The View of the Human Condition in the Social Sciences
Note: If you had me for econ 101, you must use one additional reading: BF Skinner’s “What is Man?” from his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity.
- Acts Ch 17: Verses 16-24 (below)
Paul encounters 2 groups with competing philosophies (note: not different religions)
- What were the basic views of the:
- Epicureans regarding existence? A moral law?
- Stoics regarding meaning, purpose, existence?
- How do you think Paul addressed people from each philosophical school?
What would a modern Epicurean look/think like?
- Cashmore: (For Behavioral Theory)
- What is Cashmore’s basic assumption about existence? human (your) nature?
- How does this affect his view on whether you have free will? Identity? Rationality?
- Given that, what does Cashmore think drives human behavior? (“Stochastic” = random chance)
- How does that view of existence affect his view of personal responsibility?
- How does that view of existence affect his view of how we should approach crime?
- Extension: how would we apply that reasoning to economics?
- Explain: how might one’s view of the human condition affect one’s theories about human behavior?
- Why does he cite Epicurus? Lucretius?
- Why would a prominent biologist in 2010 cite arguments from 2400 years ago? What should that mean for your wanting to learn arguments from 2400 years ago?
- Huxley: “Beliefs”: P 367 – 371 (For Moral Theory)
1.What did Huxley assume about human existence (for him “scientific picture of the world” = matter is all that exists.)?
This affected his understanding of how people develop/are formed and the existence of morals to follow.
- What did Huxley assume about the meaning of human existence? (367, 369)
- Why did they assume that position about meaning?
- Where would that place him as an Epicurean or not?
- Bring this into Brave New World:
6.How would Huxley’s views inform the morals John was taught on the reservation? Comp w/ King: LBH
7.How would Huxley’s views of the formation/production of people in Ch 1,2 of BNW relate to Cashmore?
- Martin Luther King: Accepting Responsibility for Your Actions
- How does MLK’s argument contrast with Cashmore’s?
- Where does it agree/disagree? Why? What makes the difference?
- How does this connect with the problem of free will?
- Martin Luther King: “Letter from Birmingham Jail” excerpt (below)
What is King’s basic assumption about the existence of an eternal/universal law?
How does that apply to the civil rights movement?
How does that compare with Huxley’s position?
These two pieces from King perfectly capture the central issues of a religiously informed worldview.
The issue essentially boils down to this:
- Do we have free will, rationality, identity? (This is central to all behavioral theory)
- IF so, is there a moral law to guide us in our free choices? (This is central to all moral theory)
# 1 is why this is not simply a question of religion or morals. Every discipline which deals with human action must take a position on whether people have free will and rationality (ability to act on ideas) or not. You cannot avoid this question. And addressing this question helps you understand your disciplines more effectively.