Thursday, 18 April 2013

Additional Perspectives on the Individual

Dear All,

Please write about anything else here that is relevant for our course topic!

I hope you have learned more about yourself - as well as about the world - by thinking about the individual from different perspectives.

Have a wonderful summer!


Creative Perspectives on the Individual - Part 3: Mirrors

Please look into a mirror. Don't just look at your outward you but try to see deeper. What can you see? Feel free to answer this question in either a personal or creative way.



Creative Perspectives on the Individual - Part 2: Masks

Find the image of a mask you find fascinating (e.g. by typing into google: "mask cultural images"). Look at it carefully and try to absorb all the details.

Option 1)

Try to get a sense/feel of the spirit that the mask embodies. Then imagine you are wearing the mask and you are becoming the personality of the mask. Tell us about your new you in any genre you wish (e.g. story, journal entry, email message, poem, dialogue, description etc).

Option 2)

Do some research about the mask: culture, meaning, symbolism, cultural and/or historical and/or social and/or religious and/or mythological background and tell us about it.

This, too, is meant to be fun! Enjoy to be someone else!


Creative Perspectives on the Individual - Part 1: Archetypes

Archetypes play a role in many myths and epics throughout the world. They are also used in contemporary poetry and fiction - as well as in movies.

Option 1)

Please look at the list of Archetypes that Caroline Myss put together:

Pick two or three archetypes from the list that you find particularly interesting. Think about them - and try to imagine they are real people.

Write a story or a poem - or anything else you wish - in which your chosen archetypes interact with each other and see what happens :)

Option 2)

Read the quotations from Carl Jung's work about archetypes and think about the topic of archetypes in connection with our course topic.

Feel free to do this in a creative way.

Option 3)

Read Northrop Frye's Essay "Archetypal Criticism - Theory of Myths" and discuss its relevance of the self.

Again, you are welcome to use a creative approach!

Option 4)

Find a poem or story or movie or other creative work (art, music, dance, etc) that is based on one (or more than one) particular archetype and tell us more about it!

This is meant to be fun! Please enjoy!

Philosophical Perspectives on the Individual - Part 4: Eastern Philosophy

Please read your selected passages in the texts below [feel free to choose alternative texts!]

a) Eihei Dogen Zenji,  Shobogenzo Zuimonki

Please read around in all 6 books. Here the link to the first passage in book 1: down on the left for more)

b) Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind 

c) Thich Nhat Hanh, The 14 Mindfulness Trainings

d) The Hyms of the Rig Veda 

-> choose your favourite passages

or watch the youtube version of the Vedas:

e) Patanjali, Yoga Sutras 

-> choose your favourite passages

f) The Bhagavad Gita

Please use these selections to develop your own philosophy of the self further!


Multicultural Perspectives on the Individual

Please read M.G. Vassanji's novel No New Land and discuss any aspect of the book that you find interesting for our course topic (i.e. Perspectives on the Individual).

Feel also free to compare No New Land with other novels, stories, poems, or movies that address similar topics and/or compare the experiences of Vassanji's main characters with similar experiences you or one of your friends or family members may have had.

You are most welcome to comment in the form of stories or poems or other forms of creative expression :)


Thematic Perspectives on the Individual

Hi All,

The following texts (essay, talks, and stories) focus on selected thematic perspectives on the individual. Please choose one PAIR of texts and comment on what the two texts have in common and what makes them different.

Here the selection:

1.1. Pico della Mirandola, "Oration on the Dignity of Man": Jesus - transcribed by author of Gospel of Matthew, "The Sermon on the Mount":

2.1 Tillie Olsen, "Tell Me a Riddle" (short story OR movie) - NOT available for free -> see: Deepak Chopra, "Life after Death" (youtube):

3.1. Anne Fausto-Sterling, "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough": Helen Fisher, "Why We Love, Why We Cheat" (TED talk):

4.1. Franz Kafka, "Before the Law" (youtube-movie in German - but you can click on the English text in the comment section): text also at: Yukio Mishima, "Swaddeling Clothes" (short story): 

5.1. Arcadii Averchenko, "The Young Man Who Flew Past": Hermann Hesse, "The Poet":

Feel free to add other pairs (complete with links) if you wish!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Philosophical Perspectives on the Individual - Part 3

Key Questions in Philosophy about the Self

1) Who am I?
2) Why am I here? What is my purpose/mission in life? 
3) Where do I come from and where am I going to? -> implies another question, namely:
  -> What is the nature of the world/ of reality?

Three Major Strands in Philosophy: Monism - Dualism - Pluralism


From “mono” = ‘one’
* everything is an expression of one and the same substance (i.e. spirit or mind or matter)
* the fundamental nature of the universe is therefore unity
(cf. word “uni-verse” = ‘one’ & ‘turned into’ -> ‘all turned into one’
 similar to Greek holon = ‘whole’)


From “duo” = ‘two’
* dichotomy of world into two different substances,
   i.e.: everything belongs either to one or the other of two
* this implies a fundamental separation or split
  (for example into good vs evil, mind vs matter or mind vs body; us vs them)


From “plus, pluris” = ‘more [than one]’
* world composed of many different substances   
* there is no one truth/ reality but many truths/ realities
* all truth is therefore seen as relative

Monism in Philosophy Can Be Subdivided into 3 Different Kinds

1) IDEAS  (which are an expression of the mind/spirit) are the basis for everything else
=> Idealism
a  mental image
the spoken word

2) MATTER (i.e. something that is manifest in physical reality) is the substance that underlies everything else
=> Materialism

3) Some kind of ENERGY underlies everything:
apeiron = 'the undefined infinite' = something undefinable (Anaximander);
change (Heraclitos)
some eternal, static reality  (Parmenides),
the divine syllable Om, the cosmic vibration that underlies all existence (Upanishads)

Please note: Pantheism and Panentheism are both forms of Monism!

“pan” =  ‘all’ –  “theos”  = ‘ god’
everything is a manifestation of the divine -> god is in everything

“pan” =  ‘all’ –  “theos”  = ‘ god’ – “en” = ‘inside’
everything is in god (i.e. god is all there is, and the universe & we all are all in him/her)

-> Please look at the texts that we have read this class and figure out if you can see elements of Monism, Dualism, and/or Pluralism in any of them!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Literary Perspectives on the Individual - Part 3: The Romantics

Dear All,

The Romantic Movement in Europe is crucial for our present understanding of the Individual. Please watch the following Introductions to Romanticism and then read the suggested poems.

Introductions to the Romantic Period:

BBC Series (on British Romanticism)

(1) The Romantics - Nature:

(2) The Romantics - Liberty:

(3) The Romantics - Eternity:

The Romantic Spirit - Series in Several Parts

"The Golden Age"

"Paradise Lost"


"Triumph of Death"

"The Romantic Hero"

"The Romantic Explosion"

"The Triumph of Romanticism?"

Examples of Romantic Poetry in England

William Blake (1757-1827)

Visual Art


"Love's Secret"

"Mad Song"

"The Tiger"

"To the Evening Star"

Video about Blake

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

"Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood"

"Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"

"Resolution and Independence"

"I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud"

"To a Skylark"

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Illustrated youtube version in 5 parts:

"Kubla Khan"


"The Eolian Harp"

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

"Stanzas for Music"

"She Walks in Beauty"


John Keats (1795-1821)

"Ode on a Grecian Urn"

"Ode to a Nightingale"

"Ode on Melancholy"

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


"Ode to the West Wind"

"To a Skylark"

"Love's Philosophy"

"Prometheus Unbound"

Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

Frankenstein - or the Modern Prometheus (novel)

In Germany, there was a pre-romantic movement that promoted similar ideas, called Sturm und Drang (1760s to 1780s). The most prominent representatives of that movement were:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

-> bilingual handout (with my translation) or check out a different English translation at:
(scroll down to the very bottom of the page!)

-> bilingual handout (with my translation) or check out a different English translation at:
(scroll down to the very bottom of the page!)

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Goetz von Berlichingen

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)

The Robbers

Intrigue and Love

Don Carlos

"Ode to Joy"

... and there is much more....



Sunday, 7 April 2013

Philosophical Perspectives on the Individual - Part 2 - The beginning of Western Philosophy

Dear All,

Among the most famous thinkers of Western Philosophy are Socrates and Plato. Unfortunately, Socrates didn't write any books. What has survived of his philosophy has been written down by others, in particular by Plato, who was Socrates's most famous student as well as the most influential Greek philosopher of all times.

Please find below some introductory information to Socrates, Plato, and their Time.

The Background: Ancient Greece

Greek Mythology

The Greek Gods - Part 1:
The Greek Gods - Part 2:
The Greek Gods - Part 3:
The Greek Gods - Part 4:

Historical & Cultural Background

Athens - Part 1:
Athens - Part 2:
Athens - Part 3:


Introduction to Plato - Part 1:
Introduction to Plato - Part 2:
Introduction to Plato - Part 3:
Introduction to Plato - Part 4:

Plato's Cave Allegory (from Book 7 of his Republic) - Animated Version:

Conversation about Plato:


Play about his "Apology":

Alain de Botton - Happiness Series: Socrates on Self Confidence

Interesting Student Project about Socrates:

Movie about Socrates (in Spanish):

The Texts for this Class

Plato - "Euthyphro":

Plato - "Apology":

Plato - "Crito":

Also really interesting:

Plato - The Republic: about his Vision of the Ideal State:

Plato - Symposium: about Love:
Written Text:
Audio Book:

Making Connections:
Please compare Plato's Cave Allegory (from Book 7 of his Republic) <>
with Michael Talbot's ideas about "The Universe as Hologram" <>
Do you think there are connections? Explore them!