Study Questions on Hegel and Marx and Engels

 

1.  Universal vs. particular.  (a) Explain Hegel's distinction between the universal and the particular.  (b) For Hegel, what is important is the universal and not the particular.  Hegel's own view is the extreme one that only the universal has genuine importance and that the particular is of no importance in itself.  Make the strongest argument you can for Hegel's position.  (Ground it in the Hegel reading.)  (c) Marx, in contrast, claims that only the particular has importance.  Make the strongest argument you can for Marx's position.  (Ground it in the Marx readings).  (d) Consider a third position:  Both the universal and the particular have importance.  Make the strongest argument you can for this position.  

 

2.  Alienation.  Marx criticizes "bourgeois" private property as a manifestation of a system of production and productive relations that alienates workers from their labor and from each other.  (a) Explain what Marx means by alienation.  (b) Make the strongest argument you can in favor of Marx's position.  (Ground your argument with citations to the text.)  (c) Make the strongest argument you can against Marx's position. 

 

3.  Individualism and Competition.  Marx criticizes individual rights as part of a view of human beings as egoistic monads in competition with each other.  He proposes instead a view of individuals as species beings in cooperation with each other.  (a) Make the strongest argument you can in favor of Marx's position.  (Ground your argument with citations to the text.)  (b) Make the strongest argument you can against Marx's position. 

 

4.  Economic Globalization.  Reread Marx's description of the international development of capitalism on pp. 872-873.  His description fits well the process of globalization of economic life that has taken place over the past 30 years or so.  (a) Use Marx's theory to make the strongest argument you can that globalization is oppressive and exploitative.  (b) Make the strongest argument you can in favor of globalization. 

 

5.  Consent.  (a) How would Marx criticize Adam Smith's theory of the role of consent in exchange?  (Ground your argument with citations to the text.)  (b) How would Marx criticize Kant's theory of justice based on hypothetical consent?  (Ground your argument with citations to the text.)

 

6.  Objectivity in Ethics.  Marx criticized all normative ethical thought as part of a superstructure that merely reflected the underlying modes of production and productive relations.  A generalization of this view would be that what is the case determines what people believe should be the case, without supposing there are any objective moral truths.  Call this the Is Determines Ought Thesis.  (a) Make the strongest argument you can in favor of the Is Determines Ought Thesis.  (Ground your argument with citations to the text.)  (b) Many philosophers would claim that we are capable of making objective normative judgments and that such judgments at least influence what is.  Call this the Ought Influences Is Thesis.  Make the strongest argument you can in favor of the Ought Influences Is Thesis. 

 

7.  Profit as Surplus Value.  For Marx, what is the source and measure of the value of a commodity?  What is Marx’s distinction between market price and natural price?  On Marx’s account, how are capitalists able to make a profit on the commodities they sell?  [Hint:  According to Marx, what part of the value of a commodity is surplus value?]