Unit 3 Assignment 1 by Skylar McVicar

Hannah Arendt

  • German-born American political scientist and philosopher known for her critical writing on Jewish affairs and her study of totalitarianism
  • Arendt fled Germany after her boyfriend joined the Nazi party. 
  • She again became a fugitive from the Nazis in 1941
  • She and her husband immigrated to the United States and naturalized.
  • She became a professor at the University of Chicago.


“Banality of Evil” in Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism

  • Arendt’s reputation as a major political thinker was established by her Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), which also treated 19th-century anti-Semitism, imperialism, and racism.
  • Arendt viewed the growth of totalitarianism as the outcome of the disintegration of the traditional nation-state.
  • She argued that totalitarian regimes, through their pursuit of raw political power and their neglect of material or utilitarian considerations, had revolutionized the social structure and made contemporary politics nearly impossible to predict.
  •  Arendt argued that Eichmann’s crimes resulted not from a wicked or depraved character but from sheer “thoughtlessness”: he was simply an ambitious bureaucrat who failed to reflect on the enormity of what he was doing.
  •  His role in the mass extermination of Jews epitomized “the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil” that had spread across Europe at the time. Arendt’s refusal to recognize Eichmann as “inwardly” evil prompted fierce denunciations from both Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals.


  • Arendt tried to tackle a string of questions not necessarily answered by the trial itself: Where does evil come from? Why do people commit evil acts? How are those people different from the rest of us?


Adolf Eichmann

  • German high official who was hanged by the State of Israel for his part in the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War II.
  • became a member of Heinrich Himmler’s SS, the Nazi paramilitary corps
  • Eichmann had in effect been named chief executioner of the “Final Solution” to the Jewish question
  • Under questioning after the war, Eichmann claimed not to be an anti-Semite
  • Denying responsibility for the mass killings, he said, “I couldn’t help myself; I had orders”
  • Eichmann was sentenced to death, the only death sentence ever imposed by an Israeli court.
  • Hannah Arendt, a German-born Jewish American political philosopher, covered the trial for The New Yorker. Later published as Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, her articles’ portrayal of Eichmann as banal rather than demonic provoked a storm of debate that lasted for almost a decade.


Unit 2 Assignment 3 by Skylar McVicar

Option 2:

Unfortunately, modern political discourse is filled with incivility and immorality because individuals act selfishly to pursue self-interest. Many political figures use bullshit as a vehicle of deception to control the masses and further a specific political agenda. According to Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit”, bullshit is “deceptive misrepresentation”(Frankfurt, 118) and is used in a “deliberate”(Frankfurt, 118) manner. Taking this definition of bullshit, one can assume that bullshit is intentional. In that case, the line between lying and bullshitting blurs as both lying and bullshiting are ways to convey incorrect information. If contemporary discourse relies on these tactics to disperse intelligence, then the people are not receiving accurate and truthful information in order to make educated decisions. Since bullshit is obviously unethical, we must brainstorm effective ways to reduce the amount of bullshit in contemporary discourse. As citizens, we must fact check our information by using multiple sources and reading from all different perspectives. Limiting ourselves to only one biased source ensures that we only hear a single narrative, thus allowing us to succumb to bullshit. If people monitor the news, they will gain the necessary knowledge to call-out public figures when catching a bluff. Not only are the people responsible for catching bullshit, but public figures must also be held accountable for spewing bullshit. When they speak or write, public figures should think about the information they would want to receive and give the correct information in return.

Option 3:

In relation to Unit 1 and our discussions about equality, how does our perception of reality introduced in Unit 2 affect our ability to understand the struggles of people in other socio-economic classes and to effectively implement change? I am asking this because Unit 1 assumes that we are all able to imagine the hardships of others, even if that is not our reality. However, in Unit 2, we studied Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” which emphasizes the limits placed on the imagination by the reality in which we were raised. A potential answer is that we are unable to perceive other people’s reality until we actively engage with that person and his/her community.

Skylar McVicar Campus Event Reflection: Microaggression Panel

During the student-run microaggressions panel on 9/25/19 about the presence of microaggression on and off Davidson’s campus, five students of different ethnicities discussed the definition and effects of subtle, mostly unrecognizable acts of racism commonplace in everyday society. These students describes a microaggression as a statement not often intended to be harmful and as gaining power from its cumulative effect. For example, people repeatedly asking a peer where her accent is from is not an innately biased question, but it subliminally tells the peer that she is seen and recognized as a foreigner who may need help to understand the majority’s language and culture. After receiving this question once, she may be stung and annoyed, but receiving and answering this question multiple times becomes an attack on her existence and purpose. Microaggressions often stem from stereotypes and ignorance of the truth. The student panelists taught the audience how to spot a microaggression and encouraged attendees to respond in a constructive way. Since the panel, I have noticed more microaggressions in places I would not expect. For example, every time my sociology professor asks a question about Korea, he directs it at Korean students in the class, even though most of the students were born and raised in America. If minorities constantly have to explain themselves, their productive energy is wasted. As a community, we should encourage introspection about our own microaggressions and encourage others to do the same to create a more inclusive and accepting campus and society.

Unit 2 Assignment 2 by Skylar McVicar

Option 2:

After listening to the Translation Panel and watching Arrival, I am intrigued by the vagueness of translations and the fact that translations of the same text can be interpreted so differently. When translating a text, the translator takes liberty in deciding what word to use to best convey the tone and content of the original passage. Through this freedom, Dr. Denham introduced the dilemma that translators face between choosing the most literal translation or selecting a loosely related word that best explains the translator’s interpretation of the author’s purpose. To this point, Dr. Ewington commented that fidelity to the original author is important so as not to betray his/her intentions, but that the translator is also able to breathe new life into the piece. When discussing the origins of translation and of language, Dr. Jankovic directed our attention to babies who acquire their language by associating observed behavior with a verbal cue. This reminded me of the movie, Arrival, when Dr. Banks first observed the heptapods and let them watch her so that they could communicate accurately with each other. The movie also discussed the intricacies of translation when the heptapods said “weapon” but meant “tool”. If everyone’s translation and language interpretation skills are based on their backgrounds and experiences, then does society even have a truthful and common language, or are we all constantly translating and interpreting when conversing?

Option 3:

In Kuhn’s  “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, he describes the process of revolution and paradigm shifts. Usually, a scientist begins with a conceptual schema, or a way of observing the world. The scientist then creates a paradigm based on those observations which, if widely accepted, sparks a paradigm shift. When this occurs, the generally accepted world view changes and a revolution occurs. While this process is focused on scientific knowledge, it can be applied to all social sciences. For instance, some may consider racial relations in America after The Civil Rights Movement to be a paradigm shift. Unit 1 introduces several points that would prove and disprove Kuhn’s theory. For example, Kuhn would recognize Marx as a revolutionary because he observed the world around him (conceptual schema), formed the paradigm of communism, and the countries that adopted this paradigm conducted a paradigm shift. However, some of our Unit 1 readings would argue against Kuhn’s definition of revolution. Bryan Stevenson would say that the United States remains static in its treatment towards African-Americans despite the supposed paradigm shift of The Civil Rights Movement.

Unit 2 Assignment 1 by Skylar McVicar

When early modern philosophers observed the natural world, they saw “the physical universe tightly interwoven with one another”(Principe, 21) as one interconnected world. In my understanding, these early thinkers gave meaning to every occurrence because they believed God created the universe. With God as a creator, every human being was seen as having a meaningful and significant existence that contributes to the cosmos. Presently, the approaches at explaining the world are less inclusive and more dividing. While contemporary science is able to explain physical phenomena with greater accuracy as it is no longer rooted in religion, it promotes an image of a splintered world where people feel as if everything is a mathematical calculation instead of purposeful. However, there are still a few aspects of the “connected world” (Principe, 21) today, such as the Feminist Movement that unites women globally from all backgrounds. Another example of people working together across the globe is the movement for accessible water. The UN along with other civil rights international organizations are hard at work trying to repair old bonds and unite global citizens to combat inequality. These are the movements needed to revive a person’s sense of belonging.

Both Principe and Professor Thompson highlighted the importance of making new observations and testing hypotheses. If we are compliant with the social construction of contemporary scientific beliefs, then what are we currently ignoring that could be impactful and what have we accepted as fact that could be fiction?

Unit 1, Assignment 3 by Skylar McVicar Conversation Between Authors

After reading My Brother Moochie by Issac Bailey this summer, I watched 13th, the documentary on the history and state of the criminal justice system in America. Thus, I chose Angela Davis’ “Recognizing Racism in the Era of Neoliberalism” as my passage to reflect on because she wrote about the way our criminalization institutions are rooted in racist history and are not improving in modern day despite what many citizens may think. The deep rooted history of racism in the United States is perpetualized by the discriminatory language embedded in the American vernacular. Even though current laws are established to mitigate the harsh effects of past explicit racism, laws cannot combat the existing racist beliefs in the private sphere. Because the majority white population denounced African-Americans for years, African-Americans are now at a disadvantage in our neoliberal state. Neoliberals advocate for individual responsibility over public good and community; therefore, when people belonging to a low income bracket are unable to find healthcare and/or proper education, the powerful neoliberal leaders blame the workers instead of the oppressive history and racism that still exists. If Davis could have a conversation with two authors from our readings, she would most likely talk with Spivak and Marx. Spivak encourages readers to use language in an inclusive way. Instead of choosing words that make others feel excluded, language should be used as a tool to empower and inspire. Both Davis and Marx talk about the detrimental effects of a capitalist society on the working-class. Below is a list of discussion questions meant for stimulating conversation between these three influential activists.

How does one’s societal position based on race, gender, income bracket, etc. influence his/her personal identity as well as others’ opinions of his/her identity?

How does a racist history affect our current social constructs, and how do those constructs affect our governmental structure?

Is “colorblindness” an effective way to stop racism, or is it an idealistic concept?

Campus Event Commentary Quillen’s Speech by Skylar McVicar

During President Quillen’s speech on 9/3/19 about humanity and storytelling, I was encouraged to challenge my traditional view of history and how the story of history can influence my daily life as a person trying to be empathetic and sympathetic. The past I have always known was pieced together by the limited artifacts historians have available, thus this familiar history may be completely wrong. Quillen encouraged us as global citizens to question our single story of history and try to see the bigger picture. Much like the infinite stories involved in creating history, individuals have many layers and complexities. Once we have accepted that our backgrounds influence our own perception of life, and that this perceived reality is different than everyone else’s reality, we should be more interested in hearing other’s stories. After listening to multiple narratives, we should realize that there is a commonality that unites us as humans: our humanity. My definition of humanity is the ability to sympathize with others and look past our differences to find our similarities. While Quillen addresses the power that storytelling and active listening has in uniting us as humans, she neglects the fact that merely listening is not going to end the wars, destruction, and inequality that seem to be part of human nature. For years, humans have had opportunities for meaningful connection but have refused to accept one another’s common humanity. Quillen’s lecture was incredibly thought-provoking and idealistic with the possibility to affect change if enough people embrace her philosophy.

Skylar McVicar Unit 1 Assignment 2 Locke Passage

Passage: “It will, perhaps, be objected to this, that if gathering the acorns

or other fruits of the earth, etc., makes a right to them, then any one may

engross as much as he will. To which I answer, Not so….But how far has He given it us—“to enjoy”?

As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it

spoils, so much he may by his labour fix a property in. Whatever is

beyond this is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.” (Locke, paragraph 30)

Rationale: The reason Locke’s argument originally confused me was twofold. Firstly, he suggests that Earth’s resources are endless and available for all men to take. While men are able to exercise their liberty and take as much as they can labour for, this concept of unlimited materials is flawed because population growth will eventually lead to a depletion of natural resources. Secondly, Locke proposes that men won’t take more than they need for survival. While this idea is noble in concept, it is naive in practice as men are naturally greedy. To better understand Locke’s logic, I reviewed notes from Professor Quillen’s lecture when we talked about the concept of equality in a world of private property. How can there be equality if a person can have more assets than another? If the amount of resources available in the State of Nature is infinite, then why don’t all men have equal property? Locke says the amount of property a person acquires is directly proportional to the level of labour a person exerts, so the responsibility to gain equality is shouldered by the individual.

Connection: By emphasizing the boundless availability of natural resources and the ability of men to get as much as he needs, Locke is trying to inform readers of their right to private property. Locke needs his pupils to understand this fundamental human right in order to convince them that the current form of patriarchal despotism is unfavorable because the king is not accurately protecting their private property. To argue against Filmer, Locke reiterates that God gave Earth to all of mankind for all men to use and enjoy (paragraph 33). In other words, private property is given to men by God. Therefore, if the current king is restricting a man’s ability to gain more private property and/or is not adequately protecting private property, then the king is not a proper ruler.

Question: How can the accumulation of property influence a person’s identity in the eyes of others?

Unit 1 Assignment 1 by Skylar McVicar

Group B:

Question: How does human connection affect prejudice?

Agree on: Many people today acknowledge their conscious bias against minority groups (aka racism); however, when the same people have the opportunity to outwardly discriminate, they chose and/or can learn not to because of the empathy and compassion that connects mankind. Brooks, Stevenson, and Morrison all imply that human connection can destroy injustice and bigotry.

Disagree on: Brooks, Stevenson, and Morrison disagree on how to combat innate bias. Brooks encourages people to appreciate their differences. Stevenson urges people to keep hope and continue the fight for justice by listening to different everybody’s story. Morrison suggests learning from history to avoid a close-minded and ignorant attitude toward different people in the present day.