Leader: Michael Payne

Description: Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud are not only four of the most important thinkers in modern times, they are also founders of what is now called critical theory, which is concerned with the question, "How do we know things are the way we think they are?" Our theories are how we see things; our critical theories are how we determine if how we see things is legitimate. The goal of critical theory, then, is to see things as they are. One word for that is "truth". Each of these writers, working within his own particular field-biology, political economy, ethics, and psychoanalysis-was determined to lay the foundation for thinking reflectively and reliably about the things that concerned him most. Here is a classic example from Darwin:  "We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, we often see superabundance of food; we do not see, or we forget that the birds which are idly singing around us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; we do not always bear in mind, that though food may be now superabundant, it is not so at all seasons of each recurring year."

In this two-term course we read and discuss some of the most important and accessible writings of these four thinkers, all of whom were wonderful writers, who presented their own ideas better than any subsequent commentators have done. We will also trace some important lines of influence among them: For example, Marx admired Darwin, who in turn inspired Freud, who was also influenced by Nietzsche. In addition to developing an appreciation for the contributions these writers made to modern critical theory, we will also see how they clarified our modern understanding of biological evolution, ideology and political economy, ethics and historiography, and the relationship between mind and culture. We will read portions of Darwin's On the Origin of Species; Marx's Critique of Political Economy and The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844; Nietzsche's The Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo; and Freud's Outline of Psychoanalysis and Civilization and Its Discontents. The first term dealt with Darwin and Marx, and the second term will consider Nietzsche and Freud. These course parts can be taken separately or as a sequence.

Biography:  Michael Payne taught a seminar for Bucknell students for about 20 years on Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. He is also the author of several books on critical theory, including the Dictionary of Cultural and Critical Theory, which is now in a Spanish translation and in a second edition in English.

Materials for course: Current Semester: Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo (Vintage pbk.); Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents and An Outline of Psychoanalysis (Norton pbks.).  Some photocopies of shorter works will be distributed in class. During the first term, students read Darwin's The Origin of Species (Oxford World's Classics pbk.) and Marx's Concept of Man, ed. Fromm and Bottomore (Ungar pbk.)

Number of participants:        

Minimum: 5         
Maximum:  20

Location: RidgeCrest at Riverwoods - Creative Arts Room Meeting

Meeting time: Mondays, February 24 through March 31, 2014, 1 - 2:30 p.m.


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