Modern Consciousness: Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche


Study Guide



  1. How did modern thinkers continue the Romantic rebellion against Enlightenment conceptions of human rationality?
  2. What happened to the early nineteenth century belief that history was progressing towards a harmonious state?


Karl Marx: Marxism

  1. From which philosophical movement do both liberalism and Marxism derive?
  2. How do liberal and Marxists differ in their methods of achieving social justice?
  3. When and where did Marx and Engels write the Communist Manifesto?
  4. Carefully explain how Marx uses the term “dialectical materialism” to describe his theory of historical progress.
  5. What are the three stages through which history has progressed?
  6. How does the expansion of material technology drive the progress of history through progressive stages?
  7. What made the French revolution a perfect demonstration of Marx’s belief that economic change drives political change?
  8. What might Marx have said about the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917?


Charles Darwin: The Theory of Evolution

  1. Until Darwin published his theories, what did people believe was the origin of the various species on earth?
  2. How did Malthus’ liberal economic theories contribute to Darwin’s development of his principle of natural selection?
  3. How does the natural selection of certain inherited traits lead to the development of whole new species?
  4. What controversial impact did Darwin’s theories have on traditional Christian beliefs?
  5. How did Christian thinkers try to reconcile Darwin’s theories with religious beliefs?
  6. How did Darwin’s theories complete the long process of redefining man’s place in the universe which had begun when Copernicus declared that the earth was not in the center of the universe?
  7. According to Stephen Jay Gould, what controversial aspects of Darwin’s theories do we still have trouble accepting?
  8. From what source should morality come instead of science, according to Gould?


Sigmund Freud: The World of the Unconscious

  1. What was Freud’s scientific quest?
  2. According to Freud, what forces drive human behavior?
  3. How did he believe that neuroses develop in our behavior?
  4. How did Freud believe that we could probe the unconscious?
  5. What is “the id” and what does it want?
  6. Why did we develop “the superego”?
  7. What is the result of the constant struggle between the id and the superego?
  8. How did World War One prove for Freud the validity of his theories?
  9. How was Freud’s theory of human nature different from Nietzsche’s?



Frederich Nietzsche: Irrationalism and The Superman

  1.  Why did Nietzsche criticize liberal beliefs and Christian morality?
  2. What was his vision of the true situation of man in the universe?
  3. What did Nietzsche urge humans to explore instead of the intellect?
  4. What was Nietzsche’s interpretation of the true value of Greek culture?
  5. Who did he blame for the destruction of Greek culture’s vitality?
  6. Why did Nietzsche believe that Christian morality’s stress on love, compassion and pity was harmful to man?
  7. According to Nietzsche, how could recognition that “God is dead” be helpful to man?
  8. Define Nietzsche’s conception of ‘the superman’ who would rescue European culture.
  9. Describe Schopenhauer’s understanding of the will, not reason, as the determining force of human nature.
  10. How did Nietzsche’s philosophy help create the momentum for revolutionary change among young intellectuals which led to the rise of fascist political movements?