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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
A brilliant philosopher once remarked that there is no universal standard of morality. By this he meant that the morality of an action should be determined and measured not according to a universal law that sets the standard for what is right and what is wrong for everyone. It is man that determines what is right and what is wrong. Thus, an action is moral if such act promotes his needs. An act is immoral if it does not promote his needs.
This is the ethical concern for the main character in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. The character in this story is confused on the morality of her action. By her own standard she has done nothing wrong. By forging her father’s signature for the purpose of saving her husband’s life, she thinks she has not violated any law. On the other hand, the society considers that a law has been violated. She has also put her husband to shame. The question here is not limited to the morality of her action rather who determines whether an action is moral or immoral. Should the wife be allowed to suffer because the society condemns her action?
Background of the Play
The play A Doll’s House represents the different interpretations of morality every individual must face in life. Every individual must struggle against the morality that is imposed by the society. Henrik Ibsen, however, questions the authority behind the prevailing morality in our society. For him, the prevailing interpretations of morality are imposed upon the majority by the ruling elite. Thus, morality is not the question of what is right or wrong but rather it is a question of power.
In this play, Ibsen shows how the society creates powerful rules for the people to follow. Anybody who can comply with these rules of morality apparently lives a relatively stable economic life. In the case of the Helmers, the main character in this play, they have a nice home, and they have servants who work for them. They were happy according to the society’s standard. They live within the comforts of their own home.
However, society demands absolute obedience to its standard. Society demands that everybody must be within the circle of obedience. If any person fails to comply within its own standard then they fall outside of its circle. Everybody must conform to a view of proper conduct which in many respects, extremely narrow and unforgiving. In this play we find the society giving importance to respect for the sanctity of contracts, money and conventional roles of men and women in marriage. The society is quite unforgiving to people who cannot comply with these standards.
This is apparent in the two other characters in this play. In the case of Christine, she has made an immoral decision early on in her life by leaving the love of her life for someone else. As a result, she has become outside of the circle. This is depicted in how the author showed the disparity in the social status and how it would seem that she had aged a lot compared to Nora. In the case of Krogstad, he also had been outside the circle for a long time as he was caught forging another person’s signature. Society considered him immoral.
The playwright likewise showed that both their characters, Christine and Krogstad, are attempting to re-enter the society’s circle. This is manifested in the way Christine tries to go back to Krogstad to start over. In the case of Krogstad, he wants to maintain his job because his society only respects someone who earns well.
The question now is will the main character of this story stay within the circle or would she choose to go outside of the circle just like what Krogstad and Christine did. Ibsen showed his criticisms on the traditional roles men and women play in marriage. In this play, Ibsen criticized the dominant role played by man. This was the situation especially during the 19th Century for Europeans. They regarded the husbands and wives as unequal. Here, Ibsen showed that in a marriage the spouses should live as equals so that they will have the opportunity to live as normal human beings.
Summary of A Doll’s House
Act 1 opens with a very happy Nora Helmer, one of the main characters in the play. Immediately, Ibsen reveals so many things that will guide the entire play. Nora Helmer is shown eating Macaroons which her husband has always reminded her not to eat. This could be an indication that she is concealing a secret from her husband. Torvald, her husband, immediately calls her ‘my little lark’ and ‘my little squirrel’. This symbolizes his low regard for his wife. Also, the conversation between them centers on money which serves as a sign how important money is for this family.
They talk about their good future because Torvald has just been promoted to bank manager. Nora is very happy because she thought she can buy so many things for her and for her family. Torvald senses that Nora may have been violating the rules by eating sweets but she denies this. Later on Dr. Rank, a family friend enters and Torvald talks with him in a separate room. Upon leaving, Nora is visited by a friend, Christine Lindie. Christine wastes no time recounting her unfortunate life to Nora. She shares with her that she was forced to marry someone she did not love. Now, she has been a widow for several years. She narrates the hardships the she had to endure to make ends meet. She also gives a comment about how lucky Nora is. Nora replies that she too had to work hard for her family. She boasts that because of her hard work for several years she was able to save someone she dearly loves. She proceeds to tell Christine how she had to borrow a large sum of money from one person just so she and her husband could travel to another country with a better climate which greatly helped her husband’s health and condition. She explains to Christine that she secretly saves money from her personal expenses and that she accepts additional work at night just so she could repay her loan in installment. She reveals to her that she has to do this secretly since her husband would not approve of this. She even expresses that their happy marriage would fall apart if he finds out that he owed money to his wife. She is proud to say that someday she will inform her husband that she has done something to save his life that is after “my dancing and dressing-up and reciting have palled on him.” She sincerely believes that a “wonderful thing” will happen if she tells him what she has done.
Their conversation is stopped by the entrance of another character, Nils Krogstad, who is a money lender. He now works in the same bank that Torvald works. Krogstad makes it clear with Nora that he came only to talk to Torvald about a very important business matter. At this point, Dr. Rank makes a remark about Krogstad being a morally diseased person.
When Torval re-emerges, Nora attempts to convince him to accept Christine as his employee. Torvald remarks that he will study the matter. As Torvald leaves, Krogstad once again emerges. He asks her if she could help with in his predicament. He learns that Christine may be accepted and he may be dismissed from her. He explains that the society has lost respect for him because of the crime he has done in the past. Though Nora was not listening at first, Krogstad reminds her of a crime she has done in the past. He tells her that she has committed forgery. He tells her that he has evidence that will prove that she borrowed money from him using her father’s signature. Nora defends herself as she merely wants to save her husband’s life. Krogstad informs her that forgery is a crime regardless of her intention. Thus, Krogstad pleads that she should help him with his predicament.
When her husband enters, Nora attempts to convince her husband not to remove Krogstad from work and retain him in his position. She warns him that he might do the same thing Krogstad had done to her father before. Subsequently, Torvald admits that Krogstad’s moral failings as a person can be overlooked but what he cannot stand is Krogstad’s familiarity with him. He points out that since he knew Krogstad from years back, Krogstad has been calling him on a first-name basis even at his office. Surprised by the flimsy reason for his plan to remove Krogstad from his work, Nora remarks on how narrow-minded Torvald was. Torvald is angered by this remark and he immediately gives orders to the maid to post the letter of dismissal of Krogstad. As this conversation progresses, the author shows that Torvald had little regard for the opinions of his wife. He thought that he will never let his wife influence his decision.
Nora is now seen talking with Krogstad who is now aware that Torvald wants to dismiss him from work. Irked by the actions of Torvald, Krogstad warns Nora that he plans to blackmail Torvald. He tells her that she committed the crime of forgery at the time she loaned some money from Krogstad and signed her father’s name. Krogstad narrates to Nora that he intends to humiliate Torvald in the society by telling them that his wife forged her father’s signature when she borrowed money from her. Nora becomes very worried. She thinks that she does not want her husband to be humiliated. She would rather die than allow Torvald to be blamed for a crime that she committed. He warns her to do something about his situation otherwise he will inform Torvald about her secret. As he leaves, he drops a letter inside the letter box.
Nora now tells Christine everything about the money she borrowed from Krogstad and the forgery she committed. She asks Christine to stand as her witness so that should anything happen to her she should tell her story that only she is responsible for the forgery and that Torvald had done nothing wrong. Christine tells Nora that she would help her by immediately going to the house of Krogstad to visit him and convince him to change his plan. During this time, Nora desperately tries to distract Torvald so that he will not have the opportunity to read his mails. Later on, Christine returns. She tells Nora that she was not able to talk to Krogstad since she was away but she left a note for him to read in case he comes back.
Krogstad and Christine are now seen talking with each other. He expresses his anger to Christine for having left him for somebody who is better able to support her. He tells her that now she comes back again this time to take away from him his position in the bank. Christine denies this and reassures him that she still loves him. She tells him that she came back for him to renew their love for each other. She also tells him to recall his letter to Torvald. Krogstad eventually tells her that he is willing to recall his letter to Torvald. This time, Christine changes her mind. She tells Krogstad that it would be better for their marriage if Torvald finds out the truth.
Despite all her distractions, her husband finally gets hold of Torvald’s letter. When he finds out about what he had done, he shouts at Nora and expresses abusive language at her. He scolds her for bringing shame to him. He declares that the public may even think that it was he who told Nora to do the act she did. He tells her that he denounced Nora as his wife and that she will no longer be allowed to raise their family.
At this moment however, the maid brings another letter to Nora. Torvald grabs it and reads it. He finds out that Krogstad had surrendered the bond indicating that he no longer wishes to bring dishonor to them. At this point, Tovald is overjoyed. He tears the bond and shouts that he is saved. He instantly tells Nora that she has been forgiven.
At this point, Nora lets everything out. She reveals to him how unhappy she had been for the past eight years. She narrates that all those years there was never an opportunity that they were able to talk seriously about their disagreements. She compares her life as his wife to her life at her father’s house. She tells him that they are basically the same. In both houses she was never given an opportunity to express her own opinion. Her father disliked it when she disagrees with anything that he said. She remarks that she was always treated as a toy. She now realizes that her life at Torvald’s house is basically the same with her life at her father’s house. She declares that they both committed a sin against her. She thinks that because of them she made nothing of her life. For his part, Torvald admits that he may have some shortcomings though most of her statements are exaggerated. She responds that she will accept nothing from him that tells her how to be a proper wife. She explains that she is not yet ready to raise their children. She realizes that she must first try and educate herself before undertaking the serious responsibilities of motherhood. Then she leaves their house.
A. Nora Helmer
Nora Helmer represents the antithesis of the 19th Century society. At first we thought that she is a selfish woman who only cares about material wealth. Towards the middle of the play we found out about the sacrifices she made for her husband and for her family. Nora Helmer is described as an innocent person who questioned the narrow-mindedness of society’s standard of morality. She was confused when Krogstad revealed to her that her act of signing her father’s name in a loan is a crime. She could not understand why it could be a crime when her intention was pure and noble. Towards, the end of the story, she experiences a realization that the person she married is no longer her husband. She learns that her husband was not proud of what she had done to save her. In the end, she decides to leave the comforts of her own home as she tries to leave her family behind. It would seem to be a liberating experience for Nora who will finally learn how it is to live without the dictates of her husband and the society. However, the author also shows that what she did may cause her self-destruction as she tries to go outside of the society’s circle.
B. Torvald Helmer
He is what Ibsen considers as typical head of the family during the 19th Century. At first we thought that he is a loving and generous husband who wants to take care of his own family. Towards the middle of the story we found out that he is more concerned with maintaining is reputation to the society rather than his love for his wife. He is a representation of the social malaise in Europe in the 19th Century. He considers himself as superior to his wife. He regards her wife as a sex object whose role is to gratify the sexual desires of her husband. His concerns about his family are limited to supporting them and making sure that they are well-off financially. He is shallow minded as he wants Krogstad dismissed from work because of flimsy reasons. He tries desperately to make sure that he complies with what is moral and immoral according to society’s standard. He even prefers his public reputation over his wife as he renounces and disowns his wife for having forged a loan even if that was done for his health.
Theme of the play
This play addresses so many social issues. The first is the desire for material wealth that was prevalent during Ibsen’s time. During the 19th Century, there was a huge social and economic change in Europe. Manufacturing and production were at their peak which led to the development of the urban centers. The consequence of this is that the society measured a person according to his ability to make money. Those who had money were respected and revered. The more money a person has the more he is able to control his own life and other life of other person. They were also the ones who determined which people lived a moral life and which did not. It was the affluent who set the standards not only for morality but how everybody should live. This is apparent in this play as Torvald, the representation of the 19th Century middle class male, controls her wife and manipulates her like his little toy. He also judges Krogstad character and he decided for no important reason to remove him from work.
Another theme which Ibsen sought to address is the unequal stature given to married women. During the 19th Century, the women played more of a secondary role to the family. Their responsibility is only to raise children and take care of their husband. They cannot work and earn money on their own. If they do decide to work they will find it hard to get an acceptable work which pays good. Since women could not earn their own money, they depended on their husband for support. Consequently, they cannot spend this money without their husband’s consent. They also were not allowed to make decision on their life. This has left women in the 19th Century totally dependent for their husband even for smallest decisions in their life. They had no voice in their own family. They were not respected by the society. This explains why in the middle of the play, Torvald was infuriated by the idea of him being influenced by her wife in his work.
The play concludes not with a revelation of an important plot in the just like any other story. It ends with Nora’s self-discovery. It is also considered as a tragedy because she finds out that her husband does not love her as much as she loves him. Unlike, the other plays that end in the death of one or both of the main characters, this play ends in death of the love between two couples.
She also discovers that aside from her role as a wife and as a mother she is also a woman. She discovers that aside from her duties to her husband and her duties to her children, she also has duties to herself. She became totally disappointed by her husband’s reactions to the one thing that she was proud of doing. When her husband discovers about the loan and the forgery though she was afraid of his reaction, she thought that he will be proud of her for saving him. But for her the wonderful thing that she had been waiting for several years did not happen. In fact, she was astonished that her husband was willing to renounce and forsake her just because of the reputation that he has to protect. The play concludes with Nora leaving her husband to try to search for her self-identity.
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On September 11, 2001, several individuals who believed they espoused a noble cause attacked the United States territory. What seemed to be an ordinary day for every United States citizen turned out to be a nightmare as terrorists executed their well coordinated plan. First, they hijacked a passenger jet, the American Airlines Flight 11 and made it crash into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Several minutes later, another airliner, United Airlines flight 175 was hijacked and was carefully maneuvered to crash into the second tower of the World Trade Center. Barely several minutes after these two unfortunate events, another plane identified as the American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into Pentagon.
The terrorist attacks on the American soil were an awakening not only for the United States government but also for the whole world. It made all of us aware that not even a superpower nation like the United States can be spared from a determined, organized and well-funded terror group. Indeed, in this modern world, we are all likely targets for terrorist attacks.
The United States quickly realized that it had to reevaluate the policies for dealing with terrorism. Thus, several days and weeks after the unfortunate event, the Bush Administration in response to the terrorist attacks and in their desire to bring the perpetrators to justice proposed certain measures aimed at protecting our country's national security and at the same time reducing the risk of future attacks. This led to the enactment of the United States Patriot Act which was initially signed into law last October 26, 2006.
The United States' reevaluation efforts included the determination of which of the nations in the world are its allies and which are its enemies. One of these countries is Iran. In an effort to find the culprits of the attack the United States had been gathering intelligence reports and information of Iran's possible involvement in terrorism. There are intelligence reports that say that Iran may have had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attack and that it is also very likely that it had a role in 9-11 bombing of World Trade Center and the Pentagon. ("Iran, September 11 and the CIA" 2)
Historically, speaking, there had been no diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran ever since the November 4, 1979 event when a mob of young Islamic Revolutionaries overran the United States Embassy in Tehran. ("People & Events: The Iranian Hostage Crisis, November 1979 - January 1981" 1) These Islamic Revolutionaries held 60 Americans hostage for 444 days. Since then the relationship between these two countries had turned sour.
One reason why the United States government pointed to Iran as possible culprit for the 9/11 attack is that United States officials alleged that they have evidence that will prove that Iran had, in the past, previous connections with the Al Qaeda group. Referring to terrorist attacks that happened even before 9/11, high raking United States officials said that, Iran " 'supplied the explosives for the 1998 Al Qaeda bombings of the United States Embassies in Africa that killed more than 200 persons." (Kenneth R. Timmerman 3)
The second reason is that the United States government alleged that it has concrete evidence that the government of Iran had operational connection with the 9/11 hijackers. Hamid Reza Zakeri, a former Iranian Intelligence Officer, testified in a courtroom in Germany against Abdelghan Mzoudi to prove that he saw the latter in Iran at the time when they were still at the planning stage of the 9/11 attack. According to Zakeri, he had personal knowledge that another 9/11 hijacker met with Zakeri's former superior officers a the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS), which is Iran's intelligence service. (Timmerman 4)
Zakeri, as the former intelligence officer in Iran, also claimed to have witnessed and personally handled the security preparations in several meetings between top Al Qaeda operatives and officials that were held in Iran several months before the 9/11 attack.
The third reason is that an independent commission tasked to investigate who are responsible for the 9/11 attack has concluded that Iran has had a history of granting permission to Al Qaeda members to pass through its country going to the Afghan border. ("Bush: U.S. probes possible Iran links to 9/11") In connection with the 9/11 attack, the independent commission found that 8 out of 10 of the hijackers entered Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.
Based on the pieces of evidence gathered by the independent commission, there are pieces of evidence that will prove that high ranking Iranian officials issued instructions to the border guards not to place stamps in the passports of Al Qaeda personnel so as to make it difficult for any U.S. intelligence agencies to trace the movement of Al Qaeda members. Also the independent commission found that the border guards were also instructed not to harass the Al Qaeda members when they pass through Iran going to Afghanistan.
This is confirmed by John McLaughlin, then CIA Acting Director, who said that they had ample evidence that will prove that the people responsible for the terrorist attack and the other Al Qaeda members had been going back and forth to Iran before and after the 9-11 attack.
The fourth reason is that for several years before the incident, Iran had been suspected of continuously developing its nuclear weapons. Iran, however, has turned a deaf ear to the calls by the United Nations to stop its development of nuclear weapons.
In view of these reasons, the United States had suspected Iran of having participations in the 9-11 attack against the United States. George W. Bush said that he will continue to look for the possible involvement of the Iranians. He also branded Iran as part of the 'axis of evil' along with Saddam Hussein of Iraq and the North Korea. (William Lowther 1)
Iran's position on this controversy
Iran, on the other hand, has vehemently denied the allegations that it had knowledge and participation in the 9/11 terrorist attack. Iranian officials had claimed that it was unaware that Osama Bin Ladin's group was planning an attack against the United States. They also defended their country against the accusations that they supported terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda.
Firstly, Iranian officials dismissed the allegations against Iran. They considered this as part of election propaganda to ensure the success of some politicians. They strongly argued that though it may be possible for some of the Al Qaeda hijackers to have crossed the territory of Iran before the 9/11 attack, the United States officials do not have any solid evidence that Iran had knowledge of the plan to actually attack the United States. The use by the terrorists of Iran as point of entry and exit should not be taken to mean as actual participation in the terrorist attack. The statements made by United States officials are mere conjectures which are without any evidence.
In response to the allegations against the Iranian government, the former president of
Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said that assuming that the Al Qaeda hijackers did enter Iran, why are they the only country that is being singled out. He presumed that it is also possible that these people may have passed through other countries on their way to United States. None of these countries however are being implicated in the terrorist attack.
Secondly, the Foreign Ministry spokesman of Iran, Hamid Reza Asefi, also defended his country against the allegations that it has connections with Al Qaeda. He stated that it would not be possible for the United States to find any connection between Iran and the Al Qaeda because of serious ideological differences between them. They do not espouse the same political views. In fact, to prove that it would not be possible for Iran to cooperate with Al Qaeda, Iran had for so many years been fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Thirdly, the Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the United States officials to cease blaming them for the 9/11 attack. According to Asefi, it should stop blaming other countries for the terrorist activities of the Al Qaeda and even the Taliban instead, they should consider themselves as responsible for what happened to their own country. Asefi pointed out that the United States is now being haunted by its own ghost as it was the one who created the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He also added that it was the United States who provided ammunitions and arms to the Al Qaeda and the Taliban presumably for the purpose of monitoring and weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now that the Al Qaeda forces have strengthened and increased in number, it can not point its finger to any nation who was not responsible for its creation in the first place.
Fourthly, Iranian officials said that the United States government is barking at the wrong tree. It is clear that the United States government miserably failed to protect and provide security for its own people. On the other hand, there is sufficient evidence to prove that even before the 9-11 event, U.S. intelligence officers had received information of possible plans by Al Qaeda to attack the United States territory. Former president Rafsanjani even boldly claimed that it had in the past issued warning the United States government that it is possible that the Al Qaeda may launch this kind of attack in the future. Their concerns were however ignored by the United States government.
Also, in an attempt to settle the past differences between the two nations, Iran President Ahmadinejad offered to visit the "Ground zero" in Manhattan. (Shlomo Shamir 1) The Iranian president wanted to extend his hand to the United States to prove that it had no participation in the 9/11 attack. He intended to lay a wreath in the site of the worst attack in United States history but the New York Police Department denied him his request.
The relation between Iran and the United States was not always sour. There was a time when both nations were in good terms. Certain events however in the past have triggered the severance of diplomatic ties between them. All is not lost however. I believe it is possible for the diplomatic ties beween these two countries to be restored. This will happen only if they will be able to reach a middle ground.
The relation between Iran and the United States was not always sour. There was a time when both nations were in good terms. Certain events however in the past have triggered the severance of diplomatic ties between them. All is not lost however. I believe it is possible for the diplomatic ties beween these two countries to be restored. This will happen only if they will be able to reach a middle ground.
I have shown that though United States is still suffering from the tragedy, we should cease being emotional about the situation. The proactive thing to do in this kind of situation is to be objective. We should not allow our minds to be misled. It is also possible that this issue was used only to promote the personal agenda of some politicians. The people should also be objective when reading the newspapers. It is always possible that the newspapers we read are not giving us an accurate report of the event. It is advised that the readers should not quickly make judgments about certain issues unless they have a comprehensive knowledge of the issue. Further, I think we should not brand all Arabs as terrorists and that all Arab countries are harboring terrorists.
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The right to self-organization is the right of every worker, free of any interference from the employer to form, join or assist in the formation of, any legitimate worker's organization, association or union of his or her own choice. The reason for granting this right is grounded on the inherent inequality in the bargaining situation between an employer and his employees. Insofar as the issue of employment bargaining is concerned, there is no doubt that the employer stands on higher footing than the employee. Firstly, there is greater supply of labor than the demand for labor. Consequently, the employer has the option to impose demands upon his employees. Secondly, the need for employment by labor oftentimes arises out of desperation and necessity.
As a result, the labor must protect labor to the extent of raising him to equal footing in bargaining relations with his employers and to protect him against abuses. This is in recognition of the principle that those who have less in life should have more in law.
The right to form unions is a tangible manifestation of the protection accorded by law to labor. By giving employees the opportunity to unite themselves against the employers, they can negotiate with their employers for better wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment. Indeed, there is no better vehicle for securing change in the workplace than the employees’ union. When employees form or join unions, they act as one and the management gets to hear their voices and their demands. Labor unions therefore serve as vehicle for the employees to demand change in the workplace.
One of the contributions of the labor unions is that they have helped increase the wages of the working class (“What did the Unions Ever do for us?” 2001, p.1). In every workplace, two competing interests are involved: the interest of the employers who desire to minimize their overhead expense and earn bigger profits and the interest of the working class who desire to have a decent salary commensurate with his costs of living. A worker cannot just demand individually that he desires a raise because of the economic reality that he has no bargaining power. However if he joins a union together with his other co-workers, they strengthen their bargaining power because of their capacity to conduct a mass action such as strikes or picketing which could hamper the operation of the company. Research shows that from the 1990s that unions raise the wages of unionized workers by roughly 20% and raise total compensation by about 28%. (Lawrence Mishels & Matthew Walters, 2003, p.2) Research also shows that there is a significant difference between the wages being received from unionized workers and non-unionized workers and that the former exceeds the latter’s earnings by 15% (Mishels and Walters, 2003, p.2).
Unions help in the reduction of the inequalities in the workplace. It is a reality in the workplace that the managers receive substantially higher wages than the rank and file employees. The latter are the ones who are replaced every six months and they do not have benefits similar to that enjoyed by the managers. Indeed, there exists a significant gap between the wages earned by managers and rank and file employees. In a study conducted by Freeman (1980), it states that unions reduce wage inequalities because they raise wages more at the bottom and in the middle of the wage scale than at the top (Mishels and Walters, 2003, p.4).
Unions do not only help in raising wages but they also help in the improvement of benefits. It bears stressing that it is not enough for an employee to receive his wages but he must also be given the proper benefits such as payment for overtime work, maternity leave for mothers, monetary compensation upon retirement, and monetary compensation upon separation from the company and pension plans. The unions have also helped the workers by negotiating with the employers for better non-wage benefits.
On the other hand, some may consider that the strength of labor unions is also their disadvantage. Consider, for example, the strike action which is a right to conduct concerted action of employees through temporary stoppage of work due to labor dispute. It is the strongest weapon that a labor union may resort to in order or ventilate labor demands. Since it is a powerful right given to a legitimate labor union, the labor laws ensure that it will be properly and reasonably used in accordance with the prescribed rules. It must however be emphasized that not all strike actions result in the employer giving in to the demand of his employees (“Disadvantages of Union Representation, 1999, p.2). The employer usually looks for other employees to replace employees who are on strike. The employees lose their daily wage with every passing day that the employees go on strike. In some instances, employers are able to terminate the services of the workers who go on strike.
Point of View of the Employers
On the part of the employers, they see unions and union membership as an added cost for the company that may threaten the financial stability of the company. On one hand, it may be true that membership in unions may threaten the company. Unions demand for higher wages, better benefits and improvement in their terms and conditions of employment. This spells added overhead cost for the company. The employer may either give in to the demand or strive to achieve a compromise with the employees. If they refuse to heed to the demand, the company may face the possibility of the employees going on an organized strike which may severely paralyzed the company’s operations.
On the other hand, employers oftentimes do not see the benefits of respecting the presence of unions within the company. Employers should not perceive union as a threat to the continued existence of the company rather, instead of trying to evade unions and attempting to defeat the formation of unions by closing companies at the first sign of union membership, companies must learn to work with the unions. According to Policy Studies Institute, “workplaces with a union presence are much more likely to have a range of "high performance work systems", which are at the centre of firms' drive to increase productivity and customer service. These systems include two-way communications, team-working, staff incentives, interchangeable employees, and continuous training and development” (“Unions benefit employers as well as employees”, 2005, p.1)
For example, the presence of unions within a company means that the employers can work with them to communicate important company policy. Unions may help in information dissemination campaigns of the company. Also, even if unions negotiate for better working conditions and higher wages for employees, this eventually leads to improved performance on the part of the employees, loyalty, higher productivity, lesser turnover and increased morale which are beneficial for the company (James Arrowsmith, 2007, p.1).
Based on the analysis conducted, it is clear that unions are beneficial for the interests of the employees and the employers. Though there are advantages and disadvantages for either side, the result of the analysis will reveal that over-all unions have made tremendous impact for the lives of the working class and the economy as well. They not only helped in the improvement of wages and benefits of employees, they also have empowered the workers by giving them a voice in the formulation of policies of the company. Indeed they were instruments in helping bring about profound changes in our country today. Despite all these changes, the working class is still faced with many challenges and obstacles brought about by globalization. Among these challenges are: the rapid downsizing of companies, the transfer of work to another country because of cheaper labor. The battle therefore is not over for the working class. They must not be overcautious about the existence of laws that will protect them against abuses by their employers. They must remain vigilant in the protection of workers’ rights.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Consider the case of a person named Andrew Bacalao he is 18 years old now. He is a relatively good pianist and a recognized master at video games and jigsaw puzzle. He can remember any person’s phone numbers just like a personal computer. (Geoffrey Cowley 2) Consider also the case of Jamie, a child diagnosed with classical autism. Since she was 2 years old, her parents noticed that she was not quite “normal” compared to the other kids since she appeared withdrawn from her environment. (Roger Dobson 1) On the other hand, Peter is an 8-year-old Caucasian boy who rarely played with other children. If he is approached by unfamiliar peers, he would sometimes hit or bite himself or his peers. He frequently makes vocalizations but he does not make use of them to communicate. (SoHyun Lee 4)
These children have one thing in common. They have trouble interacting with people. Even if you converse with them and talk to them, they will not even look at you directly. Some of these children have difficulty communicating with people. Some of them started talking only when they were around the age of 6 or 7. Even if they do communicate they may have difficulty actually expressing themselves. On the other hand, some have difficulty dealing with change making it difficult for the parents to transfer to a new apartment or city or to introduce any changes in the family.
Several decades ago, the parents of these children thought that their own child was a difficult child. They may think that their own child has a discipline problem in which case the parents may resort to corporal punishment just to force the child to communicate with them or to respond to them. Some parents may even think that the child is a slow learner or that there is something wrong with the child’s brain. Some parents may even think that the child’s hearing is impaired. (Dobson 1)
Nowadays, more people have become familiar about this kind of disorder among children. This is now known as Autism. It is a developmental disorder that affects children from birth or the early months of his life. It is defined as a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder characterized by early onset of impairments in social interaction and communication and unusual, stereotyped behaviors. (S. J. Blumberg 1) What parents thought of as a discipline problem or brain problem is now known as a disorder that results in the delay in the normal patterns of development.
This essay seeks to discuss the myths and realities of autism among children. Focus will be made on the perception that autism is a dreaded disorder in which the parents and the child will have to suffer for the rest of their life and on the perception that boys are more susceptible to autism than girls. (Robert Kunzig 1) The purpose of this essay is to correct erroneous perceptions about autism and to prove that autism is not a curse. Scholarly articles from different websites were consulted to support this hypothesis.
Autism in Children
Autism, also known as infantile autism or childhood autism almost always develops before the age of three and is characterized by impaired verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction, repetitive and restrictive stereotyped interest, and ritual behavior. Research shows that around 8.7 of every 10,000 children are autistic, and more than 1 in 300 children have some form of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). (“Autism”) The results of the study of the US Department of Health and Human Services in 1999, on the other hand, showed that as many as 12 in every 10,000 children have autism or related condition. (“Children's Mental Health Facts: Children and Adolescents with Autism” 3)
Research shows that a child who has autism has difficulty in these three areas in development: a) social relationships and interactions; b) Language and communication; c) Activities and interests.
Children with autism experience difficulty in developing relationships with other people. (Sohyun Lee 3) It would seem that are not interested in playing and interacting with other children. They often do not have the same interests with other children of the same age. Most of them cannot even distinguish facial expressions and cannot tell the difference between a smile and a smirk. (Cowley 4)
Also, children with autism have impairment in their speech. Oftentimes these children may never learn to speak at all. If they do learn to speak they start speaking at a relatively older age compared to children who do not have this disorder.
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Autistic children are also distinct from other children because of their interests in standard and repetitive behavior. Oftentimes they excel in activities which require categorical information such as dismantling a radio or flashlight and putting together jig-saw puzzles
According to Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, the main difference with children with autism and children without autism is that the former has an imbalance between two kinds of intelligence: the kind of intelligence used to understand people, or empathizing, and the kind of intelligence used to understand things, or systemizing.
According to Baron-Cohen this comparison can be further understood by explaining the difference between boys and girls with no autism disorder. As a rule, both boys and girls have the capacity to empathize and systemize. However, girls have greater ability in empathizing with people while boys are better in systemizing. Children with autism therefore are just exaggerations of the male profile. To further explain, children with autism have extreme fondness of categorical information and standard systems of knowledge but this is always accompanied by inability to interpret other people’s feelings and emotions.
Autism is something that the child will carry for the rest of his or her life. It may also range in severity. Some children may experience mild form of autism in which case the child may be able to live independently, get employed, get married and have children of his own. This is the situation of Dave Spicer who was diagnosed to have mild autism. (Cowley 6) At first he did not know that he had mild autism until his son was diagnosed to have autism. He sought diagnosis and he found out that he also has mild autism. He is around 50 years of age. He is a computer programmer and system designer. He however has difficulty maintaining relationship as a result he has had 2 failed marriages and has experienced difficulty maintaining his career. On the other hand, there are cases where autism is severe in which case the child may require social support and medical supervision throughout his or her life.
It must be stressed however that despite these deviances from what is considered normal behavior of children, there are some psychologist who say that autism should not be considered as a serious and dreaded disease in need of a cure. According to Baron-Cohen autism is merely “a mental style that people should learn to accommodate. Sometimes it’s even a gift.” (Cowley 6)
Parents should understand that children with autism are not a burden. They are not dumb or stupid neither are they slow learners or psychotic. Psychologists have arrived at a consensus that even if autistic children lack the skills necessary to interact with other children, it is possible however for them to excel in some tasks which “normal” people have difficulty in doing.
According to Patricia Juhrs, a director of Rockville, Md., group called Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children, has an adult client who has taken great pains to memorize every top 10 song list Billboard magazine that was published since 1947. This just shows that given the right environment for them autistic children may live a “normal” life. They may even be recognized for their excellence in particular tasks.
Catherine Johnson, an author an activist who has two autistic sons, even suggested that we should have autistic people running scanners at airports. This is perhaps because autistic people are skilled in performing routine activities. Unlike non-autistic people who may find routinary activities boring, autistic people may be recognized at these jobs.
Autism between boys and girls
There is common perception that boys are more likely to be afflicted with autism than girls. This perception seems to be supported by statistics since as early as 1943, the results of the study of L. Kanner revealed that in a small group of children with autistic syndrome there are four (4) times as many boys as girls. (L. Kanner) This finding was confirmed by Ehlers and Gillberg who also found that the ratio of male to female afflicted with Autism is 4:1. (Ehlers, S. & Gillberg, C.) These studies are all apparently confirmed by the National Institute of Health (2001) which concluded that autism is three times more common in boys than in girls.
Until now, however, there is no scientific evidence that can explain why there seems to be disparity in the effects of autism between boys and girls. There is also no consensus insofar as the scientific community is concerned on the possible reasons why boys seem to be more susceptible to autism than girls, if ever this finding is true. Among the scientific explanations raised was that of Bernard Rimland in 1964 who theorized that boys tends to be more susceptible to autism because of the fact that as a rule males are more susceptible to organic damage than girls whether through hereditary diseases, acquired infections or other conditions. (“Autism: why do more boys than girls develop it?” 2)
Some scientists however have based their explanation on the genetic differences between male and female. According to Skuse (2000), the gene or genes responsible for causing autism are located on the X chromosome. While girls inherit their X chromosomes from both parents, boys only inherit their chromosomes from their mothers. Skuse theorized that the reason why girls are less likely to develop autism is because X chromosome which girls inherit from their fathers contains an imprinted gene which protects the carrier from autism.
The most possible explanation however is that the reason why there seems to be more boys afflicted with autism is that girls are under-diagnosed. (“Girls' autism 'under-diagnosed'” 2) Many girls who could be suffering from autism are never referred by their parents for diagnosis to physiologists and experts and so they could only be missing from the statistics. According to Professor Gillberg, parents of girls with autism may have difficulty identifying signs of autism in them because they do not show the traditional signs of the disorder. He added that in a typical case of autism children exhibit poor social and communications skills, hyperactivity and interests in technical hobbies. On the other hand, some girls even if they do have autism are still more passive than boys and are more inclined to collect information on people. These characteristics of girls could be hiding the problem of autism resulting in them being under-diagnosed and underrepresented by studies.
According to Gillberg, parents of girls who have autism may interpret their passiveness or lack of aggressiveness as a sign of shyness. In addition, parents may not notice that there is a problem in their children because girls are also more inclined to be interested with people. They may be interested with things that have connection to people but parents may fail to nice that these girls may still not interact with people.
In the treatment of Autism, it is important for the parents to realize that there is life after their child is diagnosed to have autism. It is not a curse. Autism is not the end of the child’s life neither is it the end the parent’s life. The child may learn to deal with his condition, slowly learn to interact with his or her environment, perform similar tasks as “normal” people, get employed, and be recognized for a job well done. It is very fortunate that over the years our understanding of autism disorder has greatly expanded. Parents are now more aware of autism. They are now more capable of handling this situation. Research materials about autism are now more available compared to one or two decades ago. Misconceptions about autism have also been identified and exposed resulting in better understanding to this problem. What is important however is for the parents to be able to immediately recognize if their child has autism disorder as early as possible so that proper intervention measures may be administered.
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Since time immemorial, all movements aspiring for a goal had to do something to attain it. Citizens of colonized countries had to organize themselves and fight by means of revolution to attain freedom. Slaves who aspired for freedom had to fight for their freedom. Employees who aspired for better terms and conditions had to engage in strikes and picketing before their rights were recognized. The fight for equal rights necessitated decades of struggle and massive propaganda campaign by the leaders and its members so that their aspirations may finally be recognized. The women’s suffrage movement also would not have succeeded had they not been awakened and realized that their rights were being violated.
This essay seeks to prove that the women suffrage movement is the result of the leadership of important figures in our history and the awakening not only by the women but also the men that democracy demands the due recognition of the women’s right to vote.
In the speech entitled “On Women’s Right to Vote”, Susan B. Anthony recounted her experiences when she was arrested for something that is her right to do – casting a vote. She was among the first female leaders who made the women realized the voting is also their right and guaranteed by the constitution. Susan Anthony explained one of the arguments against denying a female the right to vote which is that the United States was formed by the people of the United States. The people include those who are white and black, male or female, young and old who are all entitled to the same fundamental civil and political rights without any distinction. She also added that the dictionary defines a citizen as a person who is entitled to vote and hold office.
The article entitled “”Alice Paul” explained the sacrifices of Alice Paul one of the greatest figures in the struggle for women suffrage in the United States. In her struggle to introduce changes in the political system, she was arrested several times and went on hunger strikes for weeks. She was fed only through force and with the use of tubes inserted in her nose. Her group frequently conducted mass demonstrations and picketing outside the White House where she was met with assault by male oppositionists. Because of the struggle for her group and the other women suffrage movement, the 19th Amendment was finally included in the Bill of Rights granting women the right to vote. But her group did not stop until women were also granted equal rights in the exercise of civil rights as well.
In the speech entitled “The Crisis”, Carrie Chapman Catt stressed that the awakening of women was the result of economic, political and social changes in the United States and in another countries. These changes have made them realize that it is time for them to take advantages of these changes. Firstly, the war has resulted in an unintended consequence of allowing women to take part not only in direct war activities but also in administrative jobs which made them realize that they can perform other tasks that were formerly performed only by men. Secondly, the decades of continuous struggle of the women suffrage movement and their determination to bring about equality has bore fruits as the opponents of women suffrage movement have been destroyed.
In the article entitled “Women Suffrage is Inevitable”, Carrie Chapman Catt stressed the recognition of the women’s right to vote is inevitable. She stressed that the history of our nation which values the principles of democracy demands that we recognize the right of the women to vote. It is indeed foolhardy to proclaim that our country is a democracy while at the same time tolerating discrimination and inequality of treatment. Secondly, women suffrage is inevitable because our democratic institution demands equal treatment of women and that we cannot be half democratic and half autocratic. Thirdly, because of the leadership role occupied by the United States in the family of nations, and as the other nations turn to the United States for their inspiration, the United States is bound to recognize the right of suffrage of women.
In the speech entitled “The Destructive Male”, Elizabeth Cada Stanton acknowledged that the present society is male-dominated. She stressed that while the male element in the society is not in itself harmful, its total domination has resulted in violence, conquest, acquisition, discord, disorder, disease and health. She argued that the female element can temper these violent emotions and control these destructive forces inherent in male-dominated society.
The success of the Women Suffrage Movement is now being enjoyed by women not only in the United States but in other democratic countries as well. The success would not have been possible were it not for the indomitable spirit and firm resolve of the women leaders who fought for this right and the important events in history that made them realize that they need not be secondary citizens in their own country. They helped awaken the spirits of women who had become accustomed to their secondary role in the society. They also organized these women so that their collective voices will finally be heard.
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I. a It is beyond any doubt that Wal-Mart is a symbol of financial success for any business organization. Since the company was founded in 1945, it has been one of the “superpowers” in the retail industry. It is one of the biggest corporations in the world today. It has millions of employees worldwide larger than that of GM, Ford, GE, and IBM combined. As of January 31, 2008, it operated 971 discount stores, 2,447 supercenters, 132 neighborhood markets, and 591 Sam's Clubs in the United States; and 21 units in Argentina, 313 in Brazil, 305 in Canada, 149 in Costa Rica, 70 in El Salvador, 145 in Guatemala, 47 in Honduras, 394 in Japan, 1,023 in Mexico, 46 in Nicaragua, 54 in Puerto Rico, and 352 in the United Kingdom, as well as 202 stores through joint ventures in China (Yahoo Finance, 2008, p.1). Despite having ruled the retail industry for years, it still continues to grow and dominate that industry.
Wal-Mart proclaims that the reason for its success is its company policy of “Every Day Low Prices.” The company’s efficient logistics system gives it the advantage of being able to order large quantities of products from its manufacturers and producers making it possible for them to sell their products for a cheaper price. What is not being said, however, speaks more eloquently than what is being said. A major reason why the company has been able to maintain low prices is its ability to limit its overhead costs which include payroll or employee compensation. Payroll or compensation of employees occupies a huge chunk of every company’s overhead cost.
What makes Wal-Mart different from other companies is that through the years, it has managed to control the wages and benefits of its employees. Sam Walton was noted to have remarked that “no matter how you slice it in the retail business, payroll is one of the most important parts of overhead, and overhead is one of the most crucial things you have to fight to maintain your profit margin.” (Simon Head, 2004, p.5) This was done primarily by means of understaffing and by controlling the wages and benefits of its employees down to the minimum. Because of the concerted effort to minimize labor cost by controlling the wages and benefits, both monetary and non-monetary, of the employees, Wal-Mart has been frequently involved in litigations for non-payment of wages, overtime pay, unfair labor practices and discrimination. Research shows that in the last few years, over 100 unfair labor practices have been filed against Wal-Mart throughout the country, with 43 charges filed in 2002 alone. In the 2004, a class-action suit was filed by over 1.6 million current and past women employees against Wal-Mart seeking redress against the company for discriminating against its female employees (Myron Curry, 2004, p1). If this suit progresses, Wal-Mart may later on be forced to settle this suit and pay these employees millions of dollars in damages. These countless suits and litigations and the damages it has paid against its employees have severely affected the Wal-Mart’s reputation all over the world.
I.b. In designing a new compensation plan for Wal-Mart in its business in China, it must conduct due diligence and extensive researched about existing and new regulations in the host country. One issue that Wal-Mart has to take into account is the Labor Contract Law recently passed in China which took effect last January 1, 2008. Under this law, employees who have worked at least 10 years are entitled to sign labor contracts with no fixed termination dates (Xinhua News Agency, 2008, p.1). Wal-Mart must make sure that they are able to comply with The Labor Contract Law and other existing laws.
I.c. One of the major implications for the intended unionization is that employees in China will have greater protection against labor abuses. In addition to the new laws passed, they could secure better terms and conditions from Wal-Mart through their unions if the latter will be aggressive and work hard towards representing the cause of the employees. However, realistically speaking, labor laws in China are still young compared to US Laws. For several decades, China has been known as a haven for companies that engaged in underpayment of ages, forced labor and other abuses against their employees. If Wal-Mart has been able to elude the strict labor laws in the US, it can still do the same in China where enforcement and regulatory laws are not yet as strict as the US laws.
II.a. The Employee Compensation Plan that I aim to design seeks to do away with the company mindset of sacrificing the employees for the sake of company profits. I aim to instill the value that employees are the company’s number one asset. If it seeks to remain in the top of the retail industry, Wal-Mart must treat its employees well. The idea is that by not merely complying with existing labor laws but by giving to the employees what they deserve, Wal-Mart can get the most from their existing employees. They will become more productive, turnovers will be decreased and suits and litigations will be avoided.
The Employee Compensation Plan that I designed is one that is based on employee performance. Performance takes into account productivity, efficiency, attendance, and skills. It has six basic components, all of which are essential in giving what the employees need to improve their living conditions without necessarily sacrificing Wal-Mart’s financial success. The first component is salary. Wal-Mart’s associates should receive at least the same amount of daily wage as the other companies in the retail industry. On the premise that Wal-Mart employees are more productive and well-rounded compared to other companies, it would therefore be an injustice to deny this to them. Second component is annual incentive plans depending on the company performance. Employees who know that they will receive additional compensation if Wal-Mart reaches its target will be more motivated to work harder. Third component is bonus. Bonus is something that is given out of gratuity for employees whose performance exceeds the employer’s expectations. The fourth component is the long-term incentive plans such as stock-based plans giving the supervisory-level employees up to managerial-level employees, opportunity to participate at stock options. The fifth component is the Perquisites offered to managerial employees which include car plans, housing plans, and retirement plans. The sixth component is the non-monetary benefits given to all employees which include health care and vacation leaves.
II.b. The members of the Compensation Committee in charge of the compensation plan should be composed of three members who all occupy at least managerial positions within the company. One of the members of the committee should be an outsider. The purpose for an external member is to ensure independence in judgment of at least one of the members of the committee.
There should be substantial differences between hourly-paid employees and salaried employees. The former is not entitled to a fixed daily wage and does not receive any pay for days where they do not report for work. The latter however is entitled to a fixed daily wage who is also entitled to leaves with pay.
Not all sales employees are entitled to salaries. For some of them, Wal-Mart may not have employer-employee relationships with them. In the case of sales employees who are not considered employees of Wal-Mart they shall only be entitled to commission. Their income will mainly depend on the number of items they are able to sell in a given pay period. On the other hand, some sales employees can be considered as Wal-Mart employees. In this case, these sales employees will be entitled to a fix wage. If they are able to sell more, they will be entitled to additional compensation.
Executives and professional employees should be entitled to the salaries and benefits. The only difference would be in the amount of the wage and in the nature of the perquisites.
Expatriate employees are those who are residents of other country whom a company in another country hires as its employee. Expatriate employees are hired primarily because of the peculiar skills and experience that they bring to the company which the other local-based employees do not have. In this regard, they are paid more and receive substantially higher benefits compared to local employees.
The level of competitiveness of a company’s compensation plan should be compared to the other companies belonging to the same industry as Wal-Mart and from a national perspective. As mentioned earlier, it is not only the salary that should be measured but the entire compensation plan inclusive of bonuses, incentives, perquisites should be compared to the company’s competitors.
A competitive compensation plan must not only include a person’s salaries but it must also include annual incentive plans, bonus, long term incentive plans and perquisites. It must however be stressed that non-cash incentives or benefits cannot replace but can only supplement cash compensation.
In a service-oriented industry which Wal-Mart belongs employee productivity is a source of competitive advantage. The performance-based compensation plan offers the advantage of motivating the employees work with the company towards the accomplishment of corporate goals and objectives. It will improve corporate image of Wal-Mart by showing to the world that Wal-Mart also cares for its employees.
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The article on Free Will boldly makes comparisons about man and computers. First, the article acknowledged that human beings are immensely complex creatures, and that the human brain contains many millions of different nerve cells. It then makes a bold assumption that the difference between men and computers are only a matter of degree. It then proceeds to conclude and predict that time may come where we may be able to build a computer just as complicated and just as difficult to predict as the human mind. It adds that computer programs may be created to give computers the ability to become unpredictable in their actions. The article also says that it is possible that computers may be created that are capable of performing the functions of the human mind.
I disagree. Though I somehow dream that a time may come when computers may be able to make decisions on their own or to show emotions or to perform tasks which only human beings may accomplish, I also believe that no creation may be better than its creator. It is also no possible for an object of creation to be equal in terms of intelligence, skills and abilities than its creator.
It is a fact of life that when a painter paints a beautiful painting on a canvass, or when a writer writes an almost flawless piece of essay or when a child becomes a good citizen of our country, what is being praised is not the painting, or the essay or the child. We praise the painter. We applaud at the writer. We admire the parents. An object of creation can never be better or at least equal its creator.
Secondly, man’s existence and exercise of free will is much more than the result of the processes that happen in his brain or his emotions. It is the result of millions of years of evolution. Mother Nature is somehow responsible for this evolution. Nature has built man to be what it is today. Through constant adaptation with man’s natural environment, man has evolved into something that is completely different compared to what he used to be. Because of natural selection man learned to adapt to his environment to survive.
To say therefore that a computer can be created that can replicate the process f the human brain is like saying that the millions of years of evolution plays an insignificant role in our development. The human brain has survived the toughest of challenges nature has thrown at it. The computers on the other hand, cannot survive without its operating system. The human brain is capable of adapting even to the harshest of conditions. Computers cannot even adapt to its external environment.
Free will is much more than having the capability to make use of reason. It is much more than the ability to make decisions and to make choices. Free will also involves the ability to think about our decisions and our choices. Free will gives us the ability to reflect our own actions and evaluate them. Though sometimes man may act irrationally, it is undeniable that man has the capacity to think about the potential repercussions of his action and to question his own actions. What makes man unique is his ability to communicate with himself. Computers until now are incapable of doing this. Computers are not capable of communicating with themselves and questioning their own motives and reasons for their own actions.
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