Descartes claims that his “perception of the [object] is […] an inspection on the part of the mind alone” because Descartes regarded that “to perceive a proposition clearly and distinctly is to apprehend it in a particular manner and that a person is metaphysically certain of a proposition just in case he does not have any reason to doubt it.” (Markie, 1979, p.97) Hence, an object begins as an idea in the mind which becomes real and tangible when the individual becomes certain of its existence. The perception of an object therefore begins and ends at the mind or with the awareness of a particular object’s existence where in turn the object corresponds to the idea makes its existence real.(Humber, 1978, p. 256) It was considered to be true or real when the individual does not find anough reason to doubt its existence.
Central to Descartes’ claim was his concept of being human as “a thinking thing” or a “substance whose whole nature or essence consists in thinking.” (Cottingham, 1978, p. 210) It follows that Descartes considered all other intellectual functions such as willing, understanding, imagining, and feeling as extensions of the cognitive process. Thus, the material world was a product of the “thinking thing’s” awareness or recognition of its presence through the mind, otherwise things in the material world could be considered non-existent. Existence of the self was therefore affirmed by the very ability of human beings to doubt this “being” or this existence itself, as evidenced by his proclamation that “from the very fact that I thought of doubting the truth of other things it very certainly followed that I was.”
3) Other than personal megalomania, why might Nietzsche (in the preface to Ecce Homo) have claimed that Thus Spoke Zarathustra was the “greatest gift that humanity has received so far?”
Nietzsche claimed that Thus Spoke Zarathustra was the “greatest gift that humanity has received so far” because it presented his version of the “doctrine that is to result in the birth of the new human: the superhuman.”(Schneider, undated) The Zarathustra is considered as the embodiment of Nietzsche’s thesis, comparable to Plato’s allegory of the cave, wherein Nietzsche presents not only his critique of the failure of liberalism and modernism to “produce community-independent, autonomous individuals” (Conway, 1988, pp. 258-259) but advances the arguments of post-modernism where there are no Truths, and where “man is something which ought to be overcome”.
Nietzsche therefore presents an anti-thesis to Plato’s otherworldly cave of truths in Zarathustra, urging humankind to strive for the ideals of the Übermensch. Nietzsche meant, among other things, to “provide a respectable route for humanity’s reaffirmation of life, to bring about the birth of the overman, (at last) the “healthy” individual who truly affirms life.” (Schneider, undated) Zarathustra therefore contained Nietzsche’s magnum opus, his brilliant contribution to philosophy, which might have prompted him to think of it as his greatest gift to humanity.
4) What is the relationship of God to the Nothing, and which medieval thinker is influential on Heidegger in this context?
For Heidegger, God and Nothing exist on the same plane although they negate each other since “what is nihilating in be[-ing] is the essence of that which I have termed no-thing. For that reason, since it thinks be[-ing], thinking thinks <the> no-thing.” Belief in the existence of “being” therefore invited the mind to question its primordial other, the non-being. (Martino, 2004, p. 41)
5) Discuss this quote from Heidegger: “Ek-sistence can be said only of the essence of man, that is, only of the human way ‘to be.’”
For Heidegger, the biggest question confronting humans is the existential question of “being.” In Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism,” he argues that “ek-sistence can be said only of the essence of man, that is, only of the human way ‘to be’” to underscore the humanity of humans and to criticize the Aristotlean and biological tendency to compare humans to animals and other forms of life as the “rational animal.”(Froese, 2006, p. 85) Heidegger therefore emphasizes a definition of human existence based not on the ability to rationalize but on “the fact that human beings are “claimed by being.”” (Froese, 2006, p. 85) In this sense, Heidegger believes that human thought itself is a manifestation of an existing relationship between “Being” and the human thought. (Martino, 2004, p. 20)
Thus, for humanity, ek-sistence is a constant struggle against nothing or against the tendency for nihilism. Heidegger argues that “the essence of action is perfecting <something>. Perfecting means to unfold something in the fullness of its essence, <and in so doing> to bring it forth, producere. Therefore, <the> perfectible is actually only that which already is. Yet that which above all “is,” is be[-ing]. Thinking perfects the relation of be[-ing] to the essence of man.” Humans therefore differed from other forms of life in their ability to perfect themselves but they first had to come into Being, that is, to focus their thoughts on the essence of their existence and on their relationship with the Being.
6) What is the significance of the animals in the doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence?
In Nietzsche’s doctrine of Eternal Recurrence, the animals serve to remind Zarathustra of his occupation as the “teacher of the eternal recurrence .” They remind him of the cyclical nature of the “ring of existence” where “everything goeth, everything returneth.” The animals are a significant symbol in the doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence since they are representations of the meaning of life and death in the world. Unlike humans who have the capacity to question the meaning of their existence in the world or to search for truths, animals exist according to the “wheel of existence.”
7) Why is Feuerbach’s materialism insufficient (according to Marx)?
Marx criticized Feuerbach’s materialism as insufficient because it was limited to what Marx called “contemplative materialism,” wherein reality is conceived only in the realm of ideas and not in how humans live it in their daily lives. As Marx argues, “Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants contemplation; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human-sensuous activity.” (Marx & Engels, 1969) Here, Marx points out the failure of philosophers to engage in praxis or the practical application of their theories and criticizes them for being content only in the theoretical attitude of humans while at the same time critical of the abstractions which other philosophers tended to favor.
For Marx, Feuerbach’s materialism is essentially idealist in the sense that “the
active side was developed abstractly by idealism.” (Marx & Engels, 1969) Thus, Feuerbach fails to acknowledge that apart from human ideas and intellectual activity, it was the physical human activity and the social relations that had graver impact in shaping the material world. Marx underscored the importance of materialism that is based on the ever-changing scope and landscape of the world brought about by collective human activities. He argues that “the highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.” This limited type of materialism, in Marx’s point of view, does not suffice in the face of the need for “revolutionary practice.” He therefore stresses that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” (Marx & Engels, 1969)
8) Briefly discuss the concept of metaxis with reference to any two thinkers covered in the course.
Metaxis, according to Boal (1979) is “the state of belonging completely and simultaneously to two different, autonomous worlds: the image of reality and the reality of the image.” The concept of metaxis is apparent in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Descartes’ existensialism.