… to be documented in the journal you should keep.
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?
– John O’Donoghue, To Bless the Space Between Us
It’s not easy to say precisely what makes a question big; but we can at least give a few examples from the history of philosophy so that we have some idea what we’re talking about:
- What is the meaning of life?
- What is the nature of ultimate reality?
- What is Being?
- Is there a god?
- Is there some sort of cosmic justice?
- What is the self ?
- Does a person’s self (mind, soul) persist after death?
- Do we have free will?
- Why be moral?
- What is the good life for a human being?
- What are the foundations of our knowledge?
- What are the limits to what we can know?
- What is truth?
- What is the good?
- What is justice?
- What is virtue?
- What is beauty?
- What is life?
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
often comes in the form of a relevant, timely, open-ended question.
|What we decided was that if you could commit yourself to the five or six key ideas, the ones that do most of the heavy lifting in economics, students really could master those after a semester, and the key device that we’ve stumbled onto for doing that is a writing assignment.
|It’s a very simple assignment: You’re supposed to pose an interesting question — and I stress interesting; nobody wants to read your answer if the question’s not interesting, I tell them — and then use basic economic principles, one of these five or six principles that we hammer away at in the course, to try to construct a coherent answer in economic terms to your question.
|Right now the length of the paper is maximum 500 words. I can spot 500 words no matter what size font they use, so I tell them I won’t read past 500 words, but I stress that the best papers are often only one, two paragraphs.
Robert Frank is the Henrietta Louis Johnson Professor of Management and professor of economics at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, and the co-author of a standard introductory text, Principles of Economics (McGraw-Hill).