“The Life I Formerly Led as an Ape”: Imitation and Intermediacy in “A Report to an Academy”

Essay completed 14 April 2017

Franz Kafka’s 1917 short story “A Report to an Academy” is a characteristically bleak assessment of human nature as restricting rather than liberating. The story’s narrator begins his oration by thanking his audience for inviting him to give an account “of the life I formerly led as an ape” (Kafka 250). If Red Peter is no longer an ape, is he a human, or something in-between? Through Red Peter, Kafka questions whether convincing human imitation is equivalent to being one. No matter how closely Red Peter imitates the human, in his narrative he repeatedly calls attention to what still separates him from humanity. As Red Peter describes how he learned to mimic human behavior, Kafka explores how the former ape’s imitative performance and interspecies intermediacy interact to reveal the instability of the human designation. Continue reading ““The Life I Formerly Led as an Ape”: Imitation and Intermediacy in “A Report to an Academy””

Existential Action: Criticisms and Hypothetical Responses

Essay completed 7 December 2016

In his 1946 essay “Existentialism is humanism,” Sartre defends existentialism against several recurring criticisms. The most superficial criticism of existentialism asserts that existentialists dwell too much on human degradation while denying the seriousness of human achievement. In essence, this criticism asks why existentialism focuses so much on negative aspects of life, when there is so much to celebrate. Another common criticism Sartre identifies is the charge that existentialism fosters nihilism because it denies objective morality, condemning people to live without meaning. The underlying assumption of this criticism is that a life is only worth living if there is objective morality. Another criticism is that existentialism encourages quietism and discourages solidarity in the face of life’s meaninglessness. These charges assert overall that if objective solutions can never be found in existentialism, “we should have to consider action in this world as quite impossible” (Marino 341-342). Continue reading “Existential Action: Criticisms and Hypothetical Responses”

We All Want to Change the World: Locke and the Right to Revolt

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 9 October 2015

In his Second Treatise of Government, John Locke argues that all people possess a right to overthrow an oppressive government. While Locke’s theory seems to protect society from oppression, one could argue that granting the people such influence over their government could produce a chaotic society rather than a free one. Is it logical to claim that all people have a natural right to overthrow the government? Is it reasonable to entrust the fate of the government to the whims of the people? Does Locke’s political theory promote anarchy? Locke addresses these questions through his belief in the fundamental rights of humans and his argument of how best to protect societies from tyrannical leaders. Continue reading “We All Want to Change the World: Locke and the Right to Revolt”