Philosophy

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Philosophy

1. How are Plato's and Descartes' views of the soul/self similar?

Both Plato and Descartes believe that the soul/self is best (or only) to think and learn separate from the body and its faculties. According to Plato, “the soul reasons best without bodily senses.” Plato claims that sight, hearing, pain, and pleasure are a distraction to the soul in its search for reality, and that true knowledge can only be achieved with pure thought alone. “The body confuses the soul and prevents it from acquiring truth and wisdom whenever it is associated with it.” Descartes very similarly believes that the body and its faculties, namely imagination and again the senses, are “distinguished from the self as modes from a thing.” According to Descartes, the essence of the self consists entirely on being a thinking thing. The body can perceive pain and pleasure, but nothing beyond that, it is up to the intellect to “conduct its own inquiry into things external to us.” Thus, much like Plato, Descartes claims that it is this thinking essence, and not the body, and though alone, and not perception, that is the key to true knowledge.

2. How are Hume's and Nietzsche's views of the self similar, and how are they different?

Both Hume and Nietzsche believe that the self is a summation of one's actions and perceptions. According to Hume, the self is “a collection of perceptions in perpetual flux and movement.” There is no simplicity or identity in the self, but only an infinite system of perceptions in an infinite “variety of postures and situations.” These perceptions are then linked by the relations of cause and effect, which mutually influence, modify, alter, create, and destroy each other. Nietzsche similarly believes that the self is merely a relation of human desires to each other. According to Nietzsche, desires and pleasures or human drives are the “commander.” This human drive controls everything else, and the strongest drive is a tyrant, even “reason and...
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