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!
"You've (taken a vow of silence) because of Friedrich Nietzsche? ... All right."
This assignment's pretty self-explanatory. First explain what you think Nietzsche is saying, then give your opinion on whether his views have, or at least had, value. Most of you did the blog post setting out a thesis on this very topic; now just develop it into a full-length paper, providing at least one real-world OR fictional example.
While I hate to set any limits on your creative expression in this context, Nietzsche would appreciate that some people need a "push" to begin their pursuit of greatness. In that spirit, here are the requirements:
1.) The page limit (2-4) refers to a paper written in 11 or 12 point font, using a standard typeface and the "normal" margin setting on Word, GoogleDocs, etc. If you cannot come up with a full 2 pages worth of responses to a thinker as controversial as Nietzsche, then you're not yet really thinking about what he's saying. Even today, if you mention the century-old name "Friedrich Nietzsche" to many people, they will react with disgust. That alone is a sign his ideas remain powerful. Confront what he's saying: you and your life are all you have; live greatly.
2.) This is a paper based on what Nietzsche called "perspectivism" - the idea that "the world" is only ever "the world FOR some Subject," a living being who sees things from their own perspective (in Kant's terms, there exists only a multiplicity of phenomenal worlds, no "noumenal world" except the totally impersonal forces described by physics which Schopenhauer and Nietzsche describe as the Cosmic Will to Life/Power). SO YOUR PAPER NEEDS TO BE BASED ON YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE TO GET A GOOD GRADE. Be original, be opinionated, be offensive even - but back it up, because as sarcastic and playfully malicious as Nietzsche gets, THIS IS STILL PHILOSOPHY, and you have to provide reasons for your subjective views (or explain why such reasons are impossible...)
3.) You must quote Nietzsche at least twice. You cannot quote the one about "whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger" or the "when you gaze into the abyss" one either. You can, however, ask me to see any or all of the quotes we used in our writing and discussion of Nietzsche excerpts last week. You are also free to quote from a second source like this page from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Nietzsche, as long as you give me the website information (and if you plan on going to college, please get into the habit of doing so in an MLA works cited page, even if it's only one source).
Your goal for this post is to develop and express a perspective on Nietzsche, the "philosopher of Power." Your post will become the basis of a 3-page reaction paper on Nietzsche's thought, due before Xmas break. I will comment on some of the posts if I have a suggestion or idea to add.
In summary, Nietzsche joined aspects of Kant and Schopenhauer with the theories of Evolution and Physics to explain reality in a truly new way. For Nietzsche, "this world is the Will to Power, and nothing else! And you yourself are also the Will to Power, and nothing else!" This means that everything in our universe is a force expressing its power either against or in combination with other forces - electrons, trees, teachers, and countries are all versions or "expressions" of this cosmic force, the Will to Power. Nietzsche encourages us to embrace our power to create new ethical values and live the life we imagine, going beyond anything humanity has been before to reach the status of Overman. In short, evolve beyond your limitations and become something great! That choice to become awesome gives meaning to our lives in this meaningless universe. It's like your own subjective version of Aristotle's concept of the telos, or purpose of something's existence.
To begin, re-watch and take basic notes on the three 8-Bit Philosophy videos about Nietzsche:
-Ontology of Forces: Nietzsche's attack on the Platonic/Christian Dualism
-Epistemology of Perspectives: Nietzsche's critique of the concept of Truth in Science
-Ethics of Self-Overcoming: Nietzsche's challenge to embrace the Eternal Return of your life
Then, if you want, check out this longer video about Nietzsche as well. which describes his life and "advice."
Once you're done with the videos and notes, and you feel like you have a basic grasp on Nietzsche's core viewpoints, think about these ideas, and decide what YOU have to say about them. Do you think he has anything worthwhile to say? Few people end up completely agreeing or disagreeing with his ideas, mainly because he has so many of them! Instead, you can focus on one or two ideas to discuss. Or you can talk about how some of Nietzsche's thinking applies to an activity or field you enjoy. You might even give an explanation of his ideas followed by a point-by-point critique. The goal is to say something both personal and perceptive, meaning it shows understanding of the material while providing insightful commentary about it.
NOTE ON GRADING OF YOUR NIETZSCHE PAPERS: Nietzsche would hate the concept of "grading," yet equally hate the idea of treating everyone's work as "equally good" (as I've said before, once you truly grasp Nietzsche's philosophy you realize it is all about the necessity of conflict, i.e. PARADOX). So I'm going to grade you in a way that is as close to his standards as possible: I will be assigning scores based on how individual, how proudly subjective, how reflective of real struggle with these ideas a paper is. . Was its writing guided by an active, creative will to power bent on expressing a truly original thought? Or was it written reactively, resentfully, as an attempt to just get done with an assignment instead of wrestle with the challenges Nietzsche lays before us?
Here are the notes for the philosophers that go with The Matrix. Print the two pages and highlight/textmark, doing the same for the "philosopher cards" that go with them!
You can use ANY kind of article that APPLIES the ideas of any philosopher in this unit (it can't just be an explanation, like a wiki type article). You should write about a decent-sized paragraph summing it up briefly and giving your thoughts, especially making connections. Here are a few example pieces - choose one if you'd like:
Beyonce as an Example of Aristotlean Virtue, i.e. reaching your potential for excellence
Newspaper Editorial Saying we Need to Be More Epicurean (two short pages - click page 2)
Stoicism and Bad Sports Teams
A Self-Help Blog Promotes a Return to Stoicism
A Super-Short Short Story Based on Descartes's version of the Soul
A brief modern biography of Hume:
Hume on Religion - Agnostic or Atheist?
Is The Hunger Games Marxist?
Economist Thomas Piketty described as 'Modern Marx'
THE UNIT'S ASSIGNMENTS: In class, we'll be watching the film and discussing it in relation to these topics. Your task is to work through the following multi-part assignment both outside of class and during the time I will give you after we finish the movie. Figure out beforehand which projects you are going to do so you don't forget!
-Complete your personal notes first, including these thinkers here, plus at least 3 others (40 points).
-Once you’ve finished and gotten them approved, you are free to start on these activities.
-You must complete four activities, including 2 blog posts, for 40 points (a total of 200 points)
-You may complete a fifth activity for extra credit. Also note that activities 5-8 can be done in small groups.
-The blog posts will go up near the film's end. The articles you will read for them are about 4 pages.
1. ARTICLE REVIEW: PERSONAL CHOICE (Research or ask me: 1-2 page summary/evaluation of piece)
2. ARTICLE/BLOG A: ONTOLOGY OF THE SELF (Descartes’s Skepticism: how do I really know I “exist”?)
3. ARTICLE/BLOG B: ONTO-EPISTEMOLOGY (David Hume’s Skepticism: do I really “know” anything?)
4. ARTICLE/BLOG C: ONTOLOGY AND ETHICS (Stoicism vs. Epicureanism: should I “accept” reality?)
5. ORIGINAL DIALOGUE: EXISTENTIAL ISSUES (1 philosopher, 1 thinker from anywhere, 1 random)
6. THREE-MINUTE VIDEO/TWO-MINUTE ANIMATION (8-bit philosophy type format on a question)
7. PHILO-SURVEY: BACKGROUND, FOCUSED QUESTION, DATA REPORT, ANALYSIS (email me report) 8. LEGO SCULPTURE: DEMONSTRATE A KEY CONCEPT WITH A PHYSICAL MODEL (add description)
Everything you should have for your Unit I Notes Check:
(Three Branches; Monism/Dualism, Empiricism/Rationalism, Objective/Subjective)
-Buddha and Laozi, Heraclitus and Parmenides
-Socrates and the Eternal Soul; Moral Realism
-Relativism (Protagoras and the Sophists)
-Platonic Idealism / Myth of the Cave
-Aristotelian Teleology / 4 Causes
-Virtue Ethics: Plato, Aristotle, Buddha
And for the new unit on Ontology and the Self with The Lego Movie:
-Epicureans vs. Stoics (acceptance or reality vs. pursuit of pleasure)
-Rene Descartes: Rationalist Skepticism (I think, therefore I exist)
-David Hume: Empiricist Skepticism (Custom, habit is our guide in life)
-Karl Marx: Ideological Skepticism (ruling ideas = ruling class's ideas)