The readings and questions for the seminars will appear here each week.

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Seminar 6

We’ll use this seminar to go over Fanon’s ideas on language that we talked about in the lecture. This is based on chapter 1 of Black Skin, White Masks, so you could also have a look at the text. Here are some questions to help focus discussion:

  1. Fanon says that ‘a man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language’? I gave you two interpretations of this claim – what are they? Which one should we prefer?
  2. Explain the idea that language is used to signify status.
  3. What does Fanon say about French, creole, and pidgin in this regard?
  4. Explain the idea of different sorts of capital, and how we can use these ideas to describe Fanon’s claim.
  5. What is the linguistic double-bind that confronts the colonised person?

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UG Seminar 5 Fanon and Recognition

The seminar this week will look at chapter 6 ‘Master-Slave Paradigms’ in ‘Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression’ by Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan. There is a pdf of the whole book in the reading dropbox, in the folder called ‘Fanon’. I have also emailed everyone a direct link to the book. The chapter is rather long, so don’t worry if you don’t manage to look at absolutely all of it. Crucially, I want us to get to grips with the idea of the master-slave dialect and the notion of recognition. Here are some questions to direct your reading:

  1. What is Hegel’s master-slave dialectic and how does recognition feature in it?
  2. Explain Kojeve’s psychological reworking of the master-slave dialectic.
  3. Explain Mannoni’s idea that colonised and colonising people exhibit different complexes, or have different cultural personalities.
  4. How are these personalities formed?
  5. Which bit of Kojeve’s analysis does Fanon take issue with?
  6. How does Fanon understand the master-slave dialectic?
  7. Why does Fanon reject Mannoni’s understanding of the psychology of colonialism?

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Undergraduate Seminar 4

The reading for this week is Jones, Peter. 2015. Sartre’s concept of freedom(s)Sartre Studies International 21 (2): 86-96.

Here are some questions to help focus your reading.

  1. What’s the contradictory muddle about freedom that we find in Being and Nothingness?
  2. What are the two different types of freedom that Detmer identifies, and which he takes to solve the apparent muddle?
  3. What’s meant by Sartre’s claim that consciousness is not what it is and is what it’s not?
  4. Why does being enslaved not impinge on freedom for Sartre (at least according to Jones)?
  5. What is meant by the slogan that freedom is absolute but not omnipotent?
  6. How does the situation, which gives resistance to freedom, help to make freedom possible?
  7. What does it mean to say that choosing is not separate from doing?
  8. “Never were we freer than under German occupation.” What does Sartre mean here?

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Undergraduate Seminar 3

The reading for this week is chapter 5 of Katherine Morris’ book Starting With Merleau-Ponty.

  1. Explain the difference between the problems of other minds.
  2. Why is ‘the existence of other people a difficulty and an outrage for objective thought’?
  3. Explain Sartre’s distinction between the Other-as-object and Other-as-subject.
  4. Explain Sartre’s case study of shame and what he thinks this shows us about our knowledge of others.
  5. Which bits of Sartre’s account does Merleau-Ponty reject?
  6. What is the interworld?
  7. What is bodily reciprocity?

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Undergraduate Seminar 2

The reading for this week is this extract from ‘Thought in action’.

  1. What is absorbed coping?
  2. Why must there be more to human action than this?
  3. What is the power to reckon with the possible?
  4. What is it to reckon with the actual?
  5. What can the agent who possesses this capacity do?
  6. Why can’t Schneider recognise Goldstein’s house unless he is going there?
  7. What does it mean to give bodily significance to a conceptual representation?
  8. How do thoughts bring about action, according to Merleau-Ponty?
  9. Can you give an example?
  10. Is this an attractive picture of action?

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UG Seminar 1

We’ve so far done quite a lot of scene-setting and only just started to look at Merleau-Ponty’s account of action. For the first seminar, I want to spend time checking that people have grasped the main ideas from Husserlian philosophy, and then think in a bit more detail about the account of action that Merleau-Ponty is starting to develop.

First, please review lectures notes so far, identify the key concepts, and anything you didn’t understand/want to go over again. Here are some questions to help with that task:

  1. What is the Transcendental-Phenomenological Reduction?
  2. What is the natural attitude?
  3. What is transcendental subjectivity?
  4. What is Husserl’s view of science?
  5. Why does the body cause problems for the early Husserl?
  6. What is the Lebenswelt?
  7. What is the Crisis?
  8. How do we solve it by using the idea of the Lebenswelt?
  9. What does Merleau-Ponty mean by Objective Thought?

Second, read this short extract and think about the following questions:

  1. What, according to the traditional account, are actions?
  2. What are ‘solicitations’? And ‘affordances’?
  3. How are solicitations involved in action, according to Merleau-Ponty?
  4. How does his account differ from the traditional account?
  5. How does Merleau-Ponty use the case of Schneider to support his claims?
  6. Do you think this is an attractive picture of action? Why or why not?

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