(An Exercise in Philosophical Anthropology)
Elemer Hankiss
Winter and Spring, 1996
Department of Political Sciences


The course will, first, briefly survey some of the main hypotheses concerning the position of man in the universe and then it will discuss in detail one single hypothesis, called the "Alien World Hypothesis". While developing and discussing this hypothesis, it will raise a wide range of theoretical problems and will help students get familiar with the methods and the ways of arguing in this field.

The approach will be highly interdisciplinary, drawing on sources in philosophy, social and cultural history, sociology, psychology, and the theory of art.


This will be an interactive lecture course. There will be an introductory lecture, interrupted and followed by discussions. Students are supposed to prepare themselves for the discussions by reading 50 to 80 pages a week.


The texts of the required readings are included, with a few exceptions, in a READER available at the Department's Office. Most of the recommended readings are available in the libraries of Budapest. Student are supposed to keep records of their readings.


There will be a Midterm and a Final Examination.

Midterm: Two short in-class essays (four to six handwritten pages each) on two topics out of three topics given

Final: Three in-class essays (five to eight pages each) on three topics out of five topics given

Final grades will be computed on the basis of:

Midterm exam scores

Final exam scores
In-class participation


First Week

What is philosophical anthropology?

A brief introduction to some of the main approaches.

- Creation myths
- Religious approaches
- A few hypotheses in philosophy
- Hypotheses in psychoanalysis
- Philosophical anthropology

Sophocles, Socrates, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Erasmus and Luther, Descartes and Hobbes, Pascal, Rousseau and Kant, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, Marx, Mill and Herbert Spencer, Freud, Jung and Adler, Nicolai Hartman, Heidegger and Camus, Scheler and Gehlen, Structuralism and Sociobiology, Tillich, Taylor, MacIntyre.

* Some of the most important books are listed in the List of Readings

Second and Third Weeks

The Alien World Hypothesis

Is this our world? Are we at home in this universe? Had it been created for us? Or are we strangers here, fragile creatures in an alien world? Are we the products of a coincidence, a strange and fortuitous mutation? Creatures who are at least partly incompatible with this world and suffer from this incompatibility?

A working hypothesis is proposed.

- Incompatibilities between Man and the world
- Mortality
- Dead ends in history
- Will other species survive us?
- Immune systems
- Pain and suffering
- The four "jungles"
- Where is the actor?
- The experience of the alien world

Saint Augustine, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Teilhard de Chardin, Jung, Gilbert Durand, Carl Kerenyi, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, David Walsh, Ernest Becker, Peter L. Berger, etc.

Sophocles: Oedipus; Antigone Shakespeare: Hamlet; Romeo; King Lear Beckett: Happy Days O'Neill: Mourning Becomes Electra

Third and Fourth Weeks

The "Noospheres"

The role and character of those spheres of symbols (myths, religions, philosophies, sciences, the arts, language, everyday symbols, etc.) with which mankind has surrounded itself in order to create a world of safety and freedom for itself.

- The Promethean strategy
- The Apollonian strategy
- Noospheres reinterpreted
- Comparative religion
- The symbolic animal
- Paradigms
- Noospheres and civilization
- Civilization and fear
- The social construction of reality
- Noospheres: generation and collapse
- 301,665,722 angels
- Oedipus blinding himself
- The Copernican shock
- "Unsheltered Man"
- The totalitarian response
- The reduction by magic
- The postmodern response

Cassirer, Gehlenm, Joseph Campbell, Teilhard de Chardin, Eliade, Th.S. Kuhn, J.B. Russell, Fromm, Ricoeur, Jasper, Karl Lowith, Gilbert Durand, Carl Jung, etc.

Fifth Week

The World of "As If "

The role of fictions, or "constructs", in the history of mankind. Civilization studied as the sum of those fictions or constructs, which have helped mankind survive, in freedom and dignity, in an alien world.

- Fictions
- Nietzsche
- Fictions in postmodernism
- Fictions and the human condition

Vaichinger, Kant, Nietzsche, Rorty

Fifth and Sixth Weeks

Is Man At the Center of the Universe?

A survey of those attempts with which Man has struggled for the hope, the belief or illusion that he was at the center, and perhaps even the very purpose, of the universe. The erosion of this belief in the 20th century.

- On the periphery
- Copernican revolution in reverse
- Sacred enclaves
- The garden
- The Garden of Eden
- Cosmos versus Chaos
- The house
- The city and its archetypes
- The Temple and the Cathedral
- Imagines mundi
- Chaos and cosmos today
- The transcendental carnival

Eliade, J.B. Russell, Barbara Sproul,

Elizabeth Moynihan, W.A. McClung, E.R. Curtius, Jonas Lehrman, Norberg-Schulz, Paul Piehler, Roland Barthes, E. Goffman, Lauren Langman, etc.

Seventh and Eighth Weeks

The Moral Universe

The hypothesis, belief, and illusion that there is, since there must be, a kind of moral law functioning in the universe; that justice is being done in this universe. What happens to man if instead of a moral universe, he lives in an absurd world in which no justice is being done; in which even innocent children must suffer the pains and terrors of life and death? How can he defeat evil in the world?

- Amulets and sacraments
- Exorcism
- Defilement and purification
- Rationalization
- The origins of evil
- Evil in the Bible
- "Evil does not exist"
- The positive role of Satan
- The transformation of evil
- The religion of guilt
- The politics of guilt
- The psychology of guilt
- The sociology of guilt
- Guilt and the human condition

St. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Pascal, Kant, Nietzsche, Barth, Ott, Tillich, Freud, Fromm, Marcuse, Mitscherlich, Niehbuhr, Reik, Ricoeur, etc.

Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Electra, Antigone, Kleist: The Prince of Hamburg

O'Neill: Mourning Becomes Electra, Giraudoux: Electra

Dostoievsky: Crime and Punishment, The Karamazov Brothers

Kafka: The Trial
Mauriac: The Poisoner

Greene, Graham: The Heart of the Matter, The Silent American

Ninth Week


Tenth Week

The Rational Universe

The hypothesis, conviction, and illusion that the world is rational; that it can be discovered, understood and controlled by human reason. The position of man in a rational versus an arational or irrational world. How can man survive if he lives in a universe which is not governed by the same laws as his mind?

- Rational order beyond chaos: myth and theory
- From Plato's ideas to Hawking's ultimate equation
- The Music of the Spheres and the Thirty Years' War
- Rationalization: The handkerchief of Desdemona
- "The world does not speak. Only we do."
- Freedom and false consciousness
- Freedom and self-delusions ("Life lies")

Socrates, Erasmus, Cicero, Spinoza, Descartes, Kant, Leibniz, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Dewey, Hayek, Popper, Berger and Luckmann, Kuhn, Bernstein, Marcel, Mannheim, Horkheimer, Adorno, Jaspers, Heidegger, Habermas, Foucault, Rorty, Havel

Ibsen: The Wild Duck
O'Neill: The Iceman Cometh

Albee: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Eleventh Week

A Meaningful Universe

People have ever wished to believe that their lives had a meaning and that they lived in a meaningful universe. What if they were mistaken? How can they generate a meaning for their lives if they live in an empty and meaningless universe?

- The mythological meaning of the universe

- Socrates' self-sacrifice and the meaning of the universe
- Nietzschean nihilism as a source of meaning

- Barth, Jaspers, Tillich: the meaning of life after the "Death of God"

- Existentialism: generation of meaning in an empty universe - The postmodern generation of meaning

Aristotle, Philo, Augustine, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Calvin, Pascal, James, Nietzsche, Bergson, Dewey, Bergson, Hartmann, Maritain, Heidegger, Sartre, Marcel, Jaspers, Barth, Tillich, Popper, Rorty.

Twelfth Week

Escape into History

At a certain point in its development, western civilization escaped into history from before the doubts, anxieties and despair it experienced in an alien world. Western man thought to be able to survive and actualize himself in the horizontal transcendence of history. The breakdown of this belief in the 20th century.

- The horizontal transcendence of history
- Man's situation and the theories of progress (Joachim deFiore, Kant, Hegel, Jaspers, Tillich, Teilhard de Chardin) - Man's situation and the theories of decline (Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Camus)
- Man's situation and theories of circularity and eternal return (Spengler, Sorokin, Toynbee)
- Cross-currents (St. Augustine, Rousseau, Niebuhr, Hayek)
- The meaning of history
- The glory and terror of history

Democritos, Epicuros, Lucretius, Bacon, Condorcet, Locke, Fichte, Schelling, Comte, Marx, Spencer, Darwin, Bergson, 20th century evolutionism -- Herodotus, Ovidius, Daniel the Prophet, Polybios, Ibn Khaldun, Bodin, Montesquieu, Vico, Paul Costello, Karl Lowith, Robert Nisbet, Frank E. Manuel, Karl Popper.

Thirteenth Week

Man and His Society

Social institutions, networks and values form a strong protective sphere around human individuals and communities. The breakdown of these institutions, networks and value systems expose people to the anxieties and dangers of the alien world.

- Freedom within and outside society
- The dilemma of Adam and Eve
- Society: a shelter or an alien world?
- Law: a bondage or a source of freedom?
- Man and the moral norms
- The social contract: Hobbes, Rousseau, Rawls
- The social generation and destruction of freedom
- Social traps

Seneca, Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Tocqueville, Mill, Spencer, Marx, Durkheim, Popper, Habermas, Tillich, Berlin, Habermas, Nozick, Macpherson, MacIntyre, Taylor, Dahrendorf, Offe, Hartmann, Siewerth, F.R. Berger, Carol C. Gould, C.B. Macpherson.

Fourteenth Week

The Networks of Power

An analysis of how human condition is influenced by political institutions and practice.

- Autonomy, participation and domination
- Liberties and privileges
- Political ideologies and the human condition:
- Conservatism
- Liberalism
- Social democracy
- Christian democracy
- Socialism
- Populism

Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Bodin, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Mill, Tocqueville, Spencer, Weber, Durkheim, Popper, Hayek, Berlin, Huntingtom, Dahl, Aron, Foucault, Nozick, Macpherson, MacIntyre, Taylor, Dahrendorf, Havel + political science literature on the subject

Fifteenth and Sixteenth Weeks

Everyday Generation of the Human Condition

The study of those "techniques" in everyday life and the arts which have the role of generating freedom for man and protecting him in an alien world: language, the arts, catharsis, jokes, plays and games, everyday myths, etc.

- Contemporary myths
- The beautiful and the horrendous
- The Flowers of Evil
- Hamlet, Electra and the monsters of the alien world
- Aesthetic experience and "oscillation"
- "Language is the house of Being"
- TV game shows and initiation rites
- Jokes: excursions into the alien world
- The metaphysics of perfumes

Freud, Huyzinga, Fechner, Santayana, Lipps, Dewey, Richards, Caudwell, Gilbert Durand, Suzanne Langer, Maud Bodkin, etc. + Relevant disciplines: Cultural anthropology; Theory, psychology and sociology of literature and art; Theory of games; Theory of everyday life, ethnomethodology, etc.

* Depending on the discussions in class, some of the topics may be discussed in more detail than others. Due to time constraint, some of the topics may be even canceled

CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Modified: May, 1996


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