Topics Worth Investigating

  1. Discuss the following analysis by Søren Kierkegaard: "Doubt is thought's despair; despair is personality's doubt.… Doubt and despair…belong to completely different spheres; different sides of the soul are set in motion.… Despair is an expression of the total personality, doubt only of thought."[1]

  2. Explain how it can be true on Sartre's view that whatever the conditions under which a person lives, that person is just as free as anyone else.

  3. What is meant by the statement "Man is the future of man"? Compare this statement with the Greek sophist Protagoras's doctrine:

    Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are and of things that are not that they are not.[2]

    Be sure to take note whether these ideas are subjective or relativistic.

  4. What is the relation between human nature and the essence of man? In what ways does the success of the Human Genome Project (the DNA sequencing of the entire human genome) presuppose that "essence precedes existence"? Take due account of the ethical, legal, and sociological consequences of knowing beforehand the heritable characteristics of each individual and the claim that many personality traits are now known to be heritable.

  5. Phenomenologically compare the notion of authenticity and self-deception with these pejorative labels: wuss, wimp, and nerd.

  6. Compare Sartre's concept of "despair" with Albert Camus's discussion of this concept. (For convenience, check the index to this text for relevant references.) How is despair different from "absence of hope"?



Søren Kierkegaard. "Balance Between Æsthetic and Ethical," in Either/Or. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.


John Burnet. Early Greek Philosophy (2nd ed.). London: Ada and Charles Black, 1908, 136.