NEW YORK INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Department of Social Sciences
ICPH-301-M03, Philosophy of Human Nature Instructor: Fall 2018, M, 8:20-11pm, 16W61, Rm 721 e-mail:
The objectives in this course are to familiarize you with what determines a human conduct and personality. Samples
of work by various deterministic philosophers of human behavior will be studies and discussed in detail in class.
These include B. Skinner (and social determinism), R. Dawkins (genetic determinism), S. Freud (psychological
determinism), the existentialists like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger and Sartre (personal determinism), and
finally the ethologists like K. Lorenz and Sheller (natural determinism). Works by Ducass and Camus are likewise
discussed to ponder on why people believe or want to believe in an afterlife, and whether life per se has any
particular meaning to begin with?
Students will learn about these modern philosophers’ thoughts and familiarize themselves with the patterns of their
reasoning. The basic building blocks of the field of human behavior, mind processes and the philosophical approach
to them--to include the terminology, concepts, subdivisions, schools of thought, and evolution will all be brought up,
discussed and learned.
Office hours: TuTh, 2:30-3:30pm, in Room 405B. The best method to contact me outside my office hours, is via the
e-mail address printed at the top of this page. Messages may also be left for me with the Departmental Administrator
at room 402 or telephone number (212) 261-1576.
Textbooks: E. Kelly and L. Navia, The Fundamental Questions: A Selection of Readings in Philosophy (1997) any
edition, Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (1972) any edition. Various other sources will be
introduced to you on Google Drive or the school BlackBoard to serve as supplementary readings and documentary
reviews. Analysis and discussion, however, form the foundation of this course, not memorization of the texts.
Class participation, requirements and grading policy: You will be graded primarily for your class participation and
through two exams and a regular, active participation in class discussions. Exams are take home, and should be
between 5-7 pages of 1.5 line spacing. They should be based on your textbooks, class notes and discussions. No
outside sources should be used in any manner. Grading scale is as follow:
Discussion participation 30% Midterm exam 30% Final exam 20% Attendance 10% Reading & Film reviews 10%
Regular and punctual class attendance is a strict requirement. In addition to loss of course grade for attendance, you
cannot participate in the class discussion if you miss class, arrive late or depart while the session is still on. 30% of
your course grade is based on discussion participation. Further, much information brought up in class and discussed
is supplementary to the information found in the required textbook. You will not be able to complete your exams
without regularly attending class and making note of what is discussed. You should inform me by e-mail of the
reason for any absence or latenesses.
Students are allowed only two unexcused absences in this course (two weeks), resulting in the loss of 10% of the
course grade (see abov) Coming late to class or leaving early is counted as a quarter absence. Do not spend your
class time on your cell phone and the internet. You will be asked to leave the class for the entire session and marked
absent if you break this rule.
Voice recorders are permitted in class if they help you with your learning process.
Readings & Discussions
Except for the first session, in every subsequent week you must read the assigned pages in Kelly & Navia before
coming to class. The analytic entries on the same philosophers in Russell’s work can be an excellent supplement.
The collection by Kelly & Navia contains primarily the actual (long) samples of the philosophers’ work. Russell, on
the other hand, provides analyses of the same and reflects on them.
Week 1-2: Basic Questions.
a. Introduction: What is “philosophy”? Terms and concepts; logic of questioning the questions; The nature of mind
and the universe of binary oppositions;; reality vs. perception; truth vs. lie; good vs. evil; morals vs. ethics.
Reading: Kelly & Navia: pp. vii-viii; and, Russell: Introduction
b. Philosophy of thought formation in a binary oppositional universe. Thoughts and behavior.
Week 3-6: Sources of Human behavior: Scientific Approach
a. Skinner and Social Determinism
b. Dawkins and Genetic Determinism; “Martyr syndrome”
Week 7-8: Sources of Human behavior: Scientific Approach (continued)
a. Freud and Psychoanalytical Approach
b. Lorenz and Ethological Approach
Week 9-11. Sources of Human behavior: Existential Approach
b. Nietzsche and Social Darwinism
b. Kierkegaard and the “Protestant Work Ethic”; Prejudice and chauvinism
Week 12-14: Sources of Human behavior: Existential Approach (continued); The Stoics and Stoicism.
a. Sartre and the twilight of a concept; Current views on Existentialism and Human Behavior
b. Stoics (Epictetus, Seneca, Cicero) and the Stoic approach to Human Behavior; Martyr syndrome
Week 15: All outstanding papers and exams are due.
Plagiarism is the appropriation of all or part of someone else’s works (such as but not limited to writing, coding,
programs, images, etc.) and offering it as one’s own. Cheating is using false pretenses, tricks, devices, artifices or
deception to obtain credit on an examination or in a college course. If a faculty member determines that a student
has committed academic dishonesty by plagiarism, cheating or in any other manner, the faculty has the academic
right to 1) fail the student for the paper, assignment, project and/or exam, and/or 2) fail the student for the course
and/or 3) bring the student up on disciplinary charges, pursuant to Article VI, Academic Conduct Proceedings, of
the Student Code of Conduct. The complete Academic Integrity Policy may be found on various NYIT web pages.
A plagiarized exam will result in your expulsion from the course and referral to the school dean for further action. It
is very easy to know what is yours and what is plagiarized. Do NOT attempt it. Instead, I could help you clarifying
your thoughts and translate them into written works. All take home exams are due a week after they are assigned.
All exams are take-home. They are due a week after they are assigned, except for the last (the Final exam) that is
due on its own school-designated day. NO exceptions. The length should be between 5-7 pages. Exams must be
typed and stapled. DO NOT e-mail me your work!
In some cases, I may allow a rewrite of your exams. In that case, you need to address EVERY question and remark
that I write on each of your exams in order to resubmit. All changes on the rewrites must be highlighted (choose
bold letters for the changes, or a highlighter). Rewrites must be stapled to the previous version(s) of the same exam.
Topic of the Exams: Please write on top of each of your exams its exact title as it appears below, making sure you
answer all the points.
Exam 1. Compare and Contrast Social determinism and Genetic determinism in the works of Skinner and Dawkins
we studied and extensively discussed in class. Please note that this is an exam not a research paper. You are only
allowed to use your class notes, memory and your textbook; nothing from any outside sources.
Points to remember:
1. Review the work
2. Discuss the positive and negative points in the work
3. Explain why you agree or disagree with his hypotheses and pronouncements
Exam 2. From among the following philosophers and philosophies of human nature, choose one and critique his
work which we studied and discussed in class: Freud, Schiller, Lorenz, Kierkegaard, Heidegger or Sartre.
Remember again that this is an exam not a research paper. You are only allowed to use your class notes, memory
and your textbook; Nothing from any outside sources.
Points to remember:
4. Review the work
5. Discuss the positive and negative points in the work
6. Explain why you agree or disagree with his hypotheses and pronouncements
You MUST attend class on the final exam time and bring your exam with you. Do NOT make travel plans that
makes you miss this session. You will be marked as having missed your final exam and your exam papers will be
rejected if you violate this rule. There will be NO exception to this.
Many works of the better-known philosophers, as well as the following topics are available on the Internet. Try the
web sites listed below:
Analytic Methods Bibliography Classic Texts Economics Epistemology Glossary History Introduction Logic
Mathematics Metaphysics Politics Super Brain Utopia Values
Writings by many philosophers are found in their entirety in the web site below
Valuable examples include:
Aristotle: Aristotle's Logic - The Organon Descartes: Discourse on Method Leibniz: The Monadology Locke: Essay
Concerning Human Understanding Berkeley: Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge Hume:
Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason
The following web site provides for a “philosophy resources,” where philosophers and philosophical topics are
given in alphabetical order
On Montesquieu and The Spirit of Law
Philosophy of Human Nature
Dr. Michael Izady
The human genome (23 chromosomes) is estimated to be about 3.2 billion
bases long and to contain 20,000–25,000 distinct protein-coding genes
C. Richard Dawkins
Structures of two base pairs
The structure of the DNA double helix
DNA replication: The double helix is un'zipped' and unwound,
then each separated strand (turquoise) acts as a template for
replicating a new partner strand (green). Nucleotides (bases) are
matched to synthesize the new partner strands into two new
Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL)
In the 1970s, a group of deaf Nicaraguan schoolchildren invented a new language. The kids were
the first to enroll in Nicaragua’s new wave of special education schools.
NSL is not a direct translation of Spanish – it is a language in its own right, complete with its own
grammar and vocabulary. Its child inventors created it naturally by combining and adding to
gestures that they had used at home. Gradually, the language became more regular, more
complex and faster. Ever since, NSL has been a goldmine for scientists, providing an unparalleled
opportunity to study the emergence of a new language. Others who has postulated on the natural
human proclivity to invent and use language--complete with grammar, inflections, cases and
flavors--have now been vindicated.
Despite the principle of 'survival of the fittest' the ultimate
criterion which determines whether [a gene] G will spread is
not whether the behavior is to the benefit of the behaver, but
whether it is to the benefit of the gene G ...With altruism this
will happen only if the affected individual is a relative of the
altruist, therefore having an increased chance of carrying the
W. D. Hamilton, The Evolution of Altruistic Behavior, 1963
William D. Hamilton
Of neuroses and psychoses
Anxiety disorder / angst (neuroses)
1. Constantly and needlessly assuring their loved ones
that he/she can’t live without the other person
2. Isolating the other one from friends and family
And complexes (psychoses)
Psychoses affecting a relationship
Physical, emotional or psychological abuse of those they
befriend or love vs. being a scared mouse when dealing
with people of authority and dominance
Quick anger, mood swings or rage
Has to “win” every debate, by turning it into an argument
Threatening the other person/partner, or those who the
other person loves: people, pets or possessions
Coercive, jealous or manipulative behavior
Acting extremely possessive or jealous
Pressuring for sex or intimacy to dominate
Wishing demise of a benefactor
“After we left all of the animals
in Africa that were still alive, we
were on a plane headed home”
“Pictures of the animals I
harvested” (and the
woman that “I” …… )
“I shot a Leopard. Super cool, super lucky, The Leopard is one of the big 5,
as in one of the 5 animals in Africa that will kill you before you can kill it.”
"I killed a whole family of baboons"
Blake Fischer, an Idaho Fish and Wild Life Commissioner and his
wife shot at least 14 animals in Namibia--all endangered
Psychoses affecting a relationship
Superiority complex/”control freak” complex
Tell others incessantly how to act, what to day or how to
Constant criticism of everybody and everything
Putting the other side down constantly
Saying “no” at the start of each sentence in a
conversation, even when “no-s or yes-s” are not needed
Threatening the other person/partner, or those who the
other person loves: people, pets or possession
Controlling or blaming behavior
Defense mechanisms leading to neurotic behavior or complexes:
Trauma: common psychological reaction
Bargaining with fate
Mind out of balance
Too much kindness by ego
Carlos “Halfy” Rodriguez hit a pole, sending him
through the windshield and onto the street,
where he landed on his head. He lost a huge
amount of brain and skull, but lived. was
fourteen, at 20 arrested for solicit prostitutes.
He denies his ability to control the action.
Studying human nature, behavior and social organization from a
biological perspective, namely, as a part of the animal kingdom
Macaques having their own Stone Age culture
“Why the presumably reasonable beings
individually, we the humans behave so
unreasonably collectively? The answer is
Human collective behavior is directed by
instinctive forces such as survival, and not by
ethics or reason. In this, humans’ conduct can
be answered by a comparative study with
other animal species and their instinctive
Humans are capable of ethnical behavior
only individually but not collectively
The animal man
“If human history and social behavior were observed
from afar, one would never get the impression that it
was directed by intelligence, much less ethics.”
Human ideals vs. actualities
“We consider mass murderers as ‘manly
national heroes’ and bestow upon them the
title of “Great”, we call religions the instruments
of love and peace, although they have
instigated more bloodshed and hatred than
any other single ideological school. ”
Man has not had time to psychologically or sociologically adjust to the
technological capabilities-- that his conceptual thought capable of
abstraction--has awarded him. The reason he has not destroyed himself is
the ability to ask questions from oneself.
• Human good social behavior to be instinctive as is
amongst social animals (contrary to other
philosopher who think it to be the result of our
rational thinking and reason).
• Crowding increases tendency for violence and
lowers sexual desire and reproduction. All instinctive
and shared with animals
• No need for hording or steeling individually but
collectively. Even personal hording of resources,
trading sex for goods and services…are all fruits of
sophisticated mind. They are resourcefulness not
The Essence of Spirit: Max Scheler
• By “spirit” it is clear that Scheler refers to
the human ability of ethical action, and
considers spirit to be the seat of that and
man the only creature possessing it.
• Scheler believes that the difference
between men and animals is not in the
degree of intelligence or free will, but
something that is not biological nor
psychological, but rather possession of
spirit--- that is, theological!
• He totally denies spirit to animals who
Scheler believes are basically mechanical
beings/minds driven by instincts alone
and devoid of all senses of ethics,
goodness, respect, beauty, selfawareness, and justice.
Coco and her friend
Elephants Mourn For Weeks, Visiting The Graves Of Their Loved Ones
Are animals capable of ethical behavior?
Concept of man’s superiority
• Scheler’s entire argument for human superiority
over all other beings is based on possessing ‘spirit.’
• In many respect, one can sense Nietzsche’s
“ Übermensch/Untermensch”concept and the
resultant eugenics and organized in Scheler’s idea
of man’s superiority.
• Many have proposed that only humans are “selfconscious,”and that presumably is the sign of
‘spirit.’ This is mainly due to the ignorance of
animal thought and behavior--let alone plants! Life
man is the final product of his own decisions
No one responsible for what you are
Social determinism being excuse for sloth
Rights are not given, but taken
Religion the crutches for the lazy and the feeble-minded
Social nets encourage irresponsibility and are useful
only to the lazy and the unproductive freeloaders
Making itself intelligible is the
suicide for philosophy…
Freedom is actually one with the being of the foritself; human reality is free to the exact extent that
it has to be its own nothingness.
J. P. Sartre: Being and Nothingness
Jean Paul Sartre
man is the final product of his own decisions
“Animals are the second biggest mistake of nature..”
Guilty of seeking an education
“Education must enable one to sift and weigh
evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real
from the unreal and the facts from the fiction. The
function of education, therefore, is to teach one to
think intensively and think critically”
Martin L. King
Is human brilliance possible without education?
American Realism and Iconoclasm…
Equal brain capacity?---”mine is bigger than yours”…
VENONA code breakers
The Principal of Human dignity
Doctrine of Right (Rechtslehre) and Doctrine of Virtue (Tugendlehre)
The fallacy of belief that values and rights can be derived from
the transitory whims and aspirations of human beings, which only
result in relativism and ethnical emotivism
Principle of human dignity:
Award every person no matter how low, a common
dignity. A man must be treated with greatest dignity
which shall bring forth the best in every sane person.
Republic and basic justice
“There are virtues common to all human beings.
Human virtue does not depend on a person's gender
or age. Virtues are common to all people.”
The Cost of Prejudice
The inequality of the sexes has
deprived society of a vast pool of
talent. If women had the free use of
their faculties along with the same
prizes and encouragements as men,
there would be a doubling of the
mass of mental faculties available for
the higher service of humanity.
Every restraint on freedom of conduct
of any of their human fellow creatures
dries up pro tanto the principal
fountain of h ...
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