Friday, January 26, 2018


“Face transplants expose deep held prejudices about identity and wellbeing. Are these ideas ripe for a radical rethink?”
By: Sharrona  Pearl
Level of difficulty: ***
·         Man with a transplanted face is living a normal life
·         Face transplant patient goes public
·         Face transplant recipient – “My brother’s keeper”
1.       What would have been the logical second step after the successful hand transplant?
2.       The above implies that: mark as many as apply
·         Doctors felt confident they could perform the surgery
·         Doctors had the expertise to perform the surgery
·         Doctors had the know-how to perform the surgery
·         Doctors felt ready to perform the surgery
3.       What was the reason for the public outcry following the face transplant?
4.       Which phrase best summarizes the paragraph beginning “Public outcry…”?
5.       Dinoire was not considered the best candidate by the public because they felt she was:
·         Undeserving
·         Disturbed
·         Frightened
·         Unethical
6.       The public outcry following Dinoire’s surgery necessitated ……………..before Connie Culp’s surgery could take place.
7.       Read the two paragraphs beginning “Except not exactly” and “To be absolutely clear…”Where would you place the following:
·         In fact, it transpired that it wasn’t
·         And as such, caused them to die of cancer
8.       A grammar question: replace “But even this is tricky…” with a full sentence with no pronouns.
9.       What conclusion can be drawn from the paragraph beginning “They led better lives…”?
10.   The cases of Culp and Sandness both prove that for the recipients of new faces…………….is vital for their future.
11.   We understand from James Maki’s story that one major fear concerning face transplants is that…
12.   It is stated in the text that face transplants could transform the way we think about the face and what lies beneath. How could face transplants succeed in doing this?
13.   Face transplants can never replace traditional plastic surgery because…
14.   The purpose of makeovers seems to be to try and correct…..However, the increased emphasis on makeovers also means that people are over concerned about …..
15.   Cosmetic surgery differs from face transplants in that in the latter…
16.   The writer criticizes public attitudes to face transplants because society seems reluctant to…
17.   We understand from the case of Dinoire that ……………….was not the real issue. It was the fear that………….
18.   What does “this fate” in the phrase “To avoid this fate,…” refer to?
19.   The writer’s major criticism of society is that…
Use all you have read and watched to write an essay discussing the personal and public implications of face transplants.
This text covers the perceived relationship between the face and identity through the medium of face transplants. As such, it is a very original way of exploring the issue. I personally found it riveting but a word of warning: there is a lot of philosophy along with actual cases of face transplants.
1.       Performing a face transplant
2.       All four
3.       The manipulation of something held to be fundamental to individual identity / OR: Manipulating the face not just by changing it but by using the face of another person entirely
4.       The objections to the surgery were rooted in feelings not facts (It would be wrong to include the rest because it is a flash forward)
5.       Disturbed (meaning she had psychological problems or mental issues)
6.       Careful advanced PR, articles in both surgical and bioethical literature
7.       The first one goes at the end of the first paragraph you read and the second goes after “made relatively healthy people sick”.
8.       Considering potential recipients who haven’t had the surgery well is tricky
9.       The face transplant becomes a way to make people better by making them more palatable in public.
10.   The ability to lead a public life free from being labeled monstrous
11.   Face transplant recipients wouldn’t be individuals, would not have a sense of identity, would not be their own unique people
12.   They have the potential to lay bare the way in which a person’s facial features, skin color and disfigurement lie on the surface and don’t have to be directly correlated to the person’s depth.
13.   It is impractical for recipients to choose their faces given the expense, the scarcity of donors, the anti-rejection regimes and of course final outcome.
14.   The mismatch between people’s current appearance and who they are inside / Appearance
15.   How the donor looks is simply not part of the equation  (This is enough)
16.   New ways of conceiving of identity as being rooted in something other than facial features and how they appear
17.   Her personal story / messing with faces means messing with minds
18.   Facelessness

19.   It doesn’t have a more generous sense of acceptable appearance 

Monday, January 15, 2018


“Among Flipino hunter gatherers, storytelling is valued more than any other skill, and the best story tellers have the most children”
By: Ed Yong
Level of Difficulty: *
·         Oral Tradition of Storytelling: Definition, History & Examples
·         Written & Oral Traditions in Africa (500-1800 CE)
1.       The story of the Sun and Moon is an example of a story which…
2.       Storytelling is so widespread and has been around for so long that it can be considered …
3.       The social function of storytelling is emphasized by the fact that…
4.       Migliano included storytelling among her criteria because she thought it would be…
5.       What was surprising about the result of the experiment?
6.       Read the examples of the Agda’s stories. What do they have in common? They emphasize…
7.       The Agda depend on stories rather than religion to guarantee pro social behavior because…
8.       What does “That” refer to in the phrase “That’s just a correlation…”? The fact that…
9.       We can accept that storytelling is an important human adaptation not because it serves a social purpose but because….
10.   How did Migliano know that the subjects were being honest during the survey?
11.   The fact that storytelling…………….is the social benefit of this custom
12.   The examples provided in the paragraph beginning “For example…” all prove that…
13.   The example of the Maya speaking people proves that…
Write an essay in which you discuss the role of storytelling in society.
This straight forward text provides a good introduction to deep reading and inferential questions. The questions are varied and an attempt has been made to cover various cognitive skills.
1.       Is influenced with a theme of cooperation and equality (There is a grammar mistake in this text: the preposition should be by not with)
2.       An important human adaptation
3.       Stories arose partly as a way of cementing social bonds, and instilling an ethic of cooperation.
4.       An interesting contrast against the other esteemed skills
5.       Storytelling acumen mattered far more than all other skills (The following sentence would do so long as it were replaced with storytelling)
6.       Cooperation, egalitarianism and gender equality
7.       They are a small community
8.       Sharing was more likely in camps with a higher proportion of good story tellers
9.       It benefits people who are good at it
10.   They didn’t nominate the same people as exceptional hunter gatherers, child minders and so on
11.   Reinforces norms and ethics
12.   Hunter gatherers use their tales to pass down information about food, weather and more
13.   Our wonderfully human universal of loving stories can also become an all too human vulnerability, fostering enmity as readily as amicable relations

Saturday, January 13, 2018


By: Abeba Birhane
Level of difficulty: ** This is a philosophy text and as such it is in a different category from other texts. Don’t make it the first level two you do.
The text you are going to read is a philosophy text. This being the case, it is vital that you prepare properly. In short, don’t skip the videos.
·         PHILOSOPHY - History: Descartes' Cogito Argument [HD]
·         I Am Because We Are: The Spirit of UBUNTU | Max Quinn | TEDxBSU
·         Hubert Hermans' summary of the Dialogical Self
Use the icon to the left of the screen to listen to the text. Be sure to read along, highlight important points and use the margins to take notes. Here I am assuming you are working with a printout, the most efficient way to work.
1.       In what fundamental way does Ubuntu philosophy differ from Western thought?
2.       What conclusion can be drawn from the examples provided in paragraph two?
3.       The reason the Ubuntu philosophy doesn’t sit well with the way we perceive ourselves is………….
4.       The views of Descartes, which are summarized in paragraph four, are collectively called….
5.       What was Descartes’ purpose in formulating his philosophy?
6.       Read the account and analysis of the case of Kitty Genovese. The purpose of the writer in citing this example is to draw attention to a contradiction. State clearly what it is. Begin as follows: Although…
7.       LatenĂ© and Darley might have come up with a different explanation for the events that took place on the night Kitty Genovese died if they had taken …..into account.
8.       Bakhtin’s purpose in formulating his philosophy was to see if he could ….
9.       Bakhtin reached the ultimate conclusion that…
10.   The effects of solitary confine seem to prove that Descartes / Bakhtin / Piaget /Freund was / were wrong.
11.   The purpose of solitary confinement was ….but it failed miserably because lacking human relationships and the give and take that goes with it….
The text ends with the following words: There is a Zulu phrase, ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ which means ‘A person is a person through other persons’. This is a richer and better account, than ‘I think, therefore I am’. Write an essay in which you discuss to what extent you agree.
This straightforward yet profound text tackles a problem that has long occupied the thoughts of thinkers worldwide: what makes us who we are? In doing so it challenges the Cartesian cogito and introduces us to a very different answer to the question. The whole text is a brilliantly written persuasive essay on the issue. The writing task I have provided is designed to bring everything together and should not be timed.
1.       People are born without ‘ena’ or selfhood and instead must acquire it through interactions and experiences over time.
2.       A person is partly forged in the crucible of community.
3.       The philosophy of RenĂ© Descartes
4.       The Cartesian cogito
5.       To find a stable point of view from which to look on the world without relying on God created wisdoms (This is the minimum you need. Your clue is the semi colon.)
6.       Social psychology purports to examine the relationship between cognition and society, a collective of Cartesian subjects are the real focus of the enquiry.
7.       Vital contextual information
8.       Reconcile the relational world embracing version of the self and the autonomous inward one
9.       Truth is born between the people collectively searching for the truth in their process of their dialectic interaction
10.   Descartes and Piaget

11.   To turn the prisoner’s thoughts inward , to prompt her to reflect on her crimes, and eventually help her return to society as a morally cleansed citizen / a person risks disappearing into non-existence

Thursday, January 11, 2018


By: Andrew Taggart
Level of Difficulty: ***
·         How working too much can actually kill you  
·         Working long hours could be bad for your heart
Access the text online. You will see the icon which will enable you to listen to the text on the left of your screen. Listen and read along underlining topic sentences, concluding statements and the like.
1.       Why would the many worlds disappear completely from the cultural record?
2.       The phrase “this census” refers to something which is partly implied and partly stated. State clearly what the phrase refers to?
3.       Which of the following statements could be placed at the end of the second paragraph to form the concluding statement?
·         Everybody would love work above all else
·         Everybody would see work as the end all and be all of life
·         Everybody would think, sound and act as if they loved work
·         Everybody would derive great happiness from working 24/7
4.       We understand from the third paragraph that every human activity, whatever its nature, would
·         Lead to total work
·         Be regarded as total work
·         Be conducive to total work
·         Serve total work
·         Result in total work
5.       Look back at the three paragraphs you have read. Where would you place the following statement: Our modern world has become one where the ethos of hard work is deemed the only way to achieve success? Would you need to make any adjustments?
6.       How do we know that the nightmarish scenario described in “Leisure: the basis of culture” has come true?
7.       Read the paragraph beginning “For unlike…” The victim of the ethos of total work could best be likened to an idiot / a madman / a robot / an agent / a machine / a worker. Mark as many as fit.
8.       We understand from the text that people caught up in the ethos of total work probably constantly feel trapped/ guilty / angry / thoughtful / powerless / stressed. Mark as many as appropriate.
9.       What is the worst effect on people of a world where total work dominates people’s lives?
10.   What feature of life dominated by total work makes it impossible to experience meaning?
The text criticizes what the world is becoming underscores what it is doing to us. Write an essay in which you discuss the effects of total work. Remember to provide examples from modern life.
This brilliant text describes the dystopia we are in the process of creating for ourselves and pictures the nightmarish world we may end up living in. Paralels could be drawn to Brave New World if the students have read the book. It is a relatively short text but quite sophisticated and packed with ideas.
1.       Because work would be the center around which the rest of life turned
2.       The census to determine who is pre-employed, employed, post employed, underemployed or unemployed
3.       The second
4.       The fourth
5.       At the beginning of the first paragraph. You would need to delete the word “Imagine” and change the hypotheticals.
6.       Work has come to control people’s lives making their world into a task, their thoughts an unspoken burden
7.       Robot, machine
8.       Guilty, stressed
9.       It is empirically impossible from within this mode of being to experience things completely.
10.   There is no silence, stillness, a wholehearted willingness to simply apprehend

Monday, January 8, 2018


“The discovery of independent life beyond Earth would have deep philosophical implications for us, and our ideas of morality.”
By: Tim Mulgan
Level of Difficulty: ****

·         Normative and Non-Normative Ethics

1.       What is the purpose of the first paragraph?
2.       Imagine the second sentence of the second paragraph went as follows: ‘This is hard to justify because…’. What phrase in the remainder of the paragraph would you use to complete the sentence?
3.       What conclusion would we draw as human beings if we discovered life was widespread throughout the galaxy? We would draw the conclusion that…
4.       Read the explanation of normative non-naturalism to the end. According to this explanation, it would make sense for moral absolutes to exist if…
5.       Assuming that life is ubiquitous, there remain two reasons why we don’t seem to know about it: either…………or……………..
6.       Read the examples of the various Wontian solutions. What is the common problem with them? They assume that…but this is not credible because it is hard to believe that…
7.       According to the text, the only way to justify the view that not all intelligent species are out to conquer the world is:
·         To assume that they have selected a different path
·         To assume that they are responding to natural normative facts
·         To assume that from a certain point onwards, rational thought prevails
·         To assume that widely accepted principles of good and bad exert a stronger pull factor
·         To assume that it is mandatory to discover universal motivations to manipulate them
8.       What is the major argument against the above view?
9.       Kantianism on its own cannot adequately explain the Ferni Paradox because:
·         Living beings follow intrinsically motivating values
·         There are countless motivating factors governing behavior
·         Objective values are part and parcel of the universe
·         Many varied life forms cherish the same universal values
10.   Why are Theism and Kantian non-naturalism mutually supporting?
11.   Read the paragraph beginning “Theism and Kantian non-naturalism are…” to the end. The conclusion we can draw from this paragraph is that…
12.   What traditional attitude to man may need to be reconsidered if life turns out to be ubiquitous?
13.   Theists feel a ubiquitous universe would not create a problem because of the belief that…
14.   Theists also argue that “we must be essential to God’s plan” because we are best qualified to…
15.   Read the last four paragraphs of the text. Which sentence in the paragraph beginning “The discovery…” would best qualify the last sentence?
16.   What does “it” refer to in the last sentence of the text?
Use all the information you have acquired to write about which view put forward in the text you agree with and why. Remember to justify your opinion and refute counter arguments
This is one of the hardest philosophy texts on this blog conceptually and as such should only be attempted with advanced students with an interest in the topic. Having said that, once you get in to it, it is riveting and should lead to some lively discussion.  
1.       Possible answer: To introduce the issues that are going to be discussed
2.       God or nature does nothing in vain, and therefore such a vast cosmos could not be home to only one small race of rational beings
3.       While the universe does have a purpose, human beings are irrelevant to that purpose
4.       Life were ubiquitous
5.       Promising species inevitably destroy themselves or encounter resource constraints before they can conquer the stars OR every intelligent species who could conquer the stars chooses not to.
6.       Wontian motivations are universal/ Every intelligent species would eschew reality
7.       4
8.       Beings no more sophisticated than ourselves armed with current technologies such as radio waves and nuclear weapons surely could attract the attention of very distant observers.
9.       2
10.   Because aliens who discover why the universe exists will abandon their previous inclinations and embrace the purpose of God
11.   Our universe is religiously ambiguous
12.   The cosmic uniqueness of human beings
13.   God has infinite love for every individual creature
14.   Explain the regular, intelligible mathematical laws this universe is governed by
15.   The second one
16.   The fact that all advanced civilizations are Wontians

Friday, January 5, 2018


Cannabis is gradually being decriminalized around the world. In Uruguay, it is completely legal; in the USA, various states, like California, are in the process of legalizing it but are they right to do so or are they taking the wrong approach? Is it the thin edge of the wedge, a slippery slope or was it long overdue? Do your research and decide. When you are ready, write an essay in which you state your opinion, justify it and refute counter arguments.
Legal where:
·         Where in the world is marijuana legal?  
Familiarize yourself with the issue:
·         Should cannabis be legal?
·         Arguments for and against legalizing cannabis
Reading material to make notes on
·         Should the UK legalize cannabis?
·         Legalization of cannabis 'only solution to crime and addiction problems'
Videos to watch and take notes from

·         Smoking Marijuana: The Long Term Effects

·         Cannabis and the brain  

Refer to my second blog, The Essay Archive, for sample essays:


By: Mark Kukis
Level of Difficulty: **
·          Paradoxes of war Watch all the little videos in the lesson.
1.       Read the first sentence (the topic sentence) of the first paragraph. Which sentence in the first paragraph best qualifies it?
2.       Read the second paragraph of the text carefully. Where else could the following be placed: “Waging war was one of their reasons for being”?
3.       Read the third paragraph. According to what you have learnt about essay writing, what is wrong with the organization?
4.       The Iraq – Iran war was an example of a war which delivered…
5.       Read the paragraph beginning “Since the Iran – Iraq war…”. What conclusion can be drawn from the examples listed?
6.       The existence of ….. make(s) wars in the historical sense hard in the 20th century; the fact that….makes them unnecessary.
7.       The Myanmar governments crushing of the Rohingya is an example of…
8.       Sukarno is an example of a leader with….
9.       Nation building is not a glamorous, romantic or heroic process it involves…
This short text is a comparison of the purposes of wars past and wars present. It is concise, to the point and very well argued. It should lead to an equally tidy writing task.
1.       Attackers and defenders alike had to marshal resources, make plans and build trust among one another in order to fight effectively.
2.       Right at the end as a concluding statement.
3.       This is roughly what you need to say: There are two different ideas in the paragraph. The topic sentence covers one only. The second, the aftermath of wars emerges suddenly out of the blue in the second half of the paragraph.
4.       Legitimacy and cohesion
5.       Armed conflict, whatever its origins and outcomes, tends to be a scaring interruption to the progress of societies, setting back development and darkening prospects.
6.       Norms of international politics / many of the gains that used to require territorial conquest can now be achieved through capturing market shares, election rigging and military intrigue
7.       An ethnically driven conflict that has fallen into disrepute and is likely to draw accusations of war crimes
8.       Big ideas and revolutionary ideology; OR forceful ideas
9.       The violence of internal repression and external conflict