Thursday, April 19, 2012

Asking Questions about Being: Heidegger, Phenomenology, & Existentialism


"Phenomenology studies conscious experience as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view. This field of philosophy is then to be distinguished from, and related to, the other main fields of philosophy: ontology (the study of being or what is), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of right and wrong action)"
(from Stanford Encyclopedia of Technology)

Heidegger as forerunner of existentialism:

In turning phenomenology toward the question of what it means to be, Heidegger insists that the question be raised concretely: it is not at first some academic exercise but a burning concern arising from life itself, the question of what it means for me to be. Existential themes take on salience when one sees that the general question of the meaning of being involves first becoming clear about one's own being as an inquirer. According to Heidegger, the categories bequeathed by the philosophical tradition for understanding a being who can question his or her being are insufficient: traditional concepts of a substance decked out with reason, or of a subject blessed with self-consciousness, misconstrue our fundamental character as “being-in-the-world.” In his phenomenological pursuit of the categories that govern being-in-the-world, Heidegger became the reluctant father of existentialism because he drew inspiration from two seminal, though in academic circles then relatively unknown, nineteenth-century writers, Sören Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. One can find anticipations of existential thought in many places (for instance, in Socratic irony, Augustine, Pascal, or the late Schelling), but the roots of the problem of existence in its contemporary significance lie in the work of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

Some topics we'll discuss:

Being with a capital B, beings with a small b
Being and the Nothing
Heidegger and Plato's theory of ideas
Dasein (being-there)
Heidegger and Descartes
Heidegger's ideas about technology

What Is Being? Timeline: Here is the beginning of a timeline we'll fill in for the rest of the semester, putting it into an interactive timeline so you can add your projects to it

Plato (around 360 B.C.E.) -- Cicero (44 B.C.E) -- Machiavelli (1513) -- Shakespeare, Hamlet (1600) -- Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605) -- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) -- (Wordsworth, "I wandered lonely as a cloud" (1888) -- Nella Larsen, Passing (1929) -- Heidegger (1927-1950s) -- Erving Goffman, Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956) -- The Matrix (1999) -- Google glasses (2012)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Being and the Self: The Example of English Romanticism

(this is a multimedia podcast I made a few years ago with GarageBand, and serves not only as background for our discussion of Romantic poetry, but also as a model of a multimedia podcast project)

We'll read some poems closely on Tuesday

"I wandered lonely as a cloud," Wordsworth, p. 43
"Mutability," Wordsworth, p. 57
"Kubla Khan," Coleridge, p. 105