University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)

Midterm Essay
Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?
Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)
Monday, Sept. 11 - Aristotle (2)
Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Aristotle (3)
Monday, Sept. 18 - Nietzsche (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)
Monday, Sept. 26 - Abortion (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Abortion (2)
Excursus 1: Historical overview
Excursus 2: Abortion in Judaism and Christianity
Excursus 3: Abortion in Islam
Excursus 4: Pro-choice argument
Monday, Oct. 2 - Suicide (1)
Wednesday, Oct 4 - Revision
Monday, Oct 16 - Suicide (2)
Wednesday, Oct 18 - Paradigm shifts
Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)
Wednesday, Oct 25 - Philosophical Anthropology (1)
Monday, Oct 30 - Sexual History of the USA
Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)
Monday, Nov 6 - Race, death, tragedy, and bad faith
Wednesday, Nov 8 - Race, Biology, and Culture
Monday, Nov 13 - Racism and culture
Wednesday, Nov 15 - Existentialism
Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment
Wednesday, Nov 22 - Kant and Moral Obligation
Monday, Nov 27 - War and Peace
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Non-Western Philosophies (1)
Monday, Dec 4 - Non-Western Philosophies (2)
Wednesday, Dec 6 - The End
Final Paper

Guiding questions for the reading

Class presentation by:
Hilliman, G.
Carter, R.
Wilson Jr, L.

1. What does “utopia” mean?

Utopia is “(the idea of) a perfect society in which everyone works well with each other and is happy” (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary).


2. How are “normality” and “progress” defined? (p. 17)

“One egg, one embryo, one adult –normality.”

“Making ninety-six human beings where only one grew before. Progress.”


3. What was so good about this improvement on nature? (p. 18)

“‘Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!’ (…) ‘Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!’ (…) He quoted the planetary motto: ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ (…) The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.”


4. In which way is “human invention” better than nature? (p. 22)

“For, of course, they didn’t content themselves with merely hatching out embryos: any cow could do that. ‘We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or future…’ He was going to say ‘future World Controllers’, but correcting himself, said ‘future Directors of Hatcheries’ instead.”


5. In what do the Alphas and Epsilons differ from one another? (p. 23)

‘Hasn’t it occurred to you that an Epsilon embryo must have an Epsilon environment as ell as an Epsilon heredity?’ (…) ‘The lower the caste,’ said Mr. Foster, ‘the shorter the oxygen’.”


6. What is, according to the book, the secret of happiness and virtue? (p. 24)

“… that is the secret of happiness and virtue – liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable [read: inescapable] social destiny’.”


7. What was the aim of using loud noises and electric shocks on the children? (pp. 28-29)

To make it psychologically impossible for khaki-wearing Delta babies to like flowers and books.


8. What is the meaning of “What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder”? (p. 29)

“‘They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an “instinctive” hatred of books and flowers’.”


9. What was the problem with “the love of nature”? (p. 29)

“A love of flowers keeps no factories busy.  (…) ‘We condition the masses to hate the country,’ concluded the Director. ‘But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same tome, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks.”


10. What was “hypnopaedia” and what view of “education” did it imply? (p. 30-31, see especially “The Nile” example on p. 32)

Hypnopaedia is “the principle of sleep-teaching.” Children can learn things by heart by listening to them while they sleep. Education is mere repetition of things memorized without understanding them.


11. Why was hypnopedia not good for science, but excellent for moral and social education? (pp. 32-33)

“You can’t learn a science unless you understand what it’s all about” (…) But moral education you can. “Moral education, which ought never, in any circumstances, to be rational.” (p. 32) These are “words without reason” (p. 33).


12. How is “mind” defined? (p. 34)

“‘(…) the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind, too – all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides – made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!’ The Director almost shouted in his triumph. ‘Suggestions from the State.’ He banged the nearest table. ‘It therefore follows…’.”


13. Which games are approved of in Brave New World and why? (p. 35)

“Imagine the folly of allowing people to play elaborate games which do nothing whatever to increase consumption. It’s madness. Nowadays the Controllers won’t approve of any new game unless it can be shown that it requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games.”


14. Why has the Brave New World been described as a “negative utopia”?

It presents the Brave New World as a prefabricated, lifeless world. Human interaction has become patterned after the factory model.


15. What country do you think Aldous Huxley had in mind while writing this social satire?

He was thinking especially of the USA. That is why the text speaks of Our Ford, paraphrasing the Our Father.


16. What is the central message of this piece of writing?

“Humanity is carefree, healthy and technologically advanced. Warfare and poverty have been eliminated and everyone is permanently happy. The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things people currently derive happiness from — family, cultural diversity, art, literature, science, religion and philosophy. It is also a hedonistic society, deriving pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use.” Wikipedia.





To think about       

"Any society that values creativity also needs to enable criticism. If we cannot question the way we are doing things and thinking about things at present, it will not occur to us that they could be thought of or done differently. (...) So philosophy is important partly because cultural criticism is so important."

CHRISTENSON, Tom (2001). Wonder and Critical Reflection. An invitation to Philosophy, p. 37. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


This page was updated on Nov 21, 2006
at 10.00 PM St Martin Time (-4 UT)