Sharing a Meal at the Table

Image result for claude monet woman reading
Claude Monet stans RISE

Although the Enlightenment and Romanticism are two eras which I had some knowledge of, taking this class has certainly cultivated a more complex and informed comprehension of what these two forces not only mean by themselves, but what they mean for each other. In other words, while I recognize the importance in treating these two periods of time as distinct breeding grounds for what grew to be two starkly different ideologies, I believe that a space exists where both find themselves in, where both find themselves intermingling with each other.

My belief that the Enlightenment and the Romantic period thus leads me to agree with both sides: while the need for a skeptical, individual intellectualism has proven to be instrumental in ushering forth a time of great discovery and reflection, the period of Romanticism allowed people more sentimental, metaphorical reprieve from such an attitude of intense pragmatism. In combining these two ideas, I don’t however necessarily believe that moderation is what produces the optimal, intellectual framework: Enlightenment ideals and Romantic ones don’t exist on a continuum, but are rather parallel processes, where the boundary of their parallelism becomes more or less permeable in specific areas.

From this evaluation of the importance in understanding how Enlightenment and Romanticism as not being diametric opposites, but are rather mental structures with a capacity to overlap, the compatibility between Enlightenment and Romanticism becomes evident. A commitment towards science and individualism allows for the clearer articulation of the organicist ideals clear in Romantic thought: everything must necessarily have life, but perhaps that ‘life’ can be interpreted as function, and every human being houses within themselves an intense realm of emotion, which cannot be denied by the Enlightened belief in oneself. An appreciation for the sentiments behind one’s actions, as well a the value of introspection can be realized in Enlightenment ideals as the fuel for why one reasons as they do, and the reassessment of one’s own beliefs, respectively.

This confluence between the rigidity of the Enlightenment and the fluidity of Romantic ideals has impacted the way in which I view the Western World, and is something which will continue to inform the way I appraise literary and social movements not only there, but in all the world. When people boast an argument of impenetrable cogency, perhaps a consideration of their motivations behind developing such a claim is necessary in further appreciating their beliefs: in this way, Enlightened ideals are revealed to be underlain with a Romanticist impetus. When looking at a piece of art, say by Georges Seurat, a closer inspection of much of his repertoire consists of entire images composed by tiny dots: in this instance, it is observed how one’s aesthetic, Romantic experience of art exhibits a foundation in Enlightenment ideals through the “effort” of much tinier, organized and intended constituents, to build something of even greater organization.

In undergoing the expansive and frustratingly rigorous work called upon us to complete, something which I’ve taken away, and continue to take away from preceding HUM courses, is the value in open-mindedness. This doesn’t necessarily mean relegating oneself to a state of false omniscience characterized by a complacent acceptance of all ideas, but the willingness to take a stance, but allowing other perspectives to have a recognized seat at the table. Enlightenment scholars and Romantics have equal license to partake in the same intellectual circles. HUM 4, and the HUM classes which have come before it, encourage an appreciation for not just one “person” partaking in this meal, but the event itself. There’s much to choose from, and perhaps a certain ideal may taste better to some, but there is value in knowing that others will have different preferences, and that yours–and theirs–may change.

Why CARE-avaggio About Art?

Caravaggio’s Narcissus

Narcissus’ famed tale, as realized through Caravaggio, shows a harmony between the sensual and intellectual due to his masterful artistry. In consideration of its complexity, Caravaggio’s Narcissus will be addressed through two details which which reflect the reconciliation of sense and intellect: the stark, visual difference between Narcissus and his reflection, as well as Narcissus’ posturing over the pond which yields his reflection. In uncovering the significance behind these features, the audience would enjoy the artwork from a perspective marked by a more complex understanding of the warnings the artwork purports. That is, the danger in excessive self-love.

In assessing the difference between Narcissus and his reflection, it is first important to note the similarity between them: the pool does offer a mirror to Narcissus, and thus both figures are inherently similar. However, it is in this similitude through which the contrast between them is enhanced. Narcissus himself is painted with the pederastic, aesthetic standards of Greek mythology: he has a supple build, ivory skin, and feminine features as seen through his hair. In essence, Narcissus fulfills the beauty expectations of his time, and he executes these while maintaining a vibrancy to him. In stark contrast, his reflection is dimmer, with certain features becoming swallowed up by the water’s darkness. In noticing this, there is a contrast that can be extrapolated which exists within the same person: despite Narcissus’ lively, outer appearance, in reality he is a somber, pitiful being due to his self-obsession. Our senses allow us to see the contrast between Narcissus and his reflection: our knowledge of the myth allow us to know that this artwork attempts to visualize the tragic end of excessive self-love. In specific, this ‘end’ is the inevitable demise of becoming too pre-occupied by oneself: Narcissus does indeed die due to his narcissism.

In observing Narcissus’ physical positioning, one will see that his posturing might be abnormal. When enamored by one’s own reflection, one might visualize a narcissist simply laying bellow-down, cradling their head in their hands as they dreamily watch their own reflection. This however, is not the case in Caravaggio’s work: Narcissus is hunched over, kneeling, and with hands, flat on the ground, supporting a frame weighed down by egotism. By using one’s intellect to interpret the art in this way, one might see that Narcissus is in fact not enjoying his pulchritude: he is slaving over it. Narcissus’ act of adoring himself then stops becoming a romantic daydream, but a perilous trap that is equal parts alluring and consuming. This idea of self-love as an exhausting, self-destructive force then becomes a message that rises from the artwork. From this potential conclusion, it becomes easy to understand how art, by merging the sensual and intellectual, can yield insights into how one ought to live, how one ought to behave morally.

Making Freedom “Stick”

Despite there being no apparent American iconography (actually, most of them are Asian culture references) on the stickers I’m showing on my laptop (and towards the back, my hydroflask), I still believe there can be a connection made between them and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In the text, two articles resonate with me: Article 11, “The free expression of thought and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man: thus every citizen may freely speak, write, and print” and Article 10, “No one must be disturbed because of his opinions, even in religious matters, provided their expression does not trouble the public order” (Declaration, pg. 239). These two excerpts connect to my having stickers on my laptop because each one, although whimsical and not necessarily referential to anything serious, symbolizes the value I place on what each sticker illustrates. Thus, my stickers are more than just aesthetic adhesives, but semblances of my beliefs and personal thoughts. This becomes relevant to the American thought of freedom because such documents, which provide a foundation for the American perception of liberty, hold that it is my right to express myself and my values (so long as it brings no harm to others). This is maintained even for interests which have an origin outside of the American world (as I’m pretty sure neither Aristotle nor the Final Fantasy JRPG franchise were created in the US).

Largely, the reason why I chose to discuss stickers for this assignment is because of their frivolous nature: by no measure is there a clear necessity for having such things. Despite their frivolity, stickers can represent two significant–and often, inextricably tied–notions which are fundamental to the American existence: freedom and expression. With this in mind, it has led me to wonder whether or not freedom and expression can indeed be separated, and, if one’s freedom was confiscated, they could still retain their right to expression. Would a similar outcome occur if expression was taken away for liberty?

Why ‘Kant’ Love be Scientific?

A concept redefined through Kant’s literature is the notion of love, and how his conception of duty and knowledge of Christian scripture informs his consideration towards love. According to Kant, love is regarded as a good will for others that is validated through one’s own acts as opposed to emotional indicators. Additionally, love is understood as some charity from “duty”, another charged word within Kant’s rhetoric which can be defined as one’s actions which are motivated by some good will rather than by some desire for a consequence of fulfilling one’s duty.

The reason for my fascination with Kant’s interpretation of love is because of its spiritual complexity as well as its reflection of the effort to appropriate an objective, scientific framework to a subjective realm like love.

Aside from obviously referencing the bible at the beginning of his description of love, Kant further illustrates how love ought not to be regarded as a mere emotion, but as a spiritual experience. With regards to the Christian implications contained within Kant’s work, I look to his use of the word “beneficence” when describing love as a “beneficence” of duty. This word is often synonymous to charity, which reveals a clear connection to the book of Corinthians, where love is understood as “agape”, a word for love that also denotes the meaning of charity. With this understanding, a contradiction from Enlightenment tendencies is revealed: despite a general aberration from the spiritual, Kant is both explicit and referential about and to Christian scriptures, incorporating a spiritual understanding to love.

When assessing how well Kant’s definition of love lines up to Enlightenment ideals, a simultaneous tension and attempted reconciliation can be recognized in his attempts to make love an enlightened experience. First, the tension is revealed in the inherent incompatibility between spirituality and the rationalist framework which pervades the Enlightenment era. Secondly, and more importantly, the reconciliation can be found within the facets that Kant attaches to love as a means to establish its place within Enlightenment sentiments. This is apparent in Kant’s description of how love behaves: “it lies in the will and not in the propensity of feeling, in principles of action and not in melting sympathy; it not alone can be commanded” (Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, pg. 55). This passage reveals a connection between Enlightenment ideology and love due to way in which love is equated to observable data: Kant claims that love must be realized through willful action as opposed to a consequence of emotional vehement that often exists outside of complete, human control. By presenting love as an activity which must be observable and free from the irrationalities of emotional whims, Kant exhibits an effort to make love a force which complements Enlightenment ideals of controlled, empirical observation.

From my perspective, no form of media better express a successful union of love and science than music. My justification for choosing music is its balanced quality of simulating a dynamic experience within the rigid confines of musical notation. In attempting to quantify the complexity of human emotion through the construction of organized sound, music becomes instrumental in identifying a middle ground for emotions–like love–and science. In specific, I will be assessing Leo Delibes’ opera Lakmé, specifically the song “Viens, Mallika”, which is more popularly known as “The Flower Duet”. For contextualization, “Viens, Mallika” was written for two characters, Lakmé and Mallika, who express their filial love for each other as they revel in the beauty of the edenic environment surrounding them.

This love song, when considered under a Kantian lens, reveals how the confluence of Enlightenment thought with the subjective arena of musical experience produces a nexus of art that justifies the compatibility of love with science. While expressed through music, which is up to subjective interpretation, the performance itself is grounded by the presence of the sheet music: a compendium of harmonies, notes, and keys which contribute to an organized “language” of music. In this way, the representation of love becomes realized through music, acting as an intermediary, which is methodically grounded by a logical, arbitrary–and therefore scientific–symbology. Furthermore, being able to perceive two characters emote their love for each other, if one is willing to suspend their disbelief, shows another point of application for this song to Kant’s philosophy: in actually seeing people act on their love through song, the Enlightenment ideal of observability is acknowledge and fulfilled. By utilizing a Kantian lens to assess the Delibes’ Lakmé, an opera which explores themes of romantic and platonic affection, we see how music can become a vessel for love to inhabit so it may be re-evaluated through a more scientific framework.

I Wrote This While Eating A Scone

Hey guys! My name is Thomas! I’m a Linguistics (Speech and Language Sciences) major, but I’m planning to acquire a second major in Religion (Christian Tradition) within this academic year.

As for my personal background, I was born in the Philippines (specifically Manila). However, I moved to the Bay Area (Dublin) for a brief time before spending most of my life in New England (specifically, Connecticut). During high school, I returned to the same place in the Bay Area and now I find myself here in San Diego–you can say I like change, even welcome it!

A major interest of mine is researching the Linguistics of Religion. Ever since I was young, I was always enamored by the way divinity and language interacted with each other to create a nexus of phenomena and preservations of human behavior. If this is something that intrigues you, I am always more than happy to talk about it!

My favorite book that I’ve read so far is John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Although I would say I’ve had a ‘favorite’ for every HUM course I’ve taken, I would say (with some trepidation) that this one is indeed my favorite over all! Aside from masterfully wedding together concepts which are of great fascination to me (linguistics and religion), something which I consider are the contextual factors around which this piece of work was made in. Paradise Lost was made at a time when Europeans were colonizing foreign lands, and when read with this in mind, an anti-imperialist narrative can be uncovered. However, what interested me most was Milton’s own condition when writing this work. Milton at this time was going blind, and I believe his visual impairment adds an additional layer of complexity and tragedy to his work. Seeing as how Paradise Lost frequents in illustrating flower fields and other Edenic imagery, I can’t help but wonder if Milton’s tendency to over-emphasize natural beauty is a representation of his desperation in seeing it again.

The media I chose to select is Maria Callas’ performance of Habanera from the opera Carmen. I generally choose this song to recommend, namely because many people know the melody of this song but don’t know its name. Additionally, Maria Callas (in my opinion) is one of the best operatic vocalists known to us. She was even bestowed the name ‘La Divina’ (‘The Goddess’) because many described her voice as being sublime and otherworldly, even godly.