1. What are some of the similarities among The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, andGenesis (the portions included in our textbook)?
A key similarity between these three texts is the emphasis placed on trials and quests as a means of testing character, endurance, and faith. For example, Gilgamesh’s quest to find Utnapishtim, Odysseus’ quest to return home, and the quests endured by the sons of Israel in Genesis all test the characters who undertake them, forcing them to prove their dedication to their goals and promises. Also shared between the texts is the theme of male friendship and loyalty, with characters such as Enkidu, Telemachus, and Jacob all representing patriarchal authority and solidarity between male companions and family members.
2. What are some of the similarities (and differences) appearing in Agamemnon, Antigone, and the Ramayana (Book 6), particularly as shown in the attitudes toward tradition, individual suffering, and honor?
The greatest similarity between these three texts is the emphasis placed in all three on women as the catalysts of both honour and individual suffering. Antigone, Helen and Sita are all women with strong ideals and principles, who challenge patriarchal traditions and inspire men to act honourably through their own submission to individual suffering. Unlike Helen and Sita, however, who are portrayed as chaste and feminine, Antigone is portrayed as a troublemaker and destroyer of peace by the chorus who frame the play. Her devotion to her principles is shown as misguided, whereas the destruction caused by Sita and Helen is lauded as just as necessary.
3. Why study philosophy (with particular emphasis on writings by Aristotle and the Buddha)?
Both the writings of Aristotle and the Buddha suggest that as an alternative to conflict and aggressive interactions, philosophy offers non-violent models for problem-solving within human society. Aristotle’s (Plato’s) allegory of the cave, for example, demonstrates how philosophy can allow an individual to see past the limitations of a particular society, to see truth and reason in place of prejudice and petty lies. Philosophy emphasises a questioning attitude towards the norms and assumptions of society; by encouraging a multiplicity of perspectives and a critical attitude towards life, philosophy allows an individual to explore solutions to the issues challenging modern society.
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