Prompt #1 Lieberman and Nietzsche

1. Find an idea or claim that Lieberman can only make in response to a source. Describe how he uses the source, using Mark Gaipa’s categories:

Lieberman cites Friedrich Nietzsche as saying that: “Whatever they may think and say about their egoism, the great majority nonetheless do nothing for their ego their whole life long: what they do is done for the phantom of their ego which has formed itself in the heads of those around them and has been communicated to them.”

In response to Nietzsche’s view, Lieberman argues that the self is socially constructed. It seems that based on Gaipa’s source categories, he used Strategy 8, or crossbreeding. Lieberman uses Nietzsche’s philosophical view and pairs it with his finding in neuroscience to come up with an argument that is different from the (presumably) prevailing understanding that the Self comes from within.

2. Choose a passage in Lieberman’s book that seems to relate to one or more of our course texts in an interesting way. Transcribe and cite the passage. Then discuss its relationship to the other text(s):

Lieberman writes on page 191 that the self “exists primarily as a conduit to let the social groups we are immersed in supplement our natural impulses with socially derived impulses. The social world imparts a collection of beliefs about ourselves, about morality, and about what constitutes a worthwhile life.”

This relates to Antonio Damasio’s comments on page 218 on the pdf file:

“Once autobiographical selves can operate on the basis of knowledge etched in brain circuits and in external records of stone, clay, or paper, humans become capable of hitching their individual biological needs to the accumulated sapience. Thus begins a long process of inquiry, reflection, and response, expressed throughout recorded human history in myths, religions, the arts and various structures invented to govern social behavior – constructed morality, justice system, economics, politics, science and technology.”

Here the two passages relate not by way of their shared understanding of the Self but precisely because of their contradictory views. Lieberman thinks the Self is constructed socially while Domasio thinks the Self expands into the social world, emerging out of a protoself. It is worth pointing out that both based their opposing conclusions on intensive studies on the brain. Their contradictory views despite their common field of study and methods are what links the two passages together.


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