To what Extent can we Consider Kierkegaard’s Ethics to be a Synthesis of Aristotle’s and Kant’s?

Kierkegaard formed a system of ethics based upon the notion that we ought to hold a teleological suspension of the ethical in order to enter a higher realm of morality, referred to as the religious life. The purpose of this essay to determine whether we can consider this to be a synthesis of Kant’s and Aristotle’s moral philosophy, to which I shall argue we can but only as a partial synthesis since Kierkegaard omits elements of both Kant and Aristotle.

In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard draws out a system of ethics where we ought to move towards what he considers to be the highest virtue, faith, by means of a teleological suspension of the ethical. Before I go on further it would be best if I point out that by virtue Kierkegaard does not mean an excellence of character in the sense Aristotle does, instead the term virtue is implemented to mean something more along the lines of what we ought to have in order to be considered noble. So To avoid confusion between these two terms I shall use the term arête when referring to virtue in the Aristotelian sense.

One of the fundamentals to Kierkegaard’s ethics is that man has three modes of living; the aesthetic, the ethical and the religious. The aesthetic life is one in which we pursue a hedonistic lifestyle constantly chasing pleasure, consequently never staying with any one thing for too long. The ethical life is sometimes referred to as living in accordance with the Universal (this is done within Fear and Trembling), by which it is meant living in accordance with some form of universal moral law, such as Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Finally the religious life is one in which we have removed any sense of duty to the ethical life and become a self-legislating body which obeys only the law it gives itself in such a way that allows us to become “a relation that relates itself to itself” [Kierkegaard, SD, XI:127], by which it is meant that we become capable of reflecting upon ourselves in order to receive autonomy making us free from universal maxims as we become able to decide our own path. It is by deciding what path to take and sticking to it ‘religiously’ that Kierkegaard argues that we acquire faith, thus faith does not necessarily mean belief in a deity (although it can), but instead sticking to a decision without doubt, as Rudd states “for Kierkegaard, morality is a product of commitment” [Rudd, pg:71].

The idea of faith being the highest virtue is demonstrated through what is known as the four sub-Abrahams within Fear and Trembling [Kierkegaard, FT, pp:8-13], and later on where he states “but he who strove with God is greater than all [Kierkegaard, FT, pg:16], but it is within the third sub-Abraham that Kierkegaard reveals to us a second theme vital to the overall system…the virtue of love…we briefly see this virtue within the following passage: “when the child is to be weaned the mother is not without sorrow, that she and the child grow more…apart” [Kierkegaard, FT, pg:12], it is possible to read this passage in a way which means that love is bittersweet for even though the mother loves her baby and draws the warmth from that bond, there will be times when the same love will cause pain. Yet we ought not to abandon love because of this possibility of pain, but embrace it as it is through sacrifice that we are able to move from the ethical to the religious, via a teleological suspension of the ethical, which Rudd explains as “refusing simply to take his standards of good and evil from his society” [Rudd, pg:121].

This notion of love now needs to be explained in more detail for Kierkegaard uses love in a very specific way, one in which could be synonymous with the Confucianist virtue ren or the Greek term agape, both of which mean a universal, unconditional form of love. The notion of love is described in Works of Love where the importance of love is made explicit in the passage: “to cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception, it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity…one who is self-deceived has locked himself out and continues to lock himself out of love” [Kierkegaard, WL, pp:23-24]. Later on a description of what love is comes to us as Kierkegaard says “by its fruits one recognises the tree …in the same way love also is known by its own fruit” [Kierkegaard, WL, pg:25] meaning that we do not know love in any other way than through the acts of love made by others, but more specifically it is the acts of Christian love which Kierkegaard is referring to for he states “the love of which Christianity speaks is known by its own fruit- revealing that it has within itself the truth of the eternal” [Kierkegaard, WL, pg:25].

This is why it could be argued that Kierkegaard’s view of love is synonymous with ren and agape for Christian love, according to Kierkegaard, is universal “the Christian teaching is to love one’s neighbour , to love all mankind, all men, even enemies, and not to make exceptions, neither in favouritism nor in aversion” [Kierkegaard, WL, pg:36] and unconditional “God you are to love in unconditional obedience, even if what he demands of you may seem to you to be your own harm” [Kierkegaard, WL, pg:36]. Hence the leap from ethical to religious is made by abandoning any universal moral laws, and/or conformities to social norms, in order to serve our own moral maxims (God, the eternal) with unconditional obedience whilst also treating all others equally for if we “love a human being more than God…this is a mockery to God – the same holds true of friendship and erotic love” [Kierkegaard, WL, Pg.36]. Therefore once we have entered the religious life we ought to show respect to every element of mankind equal to the unwavering respect we show to our self-made moral maxims otherwise we risk slipping back into the ethical or aesthetic life.

To summarise Kierkegaard’s ethics is not one of universal maxims, or a system devised to tell us how to act (unlike Kant’s), but one which tells us to choose our own path and stick by it just like we would stick to our religious faith in a deity. This does sound similar to Nietzsche’s concept of divorcing ourselves from the herd morality in order to determine our own path through life, a concept which I argue is fundamentally Aristotelian (I shall return to this later). But in order to make this movement from ethical to religious we ought to learn to love ourselves and others in equal measure for if we did not we would see no reason to unconditionally obey our moral maxims, or care for the society around us which brings us the things necessary for a life of contentment (food, water, shelter, companionship and so on). Now I shall move on to demonstrate how this model of ethics is similar to, and different from Aristotle’s in order to show how close the two systems are.

Aristotle argues that the moral hero is one who pursues happiness as happiness is the end goal in itself, “happiness on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor…for anything other than itself” [Aristotle, 1097b], which bears some semblance with Kierkegaard who in part two of Either-Or writes “the beautiful was that which has its teleology within itself” [Kierkegaard, E-II, II:245], so the ‘beautiful’ or noble agent is one who has the end goal within themselves. Kierkegaard later adds that happiness can be found within his work, his calling, for “our hero works for a living; this work is also his delight; he carries out his calling” [Kierkegaard, E-II, II:266], hence Kierkegaard, like Aristotle, believes that each agent has a function and it is by working within your function that we become heroic for “all things have a function…the good and the well is thought to reside in the function” [Aristotle, 1097b]. This claim is strengthened further when we consider Rudd’s claim that “one can only avoid the necessity of judging one’s life in moral terms by evading long-term commitments. But to live such a life is to be in despair, for a life without commitments is one without purpose” [Rudd, pg.69] . Therefore the moral agent is one who follows his commitment to his function.

However where Kierkegaard and Aristotle deviate is at the point where Aristotle holds that man has no choice over his function within society, whereas (as demonstrated above) Kierkegaard argues that we are able to decide for ourselves what function it is we are to commit to. I speak of functions, in regard to Kierkegaard, here not just as jobs but also roles and relationships following on from Rudd who states “for Kierkegaard, morality is a product of commitment to roles and relationships”. So when I talk about functions in relation to Kierkegaard I use the term is a broader sense than when in relation to Aristotle who specifically means a role within society. As a result of this we can consider the agent’s function, for Kierkegaard, is to commit to his role within the workplace (following E-II, II:266) and to commit to his relationships with his neighbours (following WL, pg.36),

Although Rudd argues that there is a more important end goal and it is this which separates the religious from the ethical, “an absolute telos…is the primary overriding task for each individual to bring him-or herself into the right relationship with God” [Rudd, pg.134]. But if we take Kierkegaard from a non-Christian perspective and equate God with the absolute good then we Rudd’s statement becomes one which means the primary end goal to bring himself into the right relationship with their own moral maxims and not a set of universal laws or socially constructed ethical code.

To summarise Kierkegaard’s system follows Aristotle in the sense that both accept that the good can be found in pursue your social roles, as this is part of the love for one’s neighbour as by fulfilling your social role you help society as a whole progress. Also by living in accordance with a self-devised system of morality we can find similarities between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, who as I stated earlier is arguably Aristotelian in essence within his moral system. Although Kierkegaard is not completely Aristotelian as there is no mention of habituating virtues, and Kierkegaard believes that social roles are not pre-ordained but freely chosen and this is where the two thinkers differ within their systems. I shall now go on to discuss Kierkegaard in relation to Kant.

Pattison argues that Kierkegaard’s system contains some links with Kant’s since “figures who remove themselves from the moral accountability of their contemporaries and act as if they are beyond good and evil…would seem to be anti-Kantian, they also, in another way give expression to another Kantian theme, the pursuit of maximum autonomy” [Pattison, pg.106], and for Kant autonomy is “the property of the will by which it is a law to itself” [Kant, 4:440]. Pattison also adds “If one sees the argument of The Critique of Practical Reason as a genuine attempt to establish the requirement of belief in God via the concept of the supreme good…the Kantian analogy is strengthened still further” [Pattison, pg. 101]. Thus Kierkegaard’s concept of moving from the ethical to the religious if seen as a notion which brings us closer to God, and since the religious life is the ultimate good for Kierkegaard, then it does show Kierkegaard to be Kantian.

However Pattison does recognise that there are also differences between the two systems as he acknowledges the faults within Kant’s categorical imperative. The example he gives us is based upon the idea that to do only what is universalisable can result in situations which undermine the maxim which has been universalised, such as “in feeding the cat I am neglecting all the cats who may be dying even now of malnutrition” [Pattison. Pg.113], therefore ‘I ought to feed the cat’ as an universalisable maxim would be ‘I ought to feed every cat’ or ‘Everyone ought to feed the cat’. The former results in an impossible maxim since no single person could feed every cat on the planet (especially if we count every species of cat such as lions and tigers). The latter on the other hand results in everyone feeding the single cat you own which would result in the cat becoming ill through overfeeding. Thus this is why Kant’s system fails and why Kierkegaard argues that the ultimate good lies beyond the ethical and in the religious, based upon just the one imperative “helping the neighbour to love God, rather than ameliorate any concrete worldly problems” [Pattison, pg.118].

Another difference between the two systems is that Kierkegaard does not tell how to act or which rules to follow, but instead tells us that we ought to break away from the ethical systems of the herd, move beyond good and evil, and become a law onto ourselves in a movement that brings us closer to maximum autonomy. Whereas Kant explicitly tells us how to act for he says “act that use humanity always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means” [Kant, 4:429] and “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law” [Kant, 4:402].

To conclude Kierkegaard’s system of ethics can be seen as a partial synthesis of kant’s and Aristotle’s as it contains Kant’s notion of pursuing maximum autonomy, and Aristotle’s concept of fulfilling your social roles as a way of loving your neighbour whilst being a law only unto ourselves. However Kierkegaard has not made a complete synthesis of the two as he omits the categorical imperative from Kant and the notion of habituating arête in order to pursue happiness. Arguably this would a deliberate omission since the two concepts are incompatible as Kant classes any pursuit of happiness as a hypothetical imperative as he says “the imperative that refers to the choice of means to one’s own happiness…is still always hypothetical” [Kant, 4:416].

• E-II – Either-Or Part II
• FT – Fear and Trembling
• SD – Sickness Unto Death

• WL – Works of Love


• Aristotle, (1995), ‘The Nicomachean Ethics’, in Barnes. J, The Complete Works of Aristotle (Sixth Reprint), Chichester: Princeton University Press
• Kant. I, (1998), Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (translate by Gregor.M), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
• Kierkegaard. S, (1983), Sickness unto Death (translated by Hong. E and Hong. H), Princeton: Princeton University Press
• Kierkegaard. S, (1987), Either-Or Part II (translated by Hong. E and Hong. H), New Jersey: Princeton University Press
• Kierkegaard. S, (2005), Fear and Trembling (translated by Hannay. A), London: Penguin Books
• Kierkegaard. S, (2009), Works of Love (translated by Hong. E and Hong. H), New York: Harper-Collins
• Pattison. G, (2005), The Philosophy of Kierkegaard, Chesham: Acumen
• Rudd. A, (1993), Kierkegaard and the Limits of the Ethical, New York: Oxford University Press
• The Holy Bible (King James Version), (2000), Michigan: Zondervan


Seventh Diaologue of Zhi-Guan

[As the evening sun begins to gently fall behind the horizon Zhi-Guan and Mo-Zi are sat under the pagoda sipping on some lapsang and conversing when they see Tian-Zhu pass by]

Mo-Zi: Tian-Zhu my friend you look as though you carry great burden come join us, maybe one of us can be of aid.

Tian-Zhu: Thank you, I do indeed have a dilemma and pray your wisdom will bring me comfort.

Mo-Zi: Then tell us of your trouble in that we may find some remedy.

Tian-Zhu: My faith tells me that I must condemn those who enjoy their own kind as bedfellows, yet I find the number of whom I must condemn increasing as time goes on. I wonder as to why sin has come to spread in such great a plague.

Mo-Zi: Althogh I cannot agree with your faith Tian-Zhu I do understand your question. You wish to understand why there seem to be a greater number of homosexuals now than there have been.

[Tian-Zhu nods solemnly]

Mo-Zi: Well let us try to work towards an answer. There is now a greater population than before right?

Tian-Zhu: Right. Roughly seven billion now.

Mo-Zi: So theat would suggest all social groups would grow, would it not?

Tian-Zhu: I would have to agree yes. However this seems to be a greater growth than would be expected from your reasoning.

Mo-Zi: I see. Then let us take a different train of thought. You say seven billion people, yet the planet’s resources can only support five and a half billion adequately.

Tian-Zhu: I belive that to be correct, you are most learned on the subejct.

Mo-Zi: Thank you my friend however that is common knowledge. What I suggest is then that homosexuality is nature’s way of controlling the population. As the planet’s resources get strained nature tries to cut back on the number of humans capable of procreating.

Tian-Zhu: That seems like a fair answer, although not one that seems will with my faith.

Zhi-Guan: Maybe so but I do not accept that nature employ that method. I reason that if that were to be the case then nature would lower the number of fertile females, thus decreasing the liklihood of procreating.

Mo-Zi: But there would still be a significant number of males all of which could mate with the females over and over so the problem would not be fixed.

Zhi-Guan: You forget one thing my friend, humans are by nature monogomous creatures and will only mate with a special, chosen partner. This trait has been exhibited for millenia now.

Mo-Zi: You have me there Zhi-Guan once again I am defeated by your wisdom.

Tian-Zhu: Wise as he is this has not given my the answer I sought.

Zhi-Guan: Our apologies Tian-Zhu, perhaps your faith and our wisdom do have blind spots to which we cannnot fathom just yet.

Mo-Zi: I agree we may be wise but our wisdom is only limited.

Tian-Zhu: I guess I must trust in my Lord on this one. Good evening my friends.

[Tian-Zhu bows respectfully before making his leave]

A Possbile Explanation for Homosexuality within Freudian Theory

Many thanks to those who helped me on this one. Without you I would never have got as far with this as I have.

Freudian theory states our mind is divided into three portions; Id, Ego and Superego with the Id being divided into two sub-divisions, the Eros and Thanatos drives. I will not go into too much detail here about this but if you are unfamiliar with Freud you read my earlier work on Freud here…click me….and now onto the main topic for this discussion

At birth we are born with only pure Id but we develop the other two components over time through a series of phases known as our psycho-sexual development. During each phase of this development the Id channels a sexual energy called libido towards a different erogenous zone where it is focused (cathexed) upon that zone making it the centre of our attention and gratification, beginning with the oral phase in which the ego emerges in order to channel libido to the mouth. Following this comes the sadistic-anal phase before the first of two genital phases; this one is known as the phallic phase. After the phallic phase boys and girls separate off into what is known as the Oedipus and Elektra complexes respectively. It is around this phase that the Superego forms itself into a psychic entity capable of challenging the Id. After this comes a latent phase as the Superego denies all desires from the Id until puberty where the final stage commences, known as the genital stage.

1. Oral phase – libido cathexed onto the mouth
2. Sadistic anal phase – libido cathexed onto the anus in the form of denial
3. Phallic phase – libido cathexed onto the phallus
4. Oedipus/Elektra complex – libido cathexed onto the parent of the opposite gender
5. Latent phase – id placed into temporary suspension
6. Genital phase – libido cathexed onto the genitals and the genitals of others

You will notice that the fourth stage involves the libido being focused on the parent of the opposing gender, and this is possibly where the source of homosexuality lies. As it is during the Oedipus complex that the son develops sexual feelings towards his mother but fears that if he makes a move his father would intervene, to circumvent this the son will start mimicing the father in attempt to win his mother’s affections, hence tricking her into making the first move.

In some cases however I suggest that some confusion sets in and so instead of mimicing the father the son will shift his libido onto the father thinking that by loving the father the mother’s affections will be won as she too loves the father. Here now the son’s sexual energy will be placed upon a male figure instead of female…and as this is the last acitve stage before adolescence it wuold be critical in shaping the sexuality of the child in question.

As for females, they suffer the Electra complex where they suffer from penis envy as they become aware that the father has a penis but they do not but desperatly desire one. Thus they focus their libido onto the father and mimic the mother in attempt to win the father affections and obtain his penis.

A similar confusion occurs here. The daughter instead of mimicing the mother will shift her libido onto the mother in the same way the son will shift it to his father in order to obtain what he desires. Thus the daughter’s libido will be focused upon a female figure instead of a male at this vital stage within the psycho-sexual development.

Will Robots mean the Extinction of Humankind?

At the moment is there talk about artificial intelligence and whether or not it will be able to one day rise up and dominate mankind crushing it underfoot. We have all seen such things occur in the relam of science-fiction for example the Terminator films, the Cybermen from the Doctor Who universe, and in literary works such as those by Isaac Asimov. This fear is a real one and one that is growing in acadmic circles. In April 2014 Stephen Hawking and a group of other scientists got together to discuss the future of artificial intelligence in order to stop the apocalyptic future from coming to fruition.

The danger stems from the fact that A.I is already deeply ingraved with every aspect of our lives today. It is used to make our medicines, build our cars, electronics and household items, it is used in our transportation to help us be better, safer drivers/passengers, it rests in our computers and phones helping us communicate and work with data at speeds we could never hope for before. It has even helped us radically iboost the rate as which our research is done allowing us to look into things such as synthetic biology and nanotechnology. But this boost is close to reaching the point where research goes faster than our brains, meaning that soon A.I will be in the know more than we will giving them an advantage.

Some have even warned that as we are now constructing A.I with near human intelligence that it may be capable to thinking like humans, which means it may be able to play dumb hiding its actual intelligence until it has formulated a plan to bring us to our kness. Also as A.I now approches human intelligence it is close to being able to do things we currently do such as pay the stock markets and even manipluate them, should this happen A.I could destablise the world economies creating global debt on a scale never seen before.

There is also the possibility that since A.I is capable of constructing things faster and more uniform than humans they could easily build an army of droids armed with highly advanced weapons, even weapons human understanding as yet to dream of or comprehend. How could mankind against an army of weapons it has never encountered before? The Spanish slaughtered the Native Americans with their fireamrs and smallpox, weapons they have never encoutered before, would it be much different it A.I did the same to us?

Again if A.I got to the point where it understood research more than we did and had control over industry then it could easily engineer purpose beild nanotech to carry out genetic engineering inside our bodies. Once this is achieved they could make us docile, weaken our bodies and slow down our minds making us eaiser to dominate and enslave. Or worse still they could control our lungs, heart and other vital organs shutting them off at will.

In 2012 a study done by Oxford University stated that the point at which research starts going so fast we cannot comprehend what is going on will have come by 2040. This leaves us only 25 more years (providing it does not happen earlier) before the extinction begins.

Finally there is a more tamer worry. A.I is increasingly taking over humans in the workplace putting more and more of us out of work. This is putting a bigger strain on goverments who are having to fork out more and more in state benefits to aid those out fo work, which in turn puts a greater pressure on the nation’s economy as less and less tax gets paid in but more and more tax is handed out in the form of benefits. We have recently seen the economies of Latvia, Greece fail. Then we have Argentina’s contantling struglling economy, and the global trouble recently blamed on ‘Toxic banks’. Just how much of this has A.I been responsible for?

The meeting in 2014 I mentioned earlier laid down rules as to how A.I from now on must be build with a ethical code, but what about A.I before then? And what exactly is this ethical code? Who does the code benefit? Can we trust A.I to carry on being harmless background tools aiding us in our lives everyday? Are these worries all just paranoia or is there really something to fear?

How Adolescence is Portrayed in the Media

Adolescence has become a term used by the media to mean ‘a phase the young undesirable members of society go through’; this has led to the true meaning of the word becoming confused or even replaced in everyday conversation. This new media-generated definition has helped in giving teenagers/adolescents a bad image and reputation but just how far from the truth actually is the media? Are modern adolescents really the rebellious, anti-social teens they are portrayed to be or is it just biased, over exaggeration of the media in order to sell a good story and scare the public? First it would best to start from the beginning and find the true definition of adolescence.

Adolescence comes from the Latin term adolescentia meaning ‘to grow up’ and so it should really be used to mean the phase in which children begin to mature and develop into their adult phase (either manhood or womanhood for boys and girls respectively). It is throughout this period that the youth goes through a complex period of social, psychological and biological change (usually described as puberty), they developed a tendency to shun previous parental influence in order to seek out guidance from their peer groups as a way to express themselves as mature adults and as an opportunity to learn about things their parents would condemn (drugs, pornography, alcohol .etc). This change of the location of influence creates confusion in what is right and wrong so adolescents become unaware that what others perceive as anti-social behaviour is actually not acceptable, although there is much debate around this subject.

The media at present (especially in the news) has used this teenage confusion between right and wrong as a way of generating public fear and selling a good story to the general public at the expense of the majority of adolescents who have nothing to do with the rising number (if the statistical information is anything to go by) of anti-social teenagers. The media will often report adolescents has being obsessed with or addicted pornography making claims that up to one in four regularly use the internet to view such material, they will also make claims about adolescents using other forms of modern gadgetry and technology to enhance their anti-social ways; examples including using mobiles for ‘happy slapping’, MP3 players as a enticement for mugging and playstations (or x-boxes and other game consoles) as teachers for violence. There is very little positive media portrayal of adolescence within the media and most of it seems to emerge around the time of exam results when the media focuses on the few who manage to excel at school and achieve good grades, however this is soon replaced by reports of exams getting easier and claims that young people are getting ‘dumber’ as the years go on; this year the news has recently reported on university students having to be given lessons on how to right essays due to the lack of literary skills. These negative articles in the news over cloud the sparse pockets of positive portrayal that adolescents truly deserve as it is really only a minority that cause the anti-social behaviour the media is so keen to use.
It is not only in the news, which is aimed at an adult audience, that uses a negative portrayal but also artists in the music scene aimed at the adolescent audience will also use a negative view of adolescents throughout their material as a way to sell their material. The group My Chemical Romance during their song ‘Teenagers’ show adolescents as aggressive and intimidating members of society with the lyrics “Teenagers scare the living shit outta me”. The solo artist Lily Allen also uses less subtle lyrics to get across that adolescents are anti-social in a number of tracks; in the song ‘LDN’ she sings about life in inner city London and uses the lyrics “When a kid came along to offer a hand but before she had time to accept it, hits ‘er o’er the head. Doesn’t care if she’s dead cos he’s got all ‘er jewellery an’ wallet”; suggesting that mugging is a serious issue with inner city adolescents (again if the statistical data and media is anything to go by then there is a rising problem of youth crime including mugging). In another track, Alfie, Lily Allen suggests that adolescent boys have a problem with drug abuse since the song contains the lyrics “My little brother’s in his bedroom smoking weed” and within the same verse “’He can’t be bothered cos he’s high on THC”. In the second verse she moves off the idea of drug abusing adolescents to follow a new path of what is still negative portrayal. She claims that adolescents are lazy, graffiti-artists with the lines “I can’t just sit back and watch you waste your life away”, “Get off your lazy arse” and “Surely there’s some walls out there that you can go and spray”.

So the media as a whole uses adolescence as a dumping ground for bad behavioural issues such as pornography, drug abuse, vandalism, mugging .etc as a way to improve profit and sales despite the statistical evidence that in reality it is actually only a small minority of the adolescent population that is truly responsible for all this anti-social behaviour that seems to sell so well thanks to a bit of over exaggeration and impressive vocabulary by the media. This over exaggeration of the negative has led to the majority of hard-working, honest and well behaved adolescents becoming labelled and shunned in modern society, which may hinder a healthy social development since they will be treated as social outcasts by the adult and younger population highly limiting the opportunity for social interaction and moral guidance. If this is the case then this could encourage adolescents to be anti-social members of society due the fact that they are receiving no moral guidance or social opportunity creating moral confusion and a generation of people only able to communicate with and copy the behaviour of the adolescent population.

BBC news 24 podcasts, downloaded from
Daily Star (various issues)
Daily Star Sunday (various issues)
Lily Allen, Alright Still, Regal records
My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, Reprise records
News of the world (various issues)
The Sun (various issues)

Further reading:
Elizabeth A. Goodburn & David A. Ross, A Picture of Health: A Review & Annotated Bibliography of the Health of Young People in Developing Countries”, published by World Health Organization & UNICEF

Do Boys and Girls Play Differently? Does Gender Affect Play?

Young boys and girls have a tendency to show gender orientated behaviour during early infancy, this is then continued through childhood getting more profound as the child ages raising the question as to whether these behaviours are innate due to biological reasons or nurtured due to environmental/social reasons.

Even though it is not obviously apparent during early infancy there are some differences between the behaviour of boys and girls. These behaviours do not become apparent until their first birthday but even then they are barely noticeable; these behaviours then become more pronounced by the arrival of their second birthday, around the same time as the Ego develops according to Freud in his psycho-sexual development theory for behaviour. This suggests that gender differences comes from the development of the Id and Ego during the Oral stage where boys tend to express more aggressive behaviours such as biting and/or chewing whereas girls tend to express more docile behaviours such as suckling and/or tasting in order to satisfy the Id’s desire to taste everything in the external world.
Another theory comes from evidence based on Goldberg’s & Lewis’s 1969 study where they observed that infants at this age mimic the behaviour of the same sex parent, this would suggest that gender specific behaviour is not caused by the Id and Ego but by social learning as we observe our environment (family, media and peers) in order to develop our behaviour and personality. Although this study has been criticised for having a lack of validity since a number of others studies including; Clarke-Stewart 1973, Macoby 1973 and Brookes & Lewis 1974 have all failed to replicate the results found by Goldberg & Lewis.

It is unarguable that gender specific behaviours exist and this has been found via a number of studies including those by Fagot (1974 & 1978), Fein (1975), Smith & Daglish (1977), Ainsworth (1978), Feiring & Lewis (1979), Parke & Slaby (1983), Hartup (1983) and Turner (1991); there are others but they lack in supporting evidence and so remain unmentioned. The argument lies mainly within what are these behaviours and where do they come from?
Fagot in 1974 found that infants from the age of two start to play with certain types of toys depending on their gender; girls will opt for dressing up clothes, dancing, and toys that encourage mothering such as teddies and dolls, whereas boys will opt for transport orientated toys like trains, vans and cars but also building blocks and household items forbidden by the parents (household chemicals for example). This suggests that boys innately have a curious, constructive nature where girls have an innate nature to become mothers and want to look good. Fagot’s findings have also been supported by other studies mentioned earlier.

It has been found that boys play with more aggression than girls by Parke & Slaby and Turner (looking at research done by Ainsworth) noted that this is especially true if the boys have developed an insecure attachment and have been diagnosed as so during the strange situation. This aggression can be seen by watching boys play with building blocks they will construct towers or what they seem to be a magnificent height and then smash it with there hand or another object to hand and laugh at the whole situation of the tower falling. Also if you give an older boy a doll to play with a majority will sabotage it either by cutting off its hair or removing its limbs (much to the distress of the female owner). Again this aggression could be innate as an evolutionary throwback since in nature it is usually the males that fight for dominance, territory and hunt for food to provide for the rest of the family.
Another behaviour common of boys is they play in groups, found by Hartup in 1973, this would make since from a biological point of view as if gender specific behaviour is part of survival and is part of the evolutionary throwback then it would be safer to hunt as a group rather than go it alone where the hunter could become the hunted by larger predators.

In 1979 Feiring & Lewis found that girls are more vocal and are vocal earlier than boys in both play and interaction with each other, and are better at using their vocal skills to solve problems; this can be seen in a typical playground dispute. Girls will result to a screaming down of the opposition with a torrent of insults, bitchy remarks and attempts to shift the blame else where (or if all else fails result to the Vicky Pollard approach of “yeah…but no…but yeah…but SHUT UP!”). Whereas boys allow their anger to take control and exchange blows or threaten the other with violence of some description. This would also support the idea of biological causation since fighting would be part of defending territory and making themselves known as the ‘alpha male’ of the pack.

Turner, again looking at research by Ainsworth, noted that girls who are insecurely attached show dependant behaviours as well as compliance, constructive tendencies and less-dominating behaviours than securely attached girls. Insecurely attached boys on the other hand express aggression, assertiveness, dominance and attention-seeking behaviours whereas securely attached boys show more positive behaviours. Suggesting that gender specific behaviour has a social causation rooted within the maternal link during infancy. Huston, Lytton and Romney also support the idea for social causation of gender specific behaviours as they observed in studies in 1983 (Huston) and 1991 (Lytton and Romney) that parents treat children of different genders differently.

To conclude gender specific behaviours have both a innate biological causation and a nurtured social dimension. We all have an innate awareness of gender difference and of the behaviours necessary for survival and start to develop them from birth in order to survive and protect our families but also these behaviours are reinforced by the development of our maternal attachments, toys we are given to play with and observations of our same sex parent (assuming they are present to be observed). The idea of mimicking the same sex parent would only be reinforcing our innate behaviours since our parents would also be expressing the behaviours they ‘know’ are beneficial to the survival of the family; hence the father would show aggression as he knows this is needed to stop others attacking the family and so would the son, however the son just observes his father in order to gain reassurance that this is the correct way to behave going back to Freud’s idea of the Id, Ego conflict.

Personality and Gender Effects on Stress Levels

In 1976 Frakenhaeuser (et al) conducted a study into how the difference between genders affects how stressors affect the body. Frakenhaeuser (et al) took a group of boys as well as a group of girls and as they went through a stressful life event, in this case a school exam period, they took urine samples from each group to record the levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline within the bloodstream.

The results of the urine samples allowed them to find out that boys would experience a larger increase of hormonal activity during stress than the girls, but also this increase would take a longer period of time to correct itself. They also were able to find out the results from the exams were the same for both groups, as was the levels of anxiety and stress. From these findings they were able to draw up the conclusions that males were able to react faster to stress, however it is females who are able to cope better with stress as their hormonal activity was hardly affected by the stressors; thus females tend to be more hardy to the effects of stress.

Although the study in not without fault. Frakenheauser’s conclusion suggests that males are more likely to develop stress-related illnesses, yet there is a lack of evidence in support this suggestion meaning that the results from the study may have been misinterpreted. Also stress management techniques has a tendency to differ between the sexes; males prefer to opt for the more active, physical approach to handling stress by using exercise. It is a well-known fact that physical exercise released increased levels of adrenaline into the bloodstream which would therefore account for the raised levels during the exam period. Whereas females prefer to opt for a more passive, social approach to handling stress by socializing with friendship networks, social groups and support groups, this option doesn’t have any affect on the body’s biochemistry but instead shuts off the sympathetic nerves in the autonomic-nervous-system allowing the parasympathetic to continue relay messages as the body remains in a relaxed state. Because of this the assumptions made from the study about how vulnerable people are to stress is risky.
On the other hand there is strength to be found in the study. Mainly it is a significant piece of evidence describing how individual differences, such as personality and gender can change the effects stressors have on us.

The Implications of Freudian Theory Within Moral Philosophy

Freud is one of the key thinkers of modernity within philosophy of mind after he introduced a theory of mind, known as the psychodynamic model, based upon a divided self made up of unconscious, preconscious and conscious. This was later built upon to produce a topography of mind consisting of an unconscious Id, unconscious Ego, preconscious Ego, conscious Ego and a Superego which interacts with the other parts but is not specifically located within any of the earlier divisions of the mind. The model is usually referred to as the (human) psyche, although Freud sometimes refers to it as the psychic apparatus. The purpose of this essay is three-fold; first to explain Freud’s psychodynamic theory of mind, secondly to highlight the implications this has on the notion of free will and to determine whether or not free will is compatible with Freud’s theory. Finally to demonstrate the implications the compatibility of free will within Freud’s theory and has on moral philosophy in order to show that if Freud’s psychodynamic theory is found to be true then any feasible ethical model would have to fall upon the concepts I shall show throughout this essay. From this I shall conclude that free will is compatible with Freud’s psychodynamic and can support ethical systems based upon free will.

Before I begin with my explanation of Freud’s psychodynamic theory of mind I would like to point out that this essay is not intended to prove whether Freud is correct or not, nor is it intended to highlight any flaws within the model, although some flaws may become apparent throughout the following sections.

Freud’s earlier topography of the mind consisted of unconscious, preconscious and conscious, where “the nucleus of the unconscious consists of instinctual representatives which seek to discharge their cathexis; that is to say, it consists of wishful impulses” [Freud, UC, pg:582]. The term cathexis plays a vital part in Freud’s theory and can be used to mean psychic energy. Thus the unconscious exists as a collection of impulses, each of which has a cathexis of its own and interacts by discharging the cathexis around the topography of the mind. The unconscious is also the first point of call for external stimuli once it passes through the perceptive faculties for “in the first phase the psychical act is unconscious” [Freud, UC, pg:578].

Cathexis, as stated above, can be considered as a psychic energy which allows the parts of the mind to interact with each other by discharging quantities of cathexis. Therefore Freud’s psychodynamic model can be seen as a system of sinks and flows with the unconscious, preconscious and conscious being the passive parts of the system (the sinks). And the cathexis, in its multiple forms, acting as the flows hence the dynamic part of the psychodynamic model. Cathexis can manifest as sexual impulses towards certain erogenous zones, such as the mouth or anus, which Freud argues is part of the psychosexual development of the psyche.

Once external stimulus has passed into the unconscious it then undergoes a screening process to determine whether the discharge of cathexis is safe. “if, on testing, it is rejected by the censorship it is not allowed to pass onto the second phase…if, however, it passes this testing, it enters the second phase and thenceforth belongs to the second system…the preconscious” [Freud, UC, pg:578]. The preconscious then acts as a memory bank holding any latent impulses which may be recalled by the conscious at any given point, in a way it is both conscious and unconscious as it not fully conscious but not blocked by the defence mechanism of repression, which is another vital concept for Freud. Essentially is the bridge between the unconscious-conscious schism.

Freud argues “under certain conditions…the impulse then passes into the state of repression…for the ego cannot escape from itself” [Freud, RP, pg:569], therefore repression acts as the defence mechanism which blocks the impulses which, having failed the screening process of the unconscious, prove harmful to our conscious psyche. There are also two types of repression, or at least two stages to it, “there is a primal repression…which consists in the psychical representation of the instinct being denied entrance into the conscious” [Freud, RP, pg:569], in other words the primary censorship of impulses. Then “the second stage of repression…affects mental derivatives of the repressed…or such trains of thought as originating elsewhere” [Freud, RP, pg:569], this latter act of repression censors impulses which bear some resemblance with the impulse originally censored to avoid any harm coming to the conscious.

Conscious is the remaining part of the psyche. It acts the system which contains the impulses we are aware of at a given moment in time. When we become aware of an impulse it means the impulse has discharged its cathexis from the preconscious system to the conscious. However the conscious only has a small capacity, due to the limited range of focus we possess, consequently when we become aware of another impulse the cathexis of the former is discharged back into the preconscious allowing the cathexis of the latter to be discharged into the conscious. This tripartite model of the psyche later gave way to a new topography, although still carrying these three systems, the new model had three new systems which acted as an extra layer on top of what Freud had already established.

One of these three systems is the Id which is entirely unconscious and is responsible for many of our impulses which come from two drives; Eros and Thanatos . The Id is completely egotistical as its only purpose is to achieve the actualisation of its impulses regardless of all other entities (both physical and psychical). The Id’s impulses are centred around obtaining pleasure and self-preservation for “the pleasure principle is proper to a primary method of working on the part of the mental apparatus…from the point of view of the self-preservation of the organism” [Freud, BP, pg:596].

The Eros and Thanatos drives were a late revision to Freud’s model where they replace the pleasure principle. The Eros drive takes the role of self-preservation, reproduction and directing the person towards higher states of existence. On the other hand the Thanatos drive takes the role of destroying unnecessary components of the entity and external entities which threaten the existence of itself. Or as Freud puts it “we put forward the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate states; on the other hand, we suppose that Eros…aims at complicating life and at the same time, of course, at preserving it” [Freud, EI, pg:645]. Hence the two drives often come into conflict as one tries to destroy the self whilst the other preserves it.

In order to keep the Id under control the psyche has another system known as the Ego which spans across all three regions of the old division, “the ego is not sharply separated from the id; its lower portion merges into it. The repressed is only cut off sharply from the ego by the resistances of repression” [Freud, EI, pg:635]. The Ego, like the Id, also has a drive known as the reality principle. The reality principle acts as a balance between the external world and the discharges of cathexis from the Id, the role of this principle is to resolves conflicts between incompatible impulses by way of a compromise which is acceptable within the external world for “when two wishful impulses…appear to us incompatible…they combine to form an intermediate aim, a compromise” [Freud, UC, pg:582].

Finally there is the Superego which develops later on as a consequence of the Oedipus complex. During the Oedipus complex the Id discharges its cathexis in hope of mating with the parent/guardian of the opposite gender. The Ego denies this as the reality principle deems it inappropriate but allows a compromise by taking on the essence of the same gender parent/guardian in order to win the affections of the source of desire. This becomes the Superego which represents the moral standpoint and social beliefs of the same gender parent/guardian. The role of the Superego is to act as a further level of censorship alongside the reality principle and repression to ensure that the Id never actualises its most destructive impulses within the external world.

Now Freud’s topography of the human psyche has been explained I can begin to address the question of whether free will is compatible with the psyche. Beforehand a definition of what is meant by free will is necessary since free will is a notion which has been a matter of debate for some time, with each thinker providing his/her own definition of the term along the way. I, however, shall take free will to mean what Spinoza defines it as, “that thing is called free which exists from the necessity of its nature alone, and is determined to act by itself alone” [Spinoza, pg.2]. By this what is meant is something possesses free will if it is self-driven, as opposed to being driven by a causal nexus. In this sense we can consider the Id to be free since Freud does not offer any explanation as to why it discharges its cathexis towards objects, it simply does, and hence it appears as if the Id does so by its own free will. Following this the Ego cannot be free as it acts only in response to the Id, therefore its actions are caused by the Id and so not caused by itself and consequently not by the Ego’s free will. Then there is the Superego which constantly behaves in such a way as to get the Ego to permit the discharges of cathexis that our parent/guardian of the same gender would permit without any consideration for the other two systems, thus the Superego could also be considered to possess free will. If this is true then the greater part of the human psyche is free but our conscious choices are not, meaning we are only free to choose what we do not know we want to choose as a portion of our free choice has been repressed. However so far this has been mere speculation to determine whether this is the case or not further evidence needs to be considered.

O’Shaughnessy argues that the Ego does possess free will as “the will, in the romantic sense of mental force, is the manifestation of an ego” [O’Shaughnessy, pg.110], he also believes the Id and Superego to possess free will as “those subordinate mental processes have a life of their own, and while they move only because we set them in motion they are not mere instruments of our purposes. They do our bidding but go their own way” [O’Shaughnessy, pg.111]. This is also supported by Thalberg who says that “when we perform an erroneous action…control over the body passes from one’s ego, and its will, to an opposing counter-will” [Thalberg, pg.243], this both the Id and the Ego possess free will but they also oppose each other. This gives rise to a further problem…if our psyche consists of separate systems each capable of free choice but disagree then which system can truly be called the self? It would seem absurd to argue that I, that is my ‘self’, wants X yet simultaneously wants not-X as this goes against the law of non-contradiction, which states “it is impossible for the same thing at the same time both to be and not to be” [Aristotle, 1005b]. So in order to answer the problem of free will within Freud’s model we need to clear up the problem of the self.

Kierkegaard was puzzled by the problem of the self but gave a explanation of it within Sickness Unto Death in which it is argued that “the self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relations relating itself to itself…a human being is a synthesis…of freedom and necessity” [Kierkegaard, XI:127]. By this it may be possible to see how we can resolve the problem with regard to Freud. If we replace the term itself with the names of parts of the mental apparatus then Kierkegaard reads as follows: ‘the self is a relation that relates Id to Ego or is the relations relating Id to Ego’. In the first part the self can be equated to cathexis as it is this which relates the Id to the Ego via its being discharged between the two systems. In the second part the self can be equated to Superego as it is creating out of the individual’s relations, as demonstrated above, and the Superego relates the Id to the Ego by means of a secondary screening process for the discharges of cathexis. Therefore the self is the Superego and the psychic energy which interacts between the Id and the Ego, and since the impulses originate in both the Id (from the Eros and Thanatos drives) and the Ego (from the reality principle) then by extension the self is also the Id and the Ego making the self as Kierkegaard stated ‘a synthesis’. Yet it appears that the problem of the law of non-contradiction still remains if this is the case. This is not necessarily the case as it was previously stated that “when two wishful impulses whose aims must appear to us incompatible…they combine to form an intermediate aim, a compromise” [Freud, UC, pg:582], this allows the Id and Ego to have their own free will without breaking the law of non-contradiction. It also solves the last piece of Kierkegaard’s claim that the self is a synthesis of freedom and necessity, the freedom comes from the free will of each part of the system in conflict but the necessity comes from its necessary adherence to the law of non-contradiction. And so the self can be considered the human psyche in its entirety capable of freely choosing a number of desires yet bound by the law of non-contradiction so only the desires which are compatible with each other are permitting, whilst the others become repressed.

To sum up what has just been said the self is a synthesis of Id, Ego and Superego relating to each other via the psychic energy of cathexis. Secondly each of the three systems contains its own free will but is bound by the law of non-contradiction so are determined to compromise whenever two opposing wills come into conflict. To put it another way we are free to do as we please so long as we do not contradict the actions and choices which have gone before, hence Freud’s model is compatible with soft determinism, also known as compatibilism.

But what is compatibilism? Compatibilism can be described as a solution to the free will problem as it allows free will to be compatible with determinism, thus enabling us to be held morally responsible for our actions even they we had no actual choice over what action we were to take [SP]. By actual choice I mean one that is chosen freely without any constraints on our choosing, as opposed to a perceived choice which is freely chosen from within a range of options from within a set of constraints. The former would be the exercise of total free will, libertarianism. The latter is the exercise of free will bound by pre-determined criteria, compatibilism. For example an actual choice is being able to choose between a cup of tea or a glass of fizzy pop whereas a perceived choice is being able to choose between the two but only being able to choose the cup of tea as every time this choice has occurred before you have desired the tea over the fizzy pop. Now it has been established what compatibilism is it can be discussed at which ethical systems work alongside Freud’s model.

Socratic ethics is built upon the notion that no man freely does evil they only do evil acts through ignorance, thus cannot be held morally responsible as it is stated within the Apology “you have discovered that bad people always have a bad effect…upon their nearest neighbours. Am I so hopelessly ignorant as not even to realize that…because nothing else would make me commit this grave offense intentionally” [Plato, 25e] and because the evil act was not committed intentionally Socrates claims “I cannot fairly be held responsible, since I have never promised” [Plato, 33b]. This would appear, at first, to be acceptable since evil desires are repressed into the unconscious, as demonstrated above, therefore become unknown to us so if we do act in an evil way it is because our unconscious has overpowered the Ego making us act in a way in which we were not aware of.

This view has been supported by some thinkers such as Sagan who argued “If reason were not fused with libidinal energy- the desires to love and create order- it would remain impotent against the destructive drive…without Eros, reason has as much commitment to morality and an orderly social life as a stick of dynamite” [Sagan, pg:139]. What Sagan refers to here when she uses the term reason could arguably be the Ego as it follows the reality principle, hence can be seen as the rational agent within the system ensuring the Id’s selfish desires are compatible with the external world. This would mean that the Ego and the Eros drive work in tandem to subdue our inner evil derived from the Thanatos drive. However there may be a hidden layer to the dynamite metaphor used by Sagan suggesting something beyond the initial reading which argues that an Ego without the Eros drive to support it cannot be adequate enough to stop the destructive desires of the Id. Dynamite can be used as a tool for good, as well as bad, as it can destroy objects with explosive force yet with that same destructive force act as a means to a greater end. For example when dynamite is employed within quarries so that marble (or some other mineral) can be excavated and used to construct monuments elsewhere. Therefore by using dynamite in her analogy there may be an implicit claim that an Ego working on its own can freely choose to work with the Thanatos drive or work against it. Only when combined with the Eros drive does the Ego lose this actual choice and replaces it with a perceived choice. Further supporting the notion that the psyche is one designed upon compatibilism. And because every psyche comes with the Eros drive, it is not something created later on as opposed to the Superego, and then the Ego can only ever be capable of actual choice if there is some fault within the psyche weakening the Eros drive, or strengthening the Thanatos drive. In either case evil can only be freely and intentionally committed by the psychologically abnormal as they are the only ones capable of being aware of their actions, following what was said above about Socratic ethics.

This idea is strengthened further by the idea that the Superego is the basis for morality within in the psyche as “he (Freud) consistently used the designation superego for the large psychical entity and assign it three basic functions: self-observation, conscience and maintaining the ego” [Sagan, pg:5], and it is conscience which makes us feel guilt when we have evil desires or act in a way which is socially perceived as evil. Consequently it is the conscience which aims at directing our choices towards the morally good, thus we are free to choose how to act but will only act in such a way as our conscience allows again feeding back into the notion of a psyche built upon compatibility.

Furthermore if we have a damaged psyche, one in which we failed to move beyond the Oedipus complex, thus not being able to construct a fully functioning Superego, then we become psychologically abnormal and therefore incapable of guilt and remorse which removes the limitations of our actions giving us the capacity of actual choice, or at least a wider range of options within our perceived choice. Hence evil can only intentionally be done through psychological abnormality for no normal psyche would permit the destructive desires of the Id to get through; a compromise would always be made. This is supported by Pears who argues “someone has reasons for judging a particular course of action best and yet he yields to the temptation to do something else. If he yields intentionally and freely, this counts as akrasia; not being in command of oneself” [Pears, pg:264] and if one is not in control of oneself then society commonly deems them as possessing some form of psychological abnormality.

In conclusion Freud’s psychodynamic model of the human psyche is one built upon compatibilism, when the psyche is functioning normally, in which case the agent will only ever act in such a way as is socially perceived as being morally good, for the Superego was created out of the social norms held by the parents during the time of Oedipus complex as demonstrated above. However should the psyche become damaged in any of the three ways mention, that is a weakening of the Eros drive, a strengthening of the Thanatos drive, or an absence/weakening of the Superego, then the psyche becomes imbalanced and therefore abnormal in which case the psyche becomes built upon libertarianism, hence capable of actual choice and perceived choice. Only then is the agent capable of evil which they can be held morally responsible for.

• BP- Beyond the Pleasure Principle
• EI- The Ego and the Id
• RP- Repression
• SP- Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy Online
• UC- The Unconscious

• Aristotle, (2004), Metaphysics (translated by Lawson-Tancred. H), London: Penguin Classics
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘Repression’, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘The Ego and the Id’, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Freud. S, (1995), ‘Unconscious, in Gay. P, The Freud Reader, London: Vintage
• Kierkegaard. S, (1983), The Sickness unto Death (translated by Hong. E and Hong. H), Princeton: Princeton University Press
• O’Shaughnessy. B, (1982), ‘The Id and the Thinking Process’, in Hopkins. J and Wollheim. R, Philosophical Essays on Freud, Bath: Cambridge University Press
• Pears. D, (1982), ‘Motivated Irrationality, Freudian Theory and Cognitive Dissonance’, in Hopkins. J and Wollheim. R, Philosophical Essays on Freud, Bath: Cambridge University Press
• Plato, (1954), The Last Days of Socrates the Apology; Crito; Phaedo (translated by Tredennick. H), London: Penguin Books
• Sagan. E, (1977), Freud, Women and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil, New York: Basic Books
• Spinoza. B, (1996), Ethics (translated by Curley. E), London: Penguin Books
• Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy Online, (accessed at 12:55 03/04/11)
• Thalberg. I, (1982), ‘Freud’s Anatomies of the Self’, in Hopkins. J and Wollheim. R, Philosophical Essays on Freud, Bath: Cambridge University Press

What is the relation of Spinoza to Schelling?

To identify these correlations we will conduct a contrast of Spinoza’s and Schelling’s philosophies and investigate their pantheistic systems. In order to convey the differences between the two philosophers, we will start by inquiring into the meaning of pantheism as it is a topic that Schelling sets out to unravel near to the beginning of his freedom essay. To begin we will introduce what pantheism is and the way it may be misinterpreted namely by reviewing Schopenhauer’s view. Further an overview of Spinoza’s pantheistic approach will be provided using passages from his Ethics, after which we will refer to Schelling and follow on to discuss the system that Schelling adopts in the freedom essay. We will then contrast the two and it will be argued that Spinoza’s mechanical system suggests everything that is, is determined as God or Nature which is in all things since God or Nature is primal cause which differs from Schelling’s system as substances themselves do not make up the system but it is rather acts, forces and motions that determine things into existence. We will also inquire into the differences of freedom, as the best system is the one that can explain the universe adequately i.e. the necessary relations between components and unite it with freedom, without excluding either. We will present the way in which Schelling’s theory grounds freedom in his pantheistic system which in contrast seems to be limited in Spinoza’s to the first cause. The discussion will determine Schelling’s striving to prove that freedom exists throughout the system where we will argue Spinoza fails. In addition, we will seek to utilize Schelling’s references to Spinoza to highlight that they serve to argue and clarify the misunderstandings that have been ascribed to Spinoza and produce an opening for Schelling’s freedom that he claims to exist in the universe which produces God-Nature.
The word Pantheism originates from the Greek “Pan” translated as all and “theos” (theism) indicating to God, so all is God. What does it mean to say God is all? Schopenhauer’s essay “A few words on Pantheism” (Schopenhauer, 2007; 40) maintains that “calling God the world (…) says nothing” as it does not explain anything and he denotes that the concept uses theism as its basis, which Levine argues to be “inaccurate” as the concept refuses theism and “pantheism never has been a simple identification of the world with God” (Levine, 1994, 28). Though Levine does not provide an example, if we took Spinoza’s so-called pantheistic doctrine in contrast to the Christian teachings it becomes apparent that the Christian God is a “personal God who by act of will created the universe” (Hampshire, 42) and is outside of the system which he created where Spinoza’s Nature or God is the system, it does not separate itself from that which it has self-created, but instead unifies all what is. Levine implies that Spinoza’s natura naturans and natura naturata is the defence against that which Schopenhauer identifies pantheism to be “god is the world”, although Levine does not explain why, we discover in Kashap’s literature entitled “Spinoza & Moral Freedom”. He claims some understand Spinoza’s God to be “identical with Nature, in the sense of the universe as a whole (i.e. the physical world)” which is similar if not identical to Schopenhauer’s view that was pointed out by Levine.
Kashap disagrees with such understandings because the “interpretation appears to be a consequence of a failure to take into account the distinction between the kind of existence ascribed” to natura naturans and natura naturata which he sustains not to be identical (27). Kashap reasons that Spinoza’s God “is an independent reality which needs nothing other than nature to exist in the sense of being eternal”, he assures that natura naturata is an aftermath of “this nature of God”, which is natura naturans and therefore not the same. In other words, God is Nature but there are two parts to it Natura Naturans, the antecedent which is nature naturing (self-creating or producing) identifying the cause of the system that is God or Nature and the passive (Natura Naturata)(nature created or product) which is the consequent and are therefore modes of the system. As Hampshire explains “God or Nature as the unique creator (Natura naturans) and as the unique creation (Natura Naturata)” both of these are identities of “the Creator and his creation” which are logical necessities in the explanation of the universe as one causal system (Hamphsire,37). So calling “God is all” does not mean “nothing” as Schopenhauer suggests due to his misunderstanding but a means to provide a logical explanation of the forces in the universe as a unity of cause and effect, ‘God is all’ is a concept uniting all that is; explaining everything within a single rational theory.
Furthermore, in Spinoza’s Ethics, in particular proposition XIV he determines that “God is one, that is (by Def. vi.), only one substance can be granted in the universe” so in other words it suggests that nothing exists other than God including his attributes and therefore God is nature as it is necessarily part of the one substance which is evident in proposition XX; “The existence of God and his essence are one and the same”. God is (Prop. VI) substance meaning it is the essence of God to exist and following proposition XV from the Ethics he denotes that “whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived” suggesting that God determines all things to be, this also is important contribution to the body and soul argument which puts forward that both are attributes of God as a consequence of everything existing in him.
Consequently, if everything exists is God it begs to question where did God come from? Referring to proposition XVI “God is absolutely the first cause” meaning that Spinoza’s system doesn’t necessarily have a beginning i.e. a theory of God’s existence nor end; as the proposition XIX declares that “eternity appertains to the nature of substance (…) therefore eternity appertains to each of the attributes, and thus are all eternal”, in other words God just so appears to exist. We discover from these passages and that of proposition XX that since God and his attributes are eternal “it follows that God, and all attributes of God, are unchangeable”. This must be the most concerning part relating to the Ethics as if things do not change then they are consequently fixed with no freedom as everything is determined which is posited in XXVI “a thing which is conditioned to act (…) has necessarily been conditioned by God”. Although Spinoza does not assert his system to be mechanical it is evident that since everything is related and works as part of one system just like the mechanism of a clock, we can argue that God-Nature has no freedom. Nevertheless, it will be argued that freedom exists in Spinoza’s system as the natura naturans, in relation to the clock its watchmaker, that is God-Nature creating at the beginning after which everything is eternal and unchanging, therefore the system itself eradicates the possibility of the modes of the system to have freedom. Turning to Wirth who has written extensively on Spinoza and Schelling, he mentions that Schelling aimed to release the “absolute sovereignty” of God that exists in Spinoza’s system avoiding Spinoza’s “mechanistic physics” and replace it with freedom as absolute sovereignty of nature (Wirth:2003; 68).
Suggesting that of a similar system posited by Spinoza as Schelling adopts a pantheistic system stating “(…)individual freedom is surely connected with the world as a whole (…) some kind of system must be present, at least in the divine understanding, with which freedom coexists” (SW 7:337), however it is freedom(the sovereign) that rules. In Schelling’s system there necessarily exists freedom within it and alongside it. In the introduction of the freedom essay, Schelling resurrects the meaning of Pantheism identifying some misunderstandings which he claims to have obscured its real identity. The misunderstanding he argues is of the term pantheism (Spinozism) treated as a label believed “the only possible system of reason is pantheism, but this is inevitably fatalism” (SW 7:339) and the reason it is fatalism is because the system is thought to be already predetermined by God as he is omnipotent. Schelling’s interpretation of the concept as fatalistic is not directly associated to pantheism as it “emerges from those with the liveliest sense of freedom, pantheism must itself be recognized as a product of freedom” (Freydberg:19). Schelling does not oppose pantheism he thinks Spinoza was right to suggest a unity, however the misunderstanding that flows from Spinoza’s work which has given the term pantheism a deterministic quality needs to be clarified so that Schelling’s work is not misread. He provides three arguments against Spinoza’s understanding so that he can show pantheism is a plausible system that does not entail determinism or fatalism.
Schelling’s first of the three arguments is that pantheism is associated with “a complete identification of God with things” (SW 7:339), which he finds problematic taking into account the quantity of things that exist as God-Nature which is of a qualitative property. In addition, when Schelling measures Spinoza’s account on God; “things are obviously not different from God” he immediately argues against by stating “they are absolutely separate from God (…) all things together cannot amount to God” (SW 7:341) because things that derive from God in any manner are not God in the “genuine and eminent sense”. He secondly identifies “in Spinoza the individual thing is equivalent to God” (SW 7:340) suggesting that the individual thing “a modified god” is a product of God and is God itself which can be interpreted as meaning that God is the same as the thing(s) he created, a blending of creator and created into a single unity in which the created is creator of itself. This cannot be, as it is not possible for created (dependent) thing to be the creator (independent) of what created it that is independent. Schelling argues it is a misunderstanding law of identity, which we will return to but it can also be argued that “the idea of the absolute contradicts the idea of things and vice versa”(Wirth, 2003:69) breaking the law of non-contradiction as Aristotle states “it is impossible for the same thing at the same time both to be-in and not to be-in the same thing in the same respect” 2005b, God-Nature cannot be the creator and the created thing it created at the same time. In other words, God cannot be God and not God. At best the created can be creators but of their creations and not of themselves i.e. organic reproduction – the child is dependent on the mother for being born but independent as it has freedom to act on with its own nature.
The two arguments are reasoned by Schelling using the law of identity, the subject-predicate form, which accordingly denies the predicate to be the subject. Using the law of identity, the tautology “The body is body” reflects the first body as subject is different to the second as predicate, therefore “in no possible proposition which in the explanation expresses the identity of subject and predicate as sameness”. Using the tautology example of the six that Schelling produces in his freedom essay (White Alan), Wirth notes that “the claim is never made that in pantheism there is a tautology between God and things (God = things)” as they are not the same (Wirth, 2003: 69). It is through the law of identity we understand that God and things are not the same as God is the antecedent (subject) and things are the consequents (predicate).
Thirdly, since Schelling has shown that Spinoza’s identicalness of things as God is misunderstood he argues for those “defenders of the foregoing claim will now say that pantheism does not speak at all about the fact that God is everything, but rather about the fact that things are nothing (SW 7:343)”. The argument claiming things are nothing follows that there is nothing but God therefore it is a paradox to God-Nature being all things, this destroys freedom by declaring God-Nature as nothing which is non-productive and misleading as there must be an antecedent and consequent, as we cannot identify nature producing no-thing, rendering it eternal and without a function.
Schelling argues that freedom has been missed due to misunderstanding the form of dependency of beings to God. Our existence maybe dependent on God but this does not abolish freedom, just like our organic existence is dependent through another but we ourselves are independent to act with freedom. It becomes evident that pantheism is not determined, it is not fixed but rather has independencies with freedom from that which created it. Freydberg interprets the pantheism of Spinoza suggesting “the absence of eros leaves the system of reason bereft of life and therefore abstract (…) (which) dooms the system to incompleteness even in the formal sense”(Freydberg 20). The system of reason indicates to pantheism and the eros that Freydberg is concerned with is the liveliness of motion, forces (freedom) which lack in Spinozism which Cottingham demonstrates by asserting “the motion and rest of a body must arise from another body, which in turn has been determined to motion and rest by another body….mind and body are the same thing” (Cottingham: 2011:228). The underlying basis of spinozism determines everything that exists is connected to everything as part of a whole and that whole is a divine entity that is responsible for those parts just as those parts are responsible for the divine entity, however the dynamic element introduced by Spinoza is contradictory as natura naturata cancels the natura naturans. If God-Nature is eternal, then it must be continuously productive and if it finalizes its product then it becomes finite and not eternal.
We have attempted to show through Schelling that dependency is not determination, therefore pantheism is not determined as the dependent cannot be responsible for the independent’s existence and we have reasoned Spinoza’s Naturans and naturata failure along with the other misunderstandings. Furthermore, Schelling offers that “through freedom a fundamentally unlimited power is asserted next to and outside of divine power” (SW 7:339) meaning real freedom is an unconditioned power and not determined by Nature like in Spinoza, but has its own place throughout the system that is the driving force that enables things to exist. Schelling’s system is that of essence, the unity of everything hence all is one (pantheism), yet it is divided into two forms similar to antecedent (subject) and consequent (predicate). The logic of subject and predicate are ground of existence. From that which we have incurred we recognize things come into existence through the will (freedom), in Schelling’s terms the ground, the primal being. The ground in which there is no existence, but the willing of forces that strive to existence and to be consequent, that is existence. The consequent cannot be the ground just as in the organic form the child cannot be the mother therefore God-nature is all in Spinoza’s understanding is misleading.
In conclusion to the relation of Spinoza to Schelling we identify the link to be pantheism, a system that is unified; all is one, however the underlining question we have tried to evaluate is whether freedom is dependent on God-Nature or not. For Spinoza God-Nature is eternal, which we have argued to be invalid by naturans naturata, secondly since God-Nature is the first cause it has been asserted that freedom is dependent and determined, but we realize by using the law of identity introduced by Schelling should freedom be dependent on nature then freedom would be a consequence of it, which would necessarily not mean to be determined by Nature but a product which could still continue to be free. Furthermore, if Schelling is right to suggest that freedom must be an unconditioned power and if we argue this to be the “first cause” of the system, then it is reasonable to state that as willing (primal being) exists throughout the system it may be its very first stage from which everything derives from. Freedom must be necessary because it is the action of willing that gives the necessary force, the liveliness of existence and the power that drives the system. The freedom value gives Schelling’s system a constant change supported by reason, unlike Spinoza’s unchanged system that we have argued to be determined and seems to be dogmatic. For if freedom did not exist throughout the system, the system would be determined, and consequently a “dead dog” as Spinoza/Spinozism has been described to be by the militant establishment (Wirth:2003; 67). However, it appears that since there are so many possibilities available, free acts at least to us humans, freedom does exist. Surely if everything had been predetermined then freedom of choice would not be possible. After analyzing the relations between Spinoza and Schelling, it is evident that Schelling enforced a corrected ontological theory deduced from Spinoza’s misunderstandings to produce a system that allowed freedom (the primal will) to be the ground of existence.

Kirk G., 1954, Heraclitus the cosmic Fragments, Cambridge University Press: New York
Levine M., 1994, Pantheism a non theistic concept of deity, Routledge, London
Schopenhauer A and Saunders T, 2007, Religion: A dialogue and other essays, New York: Cosimo
Wirth J., 2003, The Conspiracy of Life Mediations on Schelling and His Time, State University of New York Press: New York

Democracy…or Oligarchy?

Election day

Another chance for the plebeian classes to steal legitimated power
Out from the clutches of the elite for a brief moment in time
Only to have it once more torn from its bosom
And to be ignored for another year.

Meanwhile those wielding the sword of real power
Those fat-cat members of the corporate bourgeoisie
Buy up those with legitimated power
Corrupting the plebs’ elected mouthpiece
Just so they can increase their share of real power.

This is democracy.

The illusionary rule of a nation,
Ruled by a state,
Brought by the corporation.

%d bloggers like this: