Question

Philosophy of Human Nature Question Topics with Study Answers for Descartes, Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, Kant, Rousseau, Hume, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas

List of Topics and Study Points:
Augustine
The difference between our natural state and our current state
Order based on different roles versus dominance of human beings over other human beings
The character of society in the current state
What we can change and what we cannot change: the importance of intentions

Thomas Aquinas:
Relationship between faith and reason with regard to God’s existence: God’s existence can be demonstrated by reason even though his essence remains unknown to us
Two kinds of demonstrations: demonstration that something exists (from the effects) and demonstration why something exists (from the cause); only the first sort of demonstration can be applied to God
The general structure of Aquinas’s demonstrations that God’s exist: starting from something we experience and arguing that that thing cannot exist unless a cause it posited; against the infinite regress in the series of causes; so a first cause exists, and we call that first cause ‘God’
The second (based on cause and effect) and the fifth way (based on regularity and order in nature)

Descartes:
The method of doubt: its nature and purpose [Meditation I]
The stages of doubt: deception of the senses, the dream argument, doubts on mathematics, the evil demon argument [Meditation I]
Certainty of myself (I am, I exist): how this first foundation is reached [Meditation II]
What I am: a mind and a thinking thing, thought as inseparable from myself [Meditation II]
Why God’s existence must be demonstrated to get rid of the doubt about clear and distinct ideas [Meditation III]
The main stages of the demonstration of Gods’ existence in Meditation III: my idea of a perfect being, the principle connecting ideas and their causes according to their complexity, the idea of God cannot come from myself, therefore it must come from God, therefore God exists [Meditation III]
Why God cannot be a deceiver [Meditation III]
The Cartesian circle [Meditation III]
Intellect and will and the explanation of errors [Meditation IV]
The ontological argument for God’s existence and its problems [Meditation V]
Cartesian dualism and the demonstration of the existence of an external world [Meditation VI]

Locke
1. The problem of personal identity (identity over time)
2. Identity of non-living things, for living things (except human beings), and for human beings
3. The difference between being the same human being and being the same person
4. The role of consciousness/memory for the constitution of personality
5. Some legal and philosophical consequences: cases of amnesia and the way the law deals with them

Hume
Why the idea of self cannot be acquired from our impressions
What the “I” or self is: a bundle or collection of perceptions, a theatre where one impression comes after another but there is no common plot
The concept of personal identity as the result of a confusion and a construction that we project on the world
Personal identity as a psychological projection based on the concepts of cause and effect
The difference between the way things are (metaphysics) and the way we look at things (psychology)
Case and effect as a projection of our way of thinking on the world

Rousseau
The natural state: equality, innocence, and happiness
Life in the natural state: few easily satisfied needs, no need for deception
Society, civilization, and the origins of new artificial needs (competition with other people) and inequality
Origin and purpose of arts and sciences
Current state of arts and sciences
What to do: towards a new natural state

Kant
Definition of enlightenment
Nature and character: laziness and courage
The duty to use one’s own understanding
Humanikind: same values for everybody
Progress of enlightenment as inevitable
Public and private use of reason (against civil disobedience)

Sartre
What Sartre rejects: the world as a system of essences created by God (conceived of as an artisan)
Sartre’s claim: existence precedes essences – its meaning and context
Sartre’s claim: human beings in themselves are nothing – its meaning and context
Each individual decides what he or she is going to be, we become what we decide to become
The role of choice and action
By choosing, we make a judgment on the entire world
Anguish as a consequence of responsibility
Against “making excuses”
The other is essential to my existence
The grounds for judging on other people: authenticity and bad faith

Simone de Beauvoir
What is a woman? Possible answers and why they are not satisfactory: (a) biological criterion, (b) the eternal feminine, (c) women don’t exist
Asymmetry man/woman
The opposition between Subject and The Other as constitutive of a Subject
How that relationship normally evolves: The Other is a Subject and the Subject recognizes that it is The Other for other Subjects (the category of The Other turns out to be relative)
This didn’t happen in the case of women (The Other remained absolute and never became relative)
Women themselves continued to consider themselves as The Other
How this began: not an historical event
Possible applications of the categories of Subject and The Other to other contexts

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Descartes

The method of doubt: its nature and purpose [Meditation I]

Descartes says that if I am to know anything for certain, then I must eliminate from my mind anything I can doubt. Descartes calls this process of doubting a method because if I have doubt about anything I think I know, then I can get rid of erroneous ideas and opinions. If I want to build on a firm foundation for truth, then it must be grounded on something I can know for certain. The nature of doubt is to only trust that which I can know for certain. If I can doubt even once, then I must doubt it. The purpose of the doubt is to lead Descartes to what he calls indubitable truth: that which can be known for certain....

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