It's all about BALANCE.

"For me, when I say spiritual, I’m referring to a feeling you would have that connects you to the universe 

in a way that it may defy simple vocabulary. We think about the universe as an intellectual playground, 

which it surely is, but the moment you learn something that touches an emotion rather than just something intellectual, 

I would call that a spiritual encounter with the universe." 

–Neil deGrasse Tyson, American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium (NYC)


Janelle Monáe's "Tightrope" 

Listen to Janelle Monáe talk about this song here.


"The Examined Life": with Martha Nussbaum

"World Religions: Confucianism": with Stephen Prothero

Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism in China 

Two short video reviews: Aristotle's Nicomachean EthicsBook I and Book II 

Seneca on Angerwith Alain de Botton

Ethics philosophy is a discipline within the humanities. It studies the values and behaviors of

individuals and their societies, and concerns itself with the conduct of the individual self and the

self as a member of a community. 

Ethics in a stricter sense is concerned with the pursuit of one's personal happiness and well-being,

whereas morality has to do with the interests and needs of our fellow human beings. Since human beings are

social beings and tend to live within communities, private interests and the common good are sometimes in


Over the course of this rubric, we look at several ancient concepts of ethics and morality that propose ways

of achieving harmony within the self, and between the self and community. 


1. What are the basic necessities of life? (e.g. water, food)

2. What does it mean to flourish as a human being, that is, what do human beings need beyond the basic necessities of

    life? What do you personally need beyond the basic necessities of life?

"to flourish" = "to grow or develop in a healthy way, especially as the result of a favorable environment"
                      synonyms: to thrive, to prosper, to do well

3. Name several reasons why human beings live in societies (instead of in isolation).

4. Identify characteristics of a society that promotes the well-being of its citizens.

5. What do you as an individual expect to contribute to the society in which you live?

Questions for the Book of the Dead, Ma'at, and the Negative Confession  

1. What was the main purpose of a Book of the Dead?

2. Who was Ma'at? What concept did she represent?

3. What was the significance of the weighing of the

    heart ceremony?

4. According to the Negative Confession, what kinds of 

    actions did the Egyptians consider inappropriate?

5. Which point(s) of the Negative Confession do you

   find most important to maintaining harmony within

   a community?

6. How does the code outlined in the Negative

   Confession compare to contemporary codes of

   morality with which you are familiar? 

7. Choose 3 of the confessions and re-write them as 

   positives instead of negatives. 

42-divine-principles-Maat.pdf 42-divine-principles-Maat.pdf
Size : 60.266 Kb
Type : pdf

Below: Ma'at

from Hierakonpolis, Egypt, Predynastic, c. 3000-2920 B.C.E., slate, 2′ 1″ high (Egyptian Museum, Cairo)

Questions for the Confucian Analects

1. According to Book IV of the Analects, what characterizes the "gentleman" or "superior man" (junzi)?

2. Identify specific passages from your reading to respond to the following points:

How does the junzi see himself? 

How does the junzi treat others? 

How does the junzi treat his parents? 

Compose a brief statement summarizing how the junzi interacts with fellow human beings.

3. Try to identify a modern American English term that captures the essence of junzi. 

4. Explain the meaning of this Confucian analect: "Zigong asked, 'Is there one word that one can act upon 

   throughout the course of one’s life?'  The Master said, 'Reciprocity (shu)—what you would not want for yourself, do not do 

   to others.'” [15:23]

5. Identify similarities and differences between this code of conduct, the ancient Egyptian concept of Ma'at, and Aristotle's 

   Golden Mean.

Questions for Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and the Golden Mean

1. According to Aristotle, what are the two kinds of virtue (excellence)?

2. According to Aristotle, how does one acquire intellectual virtue (excellence)?

3. According to Aristotle, how does one acquire moral virtue (excellence)? 

4. Aristotle states that virtue (excellence) is something we learn by doing. What does this mean? 

   How is becoming an excellent person similar to becoming an excellent musician?

5. Think of a situation in everyday life that requires a choice of action. Identify the two extremes and the mean (the

    intermediate or middle ground). Explore how that mean can change.

6. Identify a vice that has no opposing virtue. 

7. Identify similarities between Aristotle's concept of virtue, the ancient Egyptian concept of Ma'at, and the Confucian

   concept of reciprocity. What differences do you see?

According to Aristotle:

Happiness (human flourishing) is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence.

Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.

Happiness is a goal and not a temporary state.

Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since human beings are rational animals, human happiness depends on the exercise of reason.

Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.

Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our rational capacities.

Questions for Stoicism

1. The Stoics maintain that excellence of character (virtue) is the only thing in life of real value. What does this mean?

2. According to the Stoics, what can lead us toward a flourishing life?

3. What do the Stoics say about "externals" such as power, monetary wealth, success, etc.?

4. What is the primary criticism Stoics make about emotions?

5. Is Stoic philosophy anchored in the past, the present, or the future? Explain.

Notable ancient Stoics you may want to explore: 

Zeno of Citium (Cyprus)

Epictetus (Greece) 

Seneca* (Rome)

Marcus Aurelius* (Rome)

*Two viewing requirements for this rubric present ideas from Seneca and Marcus Aurelius: Stoicism - Meditations by Marcus Aurelius 

and Seneca on Angerwith Alain de Botton.


1. Recognize the difference between what’s under my control and what isn’t under my control, and don’t worry about

   what isn’t under my control (because it isn’t under my control!). Focus on my reactions, because I can control those

   with my mind. Don’t attach my identify or happiness to the uncontrollable: externals such as my body, possessions,

   reputation, death.

2. Be content – but not passive – with what I have, rather than constantly seeking to fulfill new desires. Work hard to

   make the world a better place, but don’t base my happiness on the results. The results are beyond my control. My

   efforts are within my control. In short: Live in harmony with the universe: conform my desires to reality, rather than

   try to conform reality to my desires. This will lead to peace of mind, happiness, and virtue.

Epictetus: “Don’t demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen as they do happen, and you

will go on well.” (Enchiridion, 8)

3. Understand my emotions. Don’t repress or assent to all emotions. Master my emotions with my mind (my capacity to

   think rationally). Understand that most destructive emotions are based on false beliefs or unrealistic expectations

  (most emotions are errors in judgement). Think about the emotion I’m experiencing before assenting to it. Think

  about the thinking that created the emotion.

Epictetus: “Men are disturbed, not by things, but by the principles and notions which they form concerning

things.” (Enchiridion, 5)

4. Do what’s right no matter the cost, and don’t complain about it. I only control my own mind, so take care of it by

   living with integrity. Do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing, not because it brings about happiness or

   reward, not because it’s in my short or long term self-interest. Create habits of thought that are realistic (Stoic virtue

   is a form of training). Focus on acting from a good motive.

Marcus Aurelius: “An emerald shines even if it is not spoken of.”

5. Understand that events themselves are not problematic; it’s my thinking about them as problematic that makes them

   problematic. Adjust my beliefs and expectations to fit reality: prepare my mind so I don’t lose it!

6. Live with compassion and respect for human rights (we’re all connected).

7. Cultivate right thinking through daily activities like meditation, contemplation, reflecting, journaling, etc. 

8. Understand that what is external (outside the mind) is determined, and remember that I have the inner freedom to

   choose my attitude towards external, determined events. Cultivate a more forgiving attitude towards others because

   they are controlled by forces beyond their understanding.

9. Be calm in the face of adversity. Remain disciplined by using my mind (not pleasure or pain) to guide my behavior.

10. Stop whining: turn adversity into advantage. Think of ways I can fail, then consider how can I turn those failures

     into something good.


1. Study the following expressions of the rule of reciprocity, then identify why this concept is so commonly found in

   multiple cultures and belief systems.

Aristotle wrote, “We should behave to our friends as we wish our friends to behave to us.”

The Hindu holy book Mahabharata says, “Do nothing to thy neighbor which thou wouldst not have him do to thee."

Islamic Traditions says, “No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

The Buddhist Udanavarga prescribes, “Hurt not others with that which pains thyself.”

In Jewish literature, the Apocrypha reads, “And what you hate, do not do to anyone.”

Matthew 7:12 of the Christian Bible says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

2. Imagine that you and your group members are planning to establish a new community. Identify the five

    most important guidelines or rules that you would immediately set down to encourage a just and 
    flourishing community. 


Read the Constitution of the United States online: here or here

The Examined Life series:
     Martha Nussbaum here
     Cornel West here
     Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor here
Martha Nussbaum and Bill Moyers: "The Fragility of Goodness" here

Animated short Trial by Feather

Ancient Egyptian deities and demons here

You Tubes about Plato's allegory: here and here

"Pagan Ideas: Plato, Aristotle, and Stoicism": short lecture by Ryan Reeves

Reading of Sophocles' 2,400 year-old play Philoctetes

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Stoic Ethics

Philosophy professor Gregory Sadler on Epictetus and the Enchiridion

The Philosophers' Mail:  "The Philosophers' Guide to Calm, Part 1"

                                        "The Philosophers' Guide to Calm, Part 2"

                                        "The Philosophers' Guide to Calm, Part 3"

An Animated Introduction to French Philosopher Jacques Derrida 

Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton's website 

The complete text of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics here 

Aristotle on human flourishing here

Do we invent or discover morality? here

The Best Human Life: On Aristotle's Ethics here

Confucius Humanitarianism (in English and Korean) here

Confucius Humanitarianism (in English and Korean)

Confucius (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Translation of Confucian Analects here

"Can Confucianism Save the World? Reflections by Three Contemporary Political Thinkers"  

Monty Python's "The Philosophers' Football Match"

Epicurus' cure for unhappiness, by Dr. Monte Ransome Johnson, here 

University of Washington synopsis of Plato's allegory of the cave here

Princeton University synopsis here

The full text of Plato's Republic is available here (Project Gutenberg)

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Baruch Spinoza here

Gottfried Leibniz explains Seneca

The full text of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man here

Audiobook of Invisible Man here

"A Chinese Tribe that Empowers Women": You Tube about the matriarchal society of the Mouse

Make a free website with Yola