Chat with us, powered by LiveChat St. Augustine’s Confessions, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” and finally a question that connects themes from throughout the semester | WriteDen

St. Augustine’s Confessions, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” and finally a question that connects themes from throughout the semester

PHIL1301 Introduction to Philosophy

Exam 2

Topics: St. Augustine’s Confessions, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” and finally a question that connects themes from throughout the semester


Question types: 5 short essay questions. Graded out of 100 points.


Topics and themes:


Augustine: The Christian God is the source of all truth, understanding, and happiness for human beings. We only ever access God by means of the soul, not through the body. (Either through the body or the soul; not the body; therefore, the soul. God is distinct from all the things in our world, so we cannot find Him through anything physical. Ultimately, we only ever find God in our memory, since our souls have been implanted with a memory of God from before our birth. Memory provides us with innate knowledge of God, which solves the problem of accessing a transcendent and immaterial and perfect God whom we love. Since animals also have minds and consciousness, and even memories, it has to be this specific form of memory that affords knowledge of God. Memory, then, is our most godlike faculty, because it is immaterial, transcends the body and immediate experience, and allows for immediate knowledge of God.


Nietzsche: Christianity makes people into “despisers of life,” misanthropes who hate mortal and fallible life and the world we inhabit in comparison to a divine and perfect God from another world that we yearn for instead of the one we actually have (e.g., the “old saint” Zarathustra encounters). In contrast to these “otherworldly values” that make us hate the world because they drain us of our ability to love our own world, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra proclaims, “I love man.” For Nietzsche, we have to transcend the mode of human life that has been stuck with otherworldly values and instead drive ourselves to become “overmen” who create a new system of values that teaches love for this world and the humans who inhabit it (“meaning of the earth”). The overman embraces the “death” of God: Not an ontological claim, but rather a suggestion that the cultural foundation or meaning of faith in God has been lost and that we live without a center or purpose. After the death of God, unless we are the “last men” who are too lazy to change, we will focus instead on loving the earth and giving it meaning (existentialism). Nietzsche as the critically negative inversion of Plato and of Christianity (sun, going under, cave).


Martin Luther King, Jr.: Justice means equality, where everyone is treated the same and no one is excluded from equal consideration (opposite of oppression). A just law is one that treats everyone equally, which means such a law is in accordance with a metaphysically higher law, the law of God, or the moral law; such laws demand our respect. Unjust laws, meanwhile, must be broken and fixed because, in treating people unequally, they are out of harmony with the law of God. The proper method in our society today for achieving this sense of justice is in terms of nonviolent protest and direct action, which produces creative tension, takes equality forcefully from those who would deny it, is done out love, and refuses to wait. This method is understood as civil disobedience, that is, breaking unjust laws in the interest of getting the moral law in accordance with the higher law—and, crucially, accepting the punishment in the process. Only moral means should be used to achieve moral ends.


Next, there is a question about what Russell means by “seeing as God might see.” The passage at issue in that question is as follows:


“The true philosophic contemplation, on the contrary, finds its satisfaction in every enlargement of the not-Self, in everything that magnifies the objects contemplated, and thereby the subject contemplating. Everything, in contemplation, that is personal or private, everything that depends upon habit, self-interest, or desire, distorts the object, and hence impairs the union which the intellect seeks. By thus making a barrier between subject and object, such personal and private things become a prison to the intellect. The free intellect will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge—knowledge as impersonal, as purely contemplative, as it is possible for man to attain. Hence also the free intellect will value more the abstract and universal knowledge into which the accidents of private history do not enter, than the knowledge brought by the senses, and dependent, as such knowledge must be, upon an exclusive and personal point of view and a body whose sense-organs distort as much as they reveal.”—paragraph 11


Russell’s point has to do with not being satisfied with things as they appear to us in ordinary experience. Philosophy seeks a level of understanding that transcends the way we normally see things—that is, to see things metaphysically, in their essence, which means beyond what we can perceive with the body or the senses. This ideal, then, refers to a form of perfect or divine knowledge. Russell is describing perfect, complete, objective vision, as if God were looking at our world from above. Examples I suggest using (and explaining) here to clarify Russell from earlier in our semester: Plato’s idea of Forms (in the Republic and Symposium) or of the immortal soul (Phaedrus), Augustine’s memory theory of God, Nietzsche’s ideal of the superman (Übermensch), King’s understanding of justice. All of these have to do with a form of objectivity or truth that is not something we can ordinarily achieve or attain but that inspires greater understanding.


Finally, I’ll ask you to reflect on the significance of this course to your life in general. There I would encourage you just to be honest and reflective, as there is really no wrong answer to this question.


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