:  VIRTUES AND VICES AND THE POSSIBILITY OF EUDAIMONIA (WELL-BEING OR FLOURISHING, OFTEN TRANSLATED AS HAPPINESS):  CAN A COMMUNITY UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES OF VIOLENCE OR CIVIL WAR BE A FLOURISHING COMMUNITY, AND HOW OR HOW NOT?  DO THE MEMBERS OF SUCH A COMMUNITY STILL EXHIBIT VIRTUES AND, IF SO, WOULD THESE VIRTUES EVER CONTRIBUTE TO THE HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING OF THE COMMUNITY?  DO CHILDREN IN SUCH A COMMUNITY HAVE GOOD ROLE MODELS/MORAL EXEMPLARS  TO GROW UP EITHER VIRTUOUSLY AND/OR HAPPY AND FLOURISHING, AND HOW OR HOW NOT?
 USE ONE OR MORE OF THE ABOVE QUESTIONS IN CAPITAL LETTERS TO HELP FORMULATE A THESIS OF YOUR OWN, ON YOUR OWN POSITION IN RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION.  YOU SHOULD INCLUDE YOUR THESIS IN YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH OF YOUR PAPER, ALTHOUGH YOU ALSO NEED TO DISCUSS SOME OF THE ASSIGNED READINGS AND DETAILS FROM THE MOVIE TO SUPPORT YOUR OWN THESIS AND MAKE YOUR OWN ARGUMENT.
CONSIDER SOME (BUT NOT NECESSARILY ALL) OF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
What counts as a community and its happiness/flourishing/well being under circumstances of conflict?  Can such a community, as the one under siege in Aleppo, Syria, be happy, in the sense of “flourishing” as Aristotle understands happiness in his “virtue ethics”, or can it only struggle to survive?  How does this community under siege hold itself together?  What is important to it?  How do the parents set examples for their children?  Do the parents display virtues nonetheless, and, if so, what virtues and how?  Do any of the parents or members of the community exhibit “practical wisdom” and are they role models for their children?  Be sure to explain how Aristotle defines “moral virtue”, “the mean between the extremes” that is “relative to us”, and “happiness” – see both the text and the power points.

You should respond to these questions first from the point of view of those in the film (in light of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, especially from the point of view of the film- maker and her (eventual) husband, Hamza, but also from the point of view of the other people which form their community (perhaps including some of the children who can speak).  Therefore, it is important to include details from the movie in this paper, including some quotes, when possible.  In other words, can this community be happy, according to Aristotle’s definition of happiness? According to the members of this community, and their own conception of happiness?  According to you, taking into consideration Aristotle’s definition of happiness, as well as your own definition of happiness?  Whether or not the community is actually happy, do its members display moral virtues, and how or how not, and could these contribute to their happiness at all?
You should respond to these questions also by imagining yourself in such a situation and what your attitudes might be.  Would you leave Aleppo sooner than did these people?  Would you want to raise children under these circumstances?   Would you want to be a child under these circumstances? What virtues do you think would be important to have?  How would you be a role model for your child, under these circumstances?  How might the circumstances of violence or civil war affect what counts as the “means between the extremes” that is “relative to us”?
 In answering these questions, make sure that you clarify what Aristotle means by “community”, “happiness” and “moral virtue”, although you do not need to confine yourself to his own examples of moral virtues or his own characterizations of community and happiness.  Does Aristotle actually ever consider how a community might fare under circumstances of conflict (in his “ethics”, as addressed in the power points and reading assignments).
 
FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION:  There are also questions raised in this movie about freedom, justice, trust, the future, and leaving a place and returning to a place, upon which you may want to comment, regardless of which theme you select.  Must a community have a “place” geographically? Does Aristotle say anything about what defines a “community”?  What if it is a diasporic community (that is, people from one place who are exiled or forced to live in places other than their original homeland)?  Does the community that evacuates from Aleppo remain a community after it leaves, and how or how not?  What does the film seem to suggest?  What holds this community together, while in Aleppo, and possibly after it leaves Aleppo?  

Relevant Readings:  Aristotle (in the text), Link to file on the Mean Between the Extremes;  and power points on Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics.

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3) THEME 3: THE ROLE (OR LACK THEREOF) OF CARE:  IS IT POSSIBLE, OR IS IT DIFFICULT, TO “CARE FOR” OTHERS UNDER CONDITIONS OF VIOLENCE AND CIVIL WAR, AND HOW OR HOW NOT?  IS IT POSSIBLE, OR IS IT DIFFICULT TO “CARE ABOUT” OTHERS AND/OR ABOUT SOME CAUSE, SUCH AS “FREEDOM” OR “JUSTICE” UNDER CONDITIONS OF VIOLENCE AND CIVIL WAR, AND HOW OR HOW NOT?  DOES ONE OR THE OTHER (EITHER CARING FOR OTHER CONCRETE PEOPLE OR CARING ABOUT A MORE ABSTRACT CAUSE) BECOME MORE IMPORTANT DURING TIMES OF CONFLICT, AND, HOW OR HOW NOT?  IS TRUST NECESSARY IN ORDER TO “CARE FOR” SOMEONE, AND/OR DO WE LEARN TO TRUST OTHERS, WHEN WE HAVE BEEN CARED FOR, AND DO YOU THINK THAT NEL NODDINGS SHOULD HAVE ADDRESSED TRUST, TOO?
USE ONE OR MORE OF THE ABOVE QUESTIONS IN CAPITAL LETTERS TO HELP FORMULATE A THESIS OF YOUR OWN, ON YOUR OWN POSITION IN RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION.  YOU SHOULD INCLUDE YOUR THESIS IN YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH OF YOUR PAPER, ALTHOUGH YOU ALSO NEED TO DISCUSS SOME OF THE ASSIGNED READINGS AND DETAILS FROM THE MOVIE TO SUPPORT YOUR OWN THESIS AND MAKE YOUR OWN ARGUMENT.
CONSIDER SOME, BUT NOT NECESSARILY ALL, OF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
            How did, or didn’t, various members of this community in Syria “care for” each other?  Did they also “care about” some causes, such as “freedom” and/or “justice” in Syria?  What is the difference between “caring for” and “caring about” people and/or a cause or a thing, according to Nel Noddings?  Do you agree with her distinction and do you think it applies to this movie?  Clarify how Nel Noddings  treats “care” as an active virtue, and what she means by “one-caring”, “natural caring” and “ethical caring”, as well as one’s ideal of an “ethical self” and the best version of one’s self.  In what ways did each of these play, or not play, a role in this film, with various people in this community.
            If you focus on Noddings on care, you might also address whether she discusses or implies any sort of vices, and, if so, what would they be? Does virtue ethics sufficiently deal with the varieties of evil?  In other words, does Noddings take into account “bad” people or, at least, “bad” character traits?  Are people who claim that they only “care for themselves” or who deliberately confine themselves to very few relationships in order to avoid “caring for” others, “bad” people or are they simply not living up to an ideal of an “ethical self” or don’t have a image of “the best version of their self”?  Do you think that it is important to have an “ethical self” or an image of “the best version of your self”, and how or how not?  Would Aristotle agree with this, if not necessarily in the same way as Nel Noddings?
            Did members of this community in Syria trust each other, and, if so, how?  Did they trust the Syrian government and how or how not?  Is there anything or anyone upon which they relied, in a way that did not include trust, and, If so, how?  Does trust make them vulnerable, and, if so, to whom?  Was their trust ever betrayed?   We did not read any articles on this theme, so only include this, if you can connect it to a discussion of care – does caring help the cared for become more trusting?  Does caring help the cared for feel, or become, less vulnerable?  Does any of this happen in the video?
Relevant Readings:  Both readings by Nel Noddings on Care – one in the text, and one for which a link has been provided as an alternative excerpt from Nel Noddings’ book; and power points on Nel Noddings on Care, based on the latter excerpt.  
 
 
 
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