Archive | June, 2011

Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

Summary (Part 1)

In Chapter 2, Mill turns to the issue of whether people, either through their government or on their own, should be allowed to coerce or limit anyone else’s expression of opinion. Mill emphatically says that such actions are illegitimate. Even if only one person held a particular opinion, mankind would not be justified in silencing him. Silencing these opinions, Mill says, is wrong because it robs “the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation.” In particular, it robs those who disagree with these silenced opinions.

Mill then turns to the reasons why humanity is hurt by silencing opinions. His first argument is that the suppressed opinion may be true. He writes that since human beings are not infallible, they have no authority to decide an issue for all people, and to keep others from coming up with their own judgments. Mill asserts that the reason why liberty of opinion is so often in danger is that in practice people tend to be confident in their own rightness, and excluding that, in the infallibility of the world they come in contact with. Mill contends that such confidence is not justified, and that all people are hurt by silencing potentially true ideas.

After presenting his first argument, Mill looks at possible criticisms of his reasoning and responds to them.

First, there is the criticism that even though people may be wrong, they still have a duty to act on their “conscientious conviction.” When people are sure that they are right, they would be cowardly not to act on that belief and to allow doctrines to be expressed that they believe will hurt mankind. To this, Mill replies that the only way that a person can be confident that he is right is if there is complete liberty to contradict and disprove his beliefs. Humans have the capacity to correct their mistakes, but only through experience and discussion. Human judgment is valuable only in so far as people remain open to criticism. Thus, the only time a person can be sure he is right is if he is constantly open to differing opinions; there must be a standing invitation to try to disprove his beliefs.

Second, there is the criticism that governments have a duty to uphold certain beliefs that are important to the well being of society. Only “bad” men would try to undermine these beliefs. Mill replies that this argument still relies on an assumption of infallibility–the usefulness of an opinion is still something up for debate, and it still requires discussion. Furthermore, the truth of a belief is integral to whether it is desirable for it to be believed.

Mill observes that the assumption of infallibility about a certain question implies that one not only feels very sure about a belief, but also includes the attempt to try to decide that question for other people. It is in stifling dissenting opinions in the name of social good that some of the most horrible mistakes in human history have been made. Mill writes about Socrates and Jesus Christ, two illustrious figures in history, who were put to death for blasphemy because their beliefs were radical for their times. Mill then considers whether society should be able to censor an opinion that rejects a common moral belief or the existence of God and a future state. He gives the example of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a just and kind man who still persecuted Christianity, failing to see its value to society. Mill argues that if one is to accept the legitimacy of punishing irreligious opinions, one must also accept that if one felt, like Marcus Aurelius did, that Christianity was dangerous, one would also be justified in punishing Christianity.

Third, Mill considers the criticism that truth may be justifiably persecuted, because persecution is something that truth should have to face, and it will always survive. Mill replies that such a sentiment is harshly unfair to those who actually are persecuted for holding true ideas. By discovering something true, these people have performed a great service to humanity. Supporting the persecution of such people suggests that their contributions are not truly being valued. Mill also contends that it is wrong to assume that “truth always triumphs over persecution.” It may take centuries for truth to reemerge after it is suppressed. For example, Mill writes that the Reformation of the Catholic Church was put down twenty times before Martin Luther was successful. It is mere sentimentality to think that truth is stronger than error, although truth will tend to be rediscovered over time if it is extinguished.

Fourth, Mill responds to the possible argument against him that since we do not actually put dissenters to death any more, no true opinion will ever be extinguished. Mill replies that legal persecution for opinions is still significant in society, for example in the case of blasphemy or atheism. There is also no guarantee, given general public opinion, that more extreme forms of legal persecution will not reemerge. In addition, there continues to be social intolerance of dissent. Mill argues that societal intolerance causes people to hide their views, and stifles intellectualism and independent thought. Stifling free thinking hurts truth, no matter whether a particular instance of free thinking leads to false conclusions.

Commentary

In Chapter 2, Mill looks exclusively at issues of freedom of thought and of opinion. It is significant that he attempts to justify the importance of this freedom by showing its social benefits–for Mill, diversity of opinion is a positive societal good.

Mill’s argument that the dissenting opinion may be true brings up some important points. First, it highlights that Mill believes that moral truths do exist. Thus, in defending liberty, Mill does not say that all opinions are equally valid. Mill is not a relativist; he is not saying that all things can be true according to their circumstances. Rather, he is simply saying that any single idea might be true, and that for this reason no idea can be dismissed, since truth is a boon to progress.

Second, Mill tries to show the contingency of popular beliefs about truth while going to great lengths to not actually state that any popular views about things like religion are wrong. To accomplish this, he observes that in the past people have been persecuted for what is now believed to be true. Thus, Mill creates a logical situation in which anyone reading must accept that if they support persecuting “false” views, then they are required to accept their own persecution if in the minority on a specific issue. Mill is thereby able to dismiss the persecution of “false” views, without condemning modern views as being false.

Third, Mill’s examples of persecuted truths reflect some of his rhetorical strategies in this essay. Mill is very conscious of his audience in 19th century England, and he uses examples, like the crucifixion of Christ, which would certainly have resonance with his readers. This reflects a more general strategy in this essay of choosing familiar and often uncontroversial examples in order to make much broader moral claims. In reading this essay it is important to remember that England did not have the same legal protection of liberty that it has today; Mill uses examples to make his points that would not get him into trouble with the law or English society.

Finally, it is worth thinking about the importance of Mill’s assumption in the existence of truth to his justification for freedom of opinion. If no one could be wrong or right, would this require tolerance and respect of difference, or could the strongest opinion simply try to defeat all others? Mill does not try to answer this question, because the existence of truth is assumed throughout. However, thinking about such issues is important in seeing how persuasive Mill can be to people who do not share all of his assumptions.

Summary (Part 2)

After explaining how  popular opinions might be false, Mill makes three further arguments in favor of freedom of opinion.

His second argument (after the argument discussed last section that the popular opinion could be false), is that even if the popular opinion is true, if it is not debated it will become “dead dogma.” If truth is simply held as a prejudice, then people will not fully understand it, and will not understand how to refute objections to it. Dissent, even if it is false, keeps alive the truth against which it dissents.

Mill then turns to two potential criticisms of his argument.

First, one could say that people should be taught the grounds for their opinions, and that having been taught these grounds, they do not then merely hold prejudices but really understand the basis of their opinions. Mill replies that in cases where differing opinions are possible, understanding the truth requires dispelling arguments to the contrary. If a person cannot refute objections, then he cannot properly be said to understand his own opinion. Furthermore, he must hear these objections from people who actually believe them, because it is only these people who can show the full force of the arguments. Responding to objections is so important that if no dissenters exist, it is necessary to imagine them, and to come up with the most persuasive arguments that they could make.

A second criticism might be that it is not necessary for mankind in general to be familiar with potential objections to their beliefs, but only for philosophers or theologians to be thus aware. Mill replies that this objection does not weaken his argument for free discussion, because dissenters still must be given a voice with which to object to opinions. Furthermore, while in the Catholic Church there is a clear distinction between common people and intellectuals, in Protestant countries like England, every person is considered responsible for his choices. Also, in modern times it is practically impossible to keep writings that are accessible to the intellectuals from the common people.

Mill then presents a third argument for the value of liberty of thought and discussion. He writes that if a true opinion is not debated, the meaning of the opinion itself may be lost. This can be seen in the history of ethical and religious beliefs–when they stop being challenged, they lose their “living power.” Mill says that Christianity faces such a situation, where people’s beliefs are not reflected in their conduct. As a result, people do not truly understand the doctrines they hold dear, and their misunderstanding leads to serious mistakes.

Mill presents one possible criticism of this view. He writes that it could be asked whether it is essential for “true knowledge” for some people to hold erroneous opinions. Mill replies that having an increasing number of uncontested opinions is both “inevitable and indispensable” in the process of human improvement. However, this does not mean that the loss of debate is not a drawback, and he encourages teachers to try to compensate for the loss of dissent.

Mill then turns to a fourth argument for freedom of opinion. He writes that in the case of conflicting doctrines, perhaps the most common case is that instead of one being true and one false, the truth is somewhere between them. Progress usually only substitutes one partial truth for another, the newer truth more suited to the needs of the times. Dissenting or heretical opinions often reflect the partial truths not recognized in popular opinion, and are valuable for bringing attention to a “fragment of wisdom.” This fact can be seen in politics, where differing opinions keep both sides reasonable. In any open question, the side that is least popular at the time is the side that should be most encouraged. This side reflects interests that are being neglected.

Mill then looks at a criticism of this fourth argument. He says that it could be argued that some principles, such as those of Christianity, are the whole truth, and if somebody disagrees, he is completely wrong. Mill replies by saying that in many ways Christian morality is “incomplete and one-sided,” and that some of the most important ethical ideas have been derived from Greek and Roman sources. He argues that Christ himself intended his message to be incomplete, and that it is a mistake to reject secular supplements to Christian morality. Most basically, human imperfection implies that a diversity of opinion would be required to understand truth.

After looking at these four arguments for liberty, Mill briefly addresses the argument that free expression should be allowed, but only if it sticks to “fair discussion.” He says that such a standard would be very hard to enforce from a practical perspective. Mill posits that it would likely only be dissenters who would be held to such a high standard of conduct. Ultimately, it is not law’s place to restrict discussion in this way; public opinion must look at individual cases, and hold both sides to the same standard.

Commentary

Mill makes the case that if people hold a true opinion they will benefit from hearing dissenters argue against that opinion. He also observes that he thinks most people only know partial truths, and that they might benefit from hearing other fragments of truth. This discussion reflects a particular conception of how people learn. Mill contends that people learn through debate, and through having their opinions challenged. Thus, dissenting opinions are socially useful because they help people to understand the real strength (and limitations) of their own beliefs. Mill believes that the usefulness of dissenting opinions cannot be substituted for, neither when the unpopular view is partially true, nor when it is completely false.

One idea to consider when thinking about Mill’s argument is whether he has an overly idealized view of this learning process. For example, what happens when the conflicting opinions rest on fundamentally different presuppositions–are the conversations that Mill describes really possible? If people do not share the same vocabulary for discussing moral and political issues, then will they really be challenging each other, or simply talking past each other? Think about what answer Mill might give to this problem. If his answer is unconvincing, then can he still say that a diversity of opinions is socially useful?

Finally, it is also worth looking at Mill’s refutation of someone who thinks that Christianity is the whole truth. Mill seems to argue that such a person misinterprets Christianity. Would this response be convincing to a person with views on Christianity that are different from Mill’s? Does Mill have other arguments that might provide a better response to this claim? More generally, Mill’s discussion of religious toleration in Chapter 2 brings up the issue of whether Mill can be convincing to people whose beliefs demand intolerance of those who disagree with them. Since Mill is using social benefit as the basis of his justification for liberty, it would seem that a person who believes in intolerance could simply say that any benefits of free opinion are outweighed by allowing something evil to be expressed. Think about how persuasive such a critique is, given Mill’s claims about the need for dissent in order to truly understand one’s own opinions.

Source: http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/onliberty/section2.rhtml

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Theory of liberty ‘On Liberty’ John Stuart Mill

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

Theory of liberty ‘On Liberty’

Mill’s On Liberty addresses the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. One argument that Mill develops further than any previous philosopher is the harm principle. The harm principle holds that each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others. If the action is self-regarding, that is, if it only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself. He does argue, however, that individuals are prevented from doing lasting, serious harm to themselves or their property by the harm principle. Because no-one exists in isolation, harm done to oneself also harms others, and destroying property deprives the community as well as oneself. Mill excuses those who are “incapable of self-government” from this principle, such as young children or those living in “backward states of society”.

Mill argues that despotism is an acceptable form of government for those societies that are “backward”, as long as the despot has the best interests of the people at heart, because of the barriers to spontaneous progress. Though this principle seems clear, there are a number of complications. For example, Mill explicitly states that “harms” may include acts of omission as well as acts of commission. Thus, failing to rescue a drowning child counts as a harmful act, as does failing to pay taxes, or failing to appear as a witness in court. All such harmful omissions may be regulated, according to Mill. By contrast, it does not count as harming someone if — without force or fraud — the affected individual consents to assume the risk: thus one may permissibly offer unsafe employment to others, provided there is no deception involved. (Mill does, however, recognize one limit to consent: society should not permit people to sell themselves into slavery). In these and other cases, it is important to keep in mind that the arguments in On Liberty are grounded on the principle of Utility, and not on appeals to natural rights.

The question of what counts as a self-regarding action and what actions, whether of omission or commission, constitute harmful actions subject to regulation, continues to exercise interpreters of Mill. It is important to emphasize that Mill did not consider giving offense to constitute “harm”; an action could not be restricted because it violated the conventions or morals of a given society.

On Liberty involves an impassioned defense of free speech. Mill argues that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. We can never be sure, he contends, that a silenced opinion does not contain some element of the truth. He also argues that allowing people to air false opinions is productive for two reasons. First, individuals are more likely to abandon erroneous beliefs if they are engaged in an open exchange of ideas. Second, by forcing other individuals to re-examine and re-affirm their beliefs in the process of debate, these beliefs are kept from declining into mere dogma. It is not enough for Mill that one simply has an unexamined belief that happens to be true; one must understand why the belief in question is the true one.

‘On Liberty’ social liberty and tyranny of majority

Mill believed that “the struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history.” For him, liberty in antiquity was a “contest… between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government.” Mill defined “social liberty” as protection from “the tyranny of political rulers.” He introduces a number of different tyrannies, including social tyranny, and also the tyranny of the majority.

Social liberty for Mill was to put limits on the ruler’s power so that he would not be able to use his power on his own wishes and make every kind of decision which could harm society; in other words, people should have the right to have a say in the government’s decisions. He said that social liberty was “the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual”. It was attempted in two ways: first, by obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights; second, by establishment of a system of “constitutional checks”.

However, limiting the power of government is not enough. “Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

‘On Liberty’ View on liberty

John Stuart Mill’s view on liberty, which was influenced by Joseph Priestley and Josiah Warren, is that the individual ought to be free to do as he wishes unless he harms others. Individuals are rational enough to make decisions about their good being and choose any religion they want to. Government should interfere when it is for the protection of society. Mill explains,

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right…The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

‘On Liberty’  freedom of speech
An influential advocate of freedom of speech, Mill objected to censorship. He says: “I choose, by preference the cases which are least favorable to me – In which the argument against freedom of opinion, both on truth and that of utility, is considered the strongest. Let the opinions impugned be the belief of God and in a future state, or any of the commonly received doctrines of morality… But I must be permitted to observe that it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine (be it what it may) which I call an assumption of infallibility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less if it is put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions. However positive anyone’s persuasion may be, not only of the faculty but of the pernicious consequences, but (to adopt expressions which I altogether condemn) the immorality and impiety of opinion. – yet if, in pursuance of that private judgement, though backed by the public judgement of his country or contemporaries, he prevents the opinion from being heard in its defence, he assumes infallibility. And so far from the assumption being less objectionable or less dangerous because the opinion is called immoral or impious, this is the case of all others in which it is most fatal.”
Human rights and slavery

In 1850, Mill sent an anonymous letter (which came to be known under the title “The Negro Question”), in rebuttal to Thomas Carlyle’s anonymous letter to Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country. Carlyle had defended slavery on grounds of genetic inferiority and claimed that the West Indies development was due to British ingenuity alone and dismissed any notion that there was a debtedness to imported slaves for building the economy there. Mill’s rebuttal and references to the ongoing debate in the U.S. at the time regarding slavery were emphatic and eloquent. The full text, as well as a link to the Carlyle letter which prompted it, is available online.

Connection to feminism

“A Feminine Philosopher”. Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1873.

Mill saw women’s issues as important and began to write in favor of greater rights for women. With this, Mill can be considered one of the earliest feminists. In his article, “The Subjection of Women” (1861, published 1869), he talks about the role of women in marriage and how he felt it needed to be changed. There, Mill comments on three major facets of women’s lives that he felt are hindering them: society and gender construction, education, and marriage. Mill is also famous for being one of the earliest and strongest supporters of ever greater rights for women. His book The Subjection of Women is one of the earliest written on this subject by a male author. He felt that the ‘oppression’ of women was one of the few remaining relics from ancient times, a set of prejudices that severely impeded the progress of humanity.

Mill’s ideas were opposed by Ernest Belfort Bax in his treatise, ‘The Legal Subjugation of Men’.

On Liberty: John Stuart Mill.

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The Caretaker

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

The Caretaker is a play by Harold Pinter. It was first published by both Encore Publishing (publisher of Encore Magazine) and Eyre Methuen in 1960. The sixth play that Pinter wrote for stage or television production, it was his first significant commercial success. The play was first performed on stage at the Arts Theater, London, on 27 April 1960; it transferred to the Duchess Theater the next month. Its first run included 444 performances.

 

Origins and contexts of the play

Pinter’s own comment on the source of three of his major plays is frequently quoted by critics :

I went into a room and saw one person standing up and one person sitting down, and few weeks later I wrote The Room. I went into another room and saw two people sitting down, and a few years later I wrote The Birthday Party. I looked through a door into a third room and saw two people standing up and I wrote The Caretaker.

According to his official authorized biographer, Michael Billington, Pinter “talked in detail about the play’s origins” in images from his own personal experience and observations for the first time with him (in the mid 1990s), when Pinter told Billington that he wrote the play while he and his first wife Vivien Merchant

“were living [… ] in this first-floor flat in Chiswick: a very clean couple of rooms with a bath and kitchen. There was a chap who owned the house: a builder, in fact, like Mick who had his own van and whom I hardly ever saw. The only image of him was of this swift mover up and down the stairs and of his van going . . . Vroom . . . as he arrived and departed. His brother lived in the house. He was a handyman . . . he managed rather more successfully than Aston, but he was very introverted, very secretive, had been in a mental home some years before and had had some kind of electrical shock treatment . . . ECT, I think . . . Anyway, he did bring a tramp back one night. I call him a tramp, but he was just a homeless old man who stayed three or four weeks.” […] Mick, as he says, was the most purely invented character of the three. For the tramp [Davies], however, he had a certain fellow feeling. […] “It [the Pinters’ life in Chiswick] was a very threadbare existence . . . very . . . I was totally out of work. So I was very close to this old derelict’s world, in a way.”(Harold Pinter 114–17).”

For earlier critics, like Martin Esslin, The Caretaker suggests aspects of the Theatre of the Absurd, described by Esslin in his eponymous book coining that term first published in 1961; according to Esslin, absurdest drama by writers such as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Edward Albee, and others was prominent in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a reaction to chaos witnessed in World War Two and the state of the world after the war.

Billington observes that “The idea that [Davies] can affirm his identity and recover his papers by journeying to Sidcup is perhaps the greatest delusion of all, although one with its source in reality”; as “Pinter’s old Hackney friend Morris Wernick recalls, ‘It is undoubtedly true that Harold, with a writer’s ear, picked up words and phrases from each of us. He also picked up locales. The Sidcup in The Caretaker comes from the fact that the Royal Artillery HQ was there when I was a National Serviceman and its almost mythical quality as the fount of all permission and record was a source.’ To English ears,” Billington continues, “Sidcup has faintly comic overtones of suburban respectability. For Davies it is a Kentish Eldorado: the place that can solve all the problems about his unresolved identity and uncertain past, present and future” (122).

About directing a production of The Caretaker at the Roundabout Theater Company in 2003, David Jones observed:

The trap with Harold’s work, for performers and audiences, is to approach it too earnestly or portentously. I have always tried to interpret his plays with as much humor and humanity as possible. There is always mischief lurking in the darkest corners. The world of The Caretaker is a bleak one, its characters damaged and lonely. But they are all going to survive. And in their dance to that end they show a frenetic vitality and a wry sense of the ridiculous that balance heartache and laughter. Funny, but not too funny. As Pinter wrote, back in 1960 : “As far as I am concerned The Caretaker IS funny, up to a point. Beyond that point, it ceases to be funny, and it is because of that point that I wrote it.”

Characters

  1. Mick, a man in his late twenties
  2. Aston, a man in his early thirties
  3. Davies, an old man

Synopsis

This three-act play involves interactions between a mentally-challenged man, Aston; a tramp, Davies, whom Aston brings home to his attic room; and Aston’s younger brother (Mick), who appears responsible for the house.

 

Act I

(A night in winter)

 

[Scene 1]

 Aston has invited Davies, a homeless man, into his apartment after rescuing him from a bar fight (7–9). Davies comments on the apartment and criticizes the fact that it is cluttered and badly kept. Aston attempts to find him a pair of shoes for Davies but Davies rejects all the offers. Once he turns down a pair that doesn’t fit well enough and another that has the wrong color laces. Early on, Davies reveals to Aston that his real name is not “Bernard Jenkins”, his “assumed name”, but really “Mac Davies” (19–20, 25). He claims that his papers validifying this fact are in Sidcup and that he must and will return there to retrieve them just as soon as he has a good pair of shoes. Aston and Davies discuss where he will sleep and the problem of the “bucket” attached to the ceiling to catch dripping rain water from the leaky roof (20–21) and Davies “gets into bed” while “ASTON sits, poking his [electrical] plug (21).

[Scene 2]

(The LIGHTS FADE OUT. Darkness.)

(LIGHTS UP. Morning.)

As Aston dresses for the day, Davies awakes with a start, and Aston informs Davies that he was kept up all night by Davies muttering in his sleep. Davies denies that he made any noise and blames the racket on the neighbors, revealing his fear of foreigners: “I tell you what, maybe it were them Blacks” (23). Aston informs Davies that he is going out but invites him to stay if he likes, indicating that he trusts him (23–24), something unexpected by Davies; for, as soon as Aston does leave the room (27), Davies begins rummaging through Aston’s “stuff” (27–28) but he is interrupted when Mick, Aston’s brother, unexpectedly arrives, “moves upstage, silently,” “slides across the room” and then suddenly “seizes Davies’ “arm and forces it up his back,” in response to which “DAVIES screams,” and they engage in a minutely-choreographed struggle, which Mick wins (28–29), ending Act One with the “Curtain” line, “What’s the game?” (29).

Act II

 

[Scene 1]

(A few seconds later)

 

Mick demands to know Davies’ name, which the latter gives as “Jenkins” (30), interrogates him about how well he slept the night before (30), wonders whether or not Davies is actually “a foreigner”—to which Davies retorts that he “was” indeed (in Mick’s phrase) “Born and bred in the British Isles” (33)—going on to accuse Davies of being “an old robber […] an old skate” who is “stinking the place out” (35), and spinning a verbal web full of banking jargon designed to confuse Davies, while stating, hyperbolically, that his brother Aston is “a number one decorator” (36), either an outright lie or self-deceptive wishful thinking on his part. Just as Mick reaches the climactic line of his diatribe geared to put the old tramp off balance—”Who do you bank with?” (36), Aston enters with a “bag” ostensibly for Davies, and the brothers debate how to fix the leaking roof and Davies interrupts to inject the more practical question: “What do you do . . . when that bucket’s full?” (37) and Aston simply says, “Empty it” (37). The three battle over the “bag” that Aston has brought Davies, one of the most comic and often-cited Beckettian routines in the play (38–39). After Mick leaves, and Davies recognizes him to be “a real joker, that lad” (40), they discuss Mick’s work in “the building trade” and Davies ultimately discloses that the bag they have fought over and that he was so determined to hold on to “ain’t my bag” at all (41). Aston offers Davies the job of Caretaker, (42–43), leading to Davies’ various assorted animadversions about the dangers that he faces for “going under an assumed name” and possibly being found out by anyone who might “ring the bell called Caretaker” (44).

[Scene 2]

 

(THE LIGHTS FADE TO BLACKOUT.

THEN UP TO DIM LIGHT THROUGH THE WINDOW.)

A door bangs.

Sound of a key in the door of the room.

DAVIES enters, closes the door, and tries the light switch, on, off, on, off.

It appears to Davies that “the damn light’s gone now,” but, it becomes clear that Mick has sneaked back into the room in the dark and removed the bulb; he starts up “the electrolyte” and scares Davies almost witless before claiming “I was just doing some spring cleaning” and returning the bulb to its socket (45). After a discussion with Davies about the place being his “responsibility” and his ambitions to fix it up, Mick also offers Davies the job of “caretaker” (46–50), but pushes his luck with Mick when he observes negative things about Aston, like the idea that he “doesn’t like work” or is “a bit of a funny bloke” for “Not liking work” (Davies’ camouflage of what he really is referring to), leading Mick to observe that Davies is “getting hypocritical” and “too glib” (50), and they turn to the absurd details of “a small financial agreement” relating to Davies’ possibly doing “a bit of caretaking” or “looking after the place” for Mick (51), and then back to the inevitable call for “references” and the perpetually-necessary trip to Sidcup to get Davies’ identity “papers” (51–52).

[Scene 3]

(Morning)

 

Davies wakes up and complains to Aston about how badly he slept. He blames various aspects of the apartment’s set up. Aston suggests adjustments but Davies proves to be callous and inflexible. Aston tells the story of how he was checked into a mental hospital and given electric shock therapy, but when he tried to escape from the hospital he was shocked while standing, leaving him with permanent brain damage; he ends by saying, “I’ve often thought of going back and trying to find the man who did that to me. But I want to do something first. I want to build that shed out in the garden” (54–57). Critics regard Aston’s monologue, the longest of the play, as the “climax” of the plot.[5] In dramatically terms, what follows is part of the plot’s “falling action”.

Act III

 

 

[Scene 1]

(Two weeks later [… ]Afternoon.)

 

Davies and Mick discuss the apartment. Mick relates “(ruminatively)” in great detail what he would do to redecorate it (60). When asked who “would live there,” Mick’s response “My brother and me” leads Davies to complain about Aston’s inability to be social and just about every other aspect of Aston’s behavior (61–63). Though initially invited to be a “caretaker,” first by Aston and then by Mick, he begins to ingratiate himself with Mick, who acts as if he were an unwitting accomplice in Davies’ eventual conspiracy to take over and fix up the apartment without Aston’s involvement (64) an outright betrayal of the brother who actually took him in and attempted to find his “belongings”; but just then Aston enters and gives Davies yet another pair of shoes which he grudgingly accepts, speaking of “going down to Sidcup” in order “to get” his “papers” again (65–66).

[Scene 2]

(That night)

 

Davies brings up his plan when talking to Aston, whom he insults by throwing back in his face the details of his treatment in the mental institution (66–67), leading Aston, in a vast understatement, to respond: “I . . . I think it’s about time you found somewhere else. I don’t think we’re hitting it off” (68). When finally threatened by Davies pointing a knife at him, Aston tells Davies to leave: “Get your stuff” (69). Davies, outraged, claims that Mick will take his side and kick Aston out instead and leaves in a fury, concluding (mistakenly): “Now I know who I can trust” (69).

[Scene 3]

(Later)

 

Davies reenters with Mick explaining the fight that occurred earlier and complaining still more bitterly about Mick’s brother, Aston (70–71). Eventually, Mick takes Aston’s side, beginning with the observation “You get a bit out of your depth sometimes, don’t you?” (71). Mick forces Davies to disclose that his “real name” is Davies and his “assumed name” is “Jenkins” and, after Davies calls Aston “nutty”, Mick appears to take offense at what he terms Davies’ “impertinent thing to say,” concludes, “I’m compelled to pay you off for your caretaking work. Here’s half a dollar,” and stresses his need to turn back to his own “business” affairs (74). When Aston comes back into the apartment, the brothers face each other,” “They look at each other. Both are smiling, faintly” (75). Using the excuse of having returned for his “pipe” (given to him earlier through the generosity of Aston), Davies turns to beg Aston to let him stay (75–77). But Aston rebuffs each of Davies’ rationalisations of his past complaints (75–76). The play ends with a “Long silence” as Aston, who “remains still, his back to him [Davies], at the window, apparently unrelenting as he gazes at his garden and makes no response at all to Davies’ futile plea, which is sprinkled with many dots (“. . .”) of elliptical hesitations (77–78).

Analysis of the characters

Aston

When he was younger he was given electric shock therapy that leaves him permanently brain damaged. His efforts to appease the ever-complaining Davies may be seen as an attempt to reach out to others. He desperately seeks a connection in the wrong place and with the wrong people. His main obstacle is his inability to communicate. He is misunderstood by his closest relative, his brother, and thus is completely isolated in his existence. His good-natured attitude makes him vulnerable to exploitation. His dialogue is sparse and often a direct response to something Mick or Davies has said. Aston has dreams of building a shed. The shed to him may represent all the things his life lacks: accomplishment and structure. The shed represents hope for the future.

 

Davies

Davies manufactures the story of his life, lying or sidestepping some details to avoid telling the whole truth about himself. A non-sequitur. He adjusts aspects of the story of his life according to the people he is trying to impress, influence, or manipulate. As Billington points out, “When Mick suggests that Davies might have been in the services — and even the colonies, Davies retorts: ‘I was over there. I was one of the first over there.’ He defines himself according to momentary imperatives and other people’s suggestions” (122).

 

Mick

At times violent and ill-tempered, Mick is ambitious. He talks above Davies’ ability to comprehend him. His increasing dissatisfaction with Davies leads to a rapprochement with his brother, Aston; though he appears to have distanced himself from Aston prior to the opening of the play, by the end, they exchange a few words and a faint smile. Early in the play, when he first encounters him, Mick attacks Davies, taking him for an intruder in his brother Aston’s abode: an attic room of a run-down house which Mick looks after and in which he enables his brother to live. At first, he is aggressive toward Davies. Later, it may be that by suggesting that Davies could be “caretaker” of both his house and his brother, Mick is attempting to shift responsibility from himself onto Davies, who hardly seems a viable candidate for such tasks. The disparities between the loftiness of Mick’s “dreams” and needs for immediate results and the mundane realities of Davies’s neediness and shifty non-committal nature creates much of the absurdity of the play.

 

Style

The language and plot of The Caretaker blends Realism with the Theater of the Absurd. In the Theater of the Absurd language is devalued.

 

The play has often been compared to Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, and other absurdist plays because of its apparent lack of plot and action.

The fluidity of the characters is explained by Ronald Knowles as follows: “Language, character, and being are here aspects of each other made manifest in speech and silence. Character is no longer the clearly perceived entity underlying clarity of articulation the objectification of a social and moral entelechy but something amorphous and contingent (41).

Language

One of the keys to understanding Pinter’s language is not to rely on the words a character says but to look for the meaning behind the text. The Caretaker is filled with long rants and non-sequiturs, the language is either choppy dialogue full of interruptions or long speeches that are a vocalized train of thought. Although, the text is presented in a casual way there is always a message behind its simplicity. Pinter is often concerned with “communication itself, or rather the deliberate evasion of communication” (Knowles 43).

 

The play’s staccato language and rhythms are musically balanced through strategically placed pauses. Pinter toys with silence, where it is used in the play and what emphasis it places on the words when they are at last spoken.

Mode of drama: Tragicomedy

The Caretaker is a drama of mixed modes; both tragic and comic, it is a tragicomedy. Elements of comedy appear in the monologues of Davies and Mick, and the characters’ interactions at times even approach farce. For instance, the first scene of Act Two, which critics have compared to the hat and shoe sequences in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, is particularly farcical:

 

ASTON offers the bag to DAVIES.

MICK grabs it.

ASTON takes it.

MICK grabs it.

DAVIES reaches for it.

ASTON takes it.

MICK reaches for it.

ASTON gives it to DAVIES.

MICK grabs it. Pause. (39)

Davies’ confusion, repetitions, and attempts to deceive both brothers and to play each one off against the other are also farcical. Davies has pretended to be someone else and using an assumed name, “Bernard Jenkins”. But, in response to separate inquiries by Aston and Mick, it appears that Davies’ real name is not really “Bernard Jenkins” but that it is “Mac Davies” (as Pinter designates him “Davies” throughout) and that he is actually Welsh and not English, a fact that he is attempting to conceal throughout the play and that motivates him to “get down to Sidcup”, the past location of a British Army Records Office, to get his identity “papers” (13–16).

The elements of tragedy occur in Aston’s climactic monologue about his shock treatments in “that place” and at the end of the play, though the ending is still somewhat ambiguous: at the very end, it appears that the brothers are turning Davies, an old homeless man, out of what may be his last chance for shelter, mainly because of his (and their) inabilities to adjust socially to one another, or their respective “anti-social” qualities.

Interpretation:

In his 1960 book review of The Caretaker, fellow English playwright John Arden writes: “Taken purely at its face value this play is a study of the unexpected strength of family ties against an intruder.” As Arden states, family relationships are one of the main thematic concerns of the play.

Another prevalent theme is the characters’ inability to communicate productively with one another. The play depends more on dialogue than on action; however, though there are fleeting moments in which each of them does seem to reach some understanding with the other, more often, they avoid communicating with one another as a result of their own psychological insecurities and self-concerns.

The theme of isolation appears to result from the characters’ inability to communicate with one another, and the characters’ own insularity seems to exacerbate their difficulty communicating with others.

As the characters also engage in deceiving one another and themselves, deception and self-deception are motifs, and certain deceptive phrases and self-deceptive strategies recur as refrains throughout the dialogue. Davies uses an assumed name and has convinced himself that he is really going to resolve his problems relating to his lack of identity papers, even though he appears too lazy to take any such responsibility for his own actions and blames his inaction on everyone but himself. Aston believes that his dream of building a shed will eventually reach fruition, despite his mental disability. Mick believes that his ambitions for a successful career outweigh his responsibility to care for his mentally-damaged brother. In the end however all three men are deceiving themselves. Their lives may continue on beyond the end of the play just as they are at the beginning and throughout it. The deceit and isolation in the play lead to a world where time, place, identity, and language are ambiguous and fluid.

By: Aqsa Riaz

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Doctor Faustus As A RENAISSANCE Play

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

Renaissance which literally means re-birth or re-awakening ,is the name of a Europe-wide movement which closed the trammels and conventions of the Mediaeval age, and makes for liberation in all aspects of life and culture. There was a shift from heavenly to earthly life. Wealth, knowledge and power of knowledge were the touchstones for the Renaissance man on which he judged and gauged each and everything. The main ingredients of this new spirit were individualism and worldliness. These two traits found manifestation in many forms such as:

1. Yearning for knowledge

2. Learning without fetters

3. Love of beauty

4. Hankering after sensual pleasures of life

5. Spirit of adventure

6. High ambition

7. Lust for power and pelf

Though the influence of the spirit of the Renaissance marks all the writers of the later half of the age of Elizabeth—- in poetry, drama and prose romances and novels, that influence can be seen working with particular force on Marlowe and his fellows who together are called the “University Wits”. Of them again, the writings of Marlowe are the most prominent embodiment of the spirit of the renaissance. Generally speaking, Marlowe himself is the spirit of the renaissance incarnate. In the conception of the central characters of his dramas, he is impelled by the renaissance spirit for unlimited powers, unlimited knowledge for the sake of power, unlimited wealth, again, for the sake of power. On the aesthetic side, love of physical beauty, unbounded desire of love for the pleasures of the senses, infinite longing for truth are the characteristics of the imaginative life which glittered before his eyes in that great age of daring adventures. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is the representative of the Renaissance and reflects the contemporary problems of life.

Doctor Faustus being the product of Renaissance and the mouthpiece of Marlowe is dissatisfied with the conventional sphere of knowledge. He has a towering ambition to become a deity. The knowledge of logic, medicine, law and divinity are insufficient for him as he says:

Philosophy is odious and obscure,

 Both law and physic are for petty wits,

Divinity is basest of the three.”

He wants to attain super human power, like Renaissance man, which can

only be gained by necromancy. For him “A sound magician is mighty God”.

So he declares his intention in these words: “Here, Faustus, tire thy brain to

gain a deity.”

There was, an intellectual curiosity during the Renaissance: The new discoveries in science and developments in technology went beyond mere material advances. I t was a youthful age to which nothing seems impossible. Before the European, this period opened a new world of imagination. All these things stirred men’s imagination and led them to believe that the infinite was attainable. I n Dr. Faustus, Marlowe has expressed such ideas, when Faustus says:

“O, what a world of profit and delight,

 

 

Of power, of honour, of omnipotence, I s promised to the studious artisan!”

 

 

“All things that move between the quiet poles

Shall be at my command:”

In fact, Marlowe was profoundly influenced my Machiavelli (1469-1527), the famous I talian writer, who disregarded all the conventional, moral principles to achieve the ends by any fair or foul means. The ambition of Marlowe led him to rebel against God and religion and to defy the laws of society and man. His refusal is bound to bring mental conflict which results in deep despair and defeat both Marlowe and Faustus.

Dr. Faustus makes a bargain with the devil to achieve his goal. He is ready to pay any price for the attainment of his purpose. Although, his conscience pricks him and there are Good and Evil angels who warn him against the danger of damnation, yet he cannot resist the temptation as Evil angel says:

Be thou on earth as Jove in the sky,

 Lord and commander of these elements.”

And then, Dr. Faustus, as the true embodiment of Renaissance spirit, starts dreaming of gaining super-human powers and performing miraculous deeds with the help of the spirits raised by him,

“I’ll have them fly to I ndia for gold,
Ransack the ocean for orient pearl,
I ’ll have them read me strange philosophy,
And tell the secrets of all foreign kings.”

All these proud assertions clearly show Faustus’ Renaissance spirit of adventure and supreme craze for knowledge and power without any limit. And finally, we find Faustus discarding God and defying all religious and moral principles, when he sells his soul to the devil to master all knowledge and to gain limitless powers. He says:

Ay and Faustus will turn to God again: To, God? He loves thee not’

The God thou serv’st is thine own appetite.”

To Faustus, knowledge means power and its power that will enable him to gratify the sensual pleasure of life like the man of Renaissance; he is a worshipper of beauty. That is why just after making the agreement with the devil for twenty four years of worldly pleasures, and his first desire is that of the most beautiful woman. He asks Mephistophilis:

Let me have a wife, The fairest maid in Germany.

For I am wanton and lascivious,

And can not live with-out a wife.”

Faustus’s keen longing to have Helen and to find Heaven in her lips reveal his supreme love of beauty and yearning for sensuous pleasures. The magnificent apostrophe to Helen in the most inspired and lyrical passage of the play wonderfully illustrates the Renaissance spirit of love and adoration for classical beauty as well as urge for romance and mighty adventures.

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss! — Her lips suck forth my soul; See where flies it! —
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again,
Here will I Dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all in dross that is not Helena.”

After completing the period of twenty four years, Faustus comes to his tragic end. I n the last moment, he learns that supernatural powers are reserved for the gods and the man who attempts to handle or deal in magical powers must face eternal damnation. He repents of his deeds but it is absolutely of no avail.

Some of the critics are of the opinion that Marlowe in his Dr. Faustus wanted to resist the old religious ideas along with the new ones. He emphasized upon the people that religion could not be completely ignored. Dr. Faustus tried to gain everything possible in his temporary world neglecting religion, but at last, he was damned forever and deprived of heaven. Another group of critics says that free play of man in this world is limited by God. I f a man tries to cross limits, he will be damned, and thrown into hell. Hence according to them God is jealous of man and does not want that man should stand equal to him. So Marlowe revolted against this injustice of God in the person of Dr. Faustus. But he had to end his play with this advice:

Faustus is gone; regard this hellish fall, Whose fiendish fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly powers permits.”
Written & Composed By:
M. Zammad Aslam
 

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Shelley Revolutionary Poet

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

Shelley was a true-born child of the French Revolution. The spirits of that revolution found its expression in Shelley’s poetry. But as a critic observes:

“The greater rigour of his nature begot in him a passion for reform and a habit for rebellion which are the inspiration of his longer poems.”

Throughout his life he dreamt of a new society, a new world, absolutely free from tyranny and exploration. He was a dreamer of dreams and was always at war with the existing world of complete chaos and confusion. He led a ceaseless war against the existing political, social and economic institutions.
The Age of Romanticism is one of great turmoil in which Europe faced the greatest and frightful uprising – the French Revolution. The watchwords of the Revolution were Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It stood for the natural rights of man and total abolition of class distinctions. Its impact on the civilized world was unimaginable. The English people, embarked on an age long struggle monarchy, found in the watchwords a reflection of their own ideas and ideals.

In spite of the failure of the French Revolution, the social and political upheaval in France played a great part in influencing English Romantic Movement. The Revolution was characterized by three phases which affected English romanticism. These are:

1. The Doctrinaire Phase – The Age of Rousseau
2. The Political Phase – The Age of Robespierre and Danton
3. The Military Phase – The Age of Napoleon

These phases had a deep impact on Shelley’s mind. Shelley was the only passionate singer of the Revolution. This was not because he looked beyond the instant disaster to a future reconstruction, but because his imagination was far less concrete than those of his great contemporaries. Ideas inspired him, not episodes. So he drank in the doctrines of Godwin, and ignored the tragic perplexities of the actual situations. Compton Rickett is of the view:

“Widely divergent in temperamental and genius as Shelley and his mentor were, they had this in common – a passion for abstract speculation. Only Godwin expressed them in ‘Pedestrian’, Shelley gave to them music and colour.”

Shelley’s revolutionary attitude was constructive in the long run. In his preface to “The Revolt of Islam”, he pointed out that the wanted to kindle in the bottom of his readers a virtuous enthusiasm for liberty and justice, that faith and hope in something good, which neither violence nor prejudice, can ever wholly extinguish among mankind. In another work “Prometheus Unbound” Shelley made his hero arch-rebel and compared him with Satan of “Paradise Lost”. In the concluding stanza of the song there is a return of belief that Earth shall share in the Emancipation of man:

Where morning dyes her golden tresses,
Shall soon partake our high emotions;
Kings shall turn pale!

In “Queen Mab”, he propagated the necessity of reform. As a poet, Shelley conceived to become the inspirer and judge of men. He had a passion for reforming the world which was the direct outcome of that attitude of mind which the French Revolution had inculcated in him.

A third idea contained in the original conception of the Revolution was ‘The Return of Nature’. It held that the essential happiness of man consisted in a simple life in accordance with Nature. Not that it was peculiar to the Revolution; but that it came as a logical result from the first idea. It is a well-known fact that when man groans under the heels of tyranny, corruption, selfish interest and social conventions; when he “lives like worms wriggling in a dish, away from the torment of intelligence and the uselessness of culture”; he cries, almost unwillingly:

“Let me go back to the breast of Mother Earth where my own hands can win my own bread from woods and fields.”

Shelley found in Skylark a symbol of the ideal poet who lives in isolation. He appeals to the bird:

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then – as I am listening now.

“Ode to the West Wind”, was also written by the poet under the direct influence of the times. The moral, social and political regeneration seemed to Shelley possible in the atmosphere of Nature. The ‘West Wind’ seemed to be an expression of this background. Finding his life miserable, he implores the wind:

Oh, life me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

Shelley’s revolutionary passion flows from his idealism. All his life he dreamed of an ideal world without evil, suffering and misery. It would be a world where reason would rule supreme, and Equality, Liberty and Fraternity wound be no empty words. “Ode to West Wind” expresses the poet’s intense suffering at the tyranny of life and his great hope in the bright future of humanity. The poem symbolizes three things; freedom, power and change. Clutton Brock, his great critic says:

“For Shelley, the forces of nature have as much reality as human beings have for most of us, and he found the same kind of beauty that we find in the beauty of human beings in the great works of art.”

Thus the poet finds the “West Wind” a fit symbol to raise and enliven his spirit out of the depths of desolation, dejection and weariness. Moreover the ‘Wind’ should scatter his thoughts among the universe:

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of his verse,
Scatter, as form an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

It may be said that the Revolution to Shelley was a spiritual awakening, the beginning of a new life. He traced all evil in life to slavery. Free and natural development is only possible when he enjoy liberty. And liberty in his opinion was freedom from external restraints. Freedom was the first watchword of the French Revolution. Thus the Revolution kindled the imaginative life of Shelley as it did that of Wordsworth. But the fire in Wordsworth extinguished before long; whereas in Shelley it kept burning all through his brief career and permeated all through is poetic work. Cazamian said:

“Shelley belongs to that rare species of mankind whom reason and feeling convert revolutionaries in the flush of youth an who remain so for the rest of their life.”

Source: www.cssforum.com.pk/css-optional-subjects/group-i/english-literature/231-shelley-revolutionary-poet.html

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Marxism as a Theodicy

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

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Oedipus Rex, Plot, Symbols, Style, Philosophy, Quotations

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

Plot

 

The city of thebes is suffering and Oedipus the king wants to know why. Creon is sent to ask the oracle and Teiresius, a prophet is sent for. The oracle says that the murderer of Laios must be found and punished so Oedipus proclaimed that he would do everything he could to find the murderer. Teiresius says that the murderer is Oedipus, but Oedipus does not believe him. Oedipus charges Creon of sending the prophet to overthrow him. Oedipus tells Iocaste of his leaving Corinth. He tells her that it was prophesied that he would kill his father and marry his mother, but so that it would never happen, he ran from Corinth. On the trip, he met some people on the highway, got in an argument, and killed them. He also solved the riddle of the sphinx, and became the king of Thebes. A messenger came from Corinth to tell Oedipus of Polybos’ death and that he would now become the king of Corinth. The messenger also tells Oedipus that he is not the son of Polybos, but that the messenger was given Oedipus by another man and that he gave Oedipus to Polybos. The person that gave Oedipus to the messenger was sent for. The shepherd arrives and tells Oedipus that he was a servant of Laios and that Laios gave him his child to kill because of the prophecy that his son would kill him. Since the shepherd felt sorry for the child, he did not kill him, but gave him to the other shepherd. After this, Oedipus finds out that the prophecy came true. Iocaste commits suicide, and Oedipus gouges out his eyes. Then he says bye to his children, and leaves the city.

Symbols

 

The scar on Oedipus foot – Oedipus got this scar when the servant from Laios tied him by his foot and left him to die. This is where Oedipus (which means swollen foot) got his name. “Messenger: I cut the bonds that tied your ankles together. / Oedipus: I have had the mark as long as I can remember. / Messenger: That is why you were given the name you bear.”

Teiresias – He symbolizes Oedipus’ blindness to the truth in the beginning of the play and shows Oedipus’ temper. His title of the blind seer exemplifies the theme of blindness and sight. “Teiresias: … A Blind man, / Who has his sight now.”

Style

 

The style is simple and like normal speech for the most part. The sentences are not complicated and they are easy to understand. Sophocles wrote the play in the typical five part tragedy fashion.

Philosophy

 

The story seems to say that a man cannot run from his fate. It was prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, and although he tried to run from that, it happened anyway. The same is true for Laios who tried to get rid of his son to run from the prophecy that his son would murder him.

Quotations

 

“Oedipus: Wealth, power, craft of statesmanship! / Kingly position, everywhere admired! / what savage envy is stored up against these,” Oedipus says this to Creon after the fortune from Teiresias.

“Teiresias: … But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: / You can not see the wretchedness of your life, / Nor in whose house you live, no, nor with whom. / Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me?” Teiresias says this to Oedipus after Oedipus starts getting angry with him.

“Teiresias: A blind man, /Who has his eyes now; a penniless man, who is rich now; / And he will go tapping the strange earth with his staff; / to the children with whom he lives now he will be / Brother and father – the very same; to her / Who bore him, son and husband – the very same / Who came to his father’s bed, wet with his father’s blood.” Teiresias tells this to Oedipus prophesying what Oedipus will find out.

“Oedipus: Let it come! / However base my birth, I must know about it. The Queen, like a woman, is perhaps ashamed / To think of my low origin. But I / Am a child of Luck; I can not be dishonored.” Oedipus says this to Iocaste trying to encourage her to continue with the search of the truth when she was beginning to fear the truth.

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Oedipus Rex Proves You Can’t Beat The Gods

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

The tragedy of Oedipus is more complex than it appears at first reading. It has much to do with truth. How much truth can we stand? It is about sin coming home to roost. Oedipus’ road rage killing of the old king would have been a murder no matter who the perpetrator and victim were. Jocasta’s scoffing at the gods and recoiling from the truth once it begins to unwind is a mixture of blasphemy, hubris and denial.

Two oracular messages, one received by Laius, the other by Oedipus, foretell the same outrageous event: a fratricide with the added complication and sacrilegious dimension of a regicide. Does it not seem strange that neither Laius or Oedipus tries to appease the gods on hearing the oracle? The myth makes no mention of either man asking the gods for mercy or to somehow change this fate. Both are full of enough hubris to believe that they can outsmart the gods – and by less than honorable means.

Laius resorts to infanticide. The same crime has been a blight on the traditional reputation of Herod for the past two thousand years. It is hard to muster sympathy for people who murder babies. In fact, the disobedience of the Herdsman, who as a servant of the Theban king had been entrusted with the task of abandoning the crippled child, is one of the more sympathy-evoking revelations in the drama.

Oedipus, on his part, cuts “out of Dodge.” No explanation. No note. Good intentions – for sure, but not a great deal of honestly dealing with the truth of the situation. He tries to sneak away from his fate. The audience can see the irony. Had he confided what he had learned and feared so greatly to Polybus and Merope, they could have protected him from fulfilling the oracle.

The retelling of the murder scene doesn’t make either party sound very honorable. Laius retinue is tearing along like a bunch of yahoos, and Oedipus comes across as a red neck who won’t take no sass from some old geezer and his buddies. This scene is full of reprehensible behavior on both sides. Murder is a sin in all cultures.

Sophocles seems also to be making a statement against monarchy. The Theban Plays were written for an Athenean audience. The pride that they took in their democratic form of government was based upon the belief that collective wisdom was preferable to placing too much power in the hands of any one individual. He seems to say that hubris is the result. The audience need only watch the grandiose pronouncements of Oedipus in this play and the devolution of the character of Creon throughout the trilogy to see that writers long before Orwell believed that power corrupts even good men.

The behavior of Oedipus toward Tiresias is just one example of the denial mode that a powerful leader will go into when confronted by inconvenient truths. Jocasta goes from a scoffing attitude toward things religious to an outwardly duteous piety toward Apollo as a bribe to put Oedipus in a better frame of mind.

Sophocles drew very largely the lesson that the gods must be revered and feared. It is hubris in this play which undoes the royal family of Thebes and hubris on the part of Creon which will do the same in “Antigone.” There is a proper relationship between the gods and humans in the Greek mythological system which has more differences than similarities to Judeo-Christian attitudes of the creature-Creator relationship. One thing that they do share is a belief that the human must be right-sized in dealing with the divine. The Greeks made their gods in their image. Judeo-Christianity believes that God made humanity in His image. They both agree that we are not gods.

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The Reestablishment of the English Language

Posted on 30 June 2011 by Aajiz

(1200-1500) 
I. Changing Conditions after 1200
The linguistic situation described in the previous chapter did not continue because the conditions under which it arose changed. Shortly after 1200 England lost an important part of its possessions in Europe. The English nobility gradually relinquished their estates in the continent. Rivalry developed between England and France, accompanied by an antiforeign movement in England and reaching its culmination in the Hundred Years’ War. Social and economic changes affecting the English-speaking part of the population were taking place. In the fourteenth century English won its way back into use all over England, and in the fifteenth century French completely disappeared from the British Isles. We are going to examine the changing conditions and the steps by which this situation came about, in subsections A-D below.
 
A. The Loss of Normandy
Normandy was the first link in the chain binding England to France. This link was broken in 1204 when King John lost Normandy, after the French court confiscated his territory according to feudal law. Philip, the French king, proceeded at once to carry out the decision of the court and invaded Normandy and put the greater part of it in his control, and Normandy was thus lost to the English crown.

The loss of Normandy was advantageous to both the English language and England. This is because the King and nobles looked upon England as their first concern. England then had its own political and economic ends and was on its way to becoming a nation once more.

B. Separation of the French and English Nobility
After the Norman Conquest a large number of people held lands in both England and France, and a kind of interlocking aristocracy existed. It is true that some steps toward a separation of interests had been taken from time to time, as when William the Conqueror left Normandy to his eldest son Robert and England to William Rufus, and as when Henry I confiscated the estates of unruly Norman barons. But in 1204 the process of separation was greatly accelerated when the king of France confiscated the lands of several great barons, and of all knights who lived in England. For the most part the families that had estates in both countries were forced to give up one or the other.

After 1250 there was no reason for the English nobility to consider itself anything but English. This was the most valid reason for ceasing to use English.

C. French Reinforcements
At the same time when the Norman nobility in England was losing its European connections and was led to identify itself wholly with England, the country underwent a new invasion of foreigners, mostly from the south of France. The invasion began in the reign of King John, whose wife was French. Henry III, John’s son, was wholly French in his tastes and connections. He was French on his mother’s side and was related through his wife to the French king, St. Louis. As a result of Henry’s French connections three great streams of foreigners poured into England during his long reign (1216-1272). The first occurred in 1233 when Henry III gave foreigners the charge of all the counties and baronies. In 1236 Henry’s marriage to French lady brought a second influx of foreigners into England. The third inundation occurred ten years later when Henry’s mother, upon the death of his father King John, married a Frenchman and bore him five sons. Henry enriched his half-brothers and married their daughters to English nobles. Marriages with the strangers were encouraged by both the king and the queen at that time. For example Henry’s brother, Richard, got married to the queen’s sister.

The question may now arise as to the impact of such foreign inundations upon England and the English language. An answer is attempted in the following subsection.

D. The Reaction against Foreigners and the Growth of National Feeling
An answer to the question may lie in the fact that the inpouring of foreigners was not completely unfavorable to the English language. This is because a reaction was bound to follow. Even during the reign of John there were calls for a policy of “England for the English”. And in the reign of Henry III the antagonism arose immediately after the first stream of foreigners came to England. The king dismissed the foreigners from the important offices they held, but they were soon back. Opposition to foreigners became the principal ground for national feeling. Between the years 1258 and 1265 the foreigners were driven twice from England. When Edward (1272-1307) came to the throne England entered upon a period of consciousness of its unity. The government officials were for the most part English, and the king warned against the purpose of the king of France to “wipe out the English tongue”.

The effect of the foreign incursions in the thirteenth century was to delay the natural spread of the use of English by the upper class that had begun earlier. It also stimulated the consciousness of the difference between those who participated in English affairs as to consider themselves Englishmen, and those who flocked to England to enjoy Henry’s favors. On of the frequent criticisms against the newcomers was that they did not know English. This meant that there was a general felling that some knowledge of English was regarded a proper mark of an Englishman.

E. The Cultural Ascendancy of French in Europe
In addition to the stimulus given to the use of French in England by incoming upper class foreigners, the language enjoyed a wide popularity all over Europe in the thirteenth century. At this time France represented chivalrous society, and the French language was cultivated at European courts. This status continued until the eighteenth century. In Germany all the great lords had French teachers for their children. The Italian Brunetto Latini, the master of Dante, wrote his great encyclopedia, Li Tresor (about 1265) in French because “that speech is the most delectable and the most common to all people”. At about the same time another Italian translated an important book from Latin into French “because the French language is current throughout the world and is the most delightful to read and to hear”. The prestige of French civilization constituted a strong reason for the continued use of French among upper class circles in England.
II. The Status of English and French in the Thirteenth Century
The thirteenth century witnessed a shifting emphasis upon English and French in England. The upper classes continued to speak French, not as a mother tongue inherited from Norman ancestors, but rather as a language supported by social custom and by business and administrative convention. At the same time English made steady progress and by the middle of the century it became generally used by the upper classes. By the end of the century some children of the nobility spoke English as their mother tongue and had to be taught French through manuals provided with English glosses.

Even at the end of the thirteenth century French was used in Parliament, in the law courts, and in public interaction. French was read by the educated, including those who could not read Latin, but that ability was on the decline, and the knowledge of French was sometimes imperfect.

The spread of English among the upper classes became general, especially in the latter part of the thirteenth century. King Henry III probably knew English; his brother, Richard, earl of Cornwall certainly did; and Henry’s son, Edward I spoke English readily, probably even habitually. English children were taught French by means of manuals with an interlinear English gloss. This was the practice by the middle of the thirteenth century, and in 1300 the mother tongue of the children of the nobility was, in many cases, English. At this time the proper language for Englishmen to know and use became English. This attitude became more noticeable later, and was sometimes accompanied by protest against the use of French, to sum up, in the latter part of the thirteenth century English was widely known among people of all classes, though not necessarily by everyone.

To have a complete picture of the status of English and French in England during the thirteenth century we have to deal with some of the factors that tended to be favorable or otherwise for each of the two languages. These factors are dealt with in subsections A and B below, with their divisions.

A. Factors Affecting the Status of French
There were three factors that had their effect upon the status of French in England during the thirteenth century. These were the attempts to slow the decline of French, the provincial character of the French language spoken in England, and the Hundred Years’ War. Following is a brief discussion of these three factors.
1. Attempts to Slow the Decline of French
In the last decades of the thirteenth century and in the course of the fourteenth the French language was losing its hold on England. Evidence for this fact is seen in the measures adopted to keep it in use, especially when the tendency to speak English became stronger in the two most conservative institutions, namely the church and the universities. A fourteenth-century statute of Oxford University required the students to construe and translate in both English and French “lest the French language be entirely disused”. The foundation statute of Queen’s College (1340) required that the conversation of the students be in Latin or in French. A Cambridge college expected the students to speak English rarely, after Latin and French. Similar regulations were also found necessary in the church.

A further effort to keep the French language from going out of use was made by parliament in 1332, when it called for teaching children the French language. Such efforts indicate that the use of French in England was artificial by the fourteenth century. Evidence for this fact can be found in the appearance as early as 1250 of many manuals for learning French, in which the language was treated frankly as a foreign language.

2. The Provincial Character of French in England
One factor against the continued use of French in England was the fact that Anglo-French was not “good” French. The French introduced into England was predominantly Norman, but under the influence of English linguistic tendencies it gradually developed into something different from any of the dialects spoken in France. Before long the French of England drew a smile from European speakers, and became the subject of humorous treatment in literature. Children were sometimes sent to France to have the “barbarity” taken off their speech. But the situation did not mend, and the provincial character of French in England contributed to its decline there.
3. The Hundred Years’ War
In the centuries following the Norman Conquest the connection of England with the continent was broken. This was followed by a conflict of interests and an increasing feeling of animosity that reached its highest point in a long period of hostility between England and France (1337-1453). A major cause was the interference of France in England’s attempts to control Scotland. King Edward III finally put forth a claim to the French throne and invaded England. Although this long war turned people’s attention to the continent once more, and the expeditions might have tended to keep the French language in use, it had no such effect, but rather led to an opposite consequence. This is probably because the intervals between the periods of actual fighting were too long and the obstacles to trade and other activities were too discouraging. The feeling that remained in the minds of most English people was one of animosity. During this period it was impossible for the English people to forget that French was the language of an enemy country. Thus the Hundred Years’ War was one of the causes that contributed to the disuse of French.
B. Factors Affecting the Status of English
An important factor in helping English recover its former prestige was the rapid improvement in the conditions of the laboring classes and the rise of a considerable middle class during the latter part of the Middle English period. These changes were greatly accelerated when in 1348 there appeared in England a quite contagious and fatal disease that spread rapidly all over the country, reaching its height in the following year, and continuing into the early months of 1350. the mortality was incredibly high, approximating 30 percent. This high mortality rate is quite sufficient to justify the mane “The Black Death”.

As in most epidemics the rich suffered less than the poor, in the sense that the mortality was greatest among the latter. The result was a serious shortage of labor, and an immediate rise in wages. The effect of the Black Death thus increased the economic importance of the laboring class, and as a result the importance of the English language which they spoke.

At this time there arose another important group, namely the craftsmen and the merchant class, who stood halfway between the rural peasants and the hereditary aristocrats. Such social and economic changes benefited particularly the English-speaking part of the population, and contributed to the final triumph of English in the fourteenth century. This will be our concern in the next section.

III. The Status of English and French in the Fourteenth Century
As we have done in Section II above, we are going to examine the position of both English and French in England, but this time in the fourteenth century. Unlike what we did in Section II, the present Section purports to deal with English first and with French second. This is because English in this century regained its status as the language of all the English people.
A. The Status of English
This subsection includes three points, namely the general adoption of English all over England, the employment of English in the law courts, and the use of the English language in the schools. Following is a discussion of each of these points:
1. The General Adoption of English
At the beginning of the fourteenth century everyone in England knew English. Until a generation or two before that time so much of the polite literature of England had been in French. When writers used English they felt called upon to justify their decision. They frequently did this in a prologue, and incidentally made interesting observations on the linguistic situation. One prologue to a work written in 1300 tells us that both the learned and unlearned understood English at that time. In another prologue written in 1325 the writer acknowledges that some people who lived at court know French, but he specifically states that old and young, learned and unlearned, all understand the English tongue. In a third introduction written not later than 1325, and probably earlier, the author makes the expected statement that everybody knows English, and additionally asserts that at a time when gentlemen still “used” French he had seen many nobles who could not speak it.

At this time England had a king, Richard II, who spoke English fluently. Edward III also knew English. Outside the royal family, among the governing class English was the language best understood. And in 1362 the Parliament was opened with a speech in English for the first time. In the last year of the century the order deposing Richard II was read in English, and Henry IV’s speeches claiming the throne and later accepting it were delivered in English. Such instances show that in the fourteenth century English was again the principal tongue of all England.

2. English in the Law Courts
Soon after the Norman Conquest, French was the language of all legal proceedings. But in 1356 proceedings in the courts of London and Middlesex were ordered to be in English. And in 1362 the Statute of Pleading was enacted in the Parliament, and was to go into effect in the following year. According to this statute all lawsuits were to be conducted in English, because “French is much unknown in the said realm,” i.e. in England. Although the statute was not fully observed at once, it constituted the official recognition of English in the law courts.
3. English in the Schools
Shortly after the Conquest, French replaced English as the medium of instruction in the schools. In the twelfth century there were complaints that former education was in English, but was now in French, because “other people now teach our folk”. Until the fourteenth century the use of French in the schools was quite general. Some writers of the period attributed the corruption of the English language partly to this fact. However, after the Back Death, two Oxford schoolmasters were responsible for a great innovation in English education, namely John Cornwall and Pencrich. These two schoolmasters introduced English as the vehicle of instruction in their schools, probably because of a scarcity of competent teachers. Anyhow, after the middle of the fourteenth century English began to be used in the schools, and by 1385 the practice became general.
B. The Status of French
Although everyone understood English, this does not mean that French had entirely gone out of use, it was still sometimes used at the court although English had replaced it. French was chiefly the language of two groups, the educated class and the French. The learned included the legal profession and the church. French was the language of lawyers and the law courts until 1362. Churchmen could still speak French at that time. But churchmen of the younger generation were losing their command of the language.

French was also generally known to government officials. It was the language of parliament, local administration, town councils, and the guilds, with some instances of the intrusion of English. French was common in letters and local records, and was often written by people who did not habitually speak it, and thus was the kind of French of people who were obviously thinking in English.

People who could speak French in the fourteenth century were bilingual. Following is a brief discussion of the increasing ignorance of French in the fifteenth century, followed by the rise of the language as a language of culture and fashion.

1. Increasing Ignorance of French in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
In A. l. above we have mentioned that there were many nobles who could not speak French in the beginning of the fourteenth century. This condition became more prevalent as time went on. By the fifteenth century the ability to speak French fluently was looked upon as an accomplishment, and the ability to write if became less general among people of position. Ignorance of French was quite common among the governing class in England from the beginning of the fifteenth century.
2. The Rise of French as a Language of Culture and Fashion
When French went out of use as a spoken language in England its sphere became more restricted and the reasons for cultivating it changed. French started to be learned to enable Englishmen to communicate with their neighbors in France, not to communicate among themselves as before. Cultivation of French continued in the fifteenth century and later because of the feeling that it was the language of culture and fashion. This feeling, which was later strengthened in the eighteenth century, is still present in the minds of many people today.
IV. The Use of English in Writing
The last step in the gradual ascent of the English language was its employment in writing. This is because in this respect it had to compete with both Latin and French. French was the first language in England to break the monopoly of Latin in writing. It was only in the fifteenth century that English succeeded in replacing both. About 1350 French was at its height as the language of private and semi-official correspondence. The earliest letters written in English appeared in the latter part of the fourteenth century, although there were few before 1400. eventually, after 1450 English letters were used everywhere.

The situation was rather similar with wills. The earliest known English will after the Conquest dates from 1383, but wills written in English were rare before 1400. in 1397 the earl of Kent made his will in English, and in 1438 the countess of Stanford did likewise. The wills of Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VI were all written in the English language.

In the fifteenth century English was adopted for the records of towns and guilds, as well as in some branches of the central government. About 1430 some towns translated their ordinances and books of customs into English. English became generally used in their transactions after 1450. It was likewise with the guilds, in some of which English was used along with French in their ordinances. This was the case in a London guild as early as 1345, and later at York in 1400.

The records of Parliament are a similar case. The petitions of the Commons, on which statutes were based if they were approved, were usually in French until 1423. These petitions were enrolled in French even when they had been originally presented in English. As for the statutes themselves, they were generally in Latin until about 1300, then in French until the reign of Henry VII. It was in 1485 that they began to appear in English side by side with French, until French entirely disappeared in 1489.

The reign of Henry V (1413-1422) marked the turning point in the use of English in writing. The king set an example in using English in his correspondence, and exerted certain efforts to promote its use in writing. Apparently his victories over the French gave the English a pride in things that were English. The end of the reign of King Henry V and the beginning of the next mark the period at which English began to be generally adopted in writing. The year 1425 represents the approximate date of the general employment of the English language in writing.

V. Middle English Literature
The literature written in England during the Middle English period reflects the changing conditions of the English language. When French was the language best understood by the upper classes, the books they read were in French. The literature in English that has come down to us from 1150 to 1250 was almost exclusively religious or admonitory in nature, e.g. interpretations of Gospel passages, and stories of saints’ lives. However, there were some exceptions of works that did not deal with religions subjects, e.g. the astonishing verse debate between The Owl and the Nightingale, about the year 1195. The hundred years between 1150 and 1250 were justly called the Period of Religious Record. The absence of works in English appealing to courtly tastes marks the English language at this time as the language of the middle and lower classes.

In addition to written literature, there was also a body of popular literature that circulated orally among the people. But such literature left only slight traces in this early period.

The separation of the English nobility from France around the year 1250, and the spread of English among the upper class is reflected in the next hundred years of English literature. Polite literature that had until that time appeared only in French now appeared in English. The most popular type of this literature was the romance. Only one English romance exists from an earlier date than 1250. but from this time on translations and adaptations from French began to appear, and their number increased largely during the fourteenth century. Although the religions literature characterizing the previous period continued, there appeared now other types. Thus the hundred years between 1250 and 1350 is labeled the Period of Religious and Secular literature in English literature. This period indicates clearly the wider spread of the English language.

The general employment of English by all cases, which took place by the latter half of the fourteenth century, resulted in a body of literature that represented the high point in English literature during the Middle Ages. The period from 1350 to 1400 is called the Period of Great Individual Writers. The chief name among these writers was Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400), who is considered the greatest English poet before Shakespeare. In addition to delightful minor poems, Chaucer composed a long narrative poem called Troilus and Criseyde, but his most famous work is the Canterbury Tales, which constitutes in its variety of tales an anthology of medieval literature. To this period belong William Langland, John Wycliffe, and other prose writers and poets, who made the latter part of the fourteenth century an outstanding period in Middle English literature.

The fifteenth century is sometimes called the Imitative Period because so much of the poetry written at that time was imitating that of Chaucer. The same century is sometimes also referred to as the Transition Period, because it covers a large part of the time between the age of Chaucer and that of Shakespeare. To this period belong the writers Lydgate, Hoccleve, Skelton, and Hawes. At the end of the century English literature had the prose of Malory and Caxton. Scottish imitators of Chaucer, e.g. Henryson, Dunbar, Gawin Douglas, and Lindsay, produced significant work. These authors carried on the tradition of English as a literary medium into the Renaissance. Thus, English literature during the Middle English period sheds interesting light on the status of the English language

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Metaphysical and Cosmological Doctrines

Posted on 29 June 2011 by Aajiz

Pure Metaphysics, which is also the theoretical dimension of salvific knowledge, is the science of the Real and is therefore most essential for human beings, since they have ultimately no possibility of escaping from reality. In the modern West, metaphysics and gnosis soon became a branch of philosophy, understood in the modern sense, and this subordination was followed by the complete rejection of metaphysics by many schools of Western thought, especially from the nineteenth century onward, as we see in Marxism, Comptianism, logical positivism, Anglo-Saxon analytical philosophy, and the like. Soon real metaphysics was forgotten, not to mention the means of realizing its truths.

But the thirst for real knowledge continued to manifest itself in certain Western souls, who again turned to the Orient and with its help, to the forgotten metaphysical tradition of the West. In this quest for metaphysical knowledge Hinduism, especially the school of Advaita Vedanta, attracted many people. It is only during the past few decades that the metaphysics of Sufism, as elucidated primarily in the works of Ibn’ Arabi and his school (to which I shall turn more fully in appendix has become available to the larger Western public.

This vast body of metaphysical knowledge, along with traditional cosmology, which results from applying metaphysical principles to both the macrocosmic and microcosmic domains (not what is understood by cosmology and psychology today), is one of the great legacies of Sufism. This body of knowledge provides a key to understanding the nature of the Real, the reality of the cosmos, and our own being. It contains a map for getting from Here to There as well as the means of realizing that There is Here and Now, at the centre of our being and in the present moment.

In the traditional Islamic world this knowledge was known to only a few, but now with the spread of all kinds of modern secular philosophies and problems created by ill-posed questions that threaten the very citadel of faith, this metaphysical and cosmological knowledge bequeathed by over a millennium of Sufism to the present- day generation is of the utmost importance for psychology, the Islamic tradition as a whole. It also provides the necessary preliminary map for those, including non-Muslims, who want to know who they are, where they are, and where they should be going.

Metaphysics and cosmology is interconnected to some extent, therefore is launch the inner and outer world to be connected and be the part of logical mind to understand and soul to absorb it.

 

 

Source: http://www.literaturearticle.com/metaphysical-and-cosmological-doctrines-3/

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