Rousseau and Hypocrisy

Jean-Jaques Rousseau remains an influential figure not only for his writing, but as an interesting individual.

Interestingly, Rousseau seems to be just as interested in himself as anyone else. This seemingly contradicts with his idea of “amour propre”, or self love. Some may ask why Rousseau believes that he can spout ideas freely why contradicting himself, as he does it quite often. Rousseau had five children put in an orphanage, then later wrote a book on how to take care of and educate children. However, I believe that Rousseau is not a hypocrite; he views himself as a reflection of the human species and diagnoses it’s ills based on his own problems.

As the dubbed “Father of Romanticism”, much of his inspiration relies on innate emotional reasoning. Part of the strength in Discourse on Inequality is the feeling of nostalgia he is able to create for the past despite using little evidence to prove how good or bad it was. Rousseau’s knowledge relies not on facts and data, but on a sense of “knowing” that isn’t the least bit quantifiable. Rousseau sees with his heart, favoring what is moral over what is “progress” to the aristocracy of his time. He forms his opinions on his state because people seem to lack this sense of reasoning, favoring solid facts over what we should know is right. He looks inward to address society, and if he finds problems within himself, chances are that other people face similar ones.

Rousseau may seem self indulgent at times, writing autobiographies and such, but this doesn’t disprove his ideas– in a way, it gives them credibility. Rousseau doesn’t stand from afar telling the world that they have problems to fix. He recognizes that he himself is a part of society; a reflection of it’s ills, and a unique voice to help fix them.

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My Opinion on Others’ Opinions

You know how people are constantly telling you not to listen to what other people say, and it’s only what you think about yourself that matters? I know I’ve been told it a million times, but, and I think Rousseau would agree, that little saying doesn’t work.

Much easier said than done, am I right?

Ideally, it would be perfect to completely block out the opinions of others and just listen to yourself, but that’s not a good idea! Now, I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with Rousseau’s idea that we are shaped solely through the opinions of others, but we do need those opinions! Naturally not all of those opinions others have about you are going to be good, but a lot of the times it comes as a surprise when you hear good things about yourself coming from an outside perspective. I think as humans we need others to be there to reaffirm us or to be honest with us when the time comes, but it doesn’t mean that what they say defines who we are and who we perceive ourselves as.

I’m a firm believer in the saying that we’re always going to be our own worst critic, namely because that’s the case for me and for a lot of the people I know. Could you imagine being stuck with your own criticizing thoughts 24/7, with no external input? That would be hellish. Sometimes you need those external views to be able to step back and look at yourself through someone else’s eyes, and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two you didn’t know. That doesn’t mean that how that person sees you defines who you are, because that thing they saw was already there. It just means that they brought it to light, and that now you can see it too and integrate it into your conscious mind.

All in all, it’s really just a combination of ourselves and the people around us that help us to understand ourselves better.

Weird, right?

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Social Media’s Relation to the Idea of “Amour Propre”

Something Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions in A Discourse on Inequality is the term Amour propre. Amour propre is a translated in French as “self-love” and is the concept that one’s esteem is dependent on the opinion of others. As Rousseau explains in his book, the savage man is concentrated on himself and what it takes to survive, while the civilized man is someone who cares about the opinion of others. As man turns from savage to civil, he is forced to compare himself with the others around him. With this, civil man is often inconsistent in the way he presents himself and they way he truly is. In modern society, this is the common way to survive, as one must be able to compete with others to dominate and achieve what one wants in life. It’s unfortunate that a modern life style entails a lack of authenticity at times in order to strive forward.

The topic of “Amour propre” can be related to social media and the ability to be someone else behind a screen. Being able to make an account on Facebook or Instagram allows one to be able to post and share information about oneself with others. Social media can be a place to escape for those who want to be perceived differently than the way they are seen in the real world. In some cases however, people are too afraid to post exactly what they want and tend to pretend to be someone else on social media because of the constant worried about the way others will perceive them. It is due to modern society that people like “civil man” have lost their realness and feel the need to display themselves differently.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Father of Romanticism

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote his most notable works during the Enlightenment period, but it would be his influence on the next era of artful thinkers which would earn him the title ‘the Father of Romanticism’. Romanticism was born after a time when satire, criticism, scientific thought, and conformity were the order of the day. It replaced the bitter thoughts of previous periods with ones of individualism, a love of nature, and of freedom. Rousseau’s influence on the coming era was most prominent with his autobiography titled Confessions. It told the story of his life starting at a young age until he reached the later years of his life. Rousseau wished to be wholly truthful in the retelling of his life’s history and left little out of his writing. He went to describe his behaviour as a mischievous child, and in his years following adolescence, his various sexual experiences. The description Rousseau gave of his life, and the little reservations he had about retelling it, would have influenced the Romantic period greatly as his autobiography did not follow the societal rules and constructs of the Enlightenment period. Rousseau’s works helped to pave the way for future Romantic period writers like Edgar Allen Poe, William Blake, John Keats, and Mary Shelly who without Rousseau may not have had the chance to free their own creative minds.

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Nature is not kind, Jason did not make bread.

The problem with the discourse on inequality amongst men:

 

There is a glaring fault of logic in Rousseau’s Second Discourse. I will illustrate it using an analogy, then explain why they are comparative.

A Discourse on the reasons Jason Lieblang became a professor:

Jason began his life the son of a bread maker in the midst of the prairies in Canada. He had 3 siblings, triplets, all 10 years older than himself. When he was 14, he read his first book. He was immediately hooked, and from then on couldn’t stop reading. Book after book was ingested by Jason, from English literature to graphic novels, he devoured all. He dropped out of school and became a bread maker with his father and mother, but regretted it before long. He had no education, a love of books, and a professional relationship with yeast. When Jason turned 20, having made just enough money to buy a train ticket to Vancouver, he left home and came to the west coast. Befriending the head of the university in a chance encounter at a second hand sport store, Jason was offered a position teaching German (which he had never studied). He took the job, and managed to keep a lesson ahead of students by taking online classes, eventually, and relatively quickly, taught himself the language in turn. From here, Jason was himself a professor.

 

Ok, now: why this is the same as the discourse on inequality. THE PREMISES ARE INVENTED. Every reason, every inferential move, every fact is false. I don’t know the first thing about Jason’s childhood, nor do I know why he wanted to become a professor, and I particularly have no clue about his education. Doesn’t this remind us of Rousseau? In the same way that Jason was a “bread maker”, original/natural man was a peaceful being, in human form, who never conflicted with the others in his species. Hold on? Why and when and how did he come up with this? We might forgive him due to it being the 18th century when it was written, but then, I’m not a nice guy, so I won’t forgive him! If you’re righting a discourse on inequality and are determining when and where it arises from, you can’t begin the chronology with a lie! My whole argument, even if in the end correct (Jason does indeed become a professor), was predicated on invented facts which will be disproven, in the same way we know the state of nature as described by Rousseau just didn’t look the way he describes. There was brutality, unhappiness, relationships, and families from the beginning of the human society. It seems logical to assume property existed in some way; in the sense that if I set up camp somewhere, I will defend it, and it is my property- at least while I’m living there- and will fight anyone who challenges that right.

His argument is wrong because his starting point is wrong. EVEN IF he is right about property being the foundation for inequality, his ARGUMENT to get there is entirely faulty and has to be rejected.

Nature is not kind, Jason did not make bread.

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Galileo and the Tension Between Science & Religion

Even as s a devout Catholic, Galileo was seen as someone at odds with the Catholic Church. His goal as a man of science was not to challenge the Church but simply attempt to change how Catholicism interpreted phenomena in the world. Galileo’s struggle of being a deeply religious man, while also being devoted to empirical reasoning and science, positions him as an individual who sought to find a happy balance between the two. Currently, the division between science and religion is quite clear. During Galileo’s time, the two were very much married to each other. Today we see science and religion as two different things, the argument of evolution being a topic of debate between the sides. Ultimately their goal is the same, the attempt to explain the unexplainable, where they both seek a higher knowledge.

Galileo’s commitment to his ideas is admirable as his time was filled with fear of heresy and opposing the Catholic Church. His support of heliocentrism (the idea that the planets revolve around the Sun), caused his persecution and questioning during the Inquisition. His life is an example of how belief and evidence are rarely in a clear balance.

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Paradigm Shifts and Higher Powers

Paradigm shifts are rarely brought about without a fair amount of resistance; whether in the realm of science, as was the case for Galileo, or in other areas such as with civil rights. The explanation for this is rooted in the nature of paradigm shifts: they represent a fundamental change in the assumptions underlying a certain sector. Each area of knowledge is built upon a certain set of assumptions. The concept of slavery and segregation in the USA for example was based upon the assumption of white supremacy. Most revolutions target these premises. As history shows, people find it very difficult to radically change their beliefs and ideologies, which is exactly what a paradigm shift requires.

In Galileo’s time, the geocentric model of the solar system, with the earth at the centre of the universe, was the foundation of not only scientific but also theocratic belief. This presence of the church and religious values in the area where Galileo (amongst other scientists such as Copernicus) was attempting to re-educate people made his role in the scientific revolution a lot more difficult. In admitting that the geocentric model of the earth was flawed, the Christian Church would itself be undermined and its other fundamental beliefs would be called into question. This meant that any efforts to disprove the geocentric theory were heavily resisted and equated with impiety.

This situation can be likened to modern America. One very controversial issue nowadays is the issue of gun laws, and whether they should be restricted. Outside of the US, many people do not understand why the conflict is so important (and simply resolved by a stricter regulation of guns, as has been proven effective in other countries). The fact is, however, that the right to carry arms is included within the US constitution, which itself lies at the heart of American law and governance. A change to the gun laws would seriously undermine the constitution. It would prove to US citizens that the constitution requires serious amendment and change not only in the sector of arms but also in other areas, and that it is outdated. The fact that the issue has become so high in profile makes it even more difficult for conservative politicians to relinquish this very important point.

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The Importance of Arts

Galileo’s talent in the arts is arguably the reason he was able to receive any recognition for his scientific discoveries. He understood how to observe the unknown and how to display it in a way for people to (eventually) agree with it. Given Galileo’s artistic background, he could properly use a telescope and create a legitimate depiction of the moon. A scientist without training in the arts would not have been able to interpret and explain the moon as well as Galileo. His balance of knowledge in religion, philosophy, and fine arts allowed Galileo to see and reproduce what he saw in the natural world.

Seeing and knowing is a powerful skill because it opens up a broader understanding of our natural world. Seeing a round figure in the sky each night is not the same as knowing it’s purpose. A dynamic education provides multiple dimensions for perceiving what we see. The study of arts ignites this curiosity for purpose that can never fully be satisfied, thus inspiring a type of thinking that can always move forward. This desire to know the truth is what differentiates humans from other living beings. Humans are able to thrive based on what we have learned about the world we live in. Galileo signifies this paradigm of people beginning to question what is told to them. He showed us that there is always more to learn, and that we shouldn’t believe concepts without proper observation. If humans always thought the earth was the center of the universe, we would have never stepped foot on the moon.

The study of arts opens up an endless realm of possibilities that have most likely never been touched on before. There is no definite answer in life, so we are left to supporting ideas with evidence and experience. With proper training in arts, we can work to unfold the unknown in this world. Thanks to Galileo, we can conclude everything we are told is false until proven true.

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The Magic of Theatre

Magic has always appealed to me. Just the idea of it, the stories of spells and potions with the ability to do a range of things beyond what our mere human abilities allowed.

This play is filled with magic. There’s Prospero, who controls Ariel. From the start of the play I found myself taking an interest in Ariel, because as an extension to my interest with Magic I also have an interest in Magical beings. Ariel, the sprite, is a particularly intriguing one, who takes the form of a Sea Nymph to carry out Prospero’s plans. In addition to taking the form of a Sea Nymph, in Act 3 Scene 3 Ariel enters as a Harpy (a mythological hybrid creature with a bird’s body and a woman’s face). With their wings, Ariel makes the banquet that was set by spirits disappear into thin air.

There are many elements of Magic involved on the island, which is easy to imagine but a bit harder to carry out on stage.

After some research I found that I wasn’t insane, but that The Tempest indeed has some of the most stage directions out of Shakespeare’s plays. These directions give us insight as to how certain tricks were performed on stage, or just simply let us know what the scene looked like so that we can infer further as to what was done.

The simplest of illusions was not an illusion at all, but was when Ariel became invisible to all but Prospero. That just required acting and blocking, blocking presumably so that Ariel could move through and around the characters in a way that normally would be seen as abnormal if the characters could see it. Choreography also would play a role, as I imagine that sprites would have a light, flitting way of movement, almost like a constant dance.

The heavier, more intense illusions come in the form of technology, with Shakespeare having to pull off things like the food disappearing when Ariel closed their wings, or Ariel appearing and disappearing with the thunder later on in that act.

Shakespeare gives us a clue as to how the wings trick was performed in his stage direction, “Enter Ariel, like a harpy, clasps his wings upon the table, and with a quaint device the banquet vanishes” (3.3, 166). After some more research I found that said quaint device could have been a table with a false top, that could turn over with the flick of a switch, either activated by Ariel or a stagehand. Ariel’s wings would disguise the act, so that the table could rotate and then when Ariel moved away, the fake table was now cleared of food.

Later on, Ariel disappears with the sound of thunder, and then the shapes enter again. From a basket disguised as a cloud that Ariel both descended and ascended in to wires attached to Ariel’s wings to Ariel just simply leaving the stage, there are many ways that this could have been staged. The stage direction doesn’t really tell us about the how, just that it happened. “He vanishes in thunder”  (3.3, 168). I actually find the second part of the direction more riveting, as “Then, to soft music, enter the shapes again, and dance with mocks and mows, and carrying out the table [they depart]” (3.3, 168). I imagine darkly dressed dancers moving around the actors and the table, making good use of the space until they finally get to their places at said table. The soft music creates a magical, mesmerizing atmosphere that the dancers play with so that it isn’t just the audience watching stagehands remove a prop, but it is something more.

I think I could honestly go on and on about how I imagine each scene to play out, and I’m not even a director. In the end, magic was created on stage by us “mere humans”, and it all happened live in front of an audience. That’s why I love theatre, because it always (to me) feels like a close second to actual magic.

 

Citation:

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Edited by Stephen Orgel, Oxford University Press Inc., 1987.

 

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This Insubstantial Pageant’s Faded

I was 15 when I was married. He spoke to me softly then, told me in words as gentle as caresses that he would honour me, value me, love me. He had seemed beautiful too, white and flushing pink as he worked beneath the sun, colours unknown on our island of green and brown and gold. I was dazzled, of course, and my father’s insistence on our separation only increased the attraction, although in retrospect I can see his subtle direction, how he shifted me like just another actor in his spectacle.

 

When I first arrived in Naples, I was taken in by its structured disorder. The buildings sloped down to the water, stopping a little short of the docks, where the ramshackle wooden sheds were clustered close to palaces of stone; from our bedroom, I could see a tower of a house that seemed to sway with the wind, always appearing on the edge of collapse. Inside the palace there were tapestries and curtsied maids, the glitter of jewels and the chiming voices of courtiers, and, of course, there was my husband. At first, I loved Naples.

 

The illusion faded quickly, though. I should have known, with Ferdinand; his first question to me was whether or not I was a maid. I ought to have taken the warning. Instead, I treated him as a temple, and, in the first months of our marriage, he touched me lovingly, brought me gifts, delighted in my words and actions as one delights in a newborn child. But he soon grew bored with my naivety to the civilized world. I fell from his favour, and my heart felt ruptured, my lungs became stone.

 

When his father died and Ferdinand became the King of Naples, he was an ineffective leader. It was not surprising. If he struggled to carry logs, where would he find the strength to carry a nation? My father stepped in to assist, and, though he had abjured the roughness of magic, he still commanded complete control over the action of the courtiers. Naples became like the island, my father its god, the people his slaves.

 

I grew more and more nostalgic for the island, though. I missed the sunlight and the lull of the ocean, the gentle breeze of Ariel as he swung between the trees. Mostly, I missed the books. My books, too, although they were my father’s first. He never thought if I should want them before he drowned them, but during our years on the island, I became well versed in their philosophy. It was through their knowledge that I taught Caliban, gave him language, gave his garbled sounds a meaning, a purpose. That was before he – before the attempted – but it is a long time since, and I have almost forgotten his violation.

 

It was not so bad, otherwise. Now, when I lay down to sleep in my royal bed, the sheets of silk and my husband’s body sweating close to me, I miss the music most of all, the sounds and sweet airs that gave delight and hurt not. I try to remember the harmonies that echoed through the night, the chords of longing and serenity that danced upon the air, but here, they elude me. The pageant has faded, and I am left alone, exhausted, crying quietly into the sheets as my husband snores with sleep beside me.

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