Spring 2017

Crises of the Individual: Marx and Freud

Listed in: Philosophy, as PHIL-362


Rafeeq Hasan (Section 01)


In modern Western thought, the autonomous individual forms the basic unit of conceptual analysis. We understand ourselves as beings who act based on reasons that we endorse. Our desires constitute the core of our real selves. Reflection on those desires is fundamentally transparent, i.e., we can tell what it is that we want when we want it. Who we are and what we do is the product of our private inner worlds. 

Sometimes this form of self-understanding feels obvious and inevitable—nothing more than common sense. At other times, it feels false to the complexities and crises of human experience. Yet it is not so easy to let go of the concept of the autonomous individual, for it is deeply woven into our economic relations, legal institutions, and cultural forms. Nor is it clear what would be gained by wholesale rejection of this concept.

Two of the greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century—Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)—challenge conceptual individualism, without ignoring its potential and promise. Marx focuses on the economy and Freud the unconscious. Read together, they reveal how the modern sense of self is the product of deep structures whose essential nature is necessarily misrecognized by agents governed by those structures. Yet, for both thinkers, we must retain aspects of the modern self in order to create a better future. By reading Marx and Freud, we will gain the vocabulary necessary to submit our common sense self-understanding to the practice of critique.

Requisite: One course in Philosophy.  Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hasan

If Overenrolled: Preference to majors, then by class and to those who attend the first class


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017