MLAC2113 Reason and its Rivals
From Sally Hanford
The aim of this module is to examine a selection of theoretical approaches to modernity, beginning with Kant’s assertion of individual reason as the founding stone of enlightened social organisation, and interrogations of that position in the work of Marx and Engels, Nietzsche and Freud. We will see how Marx and Engels oppose the abstractions of philosophy oriented around reason with their materialist reassertion of the sensual and creative dimension of life, as well as registering the practical divisions that arise under capitalism. Nietzsche rejects any attempt to ground morality or truth in any universal principles; for him truth is always a creative metaphor, and he implores the liberated individual to acknowledge this by shattering convention and scorning abstraction. Freud in turn characterises culture, for instance religious or moral precepts, as a sometimes problematic constraint of individual freedom. We will touch on such issues as the nature of the individual subject, different assessments of the social, political or moral contract, and views as to the role and fate of culture in that social organisation, as well as competing ideas of the status of reality as based in social or material conditions or the product of the will, drives, or ideology. The primary texts will be Kant’s ‘Beantwortung auf die Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?’, excerpts from the ‘Einleitung’ to Marx and Engels’ Die deutsche Ideologie, Nietzsche’s ‘Über Wahrheit und Lüge im außermoralischen Sinne’, and excerpts from Freud’s Das Unbehagen in der Kultur. Classes will comprise a mixture of seminars, lectures, commentary classes, and essay tutorials. Primary texts are in German, and the non-assessed presentations can be in German and should quote in German. The lectures are in English and German, but the seminar discussions and assessed coursework essays/exam are in English.