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Realism or Idealism Responses to Locke Montesqieu Rousseau and Marx regarding human nature In the history of the western intellectual tradition a simple though not simplistic way of seeing philosophers of social thought is to place them in one of two categories realism or idealism Depending on what category they best fit in one can draw conclusions about their respective theories of human nature which in turn influences their whole philosophical projects ends The four philosophers covered in this seminar all have distinct theories of human nature and while reading and thinking about them it was helpful for me to ask the following questions What is the basic view of human nature of the philosopher ie is man basically cooperative and nonviolent or is he basically at his core an aggressor and selfish Does he think human nature can be changed and If it can be changed or if it is perfectable does the change come voluntarily or through coercion First I define my terms By realism I mean the trajectory of thought in the western intellectual and philosophical tradition that emphasizes the here-and-now and posits that there is not an ideal image or way of doing things to which we must conform our agendas of rule and justice I propose that realism is related to concepts like conflict as a fact of life and aggression as a factor in mans motivations and materialism that people and everything else is constituted of matter only and not say spirit as per Platos idealism or the dualism of Christianity By idealism I mean that train of thought in the west that identifies with ideas like there being a dualism of reality matter and spirit and that the world of ideals is a model for us to imitate toward the end of moral or social perfection Idealism at once holds that human nature is basically good and that when it is bad it can be changed
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