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Tutor profile: Jacob W.

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Jacob W.
Recent Graduate with over 2 years of English/Writing tutoring experience
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Questions

Subject: Philosophy

TutorMe
Question:

What are the natural origins of human political society according to Aristotle?

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Jacob W.
Answer:

Aristotle begins his "Politics" by outlining what a city is and how it evolves naturally from smaller human communities coming together (1252a). Every city is some sort of community, constituted for the sake of some good, in which everyone does everything for the sake of what is held to be good (1252a). According to Aristotle, “the community that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly” with the goal of attaining “the most authoritative good for all,” and this is what is referred to as the city (1252a). This complete community reaches a level of self-sufficiency, where it can move beyond simply meeting the basic needs of survival for the sake of living in order to establish new capabilities for the sake of living well (1252a). All communities aim at some good, but this understanding of what is “good for all” changes depending on the structure of the community and its levels of inclusion and is therefore conventional. The city then comes to define the man, and not the other way around, so that the men must be politically involved in the conventions of the city in order to be provided with the same association of natural equality in their humanity. When Aristotle states that “man is by nature a political animal” (1253a), he is invoking a sense of nature that can be understood by dividing “a compound into its uncompounded elements” (1252a) and “looking at how things develop naturally from the beginning” (1252a). He asserts that the nature of a thing is what it is when its coming into being is complete, and applies this to the idea of the city as a complete community, in which the political men have developed it for their end, just as nature is an end in itself (1252b). With that understanding, he says, “that for the sake of which a thing exists...is best; and self-sufficiency is an end and what is best” (1252b). Here he suggests that the ultimate goal of a thing is to be self-sufficient, and that our species has developed political means of cooperating beyond our individual capabilities so as to be better at sustaining the species, with the added structure of economic specialization which enables the pleasures of private property (1263b).

Subject: International Relations

TutorMe
Question:

Has the United States in recent history represented more of a status quo or a revisionist power?

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Jacob W.
Answer:

In International Relations, revisionist powers are those who seek to change aspects of the international system and its balance of power, while status quo powers benefit from the current system's balance of power and align their interests with the maintenance of that system. In the post-World War II world, the United States was one of the major contributors to the construction of the international systems that have guided international relations since—from the Bretton Woods Agreement on currency and exchange rates to the structure and proceedings of the United Nations. For much of the Cold War, the United States operated as a status quo power, promoting International agreements and free trade to counter the rise of the Soviet Union as the balancing power in a world defined by its bipolarity. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 20th Century, the United States became for the first time a true unipolar power–the world's only true remaining superpower. While for many years after this initial change in global power politics the United States remained a status quo power, working to spread and enlarge the international systems which it had helped establish—and benefiting immensely from its position at the height of international power in all its forms (military, economic, diplomatic, etc.)—the United States began to increasingly take on unilateral missions to exert its power and influence over the world. Best exemplified by the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, which the United States entered into with the support of the United Kingdom but against the wishes of the rest of the United Nations Security Council and against the established regulations of the UN Charter, the U.S. increasingly began to challenge the status quo of the international order—using its immense power to evade the norms of international institutions to achieve its global goals, instead of going through the channels of those institutions. In the last few years, the United States has even moved to challenge some of the foundational principles upon which it helped to construct the international system, engaging in anti-free trade rhetoric, trade war policies, and even the imposing of tariffs on traditional allies that all go against the purpose of the World Trade Organization which the United States was responsible for establishing. The United States has even threatened to alter NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) with confrontational suggestions that the military alliance could be reconsidered if member-states do not start spending more on their own defense. If the United States continues to use its unrivaled power to push for unilateral gains in defiance of international institutions and traditional alliances, it could potentially push itself into the realm of a revisionist power. However, as the United States remains the most powerful member of the international system, and as such the power with the most to gain by maintaining the status quo, it will take more than one administration's alteration of great power strategy to fundamentally change the course of the country's direction in respect to the international power structure. There remain a number of genuinely revisionist powers on the geopolitical stage, and while the United States has in recent years threatened to become a revisionist power through its leadership's rhetoric, those words have not often reliably transferred into actions that actually challenge the status quo in serious ways.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

How does Emily Dickinson's use of ambiguous diction in the poem "Don't Put up my Thread and Needle" influence the potential meanings of her metaphors, and what does it suggest about her attitude toward gendered roles?

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Jacob W.
Answer:

In Don’t Put up my Thread and Needle, Dickinson utilizes the act of sewing, traditionally reserved for women, as a metaphor for her writing, something at that point still traditionally reserved for men. However, she never actually uses the word, “sew,” instead using “sow” — meaning to deposit seeds in the ground so it can grow, but alternatively also expressing something that affects a person with pain or exertion. The multiple meanings of the word reflect Dickinson's view of poetry in general and her own personal relation to the art. While she implies through "thread and needle" that she is sewing together words on a page into a final product, the use of "sow," which calls upon the traditionally masculine task of farming, suggests she is planting a seed from which new poetry—particularly that of women who had long been restricted from the poetic sphere—could grow, challenge outdated norms (both in terms of poetic structure and authorial inclusivity), and ultimate bloom into "better stitches" of poetry in future. She continues this line of farming-related play-on-words with “stitch,” “needle,” and “furrow”— creating a multi-layered comparison between what a farmer, a seamstress, and a writer create through their perfectionist laboring. "Stitch," for instance, implies the work of a seamstress, but an alternative meaning of the word refers to a ridge of land, a strip of plowed land between two water-furrows, or a narrow ridge in which potatoes and other crops are grown. Her use of these puns and double-meanings affect the overall meaning and tone of the poem, as she uses them to create a comparison between traditionally male and female occupations and skills to challenge the gender norms of the time period—and even suggests herself as a figure of androgyny, breaking down the barriers between men and women. Her imagery beyond "sewing" and "sowing"—with word choices like "bent," "crooked," and "zig-zag" referring to the imperfections of her style when viewed from the poetic norms of perfection—show how she subtly infuses her autobiographical condition and poetic principles into her work by challenging her contemporaries' view of the art whose boundaries she was pushing toward those "better stitches." Additionally, the poem suggests how Dickinson personally viewed her poetry—both as a laborious chore and a delicate craft.

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