Modern Philosophy

Essay Topics on German Idealism and Post-Kantian Philosophy

On the exam to be given in class from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM on Tuesday, May 5, you will write on four of the following questions, according to the following stipulations. Under I - IV, respond to a question under three of the parts (except you cannot select both III and IV—you may select III or IV but not both); under V, respond to A or B.  Before the exam, students are to provide the instructor with blue books that are blank except for the signature and other information to be placed on the outside cover. At the time of the exam, the blue books will be returned and students will write their responses in pencil or pen.

In your four responses, you are to draw on your recollection of sources, specifically the primary sources discussed in class and your notes from lectures on these sources. If you draw on other sources that you recall, you are to indicate what secondary sources you consulted.

I. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: "Introduction" and "Transcendental Aesthetic"

a. In the "Introduction" to his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant distinguishes Analytic and Synthetic Judgments. One of his purposes is to facilitate metaphysics as a science. What does he mean by synthetic a priori judgments, and how does he use such judgments to ground a science, including the science of metaphysics?

b. In Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, the "Transcendental Aesthetic" addresses Space and Time as the Forms of Sensibility. How does Kant distinguish the phenomenal and the noumenal, and what does he mean by suggesting that the sensible intuition of objects is spatial and temporal, and why does he argue that space and time are empirically real and transcendentally ideal?

II. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason: "Transcendental Logic"

a. In Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, his treatment of "Logic in General" prepares the way for the introduction of a dozen concepts as Categories of Understanding. How does Kant distinguish his prior transcendental aesthetic and the transcendental analytic that follows, especially in relation to the various contrasts that he makes between sensibility and understanding?

b. In Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, the "Transcendental Analytic" addresses a dozen concepts as Categories of Understanding. How does Kant distinguish thinking and knowing in the context of understanding, and what is he trying to establish about the connection between mind and nature in the Objective and Subjective Deductions?

III.  Kant's Metaphysics of Morals

a. In his Metaphysics of Morals, Kant focuses his initial discussion on the "good will," "duty," and related concepts. How is reference to a "good will" or a "free will" to be understood in relation to his distinction between what we can think and know, and how does the Metaphysics of Morals illustrate Kant’s position that we need to be able to use reason in a regulative, normative way in our lives?

b. In his Metaphysics of Morals, Kant distinguishes two types of moral imperatives, namely, the hypothetical and categorical. What are the primary differences between these hypothetical and categorical moral imperatives, and how does Kant orient a proper moral orientation to the latter rather than the former?

IV. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality

a. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, how does Hegel present the role of the "other" in relation to the emergence and development of self-consciousness, and what does he mean, in the trial by death that can result from the move from certainty of self to truth of certainty of self result, by his claim that in the quest for freedom one may recognize that "life is as pure self-consciousness"?

b. In On the Genealogy of Morality, what is Nietzsche's distinction between "good" and "bad" versus "good" and "evil," and how, in this context, does his argument serve to undercut moral standards as absolute and to explain them in relation to the position in society of various social classes?

V. Comparison of Kant with Pre-Kantian or Post-Kantian Modern Philosophers

a. In various places in his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant provides a critique of British Empiricism and Continental Rationalism. In relation to British Empiricism and Continental Rationalism, what is his critique of Locke's enthusiasm and Hume's scepticism, and what is his critique of Descartes's problematic idealism and Berkeley's dogmatic idealism?

b. While, beyond Descartes, Kant connects the "I think" with the external world, Hegel also connects it with others. Likewise, in contradistinction to Kant's moral imperatives, Nietzsche challenges claims of universal principles and certain knowledge. In relation to the Kantian enterprise, how can Hegel's view of consciousness be seen as a continuation, and how can Nietzsche's view of morality be seen as an abandonment?