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NMSU PHIL 201G - Commentary

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Module 1.3 CommentaryThe question for Module 1.3 is ‘What Else Determines Who I am?’ Now that we have considered the concepts of the soul and of the body in determining what the self is, we will lookat factors other than soul and body that might determine who we are as humans. Specifically, we will read selections by Simone de Beauvoir and Naomi Zack.I have chosen the selections for this module based on the fact that both readings look at the idea of self through lenses that are not male or Western European. The philosophical theories that have been studied by generations of students have been dominated by perspectives that are male and Western European. In order for the field of philosophy to survive, I think that it is imperative that the “tent” be broadened to include more perspectives by scholars from more diverse backgrounds. A few words about the reading by Simone de BeauvoirAn important aspect of Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophy is its foundation in existentialism. Simone de Beauvoir had a life-long relationship with French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. They wrote their philosophies with a common understanding of human existence which stated that humans experience complete freedom. Existentialism, according to Sartre and de Beauvoir, states that there is no predetermined plan guiding human existence because there is no deity or“God” to plan for each human. Thus, humans are free to choose what they will become in life. We are not just talking about career paths here. The existentialists are talking about what kind of human a person will be is determined by that person. As you read the text be de Beauvoir, you will see that her existentialism is the ground on which she built her philosophy of self through the lens of feminism. A few words about the reading by Naomi ZackIn this reading, the author looks at identity in terms of racial categorization. Naomi Zack analyzes how race is determined socially, in terms of racial inheritance (the race of ancestors). She also discusses the situation of persons who are of mixed race. Zack analyzes the challenges that assigning race creates. She then proposes a way to “self-emancipate,” rejecting categorizations of race. Throughout Zack’s writing, she intertwines her own experiences as a person who has Jewish and Black ancestry. Naomi Zack’s conclusion is enlightening, forcing us toreconsider whether racial categorization has value.


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