UNIT PLAN: Explore the key question of the 20th century, which asks how humans can find meaning or moral purpose after science showed that we are most likely random occurrences in an unfeeling universe - bits of matter that evolved language and then made up all sorts of happy fantasies about God and Goodness and the Afterlife to give our lives a point. In other words, it's about whether or not we can avoid the condition of meaninglessness Nietzsche called NIHILISM.
This exploration of the struggle against nihilism will proceed in three phases:
I. Learning the HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THIS QUESTION of meaning
Read this article about Nietzsche, Nihilism, and Science and take notes (30 pts)
II. Examining the SPECTRUM OF PROPOSED SOLUTIONS - 5 Key Schools of Thought:
After we learn these, comment on this post about the one you find most appealing and why (20 pts)!
a.) Analytic Philosophy: Focus on Language to look for the LOGICAL BASIS behind supposed "truths."
(BERTRAND RUSSELL, LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Saul Kripke, Donald Davidson)
b.) American Pragmatism: Embrace science; philosophy provides its creativity, EXPERIMENTING WITH
IDEAS geared toward better living (C.S. Peirce, William James, JOHN DEWEY, RICHARD RORTY)
c.) French Existentialism: Like Nietzsche said, we must CREATE MEANING FOR OURSELVES; there is no other
path. Kierkegaard was right that "subjectivity is truth," but his leap of faith was a cop-out. We're alone in
this universe, but at least we get to define OURSELVES. (SARTRE, DE BEAUVOIR, CAMUS, Samuel Beckett).
d.) Psychoanalysis: Like Schopenhauer said, we are all driven by "blind," unconscious drives inherited from Nature and sent into overdrive by when Culture comes in to suppress those desires. We need to UNDERSTAND OUR OWN MINDS to better adjust ourselves to reality. (S. FREUD, JACQUES LACAN, Carl Jung, Herbert Marcuse)
e.) Marxism: We need to CHANGE THE STRUCTURE OF SOCIETY, because our Capitalist system allows a few
wealthy business-owners to rule everyone else, limiting our human potential. We are capable of better
through revolutionary economic change. (ROUSSEAU, MARX, ANTONIO GRAMSCI, Slavoj Zizek)
III. Teaching the class ONE SPECIFIC THEORY OF MEANING (20+ minute group presentation)
Choose one of the five theories and present it in the most engaging manner you can!
A. ILLUSTRATED NOTE HANDOUT/LINK
B. AT LEAST ONE VIDEO CLIP/EXAMPLE
C. AT LEAST 2-4 NEW + 1-3 OLD PHILOSOPHERS
D. 20 MINUTES TOTAL PRESENTATION!
E. SOME KIND OF ASSESSMENT ACTIVITY
However you choose to approach this presentation, keep the following in mind:
This will be worth 100 collective points, plus daily group work grades and and individual presentation
grades totaling another 100. With the Nietzsche midterm and the model magic projects, this makes the third
major assignment of MP II - besides that, it's just the blogs/journals and participation! (This is college-level material, so I'm assessing you like a college humanities class - little busy work, but 3-4 big papers/projects).
Your presentation will be graded on how well you teach this material. Contrary to unfortunately-popular
views, teaching is not simply the transmission of information. It's also about connecting to people in a way that the 'information" becomes more of a basis for questioning and thinking about our own lives and world.
You'll get 50 points based on how clearly you explain the philosophy's fundamental ideas, but the other 50 points are based entirely on expression, meaning the WAY you go about communicating with the class!