Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prompts on Darwin and Abbey, Week 1

  1. Much of the chapter “Rocks” in Desert Solitaire is dedicated to telling an extended story about a family. Operating under the assumption that this story, although it reads like fiction, actually has an argument, present a detailed argument demonstrating what the argument of “Rocks” is (something as simple as "The argument of 'Rocks' is [x]" would be a fine thesis). Note: some of you might not think it has an argument. That’s totally fine. Pick another prompt! You should use evidence both from “Rocks” and from other places in the book - that is, you should use other parts of the book to help show us what “Rocks” means.
  2. Abbey and Darwin have a great deal to say about snakes and insects. Abbey writes: “I have personal convictions to uphold. Ideals, you might say. I prefer not to kill animals. I’m a humanist; I’d rather kill a man than a snake (20).” Darwin writes that “pitying the wasp [which was caught in a spider’s web] … I killed it and put it back into the web.” I want you to go find some insects, and write an essay about them, in which you either use Darwin and/or Abbey to make a point about the insects, or in which you use your insects to make a point about Darwin and/or Abbey. The details of the argument are up to you.
  3. Edward Abbey nearly got a Ph.D. in philosophy. This observation is an introduction to the following two questions.
    1. In “The Serpents of Paradise,” Abbey ends by arguing that “All men are brothers, we like to say, half-wishing sometimes in secret it were not true. But perhaps it is true. And is the evolutionary line from protozoan to Spinoza any less certain? That also may be true. We are obliged, therefore, to spread the news, painful and bitter though it may be for some to hear, that all living things on earth are kindred” (25). In this passage, why does Abbey pick Spinoza rather than any other random human being as his example of humanity, and how does it help us understand the rest of the text? Answering this question will required some basic research on Spinoza as well as reading at least a few pages of one of Spinoza’s major works.
    2. In “The First Morning” Abbey writes: “I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description.” Look up who Kant is, familiarize yourself with the basics, and then read a few pages of either The Critique of Pure Reason or Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. The point here isn’t to master Kant: the point here is, first, to be able to explain what Abbey means by “Anti-Kantian” and, second, to explain how understanding that term helps us understand Abbey’s larger agenda.
    Whether you make an argument about passage 1 or passage 2, the point is to use light research to demonstrate how these passages can help us understand the book as a whole.
Works Cited

Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. New York: RosettaBooks, 2011. Kindle Edition.

Darwin, Charles. The Voyage of the Beagle. New York: The Modern Library, 2001.

Note:  I have given you examples above re: how to use MLA citation both for in-text citations and to construct a works cited section.  That may be enough for you to get started.  However, you should skim this handout and use it if you need it.  If you need even more information, use Hacker, or try this excellent website.

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