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

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Seminar on Fanon’s Humanism

For the final seminar, we will look at the section ‘Reasons to take Fanon’s Humanism seriously’ of Richard Pithouse’s article ‘That the tool never possess the man’, pp. 2-11.

Thinking about the article and the material from the lecture on humanism, here are some questions to ponder:

  1. What is humanism?
  2. Is Fanon’s endorsement of violence in conflict with his supposed humanism?
  3. Does Fanon think that colonialism shows that humanism is a problematic position?
  4. What point is Fanon making with his description of the Algerian doctor?
  5. Hardt and Negri identify two opposing humanisms in modernity – what are they?
  6. And what is the contrast they draw between the Multitude and the People?
  7. What’s wrong with the second sort of humanism according to them?
  8. On page 9, they identify three conditions that characterise humanity on the first understanding of humanism – what are they?
  9. How do these understandings of humanism map onto Fanon’s view?
  10. Does Fanon’s Humanism escape scepticism about human nature? And does it escape worries to do with the co-existence of brutality with humanism?

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Seminar on Fanon and Recognition

The seminars this week for both MA students (Wednesday 25th April) and Undergrads (Friday 27th April) 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 20th April

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’s the importance of Descartes’ cogito to Merleau-Ponty’s account? What is the cogito? And what does Merleau-Ponty find problematic about it?
  7. What is the interworld?
  8. What is bodily reciprocity?

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MA Seminar Wednesday 18th April

For this seminar, we will read ‘Sartre and Other Minds’ by Alec Hyslop. Published in Sartre Studies International, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2000), pp. 48-60. I have emailed a copy to everyone.

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Undergraduate Seminar 2

The reading for this week is the extract from ‘Thought in Action’. I have emailed it to everyone.

  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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Undergraduate Seminar 1

The first undergraduate seminar will focus on the idea of absorbed coping. The reading is the section on absorbed coping from chapter 3 of the GuideBook. It’s available in the module dropbox. I will also email it to all of you.

We will begin thinking through the case of Schneider and what Merleau-Ponty wants to do with it in lectures, picking up our discussion in the seminars.

Here are some questions to help focus your reading:

  1. What does Merleau-Ponty mean by an agent’s actual situation?
  2. How is your actual situation related to what you are currently doing?
  3. What is a concrete action, according to Merleau-Ponty?
  4. What is an abstract action, according to Merleau-Ponty?
  5. How are (some) actions accomplished on his picture?
  6. What is a motor skill?
  7. How are motor skills related to the perception of affordances?

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MA Seminar 1

The first MA seminar will examine Merleau-Ponty’s arguments against the idea of sensation – as Objective Thought understands this notion. The reading is Routledge GuideBook, chapter 2, the section on ‘sensation’. (There is a scan of this in the module dropbox, and I will email everyone a copy too.) Here are some questions to help focus your reading:

  1. What is a sensation (as Merleau-Ponty uses the term)?
  2. Why must Objective Thought accept this notion?
  3. Why must sensations be homogeneous (according to Merleau-Ponty)?
  4. Why is perception of a completely homogeneous area impossible?
  5. Why is this a problem?
  6. What is Merleau-Ponty’s first objection to the idea that sensations are sensed qualities?
  7. What is Merleau-Ponty’s second objection to the idea that sensations are sensed qualities?
  8. What is the Constancy Hypothesis?
  9. How does the notion of sensation figure in the Constancy Hypothesis?
  10. Identify some counterexamples to the Constancy Hypothesis.
  11. How do theorists try to defend the Constancy Hypothesis against these counterexamples?
  12. How does Merleau-Ponty object to these responses?
  13. Explain his idea that the Constancy Hypothesis can be discredited on the basis of experience.
  14. How does he try to discredit it?

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