University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)

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

Retrieved from


State of nature

State of nature refers to philosophical assertions regarding the condition of humans before social factors are imposed, thus attempting to describe the "natural essence" of human nature.

  • Views which see humans as inherently good:
    • According to John Locke, humans in the state of nature have perfect freedom to order their actions according to the laws of nature, without having to ask permission to act from any other person. People are of equal value, and treat each other as they would want to be treated. People only leave the state of nature when they consent to take part in a community. [1]
    • According to Rousseau, humans in the state of nature are naturally good, and bad habits are the product of corrupting civilization;



  • Views which see humans as morally neutral:
    • According to Pelagius, humans in the state of nature are not tainted by original sin, but are instead fully capable of choosing good or evil.
    • According to social determinism and biological determinism, human behavior is determined by biological and social factors, so inherent human instincts are never truly to blame for actions generally considered "bad" nor truly credited with actions generally considered "good."
  • Views which see humans as inherently bad:
    • According to Hobbes, humans in the state of nature are inherently in a "war of all against all," and life in that state is ultimately "nasty, brutish, and short." To Hobbes, this state of nature is remedied by good government.
    • According to original sin, humans in the state of nature are tarnished by the sin of Adam, and can only be redeemed by the grace of God;
    • According to Bertrand Russell moral evil or sin is derived from the instincts that have been transmitted to us from our ancestry of beasts of prey. This ancestry originated when certain animals became omnivorous and employed predation (killing and thievery) in order periodically to ingurgitate the flesh as well as the fruit and produce of other once-living things to support metabolism in competition with other animals for scarce food-animal and food-plant sources in the predatory environment in which we evolved. Thus, the simple fact that we humans must eat other life or else starve, die and rot is the probable primordial origin of contemporary and historical moral evil; i.e., the bad things we do to each other by lying, cheating, slandering, thieving and slaughtering.



There are a number of views regarding the origin and nature of human morality

  • Moral realism or moral objectivism holds that moral codes exist outside of human opinion -- that certain things are right or wrong regardless of human opinion on the topic. Objective morality may be seen as stemming from the inherent nature of humanity, divine command, or both.
  • Moral relativism holds that moral codes are a function of human values and social structures, and hold no meaning outside social convention.
  • Moral absolutism is the view that certain acts are right or wrong regardless of context.
  • Moral universalism compromises between moral relativism and moral absolutism and holds that there is, or should be, a common universal core of morality.



Main article: Meaning of life

  • Materialism and philosophical naturalism hold that there is no external purpose to human life. Proponents of this view often adopt the philosophy of secular humanism.
  • Teleology holds that there is inherent purpose to human existence. This purpose may arise from the inherent nature of humanity itself (what a human is "supposed to be," as in the case of objectivist philosophy), from mankind's relationship to the divine (what God wants humanity to be, as in the case of religion), or from both (as when the divine commands are seen as being in accord with the inherent nature of humanity and humanity's best interests)


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)