2009 Abstracts Stage 3

Are we Naturally Self-Seeking Individuals, or does Society make us that Way?

Stephanie Macham, 2009, Stage 3

Territory: My Territory is the Credit Crunch, from which I am looking into whether humans, as a race, are naturally self seeking individuals, or whether society impacts and influences us, making us this way. Concepts: The two concepts that I have chosen to analyse and examine are Thomas Hobbes’s theory of self seeking individuals within the State of Nature, with Charles Taylor and Friedrich Nietzsche’s theories of social philosophy. Our current economic climate created for me many questions about how we were able to get into the financial mess that we have. So I chose to investigate how and why consumers have become obsessed by materialistic possession, to the extreme extent that they are prepared to get into debt because of it. I believe that our recent economic crisis has arisen due to consumer spending and the change in political power. Therefore I began my project by comparing and analyzing the change in governmental power over the last 30 years, whilst researching the causes and effects of the credit crunch – because I feel that these two issues are interrelated – in the hope that I was able to find a correlation between the election of a new political power and the change in societies spending habits that led to the credit crunch. To support this belief I firstly looked at Charles Taylor, who believes that identity is socially constructed and dependent. This combined with Nietzsche, who saw the self as becoming and forever changing, supports my theory that society, trends and governmental power impacts individuals actions, which I have taken to include spending habits. To oppose this argument I analysed Thomas Hobbes who believes that individuals are naturally, selfish and competitive, because each only seeks to preserve and to strengthen themselves. I have advanced this theory to support the idea that humans are still selfish and competitive today, so what someone else has, they want. It is our new survival technique. Conclusion: I have concluded that society is now a combination of the two. Evolving as a species we have brought our selfish and competitive nature with us, which I believe has been propelled by societies, governments and trends to cause buying to become our modern day method of self preservation. Key Philosophical Source: Hobbes, Thomas (1985) Leviathan; Taylor, Charles (1989) Sources of The Self, The Making of the Modern Identity; Nehamas, Alexander (1985) Nietzsche, Life as Literature

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