1. Descartes: On Doubt.
2. Descartes: On the Nature of Self as Pure Thought.
3. Kant: On Moral Philosophy (REQUIRED QUESTION)
Reading carefully through the Groundwork for A Metaphysics of Morals
(especially first two sections) describe and comment on the main foundations
of Kant’s moral philosophy system. The core theme of his Deontological
approach is, as we have seen, that the moral worth of an action is not
dependent in any way on either the consequence of that action or the desired
gain by those who enacted it. The moral worth of the action is the INTENTION
and WILL of those who performed it in so far as that will is grounded by a
DUTY to obey laws of and Imperatives of reason.
4. Marx and The Means of Production:
Much of the discussion in the Marx chapter focuses around what we have
come to call Historical Materialism. Most importantly, it affirms – – in part at least – that the
different historical phases of humankind can be understood in terms of the
means of production found in each era. That is to say the means of production
necessary to produce/create the necessities of life; food, shelter etc.
5. Sartre: Radical Freedom and The Nothingness of Human Nature.
We have seen that What starts in Marx as a shift away from any abstract or
spiritual, or metaphysical explanation for human nature takes a more decisive
and radical angle in Sartre’ Existentialism. With Sartre we see an outright
denial of the Human Nature question to begin with; tables and cars and trees
etc these things have a Nature – – that is to say something that defines
WHO/WHAT they are, what their essence is.
However, how are humans different in this regard? The moto of Sartre’s approach as you have read is that existence
comes prior to essence, precisely because unlike a car or a tree that have and
essence, we – HUMANITY – as creatures with consciousness have NO fixed
essence that makes us act or behave in this/that way. In Sartre’s famous
wording, ‘man is a NO-THING’. We are not fixed determinate essence,
instead we EXIST as pure freedom of consciousness.
To be human is to have NO definite THIS or THAT essence but rather to create our essences, says
Sartre, as a reflection of the choices we make throughout our lives. So, it is
not so much that we have no essence but rather that we are not given a
universal sense of essence prior to our individual existence, an essence that
GROUNDS our behaviour; instead we each MAKE our own individual
essence based on each of our’ life-stories/life choices’. Now as you my have
seen already from my notes, on the one hand there is something very
appealing and liberating about this kind of radical FREEDOM, but, there is
also a much darker, sombre side to it. Discuss this issue pointing out some of
the difficulties in the Existentialist system and what they ultimately mean.