Plato’s “Republic” is perhaps one of the most intriguing books for me on our reading list. While it isn’t my favorite, it is one of the ones which after reading a few paragraphs, I’ll have to stop and think about them for a while and then probably reread them. The book is densely packed with ideas, ranging from the definition of justice to building the perfect city. While there are plenty of important philosophical ideas which helped shape philosophy as we know it today, there are some ideas which I really dislike. Probably part of the reason for that is the character of Socrates, and how incessant and irritating he becomes throughout the book. He is never satisfied, always asking for clarifications and questions, ultimately he just becomes annoying.

Probably the most interesting part of “Republic” to me is the way Plato/Socrates builds his perfect city. His idea that the philosophers are the ruling class is definitely an interesting one, yet it seems obvious that Plato was looking out for himself when he decided that. Sure, maybe if we were forced to choose from philosophers, warriors, and workers, the best class to rule would be indeed the philosophers. Yet it seems like Plato makes out the philosophers to be a way nicer bunch than they probably are. The way he envisions their reign seems a little too positive, and I think that while the philosophers are great individuals, even they can become corrupt by having the power to rule a city. Yet this isn’t what really bothers me about Plato/Socrates’s perfect city, what really bothers me is how Plato/Socrates decide how people are placed into classes.

The fact that they do not take into consideration someone’s personal happiness is what annoys me. While the philosophers have the “burden” of ruling, everyone else is doing their jobs which were assigned to them. The idea that in the perfect city an individual doesn’t even have the right to try what and be what they want to be is ludicrous. Plato/Socrates’s method of assigning classes would only work if the perfect city was inhabited by robots. It just doesn’t work with humans because we’re selfish animals, we strive to do what makes us happy. While you could say that it should make us happy that we’re contributing to the greater good of the city, I just don’t think that’s enough to satisfy someone who is forced to be a worker, when they dream of fighting on the battlefields.

That’s my main gripe with the “Republic”, and overall it’s not that big of an issue considering all the other thought-provoking ideas that Plato writes about. Probably the idea I find most interesting is the allegory of the cave, and how innovative it must have been especially in the times “Republic” was written. The way it applies to a lot of modern day aspects such as advertising is really interesting, and is what makes it such an important philosophical milestone. Ultimately, Plato’s “Republic” is a classic of western literature because of how many different interesting and innovative ideas it had, and while I had a few gripes with it, overall it was definitely worth reading.

The Tempest

Even though I usually do not enjoy reading fiction, the addition of magical elements to the story as well as as the overall conciseness of The Tempest kept me entertained. Prospero received awful treatment from his brother and others, and in the end did not release his fury on the people that wronged him. He simply forgave them and then said nothing after that about them making him flee his own country and give up his Dukedom. Prospero comes off as an extremely intelligent and mild-tempered man, which is why it seems even more so unfortunate that his brother conspired against him.

Caliban and Ariel, Prospero’s two servants feel very differently about their situations as servants. Caliban is extremely angry about being stuck as Prospero’s servant and even went as far as attempting to rape his daughter in order to make his disapproval more clear. While on the other hand, Ariel after being saved by Prospero, feels indebted to him, and willfully carries out Prospero’s wishes. Interestingly, even though I pictured Ariel as a man, I’m pretty sure that his gender is ambiguous throughout the story.

I found the possible connection between Prospero denouncing his magical powers and Shakespeare ending his solo play-writing career pretty interesting. Prospero has a monologue in which he explains that he is going to get rid of his books which held his magical powers, and at the same time, The Temptest is Shakespeare’s last play that he solely wrote.

This class is great because I am finally getting a chance to read the “classics” that I have always heard about. I may not love every book that we’ve been assigned to read, but at least I can say that I know what these so-called classics are all about. I’m even finding that I have begun to enjoy writing the assigned essays because I have enjoyed having to deeply engage with all of the readings. Didn’t think I would ever say something like that.

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Robinson Crusoe: Ideology

It has been said that every piece of art/media ever made somehow has an ideological standpoint. If it doesn’t change your way of thinking, it could well be reinforcing certain aspects of a dominant social ideology. While reading Robinson Crusoe, that idea is what I thought about the most. After being bludgeoned over the head with the ideas of “proper” religion, “proper” expansion, and “proper” gathering of material goods, I am quite sure that, whether intentionally or not, this book is reinforcing the primary first world ideology of the time, that of the good industrious god fearing capitalist.

One of the most obvious and tiresome ideas was that of God and Providence. All of Rob’s problems apparently come from the fact that he is too forward thinking for God, and does not do what he is supposed to do, which is essentially to sit at home and do nothing. God does not approve of an adventurous mind. This is interesting and sort of goes against my theory in a way, because England was just starting to become active on the whole colonialism scene, and you’d think that the books written in that time would reflect that, instead of providing a sort of warning against it. However, I think the book goes on to deal with this by making Rob happiest in one place doing nothing. Funnily enough this place that he has built starts to look a lot like the home of an industrious, god fearing capitalist. Only once he has made his home as similar to what as “regular” as he can, and only once he starts praying and beginning to really acknowledge the glory of God, only then does he start to be really happy again.

Concerning progress and the amassing of material goods: even though Rob eschews money for it’s lack of value, there is still a tremendous focus on obtaining and hoarding things, as well as building and expanding. In fact, the way Mr. Crusoe goes about his business surviving is a very capitalist method, and I do believe that if this story were written by a Brazilian anti capitalist or something, there would not have been such a focus on making the perfect homestead and then expanding across the island and becoming lord and ruler through industry. This book is written in such a way to promote the idea of “build lot’s of stuff and you will succeed.”  I wouldn’t necessarily say that is good or bad, especially since reading it in this day and age we are already deeply indoctrinated with capitalist- consumerist ideas, he he.  But it is something to notice, in any case.



Robinson Crusoe: Isolation and Anarchy

This isn’t my first time reading Robinson Crusoe, and I have to say it’s pretty enjoyable re-experiencing the story all over again.

One of my favorite themes from the story is how Crusoe must adapt and adjust to a completely different way of life. After stranded and isolated from civilization, Robinson must produce a variety of items and preform tasks that society had once made readily available for him. His successful status and fortune as a Brazilian tobacco farmer is worthless in his new setting. Even as he stumbles upon a series of treasure troves, he realizes wealth’s futility without others to trade with. He’s furious and acknowledges that these possessions do nothing to aid him. He prays that he would stumble upon conventional items such as a spoon or metal pot. How often do we praise our possession or value of these things? One of his most difficult and trialing tasks on the island is simply creating a ceramic bowl, and after continuous efforts it proves to be one of his greatest victories.

Crusoe’s greatest flaw and continual impediment is his lack of skills. He frequently laments upon the fact that he lived a life of luxury and never spent any due time acquiring any skills that would aid him in everyday life. Sewing, farming, cooking and craftsmanship are initially daunting tasks that frequently result in his failure. How many of us know how to sew or even create rope? How many of us could create a makeshift canoe or create a hammer or axe from scratch? I certainly couldn’t. Do most of us even know common first-aid? Just think of how much we rely upon civilization and it’s numerous trades to help us in our everyday necessities. We don’t grow our own food, we don’t create our own tools, and we certainly can’t build our own houses. If the world ended tomorrow how helpless would majority of the population be? If for some reason we all succumbed to anarchy how many of us would survive the first week without civilization to protect us?

It’s simply fascinating to just take a moment and realize how much we rely on other to produce our everyday necessities and how this this processes has dumbed down our species as a whole. Three centuries ago, the ability to farm, sew and create fire would be just common sense. Can the average person do any of these effectively without the aid of a manufactured tool? Everyday tasks such as washing clothes and churning butter would be difficult but well known tasks amongst most people. Is this new shift to mass production and reliance upon technology such as calculators, washing machines, microwaves and furnace heating really worth it’s benefits? What crucial knowledge are we sacrificing to achieve these lives of luxuries? When will it be our downfall?



Robinson Crusoe

After the disappointment of The Tempest, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Robinson Crusoe. I’ve always been fascinated by this adventurous tales of survival, contemplating my actions if I were in the same situation. However, I found Crusoe to be almost too perfect a character, the author almost trying to make his one flaw that of his religious ineptitude. Whilst I appreciate the significance of religion at the time, and now, Crusoe’s life upon the island appeared really to have no qualms for the first twenty-five years, with the exception of his divine epiphany. Continuing along this line of his lack of flaws, when compared to many other tales of survival, such as Castaway with Tom Hanks, there was always a certain amount of mental degredation, the protagonist gradually losing his civility and becoming more and more animalistic in nature. I feel that this aspect presents a far more real version of a castaway. Crusoe does remark that he longs for human companionship at a point, but aside from merely mentioning it, the concept does not really present itself. Humans do possess a basic need for interaction, thus explaining the certain level of lunacy or madness that possesses many upon being locked in solitary confinement. Crusoe’s character just seemed unrealistic.

As well, I also noted that Crusoe’s seemingly savage state of being appeared far more civilized than his beloved European society. Although his island lacks modern technology, and all the fancy gadgets, Crusoe’s lifestyle was worlds away from his homeland. In the so-called “Modern” society, his human counterparts acted far more savagely than Crusoe during his quest for survival. The greed and selfishness that corrupts our world, through pointless means, such as gold or paper, really have no significance in life, yet we spend a majority of our lives devoted to it. Crusoe’s simplistic lifestyle presented a far more rational one than this world of his and ours, where we all allow ourselves to be slaves to the almighty profit.

Finally, it irritated me how Crusoe exerted kingly status upon himself over his island. It was just such a supremacist viewpoint. How on Earth does he know that he is the first to inhabit this island? The natives probably have been utilizing it for far longer than Crusoe’s entire lifespan, just not continuously inhabiting it. As well, why must he declare himself Lord over all those he saves? It really appeared a far more Prospero-like option, finding everyone indebted to him. The only reason I can possibly think of lies in a want for Defoe to express the nature of European explorers during this time, claiming any land and exerting authority where there was no right for authority to be given.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Woo-hoo! Our first novel in arts one, we can actually call this a book and be right! That was a little exciting. I like novels, though I’ll admit it was a little frustrating reading with the deadline, being much more rushed than I usually would be with a novel, and the language took some getting used to, though I eventually got into the flow of it. And it didn’t really read very much like a novel, if that makes any sense. The lack of chapters and the narrative writing made me feel more like I was reading an autobiography of a man who really lived. Especially with the journal being thrown in there. I would almost call it a bit of a mesh between Columbus (the four voyages) and The Odyssey. The Odyssey because it displays so prominently the conflict of man vs. nature, which Odysseus has to face when he sails. And both have the element of religion being the cause for their suffering, though in very different ways. The god Crusoe believes in is not a physical thing that he interacts with, but he believes that his god causes his suffering, and similarly Zeus causes much of Odysseus’ troubles. There’s also the quest for home which takes much longer than expected that they share. With The Four Voyages, Crusoe and Columbus both have themes of colonialism and, again, voyaging across the sea, as well as the journal-y feel, though Columbus was writing letters which served a fairly specific purpose.

I was very interested in Crusoe as a character, as the situation of being isolated and alone on an island is very intriguing. But as a person, being in his head sometimes (reading his thoughts) was very frustrating. He makes his own kingdom and names slaves much the same way Prospero does. I’m wondering if I should interpret this as a comment by the part of Dafoe on human nature. Do we all wish in some sense to be rulers, when put in a situation where it’s possible? Do we naturally define ourselves as kings when presented with a plot of land devoid of others who we’d define as people? Also the fact that Crusoe relies so heavily to religion, and believes he’s being punished by god. Is Dafoe inferring we turn to religion in desperation? Or, was Dafoe religious himself, and trying to teach a lesson? Since it’s an older book it’s likely that the author was religious I suppose.

I’ll give it to Crusoe that I was impressed with some of his accomplishments of agriculture, as well as the things he makes and builds. In the back of my mind I was wondering how long I would last, trapped alone on an island. I wouldn’t stay sane too long I suspect, without anyone to talk to. Friday saves Crusoe in a very big way. Would he have lasted much longer without a friend? 

Robinson Crusoe

As irritatingly long as this novel was, it was also interesting enough that I at times actually became motivated to read for the content. The story is a classic adventure tale, containing a somewhat compelling protagonist and a lot of extremely convenient plot devices which were integrated well enough overall. My biggest problem would be with the way it was written, but considering the context of when it was written, I suppose that there’s not much point in complaining about that.


Now, not that I’m an animal rights activist or anything, but the way Crusoe proclaims himself the undisputed king of his island felt rather pretentious considering the variety of wildlife already existing in it. This mindset really shows just how sad it is when the guy, out of loneliness, maims a bunch of birds and other animals to keep him company. He drowns puppies and shoots cats, but keeps a few as pets for his entertainment. PETA would have a field day with this novel had it been written in modern times (which would definitely be more plausible than attacking Pokémon).


That aside, there is an interesting tension in the plot (the main tension) where Crusoe fights with himself on whether to seek adventure or stay at home. In a sense, this represents two desires—the desire for change, and the desire for stability. I find this an interesting psychological topic as there are many instances of both being true in regards to the human condition, which may show that neither of the two are absolute desires. On a philosophical level, however, I have yet to be proven wrong that all humans require change (i.e. conflict) on some level in order to exist, and this is no exception. Translated into psychology, I’d say that the desire for stability stems from mental conflict whereas the desire for change stems from physical conflict. Someone seeks change when they desire physical interaction and conflict with their surroundings, whereas someone seeks stability when they are in constant mental/inner conflict. Everything, of course, needs to be considered in their relative rather than absolute terms, and in reality every perceivable factor influences their reference to some degree. In the case of Crusoe, his desire for change may have formed due to an excess of stability (i.e. his father). Being guaranteed a life of comfort is basically the same as being told how your life is going to play out, and Crusoe most likely perceived this guarantee as a stagnation of conflict. Thus, being naturally compelled to seek conflict, he chose to go to sea. Of course, he regretted it soon after as he found that the stability he took for granted was in fact not so guaranteed, but even so, we see that he forsook his many chances to return home in favour of eventually getting shipwrecked on an isolated island. We see, then, that poor Crusoe suffered from a common case of short-term memory throughout his life. 

Robinson Crusoe: Master of the Island

Master of the Island.  That is what Robinson Crusoe became at the end of his adventure.  In a sense, Dafoe has created in Crusoe, the perfect colonist.  I’ve read Robinson Crusoe once (abridged version) and kind of enjoyed it, though it tended to bore me at points.  Though I have to say that I found the first novel written in the English language rather tedious to read at times, I still have to say that it is a masterpiece adventure, with some interesting themes.

Crusoe, is a very complex character with a personality and a set of skills to match.  Its how he survives on the island.  He has a unique set of abilities to match his own unique flaws.  He does tend to be impulsive, building his house on the first fortifiable ground as opposed to the fertile plain and the incident with the canoe shows that nature.  Yet, Crusoe can at times, be very resourceful, able to find a way to make clay pots, grow his own food, tame his own animals.  These make him able to master the nature and environment on his island.  Crusoe can also be very paranoid, but this aids him, for when he faces the savages, he is ready and waiting.   That’s not all about Crusoe, but that’s what springs out to me.

The other thing that I noticed about Robinson Crusoe was it’s similarity to The Tempests, something without a doubt most of us have noticed.  One of the main things was the master-servant relationship.  Like Prospero, Robinson Crusoe has servants, nature and man.  Unlike Prospero, Crusoe seems to manage his servants better.  If Caliban represents the island’s natives, let the animals represent Crusoe’s Caliban.  Prospero doesn’t manage Caliban very well, letting him turn against him.  Crusoe tames the island’s animals under him and in the end, rules over them.  Like Prospero though, Crusoe has his own form of magic, that aids him in securing a faithful servant.  If Prospero had magic to free Ariel, Crusoe had firearms.  But the similarities end there, in my opinion Crusoe and Friday share a much better relationship than Prospero and Ariel.   Ariel constantly tries to rebel against Prospero, but Friday doesn’t.  Crusoe rewards Friday, (his form of reward), by converting him, teaching him some of his ‘magic’ (the use of firearms) and in return, is kept company.  There are times, when Crusoe has to assert his authority, but it’s quite clear he cares deeply for his servant.  If anything, I’d describe Crusoe and Friday’s relationship as a perfect master-servant relationship, Dafoe’s ideal.

The novel is scattered with contextual references and is heavily influenced by british views.  The idea of the master-servant relationship, the european mastering the savage and the savage island.  The book is primarily, a boy’s or man’s adventure.  There are no important developed female characters, which all do to reflect the times.  It does not detract on the novel, but it makes one wonder, that if the first novel contained so much views influenced by English government, how much of the first novel has trickled into our modern novels?



Robinson Crusoe

I first encountered “Robinson Crusoe” in one of my least favourite elementary schools. My teacher read us a rewritten version of Daniel Defoe’s famous work. Back then, I didn’t pay much attention to it because, well, I found it boring. To be fair, I was in Grade four at the time and I guess any nine year old would probably agree with me. The next time I read “Robinson Crusoe”, I read an abridged version. I managed to finish it in two days and I found it more enjoyable than when I first had it read to me in Grade four. My third time reading it was recently, for Arts One. It took me little less than a week to finish the entire book, and I admit, the beginning was very dull. However, the book picked up action when you get to the middle and end, and then reading became less of a chore and was actually -if you’d believe it- exciting.


I found the part where Robinson Crusoe encounters the cannibals and mutineers very interesting. It’s not as interesting to hear Robinson talk about his life before the shipwreck, but once he is stranded on the island, the book becomes much more worth reading. One of the things that makes Daniel Defoe’s work very debatable is Robinson’s habit of lecturing the reader. By “debatable” I mean discussable. Robinson Crusoe talks about his former sins and the need to appreciate what one has in life a number of times throughout the book. Sometimes, I found it annoying. The abridged version I read years ago cut out all of his philosophizing and concentrated on the overall story. But I admit, reading the complete “Robinson Crusoe” was more illuminating than the abridged version. Sure, it got dull at times, but you do find a treasure trove of material to discuss from the book.


A recurring theme that I found in the book was that of religion and Christianity. God appears many times in “Robinson Crusoe”- once, in Robinson’s dream, where He is depicted as angry and wishes to destroy Robinson for his inability to appreciate what God has already given him.  God’s powers and mercy towards humankind are also present throughout the book. In some ways, I found that the book was about learning to respect what we had, and that what we take for granted everyday can be easily taken away by God. In other ways, “Robinson Crusoe” can also be a coming-of-age story. It’s true that Robinson is not what you would call “young” even in the beginning, but he does mature rapidly throughout the book. He learns to embrace religion and even tolerate cannibalism because, as he reasons, cannibals don’t realize that it’s morally wrong to eat human flesh. Nor did most people in Defoe’s time believe that eating animal flesh was wrong. Vegetarians were few and far between.

The Prince

While reading Machiavelli’s “The Prince” I was consistently amazed by many of Machiavelli’s ideals and principles. I feel like I finally understand why “The Prince” is such an important book, as many of Machiavelli’s ideas are still applicable today for the modern ruler. Ultimately it seems like Machiavelli was one of the first of his time to be truly cynical when it came to power, and how to achieve it. Machiavelli doesn’t view power as a luxury, he sees it more as a necessity, and the way to get it is through his very precise and almost scientific methods outlined in “The Prince”. While a lot of his ideas are fantastic and still sort of applicable (ex. better to rule with fear than love), there are others which didn’t quite relate to me (such as conquering foreign lands), yet it was still really interesting to read about Machiavelli’s thoughts and historical evidence and stories.

Maybe it shows how times have changed, but I feel like a Machiavellian leader is much more difficult to come across today. While there will always be those strange exceptions like North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the majority of world leaders seem to have strayed away from being Machiavellian, and instead understand that their relationship with their people is actually important, and being truly virtuous as well. While I have never met Barack Obama, I feel like I can safely say that he isn’t faking his kindness and virtues, and that he is indeed a kind man with the goal of improving the average American’s well being. While leaders are less Machiavellian in that way, the fact that results are what matter has not changed.

The fact that results still are what truly matters is what makes Machiavelli’s “The Prince” still applicable today. “The Prince” is all about getting results, and making sure that those results are never compromised due to uprisings or political enemies outsmarting you. I guess that’s something that will never change about politics and power, and that’s what makes Machiavelli’s work so important, is that it teaches the most important aspect and doesn’t dance around talking about other aspects of ruling which can change with time. Machiavelli’s “The Prince” is all about results, and it remains such an important piece of literature today because our society is still based around results, and probably always will be.