Philosophy in the Early 20th Century: Weber, Bergson, Berlin, Russell

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Philosophy in the Early 20th Century: Weber, Bergson, Berlin, Russell

<p>Approach the early twentieth century by examining the way in which a range of philosophers responded to the challenge of the new century. Max Weber (1864-1920) for example predicts that the 20th c

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Approach the early twentieth century by examining the way in which a range of philosophers responded to the challenge of the new century. Max Weber (1864-1920) for example predicts that the 20th c will be the age of specialization and bureaucracy: was he right? He defines three types of authority: traditional, charismatic, and legal/rational. We will re-evaluate his ideas for our own time. Bergson’s theory of time is considered a major contribution to the understanding of human experience, which can only be understood ‘phenomenologically’. Thus Bergson’s theory is one of the most important contributions to early Phenomenology. Isaiah Berlin approaches the new century through the problem of ‘freedom’: the problems he raises are as relevant now as in his own time. We will also look at some philosophers who defy easy categorization: such as Santayana, and T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (1922) will provide a literary context for the mood of the times.


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Introduction to the Early Twentieth Century
  • George Santayana (1863-1952): Santayana is a broad ranging philosopher who wrote on Aesthetics, Epistemology; Ethics, Literature and most other areas of philosophy along the way. He says of aesthetics that: “The experience of beauty is integral to human life, but the aesthetic and the practical should not be separated”. His theory of beauty, like much of his philosophy provided a counterpoint to many of the theories of his day. He, like William James belongs to the ‘Golden Age of American Pragmatism’ but his views resist any neat categorization. Texts: The Sense of Beauty; Scepticism and Animal Faith
  • Max Weber (1864-1920): Weber predicts that the 20th c will be the age of specialization and bureaucracy: was he right? He defines three types of authority: traditional, charismatic, and legal/rational. We will re-evaluate his ideas for our own time. Text: Economy and Society
  • H.L. Bergson (1859-1941): Bergson’s theory of time is considered a major contribution to the understanding of human experience. Duration is time as experienced by consciousness; it is a subjective experience which can only be understood ‘phenomenologically’. Thus Bergson’s theory is one of the most important contributions to early Phenomenology. We will also look at his book on laughter, which is both insightful and enjoyable. Text: Laughter
  • Bertram Russell (1872-1970): A wide ranging thinker who commented on critical thinking, science and religion.
  • Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time; One of the most profound works of philosophical history; it defines much of continental philosophy in the 20th c.
  • Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997): “Over a hundred years ago, the German poet Heine warned the French not to underestimate the power of ideas: philosophical concepts nurtured in the stillness of a professor's study could destroy a civilization”. Berlin is one of the great minds of the 20th C; his writing covers nearly a 60 year span,
  • Berlin is noted for his clear and insightful understanding of the concept of ‘freedom’: We will look at his two ways of understanding freedom: Negative and Positive freedom and the possibility of self-realization.
  • Berlin: “Liberty for the wolves is death to the lambs”. Berlin on: Freedom, Government, Arbitrary Power, and the value of Freedom.
  • We will look at two literary works which define the early 20th century: T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and Camus' The Stranger


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Have an understanding of the history and ideas which shapes the early 20th century.
  2. Understand the concepts and significance of the philosophers in the course.
  3. Critically assess the impact of the early 20th century on our own time.
  4. Gain a deeper understanding of your society through the ideas of the writers in the course.