Sparknotes: The Fools Challenge

The Sparknotes Logo

The Sparknotes Logo

Students all of the country in both high school and college are often assigned excerpts and chapters from books such as Shakespeare, the Odyssey and others books. However, in today’s world where you can find almost anything on the Internet it doesn’t always seem necessary to read the assigned chapters. Instead students often have the option to use study guide websites such as Sparknotes or Cliff Notes, which give a general summary of the chapters, books and articles. Here lies what Hobbes might describe as an example of the fools challenge.

In the eyes of Hobbes’s fool students should utilize Sparknotes. The fool maintains that sometimes breaking a covenant for ones self-interest and personal gain is an acceptable and reasonable action to take. In this case the fool would encourage students to use Sparknotes because it would save them time and work, and thus it is in their own self-interest to use Sparknotes.

Hobbes would disagree with the fool and would argue that students who break the covenant of academic integrity and use Sparknotes are unwise. Hobbes believes that people who break covenants for their personal gain are short sighted because breaking covenants would likely put a person at a disadvantage in the future and would erase any trust that other people had in the person who broke the covenant.


The fool would say Sparknotes is a good choice. Hobbes would say it is a bad choice.

In the example of Sparknotes the student is faced with a decision. They can take the fools route or they can take Hobbes’s route. In most classes students take some form of covenant to not use Sparknotes and other websites similar to it. If a student were to take the fools route and use Sparknotes they would be breaking the covenant for their own personal gain, and they would probably save some time and maybe get a little bit more sleep. However, they run the risk of being caught for academic misconduct and this violation can be severely punished. I have had friends who have been caught using Sparknotes for their classes and they were suspended for a day of school. Not taking that type of risk is one of the main arguments that Hobbes makes against the fool. Hobbes does not believe that the risk is worth it, and he also believes that all covenants should be kept. He argues that a person who breaks a covenant would loose trust of the people around him and that people will not make covenants with other people whom they know will break them. A student who got caught using Sparknotes would most likely lose the trust of his teachers and fellow students, which could have a negative impact on his grade. Furthermore if a teacher did not trust that a student was doing the reading and believed that instead they were using Sparknotes the teacher might give the student reading quizzes everyday. This would make the class more difficult for the student and is an example of how breaking covenants might put a person at a disadvantage in the future.

The person who chooses to go Hobbes’s route, and to read the assignment without using Sparknotes, would believe that these significant risks were not worth breaking the covenant and that it is essential for people to keep their covenants because being trusted is an important and valuable tool in life. So when confronted with the fools challenge it seems like a better decision to just do the reading and not be the fool.

One thought on “Sparknotes: The Fools Challenge

  1. Very interesting way to apply the fool’s challenge. Sparknotes was extremely present in my high school career, more so than in college, but the dilemma is just the same. While I do believe that the use of Sparknotes or Cliffnotes as a substitute for reading would completely violate academic integrity, I feel there should be a happy medium. Reading over the main ideas that sparknotes highlights before personally going about the reading I find to be very beneficial and not necessarily bad. Main ideas just help you get the gist of what you’re about to read and allow you to read more closely versus getting sidetracked trying to figure out what you are supposed to be understanding. I believe there should be a middle group of allowed assistance that is not detrimental to future personal knowledge for the students, and not disrespectful to the professor assigning the reading to begin with.


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