Thursday, January 15, 2009

Philosophy 118 Compiled Mid-Term Reviews... Good Luck, Everyone!

This might confuse you a bit, but I'm sure having both reviews in one place would be more helpful to you than having them separate...

These notes were taken from my class with Dr. Reyes for Philosophy 118 last 12 and 14 January

.:On Philosophy:.

The type of Philosophy at stake is contingent on the methodology that is used by the thinker. This explains the stark contrast between the econo-political Marx and the indivualistic, aphoristic Nietzsche.

.:Review: Nietzsche:.

Nietzsche is admittedly all over the place by design because he believes that there is no way that one could systematize Philosophy. Being is not final, or immutable, or eternal. In fact, true Being is “becoming”. One has to capture Being as it flows, thus believing it impossible to truly freeze a moment in philosophical thought, lending to his writing style of brief, aphoristic sentences. He is not prone to writing long paragraphs the way most other thinkers do. This is the same as Heraclitus's belief that you cannot cross the same river twice, such that “everything runs”.

These are the seven main epochs of Nietzsche's thinking:

1. Birth Of Tragedy: His first work is not his best, but BoT implies for once that man is not fully rational, contrary to what Aristotle may believe. Nietzsche speaks of Apollo (the god of light and reason) and Dionysus (the god of the underworld, wine, passion, and instinct). While this may seem to be merely an analysis of the Greek tragedy wherein order and passion need to find a balance, it would appear that this discussion is also allegorical in regard to one's balance in life as well.

2. The Critique Of Morality: Though a Christian morality was in place, it was, in the case of Europe, merely falling into conformism. It is a mechanism placed to guilt, shame, and terrify the person into acting morally. There is none of the inner voice or inner spontaneity that should be the driving force of morality, rather than a mere sense of conformism brought about by what the group dictates, not what our own conscience tells us. It becomes, as such, a morality of mediocrity.

Furthermore, Nietzsche tackles the issue of the hidden agenda. For example, people are condemned for being immoral or obscene, and so forth, yet their condemnation arises from their own dirty mind. The human person becomes a means to an end.

For Nietzsche, morality ought to hinge on your own conscience. You should be courageous enough to become what you really are. Sometimes, you have to go against the group. The man who is strong enough to stand up for what he believes in is the Ubermensch, the superior man. This is the mark of a truly moral man.

3. The Critique Of Metaphysics: Metaphysics attempts to capture the totality, the ambit of being. One can see this in Platonic thinking leading towards the world of Eidos. However, reality as man knows it is never quite final and eternal. It is not being, per se, but becoming. There is no way to build a system when reality will not stop for you to form an idea about it. As such, metaphysics in the classical sense becomes merely a kind of escapism, in order to justify an order that does not exist in the present reality. It is a futile attempt to ground everything when doing so is simply infeasible.

Nietzsche likens this grounding to a kid who tries to stack blocks, that, in the end, merely collapses on itself.

4. The Critique Of Religion: There is an excessive stress on hierarchy and dogmatic formulation, authority, and the like. Religion seems to lose its meaning, instead of becoming a pursuit for God, merely an exercise in following authority. Furthermore, there appears to be an unnecessary stress on eschatology, to the point that the life we have now becomes devalued. Because of our focus on the next life, the here and now becomes immaterial to us.

In emphasizing the grandeur of God, the value of the human person similarly gets diminished. Sartre, for instance, insists on the dignity of man over the grandeur of God. Because of the diminished value of the human person, suffering seems to be elevated to a level where it becomes so important that we, instead of wishing to ease suffering, would rather pursue suffering.

At this point, Nietzsche declares “God is dead,” insofar as man has lost his bearings and act as if there is no God in their life, to begin with. Life becomes nihilistic for the religious people who have murdered their own God. Instead of reforming religion, Nietzsche proposes that we should note an Eternal Recurrence, insofar as we see a birth, a decay, and a death, from all epochs of time that we see.

5. The Critique Of Language: Contrary to the Heidegerrian belief that “language is the house of Being”, Nietzsche believes that the particular language in play represents a whole world-view. Depending upon the language one speaks, one sees a set of meanings that another language could possibly not see. Language does not reveal. Rather, it limits. It isn't about the truth of one's own language, but rather, its ability to be creative, even inspiratory. Language must be one that drives us to action. For instance, we may write about history in a clinical manner. Language should be harnessed to step beyond this, and make such historical declarations as inspirational than not.

6. Will To Power: Nietzsche did not write “Will To Power” himself. This was merely a compilation of dated notes written to himself that his sister published after his death. He intended to rename this book as “Versuch einer Unwertung allen Werte,” translated, “Attempts Towards a Transvaluation of All Values.”.Because of his sister's Nazi influences thanks to her significant other, the compilation was given a slant towards the German super race.

For Nietzsche, it is clear that there is truly a will to dominate others that occurs in nature, from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom, and it most certainly is present among humans in society. Whether you say “I love you” to someone, or whether a beggar asks you for money, there is an implicit attempt of domination upon another. Authority figures are notorious for this, but the common man himself certainly has the will to dominate the other.

What happened at this point was that Elizabeth used this to justify Nazism, which allowed them to insist that the German race was meant to dominate, to the point that they would even breed offspring from the most handsome men and most beautiful women in Germany at the time. The irony of this is that Nietzsche was a harsh critic of any totalitarian regime and prioritizes the individual over it, so a proposition like this would seem rather counterintuitive. After the death of Elizabeth, philosophical experts and commentators who came upon Nietzsche's material realized the slant that was not originally a part of Nietzsche's work.

There seem to be people whose preoccupation with destruction not for the sake of dominance, but destruction for its own sake. Freud would term this as a “death wish”. There seem to be some people who just don't seem to care about anything but destruction per se. Whether it is destruction of the self, of property, or of others, they are just preoccupied with destruction. This is called “the will to nothingness”.

If you read through his notes carefully, Nietzsche underscores that though the will to dominate is common, and thought the will to nothingness can be so consuming, the power lies not in either of these, but in the ability to master the self. Self-mastery, self-control allows you to liberate yourself from your self-slavery. This is called “the will to self-overcoming”.

It would appear that the will to dominate is merely a way to compensate for one who cannot overcome himself. There is true strength and true power in the will to self-overcoming. The will to dominate is a sign of weakness, not of strength.

7. The Aesthetic Phenomenon: Nietzsche did not cover this idea as much, but there was clearly an intent from Nietzsche to compile his ideas under this banner. If he were to believe in a God, he believes that it would be a dancing God. Why is that?

“Only as an aesthetic phenomenon is the world and the existence of man eternally justified.”

In the traditional scholastic tradition, there are three attributes to being: it is what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful. Imelda Marcos and her abuse of this notion to the point of cliché immediately comes to mind. Paul Cladell, for example. is a French intellectual who was attracted to Catholicism because of the beautiful music he heard from the church one day. There are those who would give their lives for what is beautiful.

For something to be truly valid, be it morality, religion, or an object, perhaps the “saving grace” is the aspect of beauty. That which is beautiful must be embodied. Despite the religious emphasis on the ugliness of the human body as imperfect and finite, Nietzsche emphasizes that beauty is nothing as an abstraction. It must be incarnated. For him, the human body is the greatest vehicle of beauty.

Nietzsche believes this is an opportunity for man to drive himself towards self-fulfillment and redemption, as one strives towards the aesthetic.

Acronym Mnemonic: BMo-MeRe-LaWA

.:Review, Continued: Marx:.

The best thing to read exclusively from Marx would be “The Economic and Philosophical Manuscript”. This came before his collaboration with Engels, which yielded “The Communist Manifesto”.Marx, prior to Engels, was more philosophical than purely radical.

Marx divides his thinking into the Critique and the Prophetique. Marx critiques politics, religion, and economics. His main point of contention here was about how people perceive something contrary to how the thing truly is. This is called “the false consciousness”.

The Prophetique is concerned with Marx's development of a “philosophy of work”. This runs contrary to the Greek notion that philosophy is a matter of leisure. Only those who have leisure can philosophize. In the contemporary Judeo-Christian world, people believe in “ora et labora”, that is, prayer and labor. Marx believes that neither should not be the case, but rather, the only essential quality of man is work.

Marx speaks of the transformation of nature, as he believes man should be able give a goal to nature, and elevates himself above nature, from fighting it, to harnessing it, to transforming it, to automation, and so forth. He can only pose himself if he does what he ought to do. For Marx, a man without work is a man who does not achieve his humanity: a complete parasite. Man is a social being, and the individual is thrown under the bus, as such. For Marx, work is the humanization of nature and the naturalization of man.

He then goes on to recount the history of work: from the nomads, to the feudals, to the merchants, to the industrial age, and the eventual production of the proletariat class. Why is the proletariat considered “messianic”? In their being purified of the false consciousness, they would be capable of a revolution that will truly change the system. At the same time, they are truly workers. From there, a transition will happen where the State will organize things until it simply becomes obsolete, and finally, we arrive in a classless society. In a class society, the things we have and do not have determine the “deficiency” of our humanity. It results in dehumanization, as such. In a classless society, people work according to his talents, and people's needs are provided for. There is no need to look down upon a person simply because nobody is entitled to anything more than they need.

Key words for Marx: false consciousness, alienation, history, praxis, role of the proletariat, classless society, the place of the individual, atheism, Marx's theory and philosophy as a violation of his own praxis, or that it is also clouded by false consciousness.

Mnemonic Acronym For Marx's Themes: FAH-PRC-PAM.

.:Quotable Quotes:.

“What is Philosophy? It is what Philosophers do.”

- Dr. Reyes

“Wow! Isagot mo lang yan sa Comps, yayakapin ka na ni Fr. Ferriols! A+!!!”

- Marcelle, side comment in response to Dr. Reyes's comment

“So the soldiers, during the activist era of Ateneo, raided the library, and they were pulling out all the red-covered books. Apparently, they were given orders to seize all copies of the 'Red Book'...”

- Dr. Reyes

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