Western Civ. V The Philosophes Believed Research Paper

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Western Civ. V

The philosophes believed that moral values and the value of life itself are enshrined in natural law and that therefore the best way to discover them is to use the scientific method.

How did the romantics' view of nature differ from that of the philosophes? In what ways does William Wordsworth's poem, "The Tables Turned," express this romantic outlook? (Although we emailed the poem to you, we have also put it on the third page of this assignment.) According to romantics like Wordsworth, how was the meaning of life to be found?

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Romanticism began as a reaction -- not so much against anything tangible, more as a result of prevailing tendencies and moods. In music it was a way to expand Classical "rules," harmonies, and forms of expression; in literature and poetry a broad range of reactions towards structure and intellectualism. William Wordsworth, for instance, was actively engaged in trying to create a new kind of language that emphasized intuition over reason and the pastoral over the urban. This freedom from structure was, by its very nature somewhat structured in its anti-structure. Wordsworth defined good poetry, in fact, as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." However, in the same sentence in his Lyrical Ballads he asserts that any poem of value must still be composed by someone "possessed of more than usual organic sensibility [who has] also thought long and deeply. In the Tables Turned, there are numerous references to nature: lustre mellow, green fields, woodland how sweet, etc. The line, "Come forth into the light of thigs, Let Nature be your teacher," epitomizes the romantic notion. The final portion, "Engouh of Science and Art; close up those barren leaves," implies that the Age of Enlightenment and Scientific Organization is over, it is time to express and feel life and the universe.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Western Civ. V The Philosophes Believed That Assignment

b. In Existentialism is Humanism, how did Jean-Paul Sartre argue that our moral values should be found?

While Sartre's existentialism is complex, the basic idea is that humans are "condemned to be free." There is no creator, no first cause in a hierarchical sense, and no strict "right way to be." Instead, since there is no cause and we cannot explain our actions by basing them on something external, we must find our moral values internally, "We are left alone, without excuse."

c. What political and cultural developments helped shape Sartre's philosophy?

Sartre and his companion, Simone de Beauvoir were both influenced by the writings of Karl Marx and were avowed socialists. In May, 1941, he helped the underground group Socialisme et Liberte', and after the war continued his activism for what he termed "socialist equality." As was common at the time, as an avowed socialist he denied Stalin's excesses, and although he never joined the French Communist Party, was active in the Algerian Independence Movement. He spent most of his career trying to reconcile his existentialist beliefs with the doctrines of communism -- from pure Marx to what happened to Marxism in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China after 1949.(Ibid.)

2. Like John Locke, the philosophes believed that human beings would flourish once government protected their right to life, liberty, and property.

a. In the Communist Manifesto, how did Karl Marx criticize individual freedom as it was practiced in bourgeois society? How did Marx believe that a truly free society could be established?

Marxism is a political, economic, and socio-cultural view of history and society. It has three major points: a dialectical and materialist concept of history, a critique of capitalism, and the advocacy of a proletarian (worker") revolution. For Marx, most people were not free. Instead, in a capitalist society, an economic minority (the wealthy bourgeoisie) dominates all of society; exploit the working class (proletariat) for economic gain. The proletariat, for the bourgeoisie, are nothing but labor, or a means of producing wealth. For a truly free society to exist, the working class must overthrow the bourgeoisie, repeal private property, and extend an international revolution in which the productive capabilities of a given society are transferred into collect ownership. Once this happens, classes will be abolished, thus no class struggle, and individuals will be able to actualize, "each according to their ability," within societal structures.

b. What were the problems of his day that Marx was trying to address?

Marx and Engels were primarily addressing the social issues arising from feudalism into the Industrial Revolution. Essentially, this revolution replaced an economy based on manual labor to one dominated by industry and machine power (e.g. steam power fueled by coal, etc.). This transition, along with a rise in population growth and urbanization created a number of social issues: child labor, class structures, intense poverty, slum and ghetto housing conditions, lack of sanitation, lack of access to education, disease, hunger, unsafe conditions, no insurance for injury, and a general disregard for the health and humanity of the working class. Marx saw this as the fault of a system which rewards some for exploiting others. Indeed, Marx saw that the only way for capitalism to flourish was to have a group to exploit -- if that group was not the workers of one's own country, then the system would be exported to a colonial empire and the resources (human and otherwise) would be used by the system to produce wealth for the few (Ibid).

c. What similarities can you find between Marx's criticism of the bourgeois view of freedom and what Edmund Burke said about natural rights in Reflections on the Revolution in France?

Burke, while initially favorable towards the French Revolution, saw the deterioration of the ideal into mobocracy and the replacement of the titled elite with a new kind of bourgeoisie leadership; and the struggles of the individual squashed in the aftermath. Like Marx, he saw this minority upper-crust of the new society simply replacing royalty without a true plan to distribute wealth (including the necessities of life -- food and clothing) to all the citizens. The idea of terror used to root out subversion was seen as a lack of the ability of the individual to actualize -- since disagreement was considered traitorous. Instead, like Marx, Burke believed in liberty and the rights of man that were again abused by tyranny.

3. The philosophes believed that the laws of nature grant all human beings the same rights.

a. In Mein Kampf, how did Hitler describe the natural laws governing human society? In what ways was Hitler's political philosophy similar to that of Social Darwinists such as Karl Pearson?

Mein Kampf (My Struggle), was written by Adolf Hitler, partially as an autobiography, partially as a philosophical tenet to his own political philosophy of National Socialism. It was published in 1925 and 1926 and was composed during Hitler's incarceration after a failed revolutionary attempt in 1923. Among other things, Mein Kampf ordered society into a hierarchical rubric -- the destruction of the weak and sick is more humane than their care; there are natural levels of human society, "No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she desire the blending of a higher with a lower race, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, night be ruined with one blow."

Similarly, the social Darwinist view, advocated by Pearson and others, was an open war against inferior races. This was logical to their view as a scientific way to measure and improve the human species (eugenics). For example, Pearson noted, very much like Hitler, "Science realizes that the nation is an organized whole, in continual struggle with its competitors. You cannot get a strong and effective nation if many of its stomachs are half fed and many of its brains untrained. The true statesman has to limit the internal struggle of the community in order to make it stronger for the external struggle."

b. According to Hitler, how did Jews threaten the survival of civilization?

Hitler's primary thesis in Mein Kampf deals with the international Jewish conspiracy and the manner in which the Judaic peoples have polluted the overall gene pool of the White races. There is still some scholarly debate on whether Hitler meant the phrase "Jewish Race" literally since there is no real "race," but a religious or cultural heritage, or the ideals expressed by international Jewry. However, his main thesis is that there is a "Jewish peril" to gain world leadership to the degradation of free market capitalism and the survival of the natural races. Since he viewed the Jews as inferior but during the 1920s and 1930 they controlled a good deal of the financial sector in Weimar Germany, Hitler believed there extermination or relocation would be part of eugenics in cleansing the human race and allowing the strong to rule the weak, not the rich minority Jewish population controlling the State. This has also been interpreted as a larger "Master Plan" in which, by ordering the extermination of the Jewish people, Hitler could… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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