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.

Kant: Freedom & Rationality

Between every paradigm of philosophical thought, philosophers have set out on a singular quest for self-knowledge or, what modernists like to say, enlightenment. Each philosophical age started from distinct concepts and came at the question with varying attitudes. Different from previous metaphysical and theological approaches, modern philosophy believed human reason and rationality could finally find a universal solution to that question of self-knowledge. In Immanuel Kant’s 1784 essay “Answering the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’”, we saw an interesting and somewhat surprising take on enlightenment and how Kant believed we could reach it. He claimed true enlightenment only came when man could courageously emerge from his immaturity and daringly use his own reason and understanding. Kant then defined immaturity as man’s “inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another”, and it is this dependence on other people that Kant claimed stunts man’s philosophical growth (1). What then was Kant’s solution? Freedom, he claimed, was all that was needed to find enlightenment. It was not just any freedom, but the “freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters” (1). He vehemently insisted that the public use of man’s reason must always be free, and we were left to wonder why Kant was so adamant about keeping it that way. However, before we can dwell deeper, we first have to clarify what Kant meant by a man’s public and private uses of his reason.

Continue reading

Kant’s Enlightenment

“Self incurred immaturity” is the reason for the need of Enlightenment and it is just this immaturity which is “man’s inability to make use of his understanding without the direction of another”. Kant argues that it is not because man lacks reason but because of a “lack of resolution and courage to use it without the direction from another”. Therefore man brings guardianship upon himself and hands his authority and instruction on someone else to decide for him. It is from this logic that Kant declares: “have courage to use your own understanding!” and establishes it as the definition of Enlightenment.
The nature of self incurred immaturity is highly complex and in order to free himself from it one has to take an uncertain leap, in order to understand what would necessitate such an action on an individual level. Initially, Kant acknowledges that for any individual to extract himself from this life of immaturity would be very difficult because it is just this ‘immaturity’ which has become “almost second nature” to him. As a result the individual becomes fond of such a state, and in this position Kant believes that mankind is “really incapable for the time being for using his own understanding”. Since “never [having been] allowed to make the attempt” of using his reason, the individual is bound in a perpetual state of immaturity. Moreover, what is further problematic for mankind’s situation is what Kant observes as the “ball and chain of permanent immaturity”. These fetters are presented to man under the false illusion of contributing to his enlightenment but in actuality they are “mechanical instruments for his rational (misuse) of his natural endowments”. This means that mankind is kept from his release from the self-inflicted immaturity by false preoccupations, fooling him in believing that he has engaged his natural gifts in the right things. As a consequence his state of immaturity becomes permanent. Hence, Kant believes that the ball and chain appear in the form of “dogmas and formulas, those mechanical instruments for rational use”.
Kant then argues that anyone who does manage to rid himself of these shackles is still in self-defeating position as “he would still be uncertain about jumping over even the narrowest of trenches , for he would be unaccustomed to free movement of this kind”. The only solution to this dilemma according to Kant is to cultivate one’s mind. However, then what would be the instances which would indicate such a cultivation? The answer would be to become free from ‘immaturity’ which can also mean to be separated from incompetency and then secondly to continue on this journey of cultivation at a regulated pace.
Interestingly, there is then a shift in the manuscript and Kant guides his argument from the enlightenment of the individual to the enlightenment of the public. It is significant to note that perhaps Kant has an agenda in beginning his argument with the enlightenment of the individual. Only an enlightened individual can play a key role in helping the public be enlightened. In essence, there would not be an enlightened public without an enlightened individual. The enlightenment of the individual and the public both of which are still in process, that is during the period of Kant’s writing, define the Age of Enlightenment. According to Kant, we are not yet in the Enlightened Age, since the process is still unfolding.
Therefore “freedom” is the prerequisite for the public to be enlightened. Kant claims that if freedom is granted enlightenment is sure to follow. Having such freedoms would then create an environment in which independent thinkers may exist. Ironically, Kant also mentions that such independent thinkers may also be found “among those appointed as guardians of the common mass”. But these guardians can become independent thinkers after “they have themselves thrown off the yoke of immaturity”. They will be able to “disseminate the spirit of rational respect for personal value and for the duty of all men to think for themselves”.
What follows is a twist in Kant’s argument, which is that the guardians who are keeping the great masses of the people under this ‘immaturity’ are themselves also bound with a similar ‘immaturity’. As a result they are unable to appreciate their own worth in their assumed role as guardians. By being able to appreciate their own worth, they allow every man to think for himself and thus when everyone thinks for themselves, no one will be the guardian of the other. So to keep other people in this Immature state means to bring and keep this state upon oneself. As a result you do not appreciate yourself either. Kant would then claim that an oppressor causes oppression to himself as well.
However, there are some guardians who are capable of some enlightenment but unfortunately these guardians are forced by the public to remain bound. And yet the public is not doing this out of its own volition, but is incited to do so by some guardians. These guardians should realize that “it is very harmful to propagate prejudices because they finally avenge themselves on the very people who first encouraged them (or whose predecessors did so)”. It is important to remember that it was the public that was first brought under this yoke by the guardians. Then, in turn the guardians are brought under this yoke by the public through the incitement of the felloe guardians. This results in a complex web of contention between the guardians and those under them. It is because of these contentions that “a public can only achieve enlightenment slowly”. However, Kant warns that a revolution ca not ensure “ a true form in ways of thinking”. The revolution is limited as it can only ensure the “end to autocratic despotism and to rapacious or power seeking oppression”. This is because, according to Kant, the ways of thinking are never reformed via a revolution, the new “prejudices, like the ones they replaced, will serve as a leash to control the great unthinking mass”. Enlightenment is therefore more than the physical space of freedom. It directly relates to mental freedom –that is the rational appreciation of one’s own worth whether as an individual or as the collective public.
So only when society is experiencing freedom can enlightenment truly take place. However, the environment of freedom, which is to the benefit of the public, is defined by Kant as the “freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters”. By this definition, reason does not know any rest and can not exist in a state where it is not reasoning. For Kant, freedom and reasoning go together, however he himself offers the hindrance to such a utopian idea as there are “restrictions on freedom everywhere”.
Therefore for Kant, the two notions of the Age of Enlightenment and the Enlightened Age are contrary. According to him the society of his time is still undergoing the Age of Enlightenment and the majority of the individuals and the public have not yet reached the Enlightened Age, since they are still under the influence of a self-imposed “ immaturity”.

In Search of Oneself: Science and Religion

Ernst Cassirer’s chapter in An Essay on Man, “The Crisis of Man’s Knowledge of Himself,” is focused on exploring a fundamental question: What is man? The first answer he produces is this: Man is, in the classical sense, is a being that is in search of itself (5). He divides human knowledge into four paradigms, four different ways of understanding self-knowledge: Biology, Religion, Mathematics and Philosophy. I am looking at two of these paradigms of understanding, Religion and Science. These two paradigms are traditionally painted as opposites; they are in tension because they seem to provide dissenting views of the world and human nature. The fact that there are four different paradigms indicates that any one of them is insufficient in describing the human experience by itself. Religion and science, then, represent two essential aspects of self-knowledge.

Continue reading