Presentation on theme: "Five People Who Challenged the Worldview. Five people challenged this comforting view and left Europeans fearing that there was no knowable "grand plan""— Presentation transcript:
Five People Who Challenged the Worldview
Five people challenged this comforting view and left Europeans fearing that there was no knowable "grand plan" for the universe, that conflict rather than harmony was nature's normal condition, and that people themselves were not truly rational creatures. Although Europeans initially rejected these views, the shattering impact of World War I forced them to consider the possibility that these new views were correct.
Darwin and Marx The works of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx provided the groundwork for the idea that conflict rather than harmony was the "natural" state of affairs in nature and society. Each developed a theory that held that biological and historical changes were the product of conflict.
Darwin and Marx 1. Darwin: this conflict was captured under the term "survival of the fittest." Darwin believed that this struggle was not directed toward the achievement of any final outcome such as a "perfect" human species or even the continuation of humans at all. Darwin's theory about evolution essentially overturned the traditional theological framework for understanding the natural world
Darwin and Marx 2. Marx: believed that the goal of history was the attainment of a harmonious, classless society to which each person contributed according to their ability, and each received all that they needed. Marx talked about a "class struggle" or, more formally, "dialectical materialism." Marx called religion the "opiate of the people," while Darwin challenged the notion of an orderly creation of the world in six literal days
Darwin and Marx 3. Both writers, essentially contemporaries, challenged European religious beliefs of the time. While many might try to dismiss their ideas, both contended that they had reached their conclusions through scientific methods. Collectively, these two conflict theorists undermined elements of European religion, faith in science, and a belief in harmony
Sigmund Freud A. Freud expressed the notion that humans were rationalizers rather than rational and therefore did not base their actions on a carefully measured analysis of pleasure and pain. The late nineteenth and especially the early twentieth century world saw Freud as a leading practitioner of the "science of the mind" and regarded his findings as disturbing because they seemed to be "scientifically valid". They had no way of knowing that Freud's ideas would be challenged, modified, and, by many, discredited, in a half century or so
Sigmund Freud B. Freud's division of the mind into three components-id, ego and sugerego, was historically significant because this approach directly contradicted the image of the mind as a rational, analytical calculator. Instead, in Freud's view, decisions were the result of the interplay and conflict among the different components of the mind, where the idea of the "long-term best interests" of the person could be subordinated to a variety of short-term or instinctual goals.
Sigmund Freud C. In this view, people did not plan rationally but rather employed the appearance of rational planning for decisions that were truly the outcome of conflicts within the mind
Sigmund Freud Example: On the night before a big exam, a friend suggests that you go to a party. You know you should study for the test (and your superego stresses that issue) but your id, in its search for immediate pleasures and immediate need fulfillment, argues for the party option. If your id is really powerful, it may win the "argument" with the superego, resulting in your "decision" to go out How do you justify this decision? One way is to suggest that one needs to be relaxed in order to study effectively and that some early evening time at a party will help you do this
Sigmund Freud This argument is, of course, bogus But, when you hear a person make this claim, it sounds almost valid because it sounds as if the person has a plan and is in charge of his or her actions From a Freudian perspective, this "plan" was not a rational response to an analysis of a situation Instead, it was a rationalization that makes you appear rational rather than under the influence of a powerful id
Sigmund Freud D. This idea that people are "rationalizers" rather than "rational" undermined the image of Europeans as calculating people who looked to the long term and built a superior society characterized by progress. Furthermore, it suggested that there might be limits to the power of education to "elevate" lives, and it narrowed the distance between the "civilized" and the "savage" minds that justified (or would justify) late nineteenth century imperialism
Nietzsche A. Nietzsche offered the idea that "God is dead" and that will power rather than rational analysis held the key to understanding historical change. Although he was institutionalized in 1889, his ideas were nurtured in the coming years through the efforts of his sister and came to be one of the key elements of existential philosophy and, in some ways, a support for the ideas of the Nazi movement
Nietzsche B. The late nineteenth century was very pleased with its material progress as measured by consumer opportunities and its governmental reforms that gave a voice to more and more members of society. Against this backdrop, the ideas of Nietzsche, when believed, deflated the pretensions of people who were seeking to define themselves as the most advanced members of humanity.
Nietzsche C. Nietzsche's idea about "God is dead" meant that people did not have to weigh their thoughts and plans against a divine standard and, in the case of Christians, against a "Judgment Day". He argued that people had "invented" the idea of God in order to make themselves seem more important in the cosmos and not as insignificant, boring, self- indulgent, and self-satisfied as he believed they actually were.
Nietzsche In fact, for Nietzsche, Christian morality shielded believers from having to make big decisions or confront their timid nature. Instead, they could assert that "I could undertake such-and-such an action, but I won't because God doesn't want me to"
Nietzsche D. In this way, to Nietzsche, people used religion to glorify their timid and unimportant existences. The assertion that "God is dead" was a liberating notion for Nietzsche and the existentialists. With that idea in mind, people were free to undertake any actions they wished, because they had only this one moment of existence and could spend it any way they chose. After all, in Nietzsche's final analysis, there were no better or worse choices from the standpoint of morality. This notion was horrifying to many when it was pronounced.
Nietzsche E. Superman: Nietzsche is also famous for the idea of the "superman". If most people are timid and unimportant, how does historical change take place? The answer is that the world periodically produces a "superman" who restructures the world, not to improve it, but because he can and he wants to. The new world is no better or superior to the prior one, just different. The superman, in an act of will, rearranges the world and its beliefs or its organization just because it pleases him aesthetically in the same way that a poet might choose one phrase over another for a poem
Nietzsche F. Nietzsche, therefore, scorned the majority of his fellow late-nineteenth- century humans as mediocre and deluded by the religion they had created. In turn, he valued the "superman" as the only person worthy of admiration because he rearranges the world to please himself--Napoleon might be an example and Hitler would consider himself to be a "superman" and, therefore, above the laws and opinions of his fellow Germans
Einstein A. Einstein produced his theory of relativity that held that observers, such as scientists, could not make any statements about the world that were absolutely true, because all such statements depended on where the observer was standing. If you changed your observation point, what you saw and your measurements of it changed as well.
Einstein B. For this reason, the world was never fully knowable in the sense that no two people might see the world in exactly the same way because they observed it from different positions, and each was right from his or her own perspective. This argument undercut the idea drawn from Newton and the laws of nature that Nature could be described with a set of laws that were everywhere true. E = mc2
Five People Who Challenged the Worldview The old certitude about the world was fading. The sense of security of living in a world which could ultimately be fully known, described, and understood was gone. Some people felt cast adrift in the same way that earlier Europeans felt lost when the idea of a sun-centered universe super ceded the idea of a universe where everything revolved around earth and humanity at its center
Five People Who Challenged the Worldview Collectively these new ideas upset most of the underlying ideas derived from the world of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. It would take some years, even a century, for all of these new ideas to percolate through European and American culture, but the result was the creation of a world of modern ideas sharply different from those cherished by mainstream thinkers in the late nineteenth century