Eryn – Paper #4

Pitty, blatantly and obviously seen as a handicap to philosopher Nietzsche, masks the road to misunderstanding one’s true identity. Thought lowly upon the subject, he wrote On the Genealogy of Morals, that “the value of these values must be called into question…morality as consequence, as symptoms…” (21). Clearly compared to an illness, the philosopher questioned the value and morality of pity, and shed light on the contagious disease that may have caused humanity to fear life’s full potential destiny.

While genealogists search to find the root of good and evil, Nietzsche proposed to question it’s value rather than it’s origin. “Under what conditions did man devise these value judgments good and evil? And what value do they themselves possess?”(16) A brave yet clearly understood thought, had not been asked before. How much do we value morality and its judgments? What if they are “a sign of distress, of impoverishment…”(16). What if they are the handicap, the reason, the hurdle we must clear, to reach our full potential in life? Who is to say that pity and “the value of unegoistic” is not “evermore fundamental mistrust…a great danger to mankind!”(19). Rather than grieving in self pity, discover the true fear.  Unmask the origin who misguides individuals into conceptualizing that grand sacrificial gestures lead to morality.
Unfortunately mankind was lead to believe, centuries ago, that self sacrifice leads to morality. What is more unfortunate is the twisted and refined definition of sacrifice. Over the years pity has transformed into unjustified empathy and fear. Perhaps the origin of fear stems from good rather than evil. When observed as so, mankind’s fear stems from God rather than Satan(17).  Man should worship God, not fear, however man should learn from Satan’ s mistakes, a parallel connector to learning from others errors. However, Nietzsche made it clear to separate theological from moral prejudice(17).
Although Nietzsche paved a clear perspective that attacked pity, the philosopher highlighted its evolution throughout time. What became successful in the nineteenth century may not succeed in the twentieth century, just how it may not adjust accordingly to the twenty first century (17). Times change just like ideas and views. In the similar sense, this may be the reasoning behind pity’s distortion.
Rather than holding great value to the idea of morality, mankind should consider their “experiences” instead. While philosophers depend heavily on knowledge, Nietzsche declares they are not men of knowledge, rather men of experiences(15). They can also be perceived as men of experiences, however, they must disregard their doubts, fears, will, and health, for it genuinely molds individuals into who they are (16). That said, if they do not “throw caution to the wind” they may miss out on life’s opportunities.
Although bravery seems to be the most recommended route to take on this journey of life, there must be a balance between the two. Life essentially requires a ying and yang, harmony between good and evil, bravery and fear. Even though Nietzsche’s opinion of pity is rather low, it is essential to human life. If an individual was foolish enough to not allow self pity, a breakdown or mistake would be bound to occur. No one is perfect, no one is constantly afraid, and no one is fearless at every moment of the day. Fear and doubts are as natural as self pity, however, they must be “experienced” in order to grow and conquer (16).

Perhaps this is what Nietzsche meant by “experiences”. Perhaps this is why he believed that we must misunderstand to understand oneself. This may be how we find ourself. Just like the great scientists, we learn from trial and error before determining the great understanding oneself. A child must crawl before walk, and walk before run. It is only natural and the faster we accept this the sooner we will grow (21).

Maturity stems from experience, it is the continuous growth in understanding oneself. It is the failure, the lesson learned, and the development of the human being. In comparison to the distortion of the root words good and evil, society distorts mankind from birth to death. Everything is interchangeable. It is a lesson to learn, process and accept. Everyone and everything will change. It can not be stopped, however, it can be accepted. Stop fearing change, morality, good and evil. It is everywhere. Instead of fearing the uncertain, live life and it’s experiences, and maybe then you will understand yourself. Live your full potential life and the journey you are destined to experience.

Lindsey – paper #4

“ We are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge- and with good reason.” (15) This sentence seems somewhat misplaced given that, at least in the modern sense, philosophy is the pursuit of self-knowledge. So why does Nietzche say that? He says it is because, “ We have never sought ourselves…(15).”  It seems as though he believes that philosophers do pursue knowledge, just not knowledge of themselves so much as knowledge of the world, and the way philosophers pursue knowledge seems to be through experiences. Nietzche suggests that this may not be the best way to obtain knowledge (15). Since we live in the present, these “present experiences,” as Nietzsche refers to them, are an afterthought, and therefore are not really present experiences at all.  It is because of this fact that, Neitzche says, “ we are necessarily strangers to ourselves. (15)”

So the notion of philosophy as the pursuit of self-knowledge, at least based on this account, is paradoxical, as “we do not comprehend ourselves…(15)” and “… Are not “men of knowledge” with respect to ourselves. (15)” Neitzsche seems to suggest in the next section of the preface that a better way to pursue and obtain knowledge might be to develop and nurture ideas. When talking about the ideas that became the basis of this book, he says, “…let us hope that time has done them [his ideas] good, that they have become riper,clearer,stronger and more perfect.(16)” Following this statement, he begins to speak of how his ideas, over time, have developed and become more fluid and interlaced. The ideas also were not the result of idle thinking, they came from a “fundamental will of knowledge. (16)”  It seems that this “fundamental will of knowledge” is what makes this pursuit of knowledge   “fitting for a philosopher. (16)”  Neitzsche also seems to suggest that the reason “present experience”  is not the best way to discover knowledge, is because they are isolated acts ;and according to Neitzsche, “we have no right to isolated acts…(16).”

Having exhausted his musing about the best way to pursue knowledge, he moves on to the topic of morality, more specifically the ideas of good and evil. The origins of good and evil had, he says, “…pursued me even as a boy of thirteen.(16)”    This first philosophical effort of Neitzsche taught him that he must separate the moral from theological. Thus, he began to look for the origin of evil within the world rather than from behind it.   Once he began to do this, his original problem evolved into a different problem. The problem became “ under what conditions did man devise these value judgements of good and evil? And what value do they themselves possess? (17)”  Neitzsche didn’t publish any of questions or answers until prompted to by the publishing of The Origins of the Moral Sensations.  Of this book Neitzsche said, “Perhaps I have never read anything to which I have said to myself No, propostion by proposition…(18)”

It was at this time that Neitzsche put forth his idea of a genealogical approach rather than trying to find the origin.

Neitzsche is still concerned with the value of morality. This leads him to refute in a way his teacher’s views which he seems to believe lead to skepticism. He believed that this “spreading morality of pity” was causing an illness that was taking hold on European culture. Neitzsche seems to be arguing that pity has some sort of worth, unlike his contemporaries who are “united in one thing: in their low estimation of pity. (19)”   Neitzsche seems to suggest that “ we need a new critique of moral values, the value of these values must themselves first be called into question. (20)” This is what ties the pursuit of knowledge to value. The conditions in which these moral values grew and changed are very important to creating this new critique of which Neitzsche speaks.    This was the original problem that Neitzsche set out to solve,however, because his problem changed, he never discovered the answer to the original problem. The solution to this problen is critical to the formation of a new critique, but it has never existed. So the value which we have for these values has to be taken seriously, so it has been taken for granted that something that is good is assigned a higher value than something that is bad, and something that is bad has a higher value than something that is evil.

The new problem that Neitzsche deals with is what if the opposite of what we believe of these values turns out to be true. This could make all the knowledge that has been acquired over hundreds of years completely irrelevant, but I’m not convinced that would be a complete diasaster. Were that to happen, the basis of knowledge could be self knowledge rather than experiences.  Having read this in its entirety, the first line of the preface makes much more sense because this problem that Neitzsche deals with could potentially change our pursuit of knowledge and what our value of things like good, evil and pity are. This could mean that men would focus on knowing themselves before looking for knowledge of the world.

Lindsey – Paper #3

In The Course the Nations Run, Vico lays out three ages that every nation goes through. The parallels between the nations he describes in this book and the United States are clear to me.  Based on American history, each of the eleven triadic special unities are represented and it is appropriate that, at least by the standards of many Americans today, this makes a connection to the Christian religion that was the beginnings of our country.

First, comes the three ages: the age of the gods, the age of the heroes and the age of men.  In America, the age of the gods would extend from colonization to the post-revolution period. The founders of the United States are held in this extremely high regard almost as if the were deities. Everything that is American, from the way our government works to the laws that we abide by, were given to us by the founders. Those things are the oldest institutions in our history. That description is very similar to the description Vico gives of the age of the gods, “ …in which the gentiles believed they lived under divine governments, and everything was commanded them by auspices and oracles,which are the oldest institutions in profane history. (20)” Though there were heroes during this period, we give them a higher pedastool because they are our beginning.

Next comes the age of heroes which would be the period between post revolution to the end of World War I. This era in our history is littered with figures that we idolize and regard as heroes. These “heroes” lived a charmed life and are held in much higher esteem than the average man. Vico says that men in this era “reigned everywhere in aristocratic commonwealths.(20)” For much,if not all of this period, the men elected to the highest office in the nation were war heroes and a type of natural aristocrat, even if that natural aristocracy was only given to them by the people rather than by bloodline.  Vico also describes these heroes as possessing “a certain type of superiority of nature which they held themselves to have over the plebs.(20)” The men history calls heroes had about them this air of greatness and in reality did hold themselves to a higher standard, it was this charisma and natural superiority that they oozed which made them the insiders and the ones with the power in the country.

Lastly, is the age of men, our current era.  This era is one in which all men see themselves as equal, this matches up with the type of social order we have in America today. Everyone is seen as equal because no one is encouraged to be excellent. Vico says that in this age, “…all men recognize themselves as equal in human nature…(20).”  This is the type of behavior that leads to the forming of oragnizations, Vico says “…therefore there were established first the popular commonwealths and then the monarchies, both of which are forms of human government.(20)”  This era lacks the old institutions of the age of gods and the natural leadership and aristocracy of the age of heroes. This era is fundamentally ordinary, almost mediocre.

Universally, nations grow and develop into these ages. This growth and development is constant and unchanging from this come three natures: poetic/creative nature, heroic nature and human nature.   The first nature is one of idealized animations, those that are viewed as almost divine, the next nature is one of natural authority and nobility, and the latter a nature of modesty and humility.

When looked at closely each “age” of American history goes through each of these natures, they start out idealistic, trying to make their own mold, and finally, the fire dies and they accept the way things are without realizing all the progress that has been made. Though I’m not sure that, at least when applied to American history, there is a religious connotation to the first nature.

From these natures, arise three kinds of customs: religion and piety,choleric and punctilious and dutiful. The first is evident in the age of the gods in America, and even in the beginnings of the other ages though they gradually fade in the later ages.Each age begins with this return to piety and a movement towards religion. Specifically in the case of the founding of the United States there was a movement to towards religion and relgious freedom that is unlike anything we’ve seen since in the country.

These are untentional parallels I’m sure, but this course of nations is scarily accurate when applied to American history.

Eryn – paper #3

Italian philosopher and author, Giambattista Vico, was a man who used his text, The New Science of Giambattista Vico,  to speak to sophisticated individuals. Rather than traditionally teaching his audience he showed them authentic research that was driven by facts and fables. The author, who used sense to seek understanding, repeatedly used God as the core foundation to show his readers that human life was purposefully constructed. Vicco did not intend to create an argument or beat around the bush, but instead he wanted to expose his readers to the truth, which was that like mathematics, life was intentionally designed.

From the beginning of his book, Vicco used God as a piece of evidence to provide the foundation of worldly accepted principles. He laid out this foundation by starting from scratch and using evidence from the beginning of time- the creation of man. “We should begin our study by scientifically ascertaining this important starting-point…which takes its start from the fact that the first people of the world were the Hebrews, whose prince was Adam, created by the true God…”(p 33/51). From here Vicco continued to write that the “Hebrew religion was founded by the true God”(68/167), due to His creation of His people. He used these examples to show readers that the human race must have been created. Once created, God intended for events to occur in people’s lives, choices to make, and paths to choose. He further explored this idea and stated “the flood was world-wide is proved”. This serves as an example of a intentional occurrence rather than a creation because God created the people, the water, the land, etc. but intended a world wide floor to occur in their lives.
Unfortunately, all readers do not believe in God, which lead to Vicco’s exploration of wisdom. Grecian theological poets were “versed in this wisdom”, which explained why “the Latins called the judicial astrologers ‘professors of wisdom’”(111/365). Although these men were wise, “the word ‘wisdom’ came to mean the knowledge of the natural divine…which is seeking knowledge of man’s mind in God, and recognizing God as the source of all truth…the regulator of all good”(111/365). Thus said, the “knowledge of man’s mind in God” is truly dependent on what God intends to insert into man’s mind.

Furthermore, God does intend to insert certain wisdom into the human mind, however, what man chooses to do with that wisdom is entirely up to him. For example, when the Hebrews “lost sight of their natural law during their slavery in Egypt” God had to redirect His people to the correct path through Moses (125/317). In other words, God did not create the wrong path that mankind chose, however, because of this He intended for Moses to guide the Hebrews back to the life He originally intended them to live.

Although God intended the Hebrews to follow the divine law, the correct knowledge of God and his intentions would not be of any help either. For instance, God does not intend to tell us his intentions, for man must battle to follow His divine law and from there man can learn them. Yet if man truly believes that he contains God’s knowledge, he must humble himself. Vicco warned readers, “just as on the other hand arrogance will lead them to atheism”(143/502), or even to praise ancient Roman gods(172/506).

In conclusion, The New Science of Giambattista Vico is a piece of work that shows, rather than argues, his audience that life was intentionally designed. By using biblical references to piece together evidence, Vicco ultimately succeeded his goal. This work became so successful because he used familiar facts, such as the flood and the slavery in Egypt, to back up his belief rather than arguing that he is correct.

Julie – Paper #2

The existence of God is a concept that is explored in the Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene’ Descartes. In Meditation Five, he explores the notion of material things and the complexity of the perception of material things in accordance with the mind. He understands the reason behind material things, but within the boundaries of what he knows and understands. He understand the what may be outside of him may not be what is inside of him, which is shown in his mind and body argument. He uses this argument as a pathway to bring fourth his perception of God. By using essence versus existence as an explanation for his arguments he is able to navigate through the complicated premises that suggest the existence of material things and in the end, the existence of God.

Descartes’ basis of understanding is the argument of a mind-body union. The question of what exists inside the mind and what exists outside the body is a very important aspect of the argument that he is presenting. He knows that me must understand what is inside his mind before he can understand the thing outside of his mind. “Yet, before inquiring whether any such thing exist outside me, I surely ought to consider the ideas of these things, insofar as they exist in my thought, and see which ones are distinct and which ones are confused (pg. 45).” He understands that to know the existence of a concept, object or anything of that nature, he must understand the essence of that said thing outside of his mind. He needs to make the distinction between what he understands and what he find confusing. This first critical step allows him to know what exists in his mind so that he can make the connection between the mind and the body to further understand the existence of said thing.

Each said thing has its own nature. Descartes believes that although there are many things that exist in his mind as well as outside his mind, they each have certain aspects. “And although, in a sense, I think them at will, nevertheless they are not something I have fabricated; rather they have their own true and immutable natures (pg. 45).” Each thing has a nature that exists without the mind. “For example, when I imagine a triangle, even if perhaps no such figure exists outside my thought anywhere in the world and never has, the triangle still has a certain determinate nature, essence, or form which is unchangeable and eternal, which I did not fabricate, and which does not depend on my mind (pg. 49).” The essence of this thing, in this case a triangle, exists outside the mind, but it can exist inside the mind as well. This nature of the triangle is true and eternal no matter what in the world. It is not thought of in any other mind, it is just there because of its determined nature. It is a continuous thing in which the essence of it is present inside the mind and outside the mind, which in turn allows for its existence.

Descartes uses this as a smooth transition into the argument of the existence of God. He follows the same premises to try and come to a similar result. He believe that the existence of God can be proven using the same notions he has of any other thing in which its existence can be argued. “Clearly the idea of God, that is, the idea f a supremely perfect being, is one I discover to be no less within me than the idea of any figure or number (pg. 46).” He is bringing God into an argument that is used with all other things. He understands that like the essence of a triangle existing inside of his mind as well as outside of him, the existence of God can be related by using the same argument. A triangle has a constant essence and so does God.

“For although it is not necessary that I should ever happen upon any thought of God, nevertheless whenever I am of a mind to think of a being that is first and supreme, and bring forth the idea of God as it were from the storehouse of my mind, I must of necessity ascribe all perfections to him, even if I do not at the same time enumerate them all or take notice of each one individually (pg. 46).” I believe that since Descartes believes the perfections of God inside of his mind, he automatically sees God as the ultimate perfect being. The perception of God in his mind is what he knows for sure and what a constant essence within him is. This allows him to believe the perfection of God as a whole in his mind, although he may not understand the individual perfections that make up the essence of God. This is how he understands the essence of God in his mind.

Descartes believes that what he clearly understands in his mind is true and it exists, this includes the notion that God exists. “Consequently, there is a great difference between false assumptions of this sort and the true ideas that are inborn in me, the first and chief of which is the idea of God. For there are a great many ways in which I understand that this idea is not an invention that is dependent upon my though, but is an image of a true and immutable nature (pg. 47).” He knows that those notions he believes to be clear and distinct in his mind are those that are born within himself. He believes that he does not need to be dependent on what he thinks to understand the essence of God, in which leads him to believe the true existence of God. What he clearly understands is not what he thinks, but it is rather what he is born with. “But, whatever type of argument I use, it always comes down to the fact that the only things that fully convince me are those that I clearly and distinctly understand (pg. 47).”

Descartes believes that those things that he clearly and distinctly understands are not blocked by certain issues such as ignorance. He knows that he is capable of ignorance due to certain outside sources and other worldly things that may affect his perceptions of a certain thing, but if the essence and perfections of God are already instilled in his mind, there is no way that he can be ignorant of said perfections and the essence of God? He speaks of “previously made judgments (pg. 47).” He knows that he cannot focus on one perfection or one thing in his mind, so other judgments may cloud his mind, but his born perception of the existence of God would not be affected if he were ignorant. “Thus, other arguments can be brought forward that would easily make me change my opinion, were I ignorant of God. And thus I would never have true and certain knowledge about anything, but merely fickle and changeable opinions (pg. 47).”

I believe that Descartes knows that the existence of God is fact, because in his mind he knows that the essence and perfections are clear to him and they are distinct and they are natural. He believes that there are other arguments outside of his mind that may change him or mold the essence of some ideas, but that would be because of ignorance. “Be that as it may, this changes nothing; for certainly, even if I were dreaming, if anything is evident to my intellect, then it is entirely true (pg. 48).” He cannot control the judgments that occur outside of his mind, but he can control the effect of them, purely because he believes clearly and distinctly the essence of God exists within his mind and outside of it.

Eryn – Paper #2

Meditation, commonly associated with a physical discipline, is more than a clear mind and a healthy lifestyle. According to Descartes, meditation is an exercise of self-knowledge. When practiced correctly, self-knowledge will achieve meditation’s original goal- to find a foundation that is certain to be true. In his piece entitled, Meditations, Descartes used six meditations to prove God’s existence. Furthermore, he believed his meditations could convert the non-believers by providing an explanation for God’s existence rather than the traditional preaching and lecturing.
Meditation One: Concerning Those Things That can be called into Doubt, reminds readers to doubt everything unless it is certain. For example, “arithmetic, geometry…contain something certain and indubitable”(29). What is certain is “whether I am awake or asleep, two plus three makes five, and a square does not have more than four sides” (29.) Obvious statements such as those should not be considered false, however, everything else must be considered false until proven certain, including God.

Descartes continued to Meditation Two: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind: That it is Better Known than the Body. This meditation reinforced meditation one and added to doubt memory, for it is deceitful (30). But what if one were to doubt God? The knowledge of God reveals that He is all good and never evil, yet our mind is deceitful. In this case should we question our existence as well as Gods? No because there is no doubt we exist. We take up space, we have substance we have a presence. Even though we must doubt our mind, we should never doubt our senses. Our senses are connected to our body. If my mind senses pain it is because my body feels pain as well. The body and mind are intertwined with senses for certain, yet the mind must be continually questioned for validity since it can be deceitful.
Descartes uses meditation to provide proof of God’s existence in The Third Mediation, Concerning God That He Exists. Unlike the last two meditations, that prepared readers for receiving the truth through the use of meditations, the third meditation uses eminent reality and formal reality to prove His existence. Eminent reality is higher or more real than having something formally (36). For example, God does not have mountainhood but he can bring mountains into being. It is the ability to create or cause other things. Formal reality, which is intrinsic, has formal reality but goes through different stages (37). For example, the idea of a creator existing is a form of formal reality because the creator, God, placed the idea inside my head. My mind is not the idea. Although all ideas have the same formal reality, the content or representation of an idea is defined as objective reality (37). Descartes uses objective to prove God as the idea of “a supreme deity, eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, and creator of all things other than Himself” (36). Therefore, humans are limited, we are not supreme, eternal, or infinite and we do not have formal reality (37). God on the other hand is not limited and has formal reality (38).
For further explanation, his fourth Meditation regards truth and falsity. In addition to formal reality, Descartes demonstrates why man is subject to mistakes and errors. “It is impossible for God to ever deceive me, for trickery is always indicative of some imperfection (41).” Since God is perfect, as explained in Meditation Three, deception is not the answer. “Rather it just so happens that I make mistakes because the faculty of judging the truth, which I get from God, is not, in my case, infinite” (41). As a result of man’s limitations humans are susceptible to misjudgment and, in contrast, God is infinite therefore He is not.
Although Descartes argued the reason behind the idea of God was His existence, His placement of this idea was purposely distributed into the minds of man, and that He is perfect and infinite, does validate His existence. This is why he wrote the Fifth Meditation, Concerning the Essence of Material Things, and Again Concerning God, That He Exists. This meditation serves as proof for God’s existence and is meant to provide certainty. Within this work he further explained that the idea of God is so clear and descriptive that the human mind is not capable of imagining a creator so great(46). Ultimately, God must have placed this idea into our minds.

Finally, the last meditation, Concerning the Existence of Material Things, and the Real Distinction between the Mind and Body, takes a different route. Instead of justifying the body’s existence, Descartes presents the probability.Within his first observation “there is a great difference between a mind and a body, in that a body, by its very nature is always divisible”(53). He continued to explain the great difficulty to separate the image of the mind and the body. “Although the entire mind seems to be united to the entire body, nevertheless, were a foot or a arm or any other bodily part to be amputated, I know that nothing has been taken away from the mind on that account”(53). Once understood that the mind and the body are separate from one another, the recognition of the different parts of the mind will be comprehended as well. “…The faculties of willing, sensing, understanding, and so on be called ‘parts’ of the mind, since it is one and the same mind that wills, senses, and understands”(53). The second observation regards common sense. He wrote, “my mind is not immediately affected by all the parts of the body, but only the brain, or perhaps…where ‘common’ sense is said to reside”(53). In addition to his second observation, he furthermore provided an explanation of the distinction between the mind and the body. For instance, the body and it’s parts are all connected. In this case if there was a “ cord ABCD, and if the final part D is pulled, the first part A would be moved exactly the same manner as it could be, if one of the intermediate parts B or C were pulled, while the end part D remained immobile”(54). Likewise, he continued, “when I feel a pain in my foot, physics teachers me that this sensation takes place by means of nerves distributed throughout the foot, like stretched cords extending from the foot all the way to the brain”(54). The mind would feel the same pain as the foot. The last observation highlights the richness of sensations and how they “conduct the maintenance of a healthy man” (54). In conclusion to the sixth mediation, “there is nothing to be found in them that does not bear witness to God’s power and goodness”(54).

In the final analysis, Descartes used six meditations to prove God’s existence. He chose this assuming humans to be rational and that in order to be convinced he must provide them with justification and evidence. Ultimately, he found the foundation of certainty and verified his certainly. Not only did he provide readers proof of God but he provided proof of the immortal soul and the different realities. In addition to providing evidence, he provided guidance, like God does with His children, regarding the order of mediations to read. It is with this combination through the use of meditation that he may have reached success converting the non believers to believers. Instead of preaching and lecturing, he laid out the evidence and supported it, a perfect approach to convert a rational man’s way of thinking.

Lindsey – Paper #2

In Meditation one, Descartes addresses the things that can be called into question, and makes a case as to why we can doubt everything.  This doubt is useful in “freeing us from all prejudices.” (26)  This freedom from prejudice allows us to start fresh and discover for ourselves the things that are true. The things we are taught when we are young and take for granted that they are true cause a weak foundation, because of this we should “raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting” (27).  This is, however,impossible to do without being free of all cares and prejudices, as well as being prepared to withdraw from the world so as not to be contaminated by the outside world.  Descates suggests “witholding assent from opinions that are not completely certain,” rather than proving all of your previous opinions false (28). Even though he says that we should “raze everything,” it seems that he views reason as something that he can count on.

The senses are called into question almost immediatley in the first meditation, and they aren’t just dimissed, they are harshly critiqued and seemingly forbidden (28).

It seems that after this Descartes reconsiders the severity of his claims and reconsiders saying, “…still there are many ither matters concerning which one simply cannot doubt, even though they are derived from the very same senses” (28).  He seems to think that the senses are accurate most of the time and even poses the question, “ …on what grounds could one deny that these hands and this entire body are mine” (28).  Then he brings up dreaming, and seems to begin questioning the senses again.  It is like he’s saying humans sleep and wake, but who is to say that our waking moments aren’t just dreams.  Descartes says, “I see so plainly that there are no definiteive signs by which ti distinguish being awake from being asleep,” and as a result of this confusion he is “ becoming quite dizzy and this dizziness nearly convinces me that I an asleep” (28). As an answer to this problem Descartes says that there are three types of ideas: innate, adventitious, and fabrications. The innate ideas come from one’s own nature, adventitious are concieved bodily and fabrications are generated by the mind.  For Descartes, these three classes allow us to conclude, “…that physics, astronomy,medicine and all the other disciplines that are dependent upon the consideration of composite things are doubtful” (29).  These categories also allow us to see that things that are seen in an arithmetic way are “certain and indubitable” (29).

Descartes begins to take on the existence of God in Meditation one, but finishes it in Meditation three.  He believed that he was created by someone or something, and that this innate idea was put into him by the very same substance that created him. He says that some people believe that God is fictious and that, “…they supose that I came to be what I am either by fate or by chance, or by a connected chain of events, or by some other way” (29).  Descartes thinks that the “author of his origin” is not an “evil genius” type, but rather “ a supremely good God” (29).  His proof for that is, more or less,  his reason, will and ability to make sense of things.  The basis for his proof of God is the three types of reality: eminent,formal and objective.  Eminent reality is the ability to cause other things, formal reality is the intrinsic reality of something, and objective reality is the content of an idea.  Based on these types of reality and the fact that Descartes never doubts causal principles, he lays out his first proof, “ Now it is indeed evident by the light of nature that there must be at least as much reality in the efficient and total cause as there is in the effect of that same cause” (35).  Things have to have some sort of cause because they don’t just spontaneously appear out of nothingness, they are caused and those causes have to have reality, especially in the case of ideas, meaning that the idea has to have at least as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality.  The next proof Descartes lays out is that his idea of God had to come from somewhere since it is as clear and distinct as it is, and that the giver of this idea must have be infinite since a human is finite and cannot give such an idea.  Descartes phrases this proof, “ a certain substance that is infinite.independent,supremely intelligent,supremely powerful anf that created me along with everything else that exists” (38).  Everything has some type of reality, but it is limited since they cannot just snap their fingers and create more, which means something with infinite formal reality must exist since things must be created.  Since humans are most definitely limited, we don’t have infinite formal reality which is cause to believe that there exists something separate from humans that has this infinite formal reality.


Eryn’s Paper – #1

The world’s constant evolution and change within society caused modernity’s time frame to be difficult to pinpoint. Perhaps, due to the failure, Michel Foucault’s view of modernity as an attitude rather than a period of time should be reconsidered. After all, what was considered modern one hundred years ago is now considered obsolete.

Immanuel Kant’s An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment claimed that immaturity enrooted the issue of man failing to conquer the goal of modernity (Kant 1). For example, he viewed immaturity as a choice to not use one’s understanding, a choice to not grow intellectually, and to not reach one’s full potential. He defined this issue as laziness and steered his audience to understand that maturity comes with hard work and effort.

In response to Kant’s piece, Michel Foucault’s What is Enlightenment, built on the original idea and attempted to end the echoing answer to his question that was asked two centuries ago(Foucault 1). He explained the Enlightenment as an age of the new that dismissed the old which lead to the introduction of modernity.  He then took another perspective and questioned if it was a time of understanding and growth, then one can claim that man lives in a never ending cycle of enlightenment. The world is moving, growing, and is never at a standstill. This is the reason why he viewed enlightenment or modernity as an attitude rather than a specific period of time.

Foucault analyzed Baudelaire’s work and added “Modern man, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not ‘liberate man in his own being; it compels him to face the task of producing himself” (Foucault  8). He further explained that in order to have the attitude of modernity, one must constantly choose to be conscience of growth, the present, and the endless opportunities that life frequently presents to man.

Modernity, a choice in attitude, is rather difficult to posses. It takes practice and time. It is “an exercise in which extreme attention to what is real and confronted with the practice of a liberty that simultaneously respects this reality and violates it” (Foucault 8). In other words modernity is a choice to notice small details, to grow, to prosper, to become conscience of one’s surrounding. It is often practiced and forgotten hours later. Modernity is the reason it is possible to grasp the “heroic” aspect of the present moment (Foucault 7) or the opportunity that may lead one to happiness or despair. It is the choice to take each and every opportunity into consideration since no man is capable of knowing when another moment will present itself. When one has the attitude of modernity, one is conscience of life and moments, open to opportunities, and not fearing the unknown.

Until one takes the leap of courage to accept modernity into daily life, maturity will be out of reach. This is because it is immature to be content with current knowledge and falling into the trap of the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling, referring to the limitless opportunities life presents, is beyond foolish to believe. Life has its own agenda. It is ever changing, moving at a speedy pace.

Nevertheless, this is the reason why it is considered brave to mature and to live life as a student who is viewing the world as a school. Kant received this knowledge when he interrogated the present, the enlightenment, and man. He believed that man must approach this problem in a philosophical matter.

Yet even if man were to approach the problem of modernity and the convenience of immaturity (Kant 1), as Kant refers to it, in a philosophical matter, it is still far too difficult to become consciously aware of ones surroundings without over analyzing life itself. For example, if man is continuously attempting to remind oneself to be conscious of life and the wonderful opportunities it may give, man is not living life, he is just searching for something that may not be there. Man would fail to better himself and grow if one were to take this route. This is why modernity is so difficult to conquer and grasp. This attitude needs balance and this is why looking at modernity from the philosophical point of view is so confusing and, at the same time, so discouraging. Even Foucault himself is not confident that “we will ever reach mature adulthood” (Foucault 15). Reason being, for Foucault’s doubt, is the “problematized relation to things, others, and ourselves” (Foucault 15).

In conclusion, Foucault proved himself and his outtake on modernity as an attitude rather than a point a time. Although living with a modern attitude is extremely difficult and at times unreachable, it is a task that requires work on mans limits, a patient labor giving form to our impatience for liberty (Foucault15). At best man can attempt to have a modernity attitude by balancing a busy life, living in the moment, taking the time to better oneself.

Julie’s Paper – #1

The concept of Modernity is something that can be applied to all physical objects and all mental concepts that are thought out in this world. Art is a superior physical and even mental example of the evolution of the concept of modernity. History of art is all categorized into time period of when certain art with a certain style is created. There is the Renaissance Era, the Impressionist Era, The Cubist Era, and so on. With each style created, the question of “what is art?” is revisited. Modernity can be applied to art the same way it can be applied to life. The question of “what is?” is always revisited when a person or society is approached by the impending time of the future.

Ernst Cassier said that, “Modern philosophy began with the principle that the evidence of our own being is impregnable and unassailable. But the advance of psychological knowledge has hardly confirmed this Cartesian principle (Cassier, 1).” The knowledge we may have of the world is different than what people in the past have believed and what people in the future will believe. A parallel can be made to art in this matter. The knowledge of art and the definition of art are always changing. Some works of art today would not be considered art in the eighteenth century. What we see as individuals in this society may not be the same thing others in a more historical society saw. Not one idea is truly infinite in its same form that was thought of in the beginning. Is it truly possible to define an object or an idea in a way that will be eternal in the eyes of future societies?

Art is a form of human thought; it is merely a sliver of what we humans can develop in our complex minds. Art is not just a physical object; it is a thought of the mind that is simply expressed in a physical way. Many people view art as a channel from the experience and emotion of life into a physical thing that can be viewed, interpreted and touched. The human experience is constant with all people throughout history and the future. “Introspection reveals to us only that small sector of human life which is accessible to our individual experience; it can never cover the whole field of human phenomena. Even if we should succeed in collecting and combining all the data, we should still have a very meager and fragmentary picture-a mere torso- of human nature (Cassier, 2).” Art can stem from introspection, I feel as though again, there is another parallel that can be made believing in the soul and inner thoughts creates the mode that is needed to create art. The thoughts and self-experience cannot ever be the constant in this world, because it is true that life is finite. No human phenomenon is constant without the infinite guarantee of life, which does not exist. If modernity is a stem from the thoughts and experiences of individuals, than modernity itself is not infinite, at least in the definition that it is currently in. So is there is a “modern” period in art, is it truly modern?

In 1917, there was an artist by the name of Marcel Duchamp, who created a piece of art titled “Fountain,” although this art looked nothing like a fountain. Duchamp had taken an old porcelain urinal and signed it with the signature “R. Mutt.” This piece of art was thought to be a remarkably unusual style of art since no other artist had taken an object and manipulated it in a way like Duchamp had. The piece was rejected by many art commissions and was thought be useless and was not considered art. What Duchamp had really done though was move the definition of art from a more physical definition to a more mental definition. Modern art has become an idea. At least it has become an idea in what we today refer to as “modern art.”

The same thing can be said for Duchamp’s rendition of the Mona Lisa. Duchamp slapped a mustache on the Mona Lisa and called it “L.H.O.O.Q.” These types of art make you think about what art really is. The same can go for what Cassier was saying when he criticized Diderot on his thought on the evolution of science. Cassier said this of Diderot, “He began to doubt the obsolute right of these ideals. He expects the ride of a new form of science- a science of a more concrete character, based on the observation of facts than on the assumption of general principals (Cassier, 17).” But there was one problem with Diderot’s theory, the facts even just a hundred or so years later were being overshadowed by newer facts that proved the earlier facts wrong. History is sued to develop those new thoughts that may shape out interpretation of modernity, but there is no stopping the new interpretations and idea that may arise. “Our Problem is simply to collect the empirical evidence which the general theory of evolution has put at out disposal in a rich and abundant measure (Cassier, 18).”

Theory is the driving force into modernity. Thought and interpretation of experiences shapes new forms of what we consider to be “normal.” It shapes new pieces of art and new ideas of art, such like the “Fountain.”  “But what became more important for the general history of our ideas and for the development of philosophical thought was not the empirical facts of evolution but the theoretical interpretation of these facts (Cassier, 18).” These facts can be paintings and sculpture, concrete things that are already interpreted. Interpretation of what we already see is the basis for the creation of things and ideas that may exist in the future. New pieces of art are formed by what we see from our eyes in our time, in our modern thought process, But what may be seen by future generations is something that we cannot come up with, but it must be thought of by future societies, based upon what we have given them.

Lindsey’s Paper #1

Theology is thought to be the way to understand human nature, according to Cassirer.(11-12) Religion brings up the idea of a double-man, almost like a before and after image of the fall from grace. It seems as if religion takes the stance, that mankind is entitled to be the right hand of God. However people often refrain from accepting their destiny. According to this piece, the fall of humanity from grace has somehow distorted and “perverted” its reason. (12)  The so called “classical maxim” is to know yourself, but what does that mean? In this piece, regarding religion, it is stated that, “ Man cannot confide in himself and listen to himself,” man has to hear the “higher, truer voice.”(12) If man does listen to that higher voice it completely contradicts the classical maxim “know thyself.” (12) Obviously religion isnt the answer to the problems that plague men, but it also never claims to do so. Religion is based almost entirely on faith and oral tradition. It isn’t logical, and that does nothing but deepen the mystery of the human condition. Though religion seems to state man is entitled, it also states that salvation is something that is freely given and withheld.  So religion is really just a giant contradiction of itself.

In another article, written by Willard Arnett, Cassirer is said to believe that religion as well as myth are “internal, spontaneous” creations of man and are purely “forms of experience.” (161) If religion is, indeed, only a form of experience, then it can be altered by the circumstances and/or environment that people are in.  Cassier suggests that religion and art are so closely realted that they are almost intertwined. Sometimes the two are so closely linked by history, that they “permeate one another” so that they are “ indistiguishable in content and inner formative principle.” (162)

Cassirer seems to think that religion and myth are the same, calling them “ interpretations of reality-not by concepts but by intuituions.” (163) He even goes so far as to say that, “By its very nature religion can never excape fromt he sphere of the ‘image,’ the sphere of intuition and fantasy.” (163)   It seems as though religion struggles to escape this paradox and bring itself into reality.  Cassirer may see both religion and art as creations of the mind that aren’t based on fact, but opnion seems unpopular with some. The other opinion that floats about this issue, is that religion and art can be distinguished.  Regarding relgion, it has been said that, “ image can never be treated as merely a picture, as an arbitrary play of the powers if imagination. The image has a meaning, in that it not only represents the truth but is the truth itself.” Cassirer seems to be a proponent of primitive religion, such as ancestor worship, because it “empasizes the continuity and indestructibleness of life.” He then suggests that religion and myth are very smiliar, (even if the origins varry) it is due to the fact that “ feeling that all like is one.” (164)

In his earlier writings, Cassirer separated the two by noting the lack of distiction between meaning and existence, a distinction that is crucial in religion. Once Cassirer loses the distinction between religion and myth, his philosophy on religion stops quite abruptly.  It is quite clear that for Cassirer, religion and myth, along with art, language and science, are all symbolic rather than realistic. Symbolic in this instance, does not refer to the common definition, here it refers to “ forces each of which produce and posit a world of its own.” (165)

Discarding the theological paradigm in favor of the mathematical, and later the biological was well advised. That manner of thinking was never based on facts and didn’t aid in the resolution or explanation of humanity and human nature.  There have always been certain things that humanity has been concerned with, unfortunately for the thoelogical paradigm, those things are facts rather than faith.  While that way of thinking may have been reasuring and calming to the worries of humanity, the fact still remains that humans want to know why things happen. The biological and mathematical paradigms provided that. That is not to say that theology is no longer valid, but it is not a ‘definite’ way to figure out how the world turns, nor does it provide the answer for why it turns or how fast it turns. There are many things that cannot be answered without extensive study. Some people will take the time to study while others accapt it for what it is. Regardless, it is known that biological and mathematical paradigms exist, to be used in discovering new things, and contmplating the constants in nature.