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SOC231H5 Lecture Notes - Immanuel Kant, Dialectic, French Revolution

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Zaheer Baber

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Lecture 2- September 16, 2013
Immanuel Kant
What is enlightenment? focused on use of reason to evaluate and decide whether institutions
enhance human’s ability
o Infantilize- telling people what to do
Reason: not tradition and arbitrary power
Humans become “adults”; i.e. responsible for their actions and institutions
o Subjects to citizens
Rousseau: the social contract vs. arbitrary power (unrestrained power)
o Social contract- free individuals come together and sign a contract; contractually bound
and it is negotiable depending on reason
General will vs. individual will (political power structures)
o Opposed to each other or complement each other
o Impossible that all individuals can have input in structure of political government
o Need to have representatives to represent large population
o General will- can exclude certain people
o Humans become reasoned enough to participate in construction of society
“child of the enlightenment”
Rousseau: perfectibility of humans but constrained by social institutions
o Unnececssary hierarchy, slavery, power struggle
“man is born free but is everywhere in chains”
1. The dialectical method/perspective- good and bad at the same time
Non-dialectical: everything either positive or negative
o Two opposite dichotomies
Positivists vs. the romantic- conservatives on the French revolution
Dialectical Method rejects the either/or dichotomy
Everything is in a constant state of movement, becoming, ceaseless contradictions, practice
o We are always trying to become what we think we can be
Hard to pin down either/ or at any particular moment
“the permanence of change”
“you cannot step into the same river twice”
“unit of opposites”
Relationship of “parts” to “wholes”
o Whole does not exist without the parts
The concept of zero
o Individual- society (“agency and structure”)
Simultaneously an individual but a social individual
Relation of concepts
We are determined by our social relationships
o “free will”- “determinism”
Idealism- the dialectic at the level of ideas
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