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BPY-009: Contemporary Western Philosophy

BPY-009: Contemporary Western Philosophy

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2021-22

If you are looking for BPY-009 IGNOU Solved Assignment solution for the subject Contemporary Western Philosophy, you have come to the right place. BPY-009 solution on this page applies to 2021-22 session students studying in BDP courses of IGNOU.

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Assignment Code: BPY-009/ASST/2021-22

Course Code: BPY-009

Assignment Name: Contemporary Western Philosophy

Year: 2021-2022

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Give Answer of all five questions.

All five questions carry equal marks

Answer to question no. 1 and 2 should be in about 400 words each.

Q1) What is post-structuralism? Differentiate it from Structuralism. 20

Ans) Post-structuralism emerged in France, in the second half of the twentieth century, criticising structuralism. Post-structuralism encompasses the intellectual movements of certain Continental philosophers and sociologists who wrote within the tendencies of twentieth-century French philosophy. The movement may be broadly understood as a body of distinct responses to structuralism. The contributors, most notably Jacques Derrida, Michael Foucault, and Julia Kristeva, either inverted structuralist principles or set out to reject them outright. Theorists such as Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard merged traditional Marxian ideas relating to capitalist exchange of value with such novel principles, bringing into attention the relationship between consumerism and the realm of sign. The movement is closely related to postmodernism. Anti-humanism is often a central tenet.

Post-structural practises generally operate on some basic assumptions: Poststructuralists hold that the concept of ‘self’ as a separate, singular, and coherent entity is a functional construct. Instead, an individual comprises tensions between conflicting knowledge of claims. Therefore, to properly study a text a reader must understand how the work is related to his or her personal concept of self. This self-perception plays a critical role in one’s interpretation of meaning. While different thinkers’ views on the self vary, it is often said to be constituted by discourses. The author’s intended meaning, as it is, is secondary to the meaning that the reader perceives. Post-structuralism rejects the idea of a literary text having a single purpose, a single meaning, or a singular existence. Instead, every individual reader creates a new and individual purpose, meaning and existence for a given text. To step outside of literary theory, this position is generalizable to any situation where a subject perceives a sign. Meaning is constructed by an individual from a signifier.


Structuralism was a fashionable movement in France in the second half of the twentieth century and grew to become one of the most popular approaches in the academic fields concerned with the analysis of language, culture, and society. Structuralism as an approach to the human sciences attempts to analyse a specific field as a complex system of interrelated parts. It began in linguistics with the work of Ferdinand De Saussure. But many French intellectuals perceived it to have a wider application, and the model was soon modified and applied to other fields, such as anthropology, psychoanalysis, literary theory, and architecture. The work of Ferdinand De Saussure concerning linguistics is generally considered to be a starting point of structuralism. The term ‘structuralism’ itself appeared in the works of French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and gave rise, in France, to the ‘structuralist movement’, which spurred the work of such thinkers as Louis Althusser, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, as well as the structural Marxism of Nicos Poulantzas. Structuralism is closely related to semiotics.

Structuralism states that human culture is to be understood as a system of signs. Robert Scholes defined structuralism as a reaction to modernist alienation and despair. Structuralists attempted to develop a semiology. Ferdinand de Saussure focused on the underlying system of language rather than the system of language and called his theory semiology. The discovery of the underlying system had to be done via examination of speech. He argued that linguistic signs were composed of two parts, a signifier and a signified.

Q2) What are Id and Oedipus complex? Write an essay on the Psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud. 20

Ans) According to Freud, we are born with our id. The id is an important part of our personality because as new-borns, it allows us to get our basic needs met. It works in keeping track with the pleasure principle, which can be understood as a demand to take care of needs immediately with no consideration for the reality of the situation. It is focused on selfishness and instant self-gratification. Hence, the id functions in the irrational and emotional part of the mind. Each psychosexual stage has certain difficult tasks associated with it where problems are more likely to arise. For the oral stage, this is weaning. For the anal stage, it’s toilet training. For the phallic stage, it is the Oedipal crisis. According to Freud, the Oedipus complex is a universal phenomenon and is responsible for much unconscious guilt. It is the attachment of the child to the parent of the opposite sex, accompanied by envious and aggressive feelings toward the parent of the same sex. These feelings are largely repressed because of the fear of displeasure or punishment by the parent of the same sex.

Psychoanalysis is a body of ideas developed by Freud and continued by others. It is primarily devoted to the study of human psychological functioning and behaviour, although it also can be applied to societies. Under the broad umbrella of psychoanalysis there are different theoretical orientations regarding the underlying theory of understanding of human mental setup, human development, and human disorders. The various approaches in treatment called “psychoanalytic” vary as much as the different theories. The most fundamental concept of psychoanalysis is the notion of the unconscious mind as a reservoir for repressed memories of traumatic events which continually influence conscious thought and behaviour. Freud’s account of the sexual genesis and nature of neurosis led him naturally to develop a clinical treatment for treating human disorders. Freud believed that the repressed conflicts were buried in the deepest recesses of the unconscious mind. Here the unconscious does not include all that is not conscious, rather only what is actively repressed from conscious thought or what the person is averse to knowing consciously. In a sense this view places the self in relationship to their unconscious as an adversary, warring with itself to keep hidden what is unconscious. The therapist is then a mediator trying to allow the unspoken or unspeakable to reveal itself using the tools of psychoanalysis.

Hence, Freudian psychoanalysis refers to a specific type of treatment in which the analytic patient verbalises thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst formulates the unconscious conflicts causing the patient’s symptoms and character problems, and interprets them for the patient to create insight for resolution of the problems. Psychoanalytic treatment can clarify how patients unconsciously become their own worst enemies: how unconscious and symbolic reactions that have been stimulated by experience are causing symptoms of human disorder. He emerged as a sophisticated philosopher who addresses many of the central questions that concern contemporary philosophers. His theories have had a tremendous influence on some French philosophers.

Q3) Answer any two of the following questions in about 200 words each. 2x10= 20

a) Write an essay on the contribution and influence of Marx and Hegel on the critical theory. 10

Ans) The primary concerns of critical theory are rooted in the writings of Kant, Hegel And Marx. Kant in his extensive literature on the epistemology aimed at inquiring into the nature and limits of human knowledge. For Kant such an inquiry must not be limited to the analysis of the contents of consciousness, because they are already organised and interpreted by the knowing subject. Kant intended his epistemology to be a critique which elucidates and explicates the forms and categories of knowledge. The aim of such a critique is to unveil conditions of possibility, unmask illusion and error. He visualises that its driving force is the dialectic, which opens up and exhibits the contradictions involved within each successive mode of experience. The primary task of the dialectic is to show that the sense impressions are not a primordial object of knowledge since sense certainty presupposes a subject who, through a struggle for recognition with others, attains self-consciousness. In the process of this self-consciousness subject reaches a certain point at which the self may be seen as an emancipation of spirit. From this point of emancipation of spirit, according to Hegel, the truth may be grasped and understood in its totality and entirety.

Marx envisaged that the end of capitalism results in the emergence of a classless, communist society. The future emancipation of humankind, human society which Marx envisages is construed in terms of a historical dialectics. Marx had criticised Hegel for justifying some negative features of the prevailing modern state as being in accordance with a fuller co-operation of reason. Marx believed that with his critique of the ideological justification of capitalist property he could tear down the whole edifice of Hegel’s political thought, while at the same time finding an alternative explanation of all the phenomena of alienation seen in modern societies. Marx thought that with this new conception he could pave the way for the complete abolition of the dehumanising features, functional differentiations of the modern state. Subsequently, he hoped that there would emerge unity and solidarity among all human beings in a communist society. However, Marx’s historical dialectics seems implausible even for Marxists. Max Weber has reconstructed historical dialectics, that is, negative dialectics of progress and enlightenment.

b) Do you agree that Kierkegaard’ philosophy is a philosophy of leap? Justify your

answer. 10

Ans) Kierkegaard’s is a philosophy of choice or leap, the structure of which remains basically the same. But it can be best explained in relation to man’s leap to the Absolute. The central problem in Kierkegaard’s philosophy has been the question as to how to be a Christian. Thus, he reflected on the relationship between God and man. The existence of God is an indubitable fact for him. As God is infinite, there is an impassable gulf between God and man who is finite. Bridging this gulf is not possible with rational systems, but only with a leap of faith—not with a theory of knowledge, but with an act of commitment or choice. Such a leap is a self-commitment to the ‘objective uncertainty’, a leap into the unknown. He is in a situation of dread, wherein attraction and repulsion, sympathy, and antipathy, are interwoven. The truth to which I commit myself by a leap of faith is not same as the objective truth of creed or belief, as Religion is not a system of intellectual propositions to which a believer assent. For example, two + two = four.

Once I know it, I know it; I do not have to make it my own constantly. Kierkegaard doesn’t deny the validity of such truths. But he gives priority to the existential truth or truth as subjectivity. It is that on which I stake my whole being. It is so important for me; still, I can doubt it. If I accept it, I do so with a passionate self-commitment. I make a choice for it. It is in a sense my truth. I must renew such truth constantly to make it my own. To hold to such a truth is a venture, which chooses an objective uncertainty. I make a choice for the existential truths, and I have to maintain them as it were over a fathomless sea by the passionate appropriation of the objectively uncertain. Thus, Kierkegaard reiterates the centrality of ‘choice’ in faith and truth, in religion and life.

Q4) Answer any four of the following questions in about 150 words each. 4x5= 20

a) Write a note on the idea of the ‘death of god’ in Nietzsche’s philosophy. 5

Ans) The announcement of the ‘death of God’ devalues religion and everything connected with religion. It is here we situate Nietzsche’s critique of religion as essentially linked to morality. As ‘death of God’ contains three structural moments: an arrow shot to devalue the Christian, Kantian, and other foundations of morality. Christian morality has its foundation in God. The Kantian foundation of morality is different at the start but at the end with the postulation of God it becomes essentially related to Christianity. Hence Nietzsche sees all morality to be related to Christian morality. Now the proclamation of ‘death of God’ shakes the foundation of morality itself. The announcement of the ‘death of God’ is to insist that the morality of Christianity can no baser itself on God.

The utilitarian principle is nihilistic, because it has the conception of ‘good and evil’ of the priestly class, of Christianity. By destroying the Christian values Nietzsche destroys that of the utilitarian too. Hence the ‘death of God’ is not mere evaluation, but it is the announcement of the denial of God. For Nietzsche regards God “not as a mere error, but a ‘crime’ against life. We deny that God is God. By denying God Nietzsche wants to ‘unearth’ the theological instincts wherever they are present. So, we conclude, by destroying the basis of the herd morality he destroys that of the other foundations too. The ‘death of God,’ according to Nietzsche, urges us to be ‘true to earth’ and revaluate the whole of values. The ‘death of God’ breaks off with all that are illusory and other worldly. It brings an end to the dualities.

b) Write a note on Russell’s theory of description. 5

Ans) Russell’s theory of description begins from the presumption that since ‘The king of France is wise’ is neither true nor meaningless it must be false. Again, since it obviously does not describe ‘the king of France’ when there is no such person, it must really describe something else. Finally, Russell concludes that all propositions really ascribe predicates to logically proper names. But this solution must meet the further complication that there are no such names. However, we may recognise that the question whether the King of France is wise has a meaning is quite independent of the question whether there is in fact such a king. Secondly, the sentence is not used to assert that there is in fact a king of France. Routinely formal logicians have concentrated their attention on context-free sentences, which are in fact not ordinarily used. This explains why they have failed to distinguish between sentences sand statements. Had they attended to sentences with words like “I” or phrases like ‘round table’, sentences, which can be used in an entirely different fashion, the difference between sentences and statements would have been bound to strike them forcibly.

c) What are the main characteristics of post-modernism? 5

Ans) Postmodernism literally means ‘after the modernist movement’. While ‘modern’ itself refers to something ‘related to present’, the movement of modernism and the following reaction of postmodernism are defined by a set of perspectives. It is used in a critical theory to refer to a point of departure for works of literature, drama, architecture, cinema, journalism, and design, as well as in marketing and business and in the interpretation of history, law culture and religion in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Postmodernism is an aesthetic, literary, political, or social philosophy which was the basis of the attempt to describe a condition, or a state of being, or something concerned with the changes to institutions and conditions as post-modernity. In other words, post modernism is the ‘cultural and intellectual phenomenon’, especially in new movements in the arts, since the first half of the twentieth century, while post-modernity focuses on social and political outworking and innovations globally since the second half of the twentieth century in the West. The term is closely linked with poststructuralism and modernism, in terms of a rejection of its perceived bourgeois, elite culture.

d) Write a note on the Picture theory. 5

Ans) In the Tractates, Wittgenstein presents a picture theory of thought and language. Pictures are models of reality and are made up of elements that represent objects, and the combination of objects in the picture represents the combination of objects in the situation. The logical structure of the picture, whether in thought or in language, is isomorphic with the logical structure of the situation which it pictures. The possibility of this structure being shared by the picture (the thought, the proposition) and the situation is the pictorial form. ‘That is how a picture is attached to reality; it reaches right out to it’. The picture can picture the world but cannot picture its own pictorial form. According to the Tractates, to have meaning the structure of the proposition must conform with the constraints of logical form, and the elements of the proposition must have reference. The function of language is to represent states of affairs in the world. ‘A proposition is a picture of reality. A proposition is a model of reality as we imagine it’. Obviously, a proposition does not give us a spatial and empirical representation of a situation; it is not an empirical picture but a logical picture of the states of affairs. The logical relationships among the elements of a propositions represent the logical relationships among the objects in the world. A proposition has a sense if it describes a possible state of affairs; otherwise, it is meaningless. Thus, the only meaningful language is the fact-stating language of the natural sciences. ‘The totality of true propositions is the whole of natural science’

Q5) Write short notes on any five of the following in about 100 words each. 5x4= 20

a) Form of Life 4

Ans) According to the Tractatus language is an autonomous, abstract system of symbols in which the role of the human subject is insignificant. In striking contrast, for later Wittgenstein, language is something living and growing. Language use is an activity that takes place within the stream of life. The notion of ‘form/web/stream of life’ captures this insight: ‘To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life’ What enables language to function and therefore must be accepted as “given” is precisely forms of life. Our ways of speaking are not bound by logically necessary structure but are intimately tied into the common human practices, the hurly-burly of our everyday actual life. He is emphatic: ‘Only in the stream of life words have meaning’. Forms of life can be understood as changing and contingent, dependent on culture, context, history, etc. It is also the form of life, “the common behaviour of mankind” which is “the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown language”, giving a certain shape and continuity to the stream of life.

b) Idea of Availability in Marcel’s philosophy 4

Ans) Marcel’s is a philosophy of relation. While speaking of the two-directional relations, Marcel differentiates them, showing their complementarity. The two-directional relations are directed to the finite others and to the absolute other. Marcel is known primarily for his theory of inter-subjectivity which he developed, basing himself on the theory of intentionality in phenomenology, applied to the notion of ‘availability’. The act of being available is directed necessarily to other persons. The very act through which ‘I am’ implies an allusion to other people am I to a thou. Although inter-subjectivity is presented as the authentic mode of existence, people have the leaning towards living an inauthentic existence of faceless anonymity, living a self-enclosed existence. In this case, the other is seen, not as a ‘thou’, but as a ‘it’ or a functionary.

c) Parole 4

Ans) Language exists in two modes: as speech and as written form. Of these, speech is the primary mode of being of language. We learn to speak before we learn to write. Saussure therefore directs his attention to language as speech. He notes that it is composed of two aspects, which he called parole and langue in French. Parole literally means “spoken word; and langue literally means “tongue”. Parole is the aggregate of acts of speech. Every act of speech is individual, a here-and now, and is executed by some person. Such individual acts of speech executed by individual speakers of a linguistic community constitute parole. Language is not exhausted by parole. For these acts would not be acts of speech if there were not a set of norms according to which they are organized. The system of norms according to which parole is organised and becomes meaningful speech is called langue. For the general phenomenon of language, undifferentiated as to form or function he used the term language.

d) Dasein 4

Ans) Heidegger’s most favourite concept Dasein literally means, “being there”. By introducing the concept, he underlines the facticity of human existence in the world and the way humans make sense out of such situations. As Heidegger ventures to restructure hermeneutics, he sees hermeneutic problem as ontological. And so, he attempts to know the mode of being of the one (Dasein) whose being is to understand. Understanding being the constitutive element of Dasein, his initial relationship with his world is one of familiarity, and when familiarity is brought to awareness, understanding takes place. But there can be no understanding on the part of Dasein without preunderstanding. Which means, Dasein’s acts of understanding will lead to self-understanding as well. He is recognised by his self-interpretative projects. In order to understand Dasein, one should make a detour of the world of Dasein, and one cannot understand world without referring to Dasein’s way of life.

e) Epoche 4

Ans) Bracketing a.k.a. Epoche is the negative aspect in grasping the essence. It is the radical and universal elimination of any aspect of factual existence. The factual or the existentia1 is kept in parenthesis or in bracket. Things under consideration may have existence, but it has no significance whatsoever about the essence of things. Besides the elimination of ‘existence’, to describe the phenomena correctly, the phenomenologist too must be free from all cultural and philosophical bias. It requires an ascetic neutrality in one’s attitude to the phenomenon of one’s awareness. Phenomenology deals with the insight into the essences, without regard to the empirical conditions of their perceptibility, nor even their existence. It is not a question of making it appear in its factual reality or in its existence, but in its intentional presence as transcendent to consciousness.

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