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20th Century Philosophy Paper

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Philosophy is an activity undertaken by people seeking to understand the fundamental truth about them. It also helps people to understand the world they live in, their relationships with the environment and world around them, and their relationships with other people. The people who study philosophy take life’s most basic questions and become engaged in asking, answering, and arguing for their answers. This paper will identify three prevailing philosophical perspectives at work during the 20th century. Each of these philosophies reflected the changes in industry and the individual that created them. Sigmund Freud and the Psyche

The philosophy of the psyche was first developed by Sigmund Freud. He spent a large part of his life studying the psyche. He wanted to know how the mind operated. He developed his theory based on his research. Freud is known as the father of psychoanalysis. Part of his theory was the idea that humans have two parts to their awareness. There are those parts of the awareness that a person knows is there. There are those parts that a person does not know is there. This part of his theory was a huge contribution to psychology and Freud’s greatest contribution. The psyche consists of three components. These three components are the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious. The conscious component is the part where a person knows what they are thinking about or aware of what is going on. The thoughts that are currently occupying the mind are found in the conscious.

The preconscious component is the part that stores memories and knowledge. This component includes knowledge and memories that a person knows are there, but are not currently thinking about. The person will be able to access the knowledge or memories if they needed to. The third component of the psyche is the unconscious. The unconscious is outside the awareness of a person. A person does not have access to the unconscious. The unconscious holds thoughts, memories, and impulses that one is unaware of. This information can be potentially damaging to a person. Freud believed that although a person does not know what is in the unconscious, the impulses and drives within it can be the cause of the person’s behavior.

Another part of Freud’s theory was that the psyche had three structures that coincide with the components. These three structures are the id, the ego, and the superego. The first structure of the psyche is the id. The id is the most primitive part of the psyche. The id operates in the unconscious. The id is driven by primitive animal instincts including sexual and aggressive impulses. It seeks to maximize pleasure and minimize discomfort. The second structure of the psyche is the ego. Freud believed the ego formed during toddlerhood. The ego refers to sense of self. The job of the ego is to gratify the id in accord with reality. The ego operates on all three levels of the components of the psyche. The third structure of the psyche is the superego. The superego operates in the conscience. It begins to form at five of six years of age. The superego seeks what is good and moral (Kuther, 2001). Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism

Existentialism was the most important philosophic movement of the 20th century. It examined the unique nature of individual experience within an indifferent universe. It may be defined as “the philosophical theory which holds that a further set of categories, governed by the norm of authenticity, is necessary to grasp human existence” (Crowell, 2010). Jean-Paul Sartre, the leading philosopher of the 20th century, was the father of existentialism. Sartre’s philosophy was the idea that existence precedes essence. This was the main tenet of existentialism. His premise challenged the traditional philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. Plato believed essence was eternal and unchanging ideas. Aristotle believed essence is what separated humans from lower animals.

Sartre believed that humans had no fixed nature. He disagreed with Freud and Marx. He did not believe humans were imprisoned by the unconscious, as Freud did. He did not believe specific economic conditions were involved, as Marx did (Fiero, 2011). Sartre believed that human existence happened by chance or accident. He believed there was no meaning or purpose to life other than what one created for them, such as freedom. Because of this, he believed each person must rely on their own resources to gain meaning or purpose. Simone de Beauvoir was a lifelong friend of Sartre. She used her friendship to contribute significantly to the development and expression of existentialist philosophy. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Analytic Philosophy

Ludwig Wittgenstein played an important, but controversial, role in the 20th century analytic philosophy. Wittgenstein’s thoughts and beliefs came in two stages, the early stage and the later stage. In the early stage, Wittgenstein published Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, his only book-length philosophical work. This work identified the relationship between language and reality and defined the limits of science. The work has been recognized as one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. By using language to show the application of modern logic to megaphysics, Wittgenstein was able to provide a new insight into the relationship between thought and language. He also provided insight into the nature of philosophy. In the later stage, Wittgenstein published Philosophical Investigations. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein took a different approach in critiquing philosophy. He contradicted or discarded much of what he had argued in his earlier work. In his later stage, his view was that conceptual confusions that cause most philosophical problems were because of language. His new philosophy is believed to be anti-systematic, yet still along the lines of traditional philosophical problems. Wittgenstein influences philosophy in several topics, including logic, intention, ethics, religion, aesthetics, and culture (Biletzki & Matar, 2011). Conclusion

The ideas of philosophy and how each philosopher views their ideas have made things the way they are today. People’s beliefs and morals are because others have taken the time to create theories about the world. Freud and his theory on the psyche have paved the way for psychology. The theories of Jean-Paul Sartre and Ludwig Wittgenstein have also paved the way for how people see things and react to things today.

Biletzki, A. & Matar, A. (2011) Ludwig Wittgenstein. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Retrieved August 15, 2011, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein/ Crowell, S. (2010). Existentialism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved August
14, 2011, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/existentialism/ Fiero, G.K. (2011). The humanistic tradition: Modernism, postmodernism, and the global
perspective (6th ed., Book 6). Boston, MA:McGraw-Hill
Kuther, T. (2001, September 1). Freud’s Theory of Personality: Development of the Psyche.
Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/developmental_psychology/78926/1

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