Past Essay Topics
- Home is far more a state of mind than landscape. (G. Bachelard) - Children are antiquities. (G. Bachelard)
- Everything we see could be otherwise. (Wittgenstein)
- Without „now“ there wouldn‟t be time and without time there wouldn‟t be „now“. (Aristotle)
- Der Mensch ist für den Menschen ein "Gott". (Spinoza) - Wo ist die Zeit geblieben? Bin ich nicht in einen tiefen Brunnen gefallen? Die Welt schläft.
- Wenn Beine und Arme einen eigenen Willen hätten, wären sie nicht (in der Lage der) Glieder
- Everyone is someone else and no one is himself. (M. Heidegger) - Actually it is impossible for us to consider ourselves non-existent. (M. Unamuno) - Should we start from the premise that one is totally forbidden to do injustice, or should we
consider that under some circumstances that is permitted? (Plato) - To be a philosopher means to travel all the time; questions in philosophy are more essential than
answers. (K. Jaspers)
- Nothing is true, everything is permitted... (Nietzsche)
- The evil in the world originates always from ignorance, and good will may cause as much damage
as malice, if it is not enlightened. (Camus)
- The limits of your language are the limits of your world. (Wittgenstein) - So act that you treat humanity in your person, as well as in the person of every other human being,
also as a goal, never as a means. (Kant)
- Is philosophy a science?
- Der Künstler läßt uns durch sein Auge in die Welt blicken. (Schopenhauer) - Justice without force is powerless, force without justice is tyrannical. (Pascal) - The idea that one should seek the truth for its own sake doesn‟t make sense to us pragmatists. We
cannot regard the truth as the aim of an investigation. The aim of an investigation is rather to
come to an agreement between people about what to do and about the intended ends as well as the
means, which we can realize these ends with. [...] All the descriptions we can give of things are
descriptions which conform with our ends. [...] All we have to know is whether there are
competing descriptions which are more useful to our purposes. (Richard Rorty: Relativism: To discover and to invent. In: Information Philosophie 1/1997, p. 14-16)
- Tatsächlich haben wir zwei Arten von Moral nebeneinander: eine, die wir predigen, aber nicht
praktizieren, und eine andere, die wir praktizieren, aber selten predigen. (B. Russell)
- Wir sehen die Welt so, wie wir sie sehen wollen. (Schopenhauer) - Der Mensch wird durch die anderen geschaffen. (Montaigne) - Übrigens ist mir alles verhaßt, was mich bloß belehrt, ohne meine Tätigkeit zu vermehren oder
unmittelbar zu beleben. (Goethe)
- It is impossible to conceive anything at all in the world, or even out of it, which can be taken as
good without qualification, except a good will. (Immanuel Kant) - Desire is the essence of the human being. (Benedictus Spinoza)
always form a part of some larger - What we call „laws‟ are hypotheses or conjectures which
system of theories and which, therefore, can never be tested in isolation. (Karl R. Popper)
- Is knowledge power?
- Time is not something which exists of itself [...]. Time is, therefore, a purely subjective condition of
(human) intuition [...] and in itself, apart from the subject, it is nothing. (Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, B 49 A33 / B 51 A35)
- The passing from the state of nature to civil society produces a remarkable change in man; it puts
justice as a rule of conduct in the place of instinct, and gives his actions the moral quality they
previously lacked. (Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract) - A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a
progress – though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known. (Bertrand
- All men naturally desire knowledge. (Aristotle, The Metaphysics, Book I. 980a)
- The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom […].
(Michel de Montaigne: Essais. 1595, chapter XXII)
- If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend
a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and
tolerance with them. (K.R.Popper: The Open Society and its Enemies. Vol.I. Routledge, London
1945, p. 265)
- I just had to consult myself about what I want to do, everything I feel to be good is good,
everything I feel to be bad is bad… (Rousseau)
- Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in
awe, they are in that condition, which is called war; and such a war as is of every man, against
every man. (Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. XIII)
- So you would have us qualify our former notion of the just man by an addition. We then said it was
just to do good to a friend and evil to an enemy, but now we are to add that it is just to benefit the
friend if he is good and harm the enemy if he is bad?
- Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
( George Santayana 1863-1952, The Life of Reason, ch.12) -But to be able to say that a point is black or white, I must first know under what conditions a point
is called white or black; in order to be able to say: “p” is true (or false), I must have determined under what conditions I call “p” true, and thereby determine the sense of the proposition. (L.
Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico Philosphicus)
-It is another paradox, but God as the true absolute must be Satan too. Only then can God be said to
be truly omniscient and omnipotent. […] The absolute God must include absolute negation within
himself, and must be the God who descends into ultimate evil.
(Nishida Kitaro,1870-1945, Last Writing – Nothingness and the Religious Worldview)
- The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom. (Michel
de Montaigne, Essais, 1595, chapitreXXII)
-The maxims of the philosophers on the conditions under which public peace is possible shall be
consulted by states which are armed for war (I. Kant, Perpetual Peace)
-The existence of this inclination to aggression, which we can detect in our selves and justly assume
to be present in others, is the factor which disturbs our relations with our neighbour and which forces
civilisation into such a high expenditure of energy. In consequence of this primary mutual hostility of
human beings, civilised society is perpetually threatened with disintegration. (Freud, Civilisation and
The decisive argument which is employed by common sense against freedom consists in
reminding us of our impotence. Far from being able to modify our situation at our whim, we
seem to be unable to change ourselves. I am not "free" either to escape the lot of my class, of
my nation, of my family, or even to build up my own power or my fortune or to conquer my most insignificant appetites or habits.(Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness) Das entscheidende, vom gesunden Menschenverstand gegen die Freiheit benutzte Argument
besteht darin, uns an unsere Ohnmacht zu erinnern. Weit entfernt, daß wir unsere Situation
willkürlich ändern können, scheint es sogar, daß wir nicht einmal uns selbst ändern können. Ich
bin weder „frei“, dem Schicksal meiner Klasse, meines Volkes, meiner Familie zu entgehen,
noch auch mir Einfluß oder ein Vermögen zu schaffen, noch meine unbedeutendsten Neigungen
oder meine Gewohnheiten zu besiegen.
(Jean-Paul Sartre, Das Sein und Das Nichts) L'argument décisif utilisé par le bon sens contre la liberté consiste ä nous rappeler notre
impuissance. Loin que nous puissions modifier notre situation ä notre gré, il semble que nous
ne puissions pas nous changer nous-mêmes. Je ne suis <libre> ni d'échapper au sort de ma
classe, de ma nation, de ma famille, ni même d'édifier ma puissance ou ma fortune, ni de
vaincre mes appétits les plus insignifiants ou mes habitudes.
(Jean-Paul Sartre, L'être et le néant ) 2.
The will to truth requires critique - let us define our task in this way - the value of truth must for
once, by way of experiment, be called into question ...
(Friedrich Nietzsche: On the Genealogy of Morals, 3-24) Der Wille zur Wahrheit bedarf einer Kritik - bestimmen wir hiermit unsre eigene Aufgabe -, der
Werth der Wahrheit ist versuchsweise einmal in Frage zu stellen...
(Friedrich Nietzsche: Zur Genealogie der Moral, 3-24) Volonté de la vérité demande une pensée critique - on définit notre propre devoir par laquelle - la
valeur de cette vérité doit être expérimentalement mise à l’épreuve ...
(Friedrich Nietzsche: La Généalogie de la morale, 3-24)
In fact, history does not belong to us, but we belong to history.
(Hans-Georg Gadamer: Truth and Method, 1989) In Wahrheit gehört die Geschichte nicht uns, sondern wir gehören ihr.
(Hans-Georg Gadamer: Wahrheit und Methode, 4. Aufl. 1975, S. 261) En réalité, l'histoire ne nous appartient pas, mais nous lui appartenons.
(Hans-Georg Gadamer: Verité et Méthode, 1976)
Does science need philosophy?
Braucht die Wissenschaft die Philosophie?
La science a-t-elle besoin de la Philosophie?
? If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should
have the guts to betray my country. (E.M. Forster) ? Today, the truth is dispersed across many universes of discourse which can no longer be
arranged in a hierarchy. However, in each of these discourses, we search tenaciously for
insights that can convince all. (J. Habermas) ? Hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, eudemonism - all these systems that measure the
value of things taking into account the pleasure or pain that go along with them, that is to
say, according to any non-core condition or facts, are seen as if they do not go in depth
and being naive. Any man with his constructive faculty in place and a conscience of an
artist can only regard this with irony and pity from a distance.(F. Nietzsche)
? Language is a labyrinth of paths. You approach from one side and know your way about;
you approach the same place from another side and no longer know your way about.
? For a large class of cases -though not for all- in which we employ the word “meaning” it
can be defined thus : the meaning of a word is its use in the language.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations ?43
English translation by G.E.M. Anscombe, French translation by François Dastur et al.
? The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to
--Karl Marx, Thesen über Feuerbach, XI
? To know a thing we must love it, and to love a thing we must know it.
--Kitaro Nishida, An Inguiry into the Good.
(English translation by Masao Abe and Chiristopher Ives, Yale Univ. Press 1990, p.174
? In short, the actions of man are never free; they are always the necessary consequence of
it‟s temperament, of the received ideas, and of the nations, either true or false, which he
has formed to himself of happiness; of his opinions, strengthened by example, by
education, and by daily experience.
--Paul-Henri Dietrich Holbach, System of Nature, transl. By H.D. Robinson, Batoche
Books, Kitchener 2001, page 104 (Chapter XI: Of the System of Man‟s Free Agency)