Friday, January 27, 2017
Utilitarianism is defined as wanting social institutions restructured for the greater good of the most people. People are free to seek their own pleasure and to avoid pain, which will in turn promote progress in all aspects of society. The most important phrase that came out of utilitarianism is that people will act in their own "rational self-interest." Utilitarians such as John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, and Fourier believe the man is generally good by nature. In contrast, Dostoevsky believes that man cannot be governed by such rules and generalizations as this and will act however he or she wants to act. Whether or not utilitarianism can be seen as fully or even partly true is impossible to tell with any degree of certainty. One thing that we do know is that if people act in their own self-interest, which they often do, then the world should be a better place because of that according to utilitarianism. I do not believe this tenet of utilitarianism to be true because self-interest can also be associated with greed, spite, and malignant behavior that culminates in negative results for other parties in addition to the individual. Emotions play a big role in defining self-interest, but it is hard to form a philosophy based on something that people may not even know themselves. Who is to say if we are acting in our own self-interest or not if we do not know what that self-interest is? And why would we do anything different if we knew exactly what we wanted?
It was interesting to see how many different artists painted trains into or related to their pictures during this time period. In the majority of these works, the trains seem to be menacing or ominous. This depiction of trains provides insight into the viewpoints of this time. The invention and mass expansion of trains changed the world from being a wide, mostly pastoral landscape, to a more urban and industrial place. This marked the migration of vast amounts of people from secluded farm areas to cities in search of jobs and better lives. For example, in Thomas Talbott Bury's Liverpool and Manchester Railroad painted in 1831, the train station is the center of life for the people and takes up most of the visible space in the painting. You can see the smoke that comes from the train station that proves that the world was becoming more industrial, but it does not necessarily have a negative connotation because people were not aware of the negative effects of smoke on the environment. Claude Monet also has a piece in which the train is a dark, menacing form with yellow eyes. In contrast, another of his pieces has the train in the distance and focuses more on the natural landscape. This can be seen as less malignant, but still contrasts the natural imagery.
I enjoyed researching and presenting on Joseph of Arimathea, especially since we share names. Also, I thought it was interesting how a story that combined religion and mythology could be misinterpreted over the years to actually being seen as a real religious story. This goes to show how many religions rely on word of mouth to pass on their traditions and stories. The legend originated when French author Robert de Boron wrote Joseph d'Arimathe, which blended the biblical character of Joseph of Arimathea with the mythology surrounding the Holy Grail. It can be hard to understand why such a story can be all of the sudden considered true such a long time after the original Biblical stories occur. This was due to the lack of easy communication between cities and regions in the times before and after around 1300 A.D. I believe this misinterpretation would not occur today because of the widespread availability of news through technology.
The story of Bran the Blessed is fascinating to me. First, he was a Celtic deity and British King known for his role in the second branch of the myth Mabinogion. After he was mortally wounded by a poisoned dart, his severed head was the buried in London as a symbol of protection for the kingdom against invaders. One interesting fact is that the head continued to talk even after it was cut off...(freaky!) Bran was considered to be the god of creation and regeneration which is why his cauldron is significant because it represents eternal life. Overall, his impact on the people was evident and his story is quite interesting to read about.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
I find Theosophy fascinating. They believe all world religions originated from one called Ancient Wisdom. Their symbol combines all types of familiar modern day religious symbols. They are accepting of people from all backgrounds and beliefs. They believe each religion has elements of Ancient Wisdom but have been manipulated. Theosophy aims to find God by finding the truth. They have schools and camps dedicated to learning the truth.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
The orientation of Gregor's room is central to the plot of Kafka's novella. His room has three different doors in it that lead to different areas that each family member resides in. He likes to always keep every door locked. Therefore, he is seen as the central figure in his family, and he also feels pressure from his family. This pressures continues to the point that he is overwhelmed from all sides, both literally and symbolically. His sister always listens in on his room, and both his mother and his father give him no privacy. Gregor seems to enjoy this attention because he likes to support his family, but he also resents both the situation he is in and his job. Therefore, he limits this attention by locking his doors. After his metamorphosis, he loses his role as chief money maker for his family, which also coincides with the unlocking of all of his doors. At this point, he has lost the attention that he had previously won through working so hard, so he opens up his room only to find that his family barely cares about him anymore. Therefore, Gregor's room had a more positive connotation at the beginning of the novella, but certainly takes on a directly negative view at the end.
I really enjoyed looking at the artwork Ms. Quinet displayed in class yesterday, specifically the impressionists' paintings. One significant detail of Impressionism is that it represents a moment in time. Often, paintings look as if they're in motion. It is similar to photography in the sense that at any moment, the scene could change. I thought the usage of light and contrast were interesting as well. Also, nature was vividly depicted in several of the pieces we looked at. I think all these aspects really contribute to the uniqueness of Impressionism.
In our class discussions this week, my group was assigned to find quotes on Gregor's job. As a traveling salesman, Gregor is never in one place. This prevents him from forming true and meaningful relationships with people and leaves him feeling empty inside. Gregor is seen by his family as more of an economic resource or "tool" like Rickeia mentioned in class. Instead of his family caring about his emotional stability and health, they worry about his inability to provide for them. This results in the resentment and disregard the family feels towards Gregor once he turns into a beetle; this forces the family, specifically the sister and father, to go out and get jobs which they never had to do before. I think it's a significant point to notice that Gregor was the provider for the family, not his father, initially. Stereotypes often expect the oldest male of the house to be the breadwinner, but that is not the case in this novella.
Friday, January 20, 2017
Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis gets its namesake not only from the physical metamorphosis of Gregor from human to dung beetle, but also from less evident metamorphosis of the people and world around him. The prime example of this external metamorphosis is the feelings of his family. This metamorphosis happens even before Gregor is transformed into a dung beetle. He is forced to work as a salesman against his will because he needs to repay the debt that his father has accrued. From the moment he takes that job onward, his family sees him as less of a human and more of a tool or creature under their command. His father even lies to him about their finances so that Gregor works harder at his job, even though this would mean Gregor has to spend more time doing something that he hates. Despite all of this, Gregor remains loyal to his family even after his metamorphosis. He is happy to find his family has been holding back money, so that they can pay for living without his financial support. The actual metamorphosis of his family occurs more in Gregor's mind than in the actual family. By the end of the novella, Gregor realizes that his family thinks of him as a bug and does not care for him anymore. His last act is to selflessly die in resignation.
Friday, January 13, 2017
My feelings about Baudelaire are mixed. I think his fascination with evil is pretty cool, but the way he writes is strange. He made a whole poem about a carcass and told his lover she was going to end up rotting away just like the carcass. He also uses stark juxtapositions like life vs. death and grossness vs. attractiveness. His imagery helps relate the image of an animal carcass being over taken by animals. Some of his imagery is disturbing, which furthers my dilemma.
Most of Sigmund Freud's conclusions about the workings of the mind, civilization's struggles, and other aspects of humanity come from deductive reasoning. As a doctor who greatly advanced the study of mental disorders, he was an expert at unveiling what is not visibly clear. For example, in the story of the woman who goes to the market with her cook, Freud deduces that the woman's dream has sexual connotations and is consistent with other patients who were childhood victims of sexual attacks. Whether or not you believe Freud's ideas, Freud was certainly a very abstract thinker that helped promote progress in society and move the thinking of his time away from the Enlightened ideas of the 19th century.
I enjoyed the Baudelaire readings better than Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. Both criticize human nature and believe that people are hypocrites and go against "real life." Baudelaire uses darker imagery that is similar to the works of Poe. This use of death and decay makes Baudelaire's writings more compelling than Dostoevsky's. Also, in Notes from Underground, the Underground Man's inability to take action and participate in society makes the story seem to meander along instead of proving a direct point. I believe that the short excerpts from Baudelaire are more direct in the negativity of human nature and the imagery that he utilizes and therefore serves its purpose better.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
In class, Mrs. Quinet gave us a few passages from Freud to read. He talks a lot of sexuality and the subconscious mind. Wasn't he also the guy who coined the term "Oedipus complex"? He states that a young boy subconsciously wants to kill his father and sleep with his mother. I'm not sure why he thought this was true, but he seems to be very interested in the psychology of sexuality.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Underground man makes me cringe. His social interactions give me second-hand embarrassment. The novella is somewhat difficult to read, not because of the elevated language, but because of how much I dislike underground man. I understand that the author is trying to prove a point about humans acting against their own self interest, but underground man goes too far. He does not understand social cues and even goes so far as to stalk an officer merely so that he can walk into him. I suggest that underground man is lman is purposefully acting against his own self interest in order to fuel his own pitiful self-hatred.
I think it is really interesting that laissez-faire capitalism was a liberal idea at one point. By modern liberal standards, a fully free market system would be a ridiculous idea. Nowadays, liberals are generally in support of government regulation in many areas, particularly involving the environment. The conservatives are usually against government regulation. Today's liberalism is a lot closer ideologically to socialism.
Friday, January 6, 2017
One of the key tenets of the Underground man's philosophy is that it is human nature to sometimes go against what is rational and instead do something that causes pain to themselves simply because humans want to express individualism. The piano key or organ stop metaphor is one of the most evident examples of this. People want to prove their humanity instead of being like a regulated machine. This leads to acting against their own self-interest even in situations in which they are aware of what will benefit them. Dostoevsky uses this to criticize the view of his time that people will act in their own self-interest if they become aware and that this self-interest will benefit society. Here, we can directly see how the persona of the Underground Man is created to criticize such ideologies such as liberalism and utilitarianism.
The Underground Man makes some good points in Part I, and Part II shows the background that influenced his mindset. In Part II, the Underground Man appears to have a false sense of reality, which may cause some people to question his validity. Throughout his life, the Underground Man had fantasized situations without actually acting on them. For example, becoming friends with his classmates and the officer who ignores him. This sense of fantasy is referenced in Part I when the Underground Man says this sense of fantasy is what prevents everything from being rational. The Underground Man's mindset is not rational, but shows to hurt him in life. At his current stage in life he seems to have accepted his isolation and chooses to continue to loathe himself even though it only hurts himself. Out of spite he defends his viewpoint and defends the sense of fantasy as what makes him superior to everyone else. Part II makes the Underground's Man points in Part I more questionable as to whether he is mad or simply just defying rationalism.
The Underground Man is really aggravating. All he does is complain. He complains about romanticism, other countries, other people, even his own ailments. He says he's sick, but he won't go to the doctor or do anything to help himself. He even says he hopes his liver hurts even more. He causes a big drunken scene at dinner. All he does is embarrass himself and then wonder why he's alone. What's his problem?