Seminar paper: Freud

27 Nov

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 in Austria. He’s mainly known for founding the practice of psychoanalysis and his redefinition of sexuality (his version included the infantile forms). Freud was considered a romantic and had somewhat of a celebrity status. He was addicted to cocaine, was extremely ambitious and was an atheist.

Freud believed in the ‘all encompassing theory’ which is the theory of everything. This was targeted to a problem – the misery of the human condition. He believed that we are unhappy because we are divided as humans and that we are alienated from ourselves. He had the same starting point as Marx.

It doesn’t matter if you believe or don’t believe in psychoanalysis, but it;s influence has been outstanding. Freudian language has entered into the mainstream and it’s evident that we “all speak Freud now”. Whether we like it or not, we live in a totally Freudian world. He believed that he discovered the archaeology of the human mind through psychoanalysis and by doing this, excavating the secrets of the unconscious. This includes things such as Freudian slips, dreams and neurotic symptoms.

He was seen as a sexual renegade and challenged the enlightenment. He agreed with Rousseau’s teachings that all answers come from ourselves and that “man is the measure of all things”. He damaged the idea of ourselves as noble creatures. Freud was a self proclaimed pessimist and said to think of the artist Rembrandt when you think of him. A little light, but a lot of darkness. This came from this personal experiences. His theories are a dark vision of humanity.


Plato (427 BC) had a theory of the tripartite self. This was made up of reason, spirit and desire which is outlines in the allegory of the chariot. There, however, is one key difference between Plato and Freud. Plato believed that reason was in control of the two others but Freud thought that reason was the weakest of the three as people are irrational and driven by desires that are beyond our control and our concious mind. The idea of a tripartite self was taken on further by Freud, who constructed ideas of the id, ego and super-ego.


Marx (1818) is also similar in his beliefs of the tripartite self but with different titles – natural, alienated and species self. The needs of the species self would become dominate if we lived in a communist society. In a teleological perspective, humanity would finally access its true expression. Marx believed that human nature has an infinite potential to develop and evolve. Freud however rejects this as believed it was too idealistic and that our basic needs are not benign. He thought are deepest needs are aggression and the desire to hurt others and ultimately seek our own destruction in the Death Wish. This is very similar to Hobbes and Machiavelli’s views on human nature.

Freud said that the mind is divided into three distinct processes that are in conflict. The first is the id which is from birth. This is a bundle of instincts aimed at gaining pleasure and avoiding pain. Sex and aggression are combined by the id and they dominate the personality. Excitations are always bubbling away under the surface and demanding to be fulfilled but we are not aware of its dominance. The second is the ego which is the reality principle. This is the least powerful and is the voice of reason/common sense. It’s turned towards the real world. The third and final process is the super-ego which are the internalised rules of society. The Reich is irrational (the same as id) and develops after birth through socialisation. The super-ego has unrealistic standards of perfection and punishes with guilt.

Freud believed that society is full of suffering because life is full of pain. Our own body is decaying, as is nature, and our everyday interactions with people cause the most pain. He thought people are only out to get us and to hurt us. His answer to this is psychoanalysis which is needed to strengthen the ego. He outlines some coping mechanisms but he doesn’t recommend them – intoxication, isolation, religion and sublimation. Freud claimed he had found a way to deal directly with the unconscious, the id. Hypnosis, the pressure method, free association and dreams are all ways of tapping into the unconscious. Dreams are a way for the id to show itself. However, Freud believed that aggression would never be eliminated

There are many people who try to dispute Freud’s beliefs such as Popper. He thought all scientific predictions could be proven wrong, but Freud was so vague with his ideas that it can’t be tested. There is also no proof that psychoanalysis works. Even though Freud thought he was, he was not the discoverer of the unconscious. That, along with repression, childhood and regression were discussed in academic circles in the 19th century, before Freud. Schopenhauer believed man was an irrational being guided by internal forces. Reich believed that sexuality and politics were interlinked. He thought sexual repression was a weapon of political domination. Followers of Reich encouraged their patients to express their feelings openly, which was a direct attack on the Freudians who taught people to control their feelings.


HCJ3: lecture 4

13 Nov

This week’s lecture was on Social Darwinism. Social evolution was a concept that was considered by Nietzsche after Darwinisn invaded politics in the 1880s. In simple terms, Social Darwinism means that individuals, groups and people are subjected to the same laws of natural selection as plants and animals. It considers the survival of the fittest in society.

Greece: Plato’s idea of people was very simple. He thought of people as metals – philosophers were gold, soldiers were silver and the common people were bronze. These ideas were teleological because they were meant to represent the real form of human. It was similar to Nietzsche’s idea of a superhuman/ubermensch as it was all about saving the ‘gold’.

Artistotle was a great biologist as he categorised species. There was no concept of speciation but traits could be genetically inherited. He believed traits could be inherited via essence and passed down through the generations. This is hereditary evolution.

The Enlightenment: This period saw the development of sciene and animal breeding. Selective breeding, phrenology and racial categorisation occurred.

The Bible: It was written that all species were created in one single act. This shocked civilisation and ultimately led to Protestantism by Martin Luther.

USA: The USA was the first single state to be made up entirely of people with a non-ethic background due to the cruel extermination of the Native Americans. This created a state of neo-classicism. By 1900, USA was seen as the new Rome as they were starting to control parts of the Caribbean through militarism. The USA functions as a state of war to bring people together (this is still going on now all around the world i.e. the Middle East and Lybia).

Germany: They have a very romantic view on ethnicity. The ‘Heimat’ is essentially you are what you eat. They are very dominant and proud of it’s ‘pure’ ethnic background. They disagreed with the Enlightenment and they only mix well with people of their ‘own kind’.

France: They were very similar to Germany in that they wanted to make the world French. They wanted to compete with other nations by endorsing their own civilisation (e.g. the Algerian war).

Britian: Britiain’s language was formed by the Anglo Saxons who were, at the end of the day, German. Essentially to be British you had to be German. Britiain tried to establish themselves with the flag, the royal family and writers. Hellensim was used for imperialism. Public schools educated their students, trying to build up a bureaucratic elite (which was a success, for example, Eton and Harrow are seen to be a cut above the rest in terms of class). This was a new breed of elite as they learnt Ancient Greek and Latin. Britain tried to sort out other countries’ problems as they believed to be better than them because they were educated and ultimately trying to ‘save humanity’.


HCJ3: lecture 3

31 Oct

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philologist and philosopher, alongside being a critic, composer and poet. He is best known for writing critical texts on religion, morality, culture, philosophy and science. He is often seen as the successor to Schopenhauer. Nietzsche was a professor and his political philosophy was influenced by Machiavelli’s, The Prince. He can also be associated with Machiavelli because their ethics were aimed at power and not Christianity.

Schopenhauer believed that life is nothing but a curse, full of pain and suffering. He believed life is circular and that misery repeats itself over and over again. He disliked Christianity but preferred the Indian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Schopenhauer believed that the only way to escape this suffering is to commit suicide, though art and music provide temporary moments of escape. Nietzsche wasn’t prominent in science or logic, not a fan of the enlightenment, but was particularly influenced by art.

Nietzsche had a bit more of an internal locus of control, suggesting that life is suffering but those who suffer it must find a sheer force of will to live.

One of Nietzsche’s main ideas was that of an ubermensch, or a superhuman. ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, a philosophical novel written by him, was seen as the creation of the ubermensch. An ubermensch symbolised power, strength and forward thinking. However, the values of the ubermensch have turned evil and warlike. An ubermensch would rise to power through individuality and set a goal for humanity. No-one can be above them and they want bad things to occur. The ubermensch ultimately takes over everything.

Another key idea he discussed was the ‘will to power‘. This is a sheer force and personality of a ruler. Nietzsche admired individualism and thought that individuals were more important that the misery of a whole country. One of his heroes was Napoleon. Napoloen made nationalism possible and Nietzsche thought that the war has ‘higher hopes for the century’. Napoleon made nationalism possible and Nietzsche thought that this war had ‘higher hopes for the century.’  Aristocracy also plays a part in the will to power because these people are biologically superior according to Nietzsche. The ‘noble man’ is a governing aristocrat, capable of cruelty and only protects artists and poets. Nietzsche’s superior aristocracy is like Plato’s philosopher kings. These are the golden people who must think for the bronze people or the masses.

On religion, Nietzsche thought that Christianity’s main driving force was the ‘revolt of the bungled and botched’ and thought that these are the masses so saw no problem with their suffering. He thought Christianity tames man which is a mistake, and that Christianity is like a wild beast with a certain splendour which is lost when it’s tamed. Nietzsche thought that god is dead. Nietzsche prefers evil to good and wants to change everyone’s perception of what good and evil actually is.

Nietzsche had a very backwards view on what a woman’s role in society should be. He thought women are holding back society, that they are not capable of making friendships, called them cats/birds/cows and belived that women were only there for the pleasure of men. Independent women were intolerable and women in general were the property of men. Whereas Schopenhauer’s abuse towards women started due to his rocky relationship with his mother, Nietzsche seemed to have no negative experiences with women at all.


HCJ3: lecture 2

16 Oct

This week, the focus of the lecture was on Max Weber and his analysis of bureaucracy. Weber was born in 1864 and was a German philosopher and political economist. He is often known as one of the founding fathers of sociology along with Marx and Durkheim. He was interested in power and how to make it legitimate.

He believed that there are three types of power:

Traditional authority – this is a type of power resulting from habit (teleological). It’s seen as legitimate because everyone has by habit, obeyed the leader without any questions asked. An example of this is the authority found with the feudal lords as power is achieved and maintained through inheritance.

Charismatic authority – this is based on the charisma of the individual leader. It’s legitimate because people believe in the leader and are devoted to them. People have a herd mentality and have the tendency to follow the crowd. Weber said it’s “a certain quality of an individuals personality which is considered extraordinarily and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman or exceptional powers and qualities”. There are no rules and the leader decides everything. However, the leader can’t be there all the time to exert power so has to become more traditional or rational.

Legal/rational authority – a state of government needs to have a monopoly on legitimate power. This power needs to be centralised (like Hobbes’ The Leviathan) and for this they needed bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is technically sound as everyone in the system is trained to do one job, and if it’s not their job to do what you’re asking them to do, you have to find the person trained to do it. Rational authority is the rule of law, which means authority is given to public officials. Weber believed that bureaucracy is the purest type of legal/rational authority. Bureaucracy is often seen as tedious, but according to Weber it is the most efficiant system we have.

Weber’s views were formed by what was happening around him at the time. Prussia’s rise to power was a key part to play in this. Here, taxes were collected to fund a powerful army. They avoided the usual method of going to parliament which resulted in the militarisation of Prussia. It came to be known as not a country with an army, but an army with a country.


HCJ3: lecture 1

29 Sep

This week marked the beginning of my second year of university, and subsequently my second year of History and Context of Journalism. We were introduced to modernism, post-modernism and the creation of yellow journalism.

The geographic home of modernism is the USA. In 1848, there we revolutions in Germany, Italy, Russia and many other European countries. This was seen as Europe’s last chance to become modernised but all of the revolutions failed. Economic developments slowed down which eventually lead to famines in many countries (especially in Ireland). Due to this, there was a mass migration of landless peasants and radicals to New York and other Eastern cities in the USA. Modern New York is polyglot (a mixture of languages) due to this. In 1849, gold was discovered in California, and the gold rush happened. In the 1850s there was a huge amount of industrialisation in the North East due to the limitless supply of cheap labour. The migrants were exploited. There was a huge continental market, and this attracted even more migration from Europe. This created tension within America and subsequently the Native American territories were cleansed (in the 1870s-1880s). Buffaloes were mass murdered which was the main food supply of the Native Americans, and blankets with foreign diseases such as smallpox were introduced into the communities. This lead onto the American civil war which was the first industrialised war, and the North prevailed.

William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) was an American newspaper publisher who’s claim to fame was the San Francisco Examiner where he advertised which towns the gold was being found in, proving to be very popular and thus made him a lot of money. Meanwhile, New York was being run by radicals, namely a Hungarian radical called Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). Pulitzer was a left-wing journalist who wrote for the radicals and the poor.  Hearst raged war on Pulitzer in order to take over the New York market so developed a polyglot newspaper language which was simple and understandable for all (words such as ‘cops’ being used instead of ‘police’). The Hearst vs. Pulitzer battle included physical violence to insure that their particular newspaper was sold in certain newsagents.

Hearst led a political campaign to conquer the Spanish colonies and manufacturer a nationalism that focused on the hatred of others. After the ‘mysterious’ sinking of a US naval ship in Spanish waters (Havana), he used his paper to fuel hatred of the Spanish and convince the population to go to war. As he famously said to his publicist: “you supply the story, I’ll supply the war.”

Hearst invented the modern newspaper: simple polyglot language, massive sensationalist headlines, populist politics, visual emphasis (illustrations), crime reporting, life scandals of politicians, movie stars and business enemies, and cartoon strips (namely The Yellow Kid which gave name to Yellow Journalism). Yellow journalism came to Britain by imitation – Lord Northcliffe set up a newspaper called ‘Answers to Everything Under the Sun‘, which to this day, is still a section in The Sun newspaper.


HCJ2: lecture 6

17 May

This week’s lecture was taken by Shira and was on the topic of The Dreyfus Affair and Emile Zola.

The Dreyfus Affair was seen as the beginning of modern anti-Semitism and the beginning of Jewish nationalism (Zionism). This case showed the power of the media and the media was the real winner of the whole situation – without it, we wouldn’t have heard about the story. This was also the start of yellow journalism which included exaggeration of the facts, facts which were not accurate and large headlines and illustrations.

Timeline of events:

1894 – Secret French military information was found in a waste bin at the German embassy in Paris. The counter intelligence office implicated Captain Alfred Dreyfus (a young Jewish-French artillery officer).

Oct. 1894 – Secret martial court charges him of treason out of the public eye.

Jan. 1895 – Dreyfus is stripped of his military rank and sent to French Guinea for life. His elder brother started a campaign to prove his innocence.

1896 – Ferdinand Esterhazy is identified as the real culprit by Lt Col Piquard. Military officials supress the evidence for this, Esterhazy is acquitted and flees France. Piquard is sent to south Tunisia to serve. The army wanted the case to be closed there and then, but the family of Dreyfus wanted to keep it open to make it to the second trial.

1898 – Emile Zola, a French writer, takes on the case, was found guilty and this action turned the ‘case’ into an ‘affair’. There was now massive pressure for a second trial.

1899 – After a massive public campaign and a second trial, Dreyfus was pardoned but was not aquitted of the charges.

1906 – Dreyfus is finally aquitted in court, fully rehabilitated and integrated back into the ranks with a promotion.

Political context:

In 1894, there was a major corruption scandal around the construction of the Panama Canal and the Jews were heavily involved. This flamed anti-Semitism. The 3rd Republic is 24 years old and very divided and broken. Jews didn’t want to be associated with the case as they thought it would increase anti-Semitism.


In the 1800s, France was a very militaristic country. There were high hopes for vengeance, the army was a status symbol, there was a close society and the army was seen as the safe keeper of tradition. There was a large gap between the army’s values and the new republican society (democracy vs. hierarchy). The army was very racist and anti-Semitic – Captain Mayer who was a Jewish officer was killed in a duel death which triggered considerable emotion.


During this period, there was a great sense of nationalism amongst the French people and a concern about French greatness and the Jewish emancipation evolved after the revolution. In 1886, Edouard Drumont, a French writer and journalist, published a book called ‘Jewish France‘ which talked about the conspiracy of the Jews to take over France. He said that they could not be cured by baptism, and the only way to get rid of Judaism was to exile them from France. The press at this time was virtually free to write and disseminate any information, even when offensive. Drumont created the newspaper ‘La Libre Parole’ which was an anti-Semetic paper, which allowed him to further expand his audience to popular readership and to spread his views on Judaism.

On the 29th October 1894, ‘La Libre Parole’ went with a front page headline of “Why do military authorities keep the silence?”. This was the beginning of a violent anti-Semitic press campaign. In 1896, Lazare said that the affair convinced him that the only solution for the Jewish problem was a land of their own (Israel). On the 13th January 1899, Zola published ‘J’Accuse’ which was a letter to the president in the socialist newspaper L’Aurore. It was a strong provocation, with 200,000 copies sold and was written in the style of naturalism/observational journalism.

All in all, the Dreyfus affair strengthened parliamentary democracy and allowed the creation of the French League of Human Rights. However, it blocked the way for improved relations between France and Italy after the Customs war because they were a Dreyfusard nation.


HCJ2: lecture 5

19 Mar

“Capitalism comes into the world dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”

Karl Marx was born in 1818 in Germany to Jewish parents. They had to convert to Christianity, and even then it was not the popular denomination at the time. Due to this, Marx always felt like an outsider and therefore understood the concept of alienation. He deduced that people can appear to be free but are actually in chains. He claimed that capitalism alienates men from themselves and from each other. Work is the loss of the self, it belongs to another and does not develop the body or mind. We are separated from the true reality of who we are and what we are doing.

Marx was largely influenced by Hegel in the fact that he believed that everything is changing and in a state of flux. He also agreed with the view of the dialectic process and the view that history is is always heading somewhere (teleology). Hegel thought that history is being guided by a spirit (the Geist) but Marx disagreed with the mystic.

Marx met Friedrich Engels in 1844 in Paris. Marx had intellect whilst Engels had money (due to his father), and so he became his benefactor. Communism and Marxism was merely Engels’ interpretation of Marx’s work after he died. According to Engels, Marx was a fusion of Hegelian philosophy, British empiricism and French revolutionary politics.

He wrote the ‘Communist Manifesto‘ in 1848 which was considered by many as the most dangerous publication ever written. Due to this, he was extradited out of the majority of Europe, so he fled to London where he worked and lived for the rest of his life. This was written in a time of political and economic change, and there were revolutions happening all over Europe. The revolutions failed in Germany, the middle classes had no power so focused largely on education. It was deemed the ‘German century’ as it was a flowering of intellectual life. His views were seen as dramatic and revolutionary – “Abolish all private property”. This is very similar to the principles of Rousseau and Locke (life, liberty and property). Marx believed that you can explain everything about society by analysing economic forces. As opposed to Aristotle, Plato, Kant and Hegel, Marx thought that man is the productive animal. Mankind creates the environment.

His method was scientific, he researched every aspect of society in order to understand it, believing he was using the same methods as Darwin. He worked his way through the British Museum’s records and their raw data. He came to conclusion that capitalism was powerful and effective but inside of capitalism was the seeds of it’s own downfall. Through the dialectic process, he placed the thesis as the bourgeoisies (free market capitalism, liberal state and individual rights), the antithesis as the proletariat, and the synthesis as socialism. Marx saw the class struggle through history – the master and the slave, the lord and the serf, the bourgeoisies (upper classes) and the proletariat (working classes). This clash in the class system, Marx thought, would bring about socialism through the clash. He believed that the factories would overproduce and and exploit the workers (meaning they would not be paid enough and therefore could not buy the products). This would result in a boom and bust and the system would collapse. The proletariat would eventually rise up and dispossess the bourgeoisies which would mean that there would be a dictatorship of  the proletariat. This would result in socialism, people would own everything, the government would wither away and communism would rise. The working class have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Communism didn’t work in the long term due to the flexibility of the market and state intervention. Also, Marx didn’t foresee the ability of marketing and advertising to add value to a product. Marx thought the USSR and China unsuitable for communism as they had no sense of class or identity. He also thought them not to have organisation skills between the poor and so did not know how to work together to rise up against the government.


HCJ2: lecture 4

8 Mar

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a teleological thinker, which meant that he believed there is a purpose and direction to everything. For example, an acorn’s sole purpose is to become an oak tree. He also believed that you can never be certain of anything or know anything until after it has happened, which was something very different to what many people at that time thought.

Hegel’s main belief was in this entity called the Geist. Geist is a spirit of the world which develops and changes along with it. He thought that change is the only constant and this is due to Geist (essentially meaning the ‘soul of the world’). Only the Geist understands itself. Humans only have a partial view of the world and the universe, and are subject to alienation, so are strangers in our own land. Hegel believed that if you die then you are no longer alienated. The reason that we are alienated is because of something that happened called ‘The Fall’. The Fall was a series of battles set in motion, caused by sin. In the end, good will triumphed.

Hegel thought that Germans are the master race and were chosen by God to rule and spread the message of God. He thought that the Prussian state was paradise on Earth. He also followed the dialectical process (all men are mortal… etc). The thesis was the Greek empire – it was an organic society, people followed natural laws and so it was a perfect society. The antithesis was the fall of the Roman empire, the chaos of Catholicism and the middle ages. The synthesis of this cycle was the Enlightenment.

“The Owl of Minerva only takes flight at dusk.”

Arthur Schopenhauer was, like Hegel, a pupil of Kant, but had very different ideas to him. He said that there is no message in history and would have been classed as an atheist (unlike Hegel who was a Protestant). Schopenhauer believed that “life is suffering” and that we are are purposely going through life in pain and that there is no point to life. He thought life is a prison and that the only way we can escape it is either by suicide, intoxication, or the contemplation of art. The German composer Wager was a follower of Schopenhauer and this constant sexual longing was shown in his compositions.

He had a very negative view on women and was extremely misogynistic. He thought that as women bought life into the world by giving birth, they are all sinners and should not exist. If women did not exist, children would not be born and therefore no more unnecessary suffering would be caused.

Schopenhauer only believed in one noumena and this is the universe as a thing in itself. He also talked about ‘the Will’ or the ‘life force’. Everything has a Will and it is what makes things ‘be’. Conciousness is the subjective representation of the Will. He also thinks that space and time is non-linear (circular) so, for this reason, he may even have been a Hindu.

Schopenhauer was the total and final rejection of Aristotle.

“Life is the one disease for which there will never be a cure.”


Kant seminar paper

26 Feb

Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 and is considered one of the greatest modern philosophers. He was educated in the Wolfian version of Leibniz’s philosophy, but was led astray by the ideologies of David Hume and Jean-Jaques Rousseau. Hume criticised the concept of causality which awakened Kant from his dogmatic slumber, however the influence of Rousseau was more profound. He was a liberal both in politics and theology, and he sympathised with the French revolution, believing in democracy. Kant synthesised ideas from both the empiricists and rationalists of the time who were dominating the world of philosophy, and his writing was considered ground breaking and revolutionary.

Many of Kant’s earlier works were concerned with science as opposed to philosophy. After the Lisbon earthquake, he wrote a theory on earthquakes. His most important scientific writing is ‘General Natural History and Theory of the Heavens’ written in 1755. Like many people at the time, Kant wrote a treatise on the sublime and the beautiful. Kant’s most important book, ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’ (1781) tried to prove that although none of our knowledge can transcend experience, it is part apriori and not inferred directly from experience. He separated two distinctions – analytic preposition (which follows the law of contradiction) and synthetic preposition (not analytic). There is also empirical preposition (one which we cannot know except by the help of sense-perception) and apriori preposition (thought it may be elicited by experience, is seen to have a basis other than experience).

Hume proved that the law of causality is not analytic and said that we could not be certain of the truth. Kant accepted this view that it is synthetic – arithmetic and geometry are synthetic, but are likewise apriori. He believed that that experience can teach us that something is the case, but it cannot show that is must be the case (this is called the problem of induction). Kant objected to this and said that humans should be rational so that they can be moral and free. There is a stronger version of apriori for Kant – it is something that can be known completely independently of experience (this is called synthetic apriori).

‘The Critique of Pure Reason’ is occupied in showing the fallacies that arise from applying space and time or the categories to things that are not experienced. We find ourselves troubled by ‘antinomies’ and Kant give four such antinomies. In the first, the thesis says “The world has a beginning in time, and is also limited as regards space” and the antithesis says “The world has no beginning in time, and no limits in space; it is infinite as regards both time and space.” The second antinomy proves that every composite substance both is, and is not, made up of simple parts. The third antinomy thesis says that there are two kinds of causality, one according to the laws of nature and one according to that of freedom. The fourth antinomy proves that there is, and is not, an absolutely necessary Being.

Kant was agnostic as he believed you never know if there is a god or not. He tended to position god as the noumena of the universe. He says there are only three proofs of god’s existence by pure reason – the ontological, cosmological and physico-theological proofs. Ontological proof defines god as the most real being (ens realissimum). Cosmological proof says: if anything exists, then an absolutely necessary Being must exist; now I know that I exist; therefore an absolutely necessary Being exists and this must be ens realissimum. The physio-theological proof maintains that the universe exhibits an order which is evidence of purpose. God, freedom and immortality, Kant says, are the three ‘ideas of reason’.

‘Metaphysic of Morals’ (1785), outlined Kant’s ethical system and had significant historical importance. He wanted a completely isolated metaphysic of morals which wasn’t mixed with any theology or physics or hyperphysics. He believed that moral concepts have their seat and origin wholly apriori in the reason.

The most important part of ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’ is the doctrine of space-time. Kant says that the immediate objects of perception are due partly external things and partly to our own perceptive devices. John Locke had made the world use to the idea that secondary qualities (such as colours, sounds and smells) and subjective and do not belong to an object. Kant furthered this theory and made the primary qualities subjective also.

Kant believed that the mind is a collection of twelve categories. The mind filters raw sense data into the categories which can then be deduced by synthetic apriori. There categories are: unity, plurality (or not), totality (or not), reality, negation, limitation, substance/extension, cause and effect, community (likeness to other objects), possibility, existence, necessity. All possible perceptions are synthesised from these categories and they exist in the mind only as phenomena. The mind is a machine for synthesising data according to the categories of public perception. Phenomena are ‘real’ objects in the mind as we perceive them whereas noumena is a ‘thing within itself’ when it’s not being perceived. All objects have a dual nature as they are constantly changing as we perceive them.

To prove space and time are apriori forms, Kant came up with the metaphysical and the epistemological (or transcendental) arguments. Regarding space, the metaphysical argument says that space is not an empirical concept, space is a necessary presentation apriori, space is not a general concept of the relations of things in general and space is presented as an infinite given magnitude. The transcendental argument is derived from geometry. He holds that geometry is apriori although it is synthetic (not deducible from logic). Knowledge of geometric proofs is not derived from experience and that objects of sense must obey geometry because geometry is concerned with our ways of perceiving. These two arguments with regards to time are basically the same except geometry is replaced with arithmetic as counting takes time. According to Kant, we have no direct experience of time, we only have the ability to sequence events. The main thing to take from Kant’s theory of space-time is that time and space is a necessary precondition for perception, however it is not the result.


HCJ2: lecture 2

5 Feb

The lecture this week was on empiricism and the philosophers John Locke and David Hume.

Empiricism is set again rationalism (Descartes) and asks the question, “How do I know that this is true and is there any evidence to show this?”. Empiricists find out about the world by experiencing it which is called A Posteriori (knowledge through experiences and senses). A Priori is rationalism which is the belief that you can know things before you experience it. You can differentiate between the two by thinking of someone growing up inside a dark box. Rationalists think that they will have knowledge of the world but empiricists think they will know nothing.

John Locke was one of the first empiricists and this was shown in his paper ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ which was very influential. He believed that that everything in our minds comes from experience and was against the idea of “innate ideas”. He believed that the mind was a blank slate (Tabula rasa) from birth. He however thought that God gave mankind the ability to reason and discover knowledge so these innate ideas we’rent needed. He called these ‘God-given faculties’.

“Truly before they [ideas] are known, there is nothing of them in the mind but a capacity to know them.” – in the Epistle to the Reader.

David Hume is nowadays seen as the greatest philosopher to have written in English. He was known as the Great Infidel because of his attacks on religion. Hume disagrees with Locke as he doesn’t think there’s a God-given faculty called reason and that it just happens naturally. He is a sceptic and he managed to prove that we cannot believe anything. This claim has not been disputed since. Critics attacked him as an irrationalist because of his scepticism and because he was pro-science and anti-superstition.

Locke spoke about ideas as being sensory data acted on by reason to produce an idea. Hume, however disagrees. He speaks about perceptions of which there are two kinds. They can be impressions (involves hearing, seeing, feeling etc.) and they can be ideas (thinking of something instead of actually experiencing it – a copy of an impression). Beliefs can be  1) relations of ideas – a priori bond between ideas, or 2) matters of fact – to do with experience, cause and effect. Logic can be deductive – in a valid argument if the premises are all true then the conclusion must be true, or inductive which aims to establish a conclusion to be true with some degree of probability.

Inductive logic is what science uses and it is using what we’ve seen in the past and turning that into a guide to what will happen in the future. This, however, cannot be established by observation, since we can’t observe future events. The search for ‘natural laws’ has long been seen as the central task of science. The scientific method includes experiments and observations, and from the evidence, scientists can attempt to build up natural laws. The use of induction then becomes the demarcation between science and non-science. Hume thought that there was a problem with induction and he called it unreliable as you cannot be certain of what will happen in the future. He believed that it is custom and habit that guide us through life, not our powers of reason. He said that you can’t be constantly sceptical about the world as our minds aren’t built like that. Hume has recently become relevant again because of theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, as our confidence in the uniformity of nature might let us down.

Hume wrote a paper on miracles and he believed them to be a transgression of a law of nature. He said that you should never believe people who claim to witness a miracle as extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. He said that you must proportion belief to the available evidence, and that statement is revered by journalists even today.