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PLM4145 - Crises of Reason: Psyche, Society and Morality

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Dr Michael Janover


Not offered in 2007


The subject examines Sigmund Freud's writings on civilization. It compares Freud's concern with the unconscious moorings of social order to Friedrich Nietzsche's genealogy of morals and to Max Weber's historical sociology of ethics and politics. Nietzsche, Freud, and Weber make up a grand trio of acerbic critics of the optimism characteristic of European society prior to World War One. Together, Freud's psychoanalysis and Weber's sociology can be seen as parallel roads out of Nietzsche's account of morality. We will trace these roads and ask whether Nietzsche, Freud and Weber remain significant as theorists of twenty-first century psyches, society and morality.


  1. explain key ideas of Nietzsche on morality, Weber on work, and Freud on civilisation
  2. recognise and discuss the influence of the ideas of Nietzsche and Freud on key political ideologies and aesthetic movements of the twentieth century
  3. evaluate the possibility of combining psychological, social-theoretical, and philosophical accounts of order and disorder
  4. clarify the differences between explaining irrationality as a source of human behaviour and promoting irrationality in human conduct
  5. construct and articulate a reasoned argument connecting theorists to a field of ideas and to yet wider arenas of historical context and social movements in which ideas are expressed
  6. utilise and extend skills in oral presentation, communication and argumentation


Oral seminar presentation (10 - 20 minutes) : 10%
Summary of oral
literature review (1000 -1,500 words) : 10%
Essay (5000 words) : 50%
Examination (2 hours) : 30%

Contact hours

One 2-hour seminar per week (26 hours per semester)