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Phil 206-01 Philosophy in Literature and Film

by: Elshadai Smith-Mensah

Phil 206-01 Philosophy in Literature and Film Phil 206-01

Marketplace > University of Louisville > PHIL-Philosophy > Phil 206-01 > Phil 206 01 Philosophy in Literature and Film
Elshadai Smith-Mensah
U of L
GPA 3.96

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Phil 206-01 Philosophy in Literature and Film Study guide/Full notes for the course with John Gibson
Philosophy in Literature and Film
John Gibson
Study Guide
philosophy, Literature, Film
50 ?




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This 11 page Study Guide was uploaded by Elshadai Smith-Mensah on Monday February 22, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to Phil 206-01 at University of Louisville taught by John Gibson in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 62 views. For similar materials see Philosophy in Literature and Film in PHIL-Philosophy at University of Louisville.


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Date Created: 02/22/16
The value of Tragedy  The difference between suffering and tragic suffering, is a that it has philosophical refection like the difference between getting a papercut and 12 years a slave.  Philosophy shows life, while tragedy shows truth.  Tragic art shows us reality because it makes it bearable, it makes people empathize rather than run away, like singing lyrics of “Strange Fruit.” o It’s different from horror because horror doesn’t show reality, so there is nothing to empathize with.  Tragic art is a rebellion/conquering it because knocks down the wall between life and art with authenticity which we connect with suffering.  Nietzsche- was a philosopher that says the human world is hostile, and art makes the world worth living in, because misery is now bearable. o Ethical value of art- is that it allows us to feel uplifted at human suffering rather than turning away from it (highway accident). “Tolerable to human perception.”  Artists are moral saints because they can show the terrible truth while adding beautiful, thus lightening the load of human suffering (but not solving everything). o Apollonian is order, perfection, and peace while Dionysian is wild and chaotic. But in art, you must have both.  Too much Apollo is unrealistic, too much Dionysus loses artistic value. There must be balance for art to be successful. Happiness (Greek Ethics)  Earth was not built for human happiness.  It’s not an emotion but trying to have a flourishing life (Eudaimonia- well- spirited). It’s compatible with tragedy because one wants to be well-spirited (farmers.)  Happiness is the telos (goal) of life, so we constantly make decisions in order to achieve happiness, but we can still make mistakes in the name of happiness. (Smoking with friends).  To reach happiness, you must know yourself. If you don’t want kids, you won’t be happy with them. IF you aren’t good at writing, you won’t be happy as an author.  Cultivation of virtues, you must have certain characteristics to keep external goods.  External goods are all the fuzzy things in life like family, health, friendship, love, safety.  Happiness depends on luck and is based on external goods which is fragile.  The only way you know you completely accept yourself (good and bad) to reach a state of happiness is Nietzhe’s experiment of eternal recurrence where you must live the true narrative of your life over and over. Epistemology  Epist-beliefs mology-study  We have beliefs that are not knowledge because we only have access to appearance, and not reality. To prove a belief is knowledge is that it must be true in the external world, but who can prove it?  Descartes “I think therefore I am: sitting in front of fire doubting everything. The only thing that we know is that we exist, because we can think. The only limit is that you can be sleeping.  Epistemic humility- hold on to beliefs, but awareness of how we can be wrong. Skeptic. o This can suck because after working for external goods, they may not even be real. Isolation.  Error of belief is bound to happen because we can’t ever be certain.  Skepticism is accepting that you have an absence of knowledge. You can be wrong about the most intimate things of your existence, the world can be radically different from what you think. Doubt- deals with disbelief in what you do know.  We can see truth, and be exposed to knowledge, but we may not acknowledge knowledge. Relationship falling apart, Nazis killing people. Akrasia- weakness of the will  Self-control – to be able to control deepest desires.  Failures of axiological reasoning is when you put desires and passion over important things. Axiological reasoning is logical reasoning. When passion or desire takes the reigns of reason.  The Divided mind (psyche)- thinking more about short term happiness about long term gain.  Tripartite soul= logic vs. passion vs. appetite  Nature of logos is distinctive in the human animal, because we are the only ones who have it. A cat only has appetite. Alienation and Community  The idea of a genuine community- feeling safe, accepted, being known, the community believes in one thing that will not be questioned. There is a shared value.  Alienation because of community- being another vs. another. There is space between you in the community. Hell has no community.  Three basic forms of alienation- World/Nature- Boring, no human contact. Other people- loss of fellow-feeling. Gap between people, hell. Refer to Medea and Satan. Yourself- depression, alien. Life is elsewhere.  Alienation as the sense of an insurmountable distance between oneself and the good/objects of values- estrangement, you can be among others, but not feel like a community, feeling foreign.  Difference between genuine community and merely being among others  The intrusion of the I’s as the common way of undermining community- we destroy communities when we say I and not we…ex: USA basketball dream team. Obsessing over your experiences and have an interesting life won’t work with having kids. Destroys Eudaimonia.  A genuine community as necessarily a form of moral community.- pursing the good, flourishing life. The whole community shares a common goal. For a family to thrive, they must put goals ahead.  Langston Hughes’s “Dinner Guest: Me” as study of alienation and the failure of community- To internalize society’s judgement and engage in characteristic activities but not feel like you are a part of the community. The character feels like he is the Negro problem. He starts out saying “I am”- internalizing it. There is double consciousness of one’s identity. --- go back to Langston hughes Mean Streets- Martin Scorsese  Moral tragedy o Problem of moral knowledge- Charlie won’t ever know what is truly right and what is truly wrong, because it’s subjective. He wants to be a moral agent because he wants to lighten the burden of humanity, and to do that, you must go to those most in need- Johnny boy. He is burdened to do the right thing. Enable o Problem of conflicting moral demands- everyone wants something, and there is no way of making one community happy without hurting another community. Moral schizophrenia.  He wants to help Johnny boy, but by trying to do right, he allows chaos to take root. Paradox because he means to do the right but does more wrong.  To be a good person, you can’t just always do the right thing, but you have to get lucky. o “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.” Oedipus Rex – Sophocles  Metaphysical tragedy- Aristotle says After Physics. Written in the cosmos. Fate, we have no control. Actors on stage, but we don’t have the script. This is metaphysical because fate destined Oedipus to marry his mom, kill his dad, and his kids to be his brothers and sisters. He had control over his control. Responsible for hubris, because he takes pride for coincidence. He tries to escape the gods, and have their happiness, so he gets knocked down for it.  Epistemic tragedy- belief vs. reality. The world is other then what you believe it to be. Oedipus thought he was on top of the world, but in the end he finds out that he is worse off than anyone else. Skepticism is unavoidable.  The riddle of the sphinx and ‘meta-literary’ reflection- riddle of the sphinx describes humans in every stage of life. In the story Oedipus figures it out. Sophocles includes this meta-literary reflection is including another literary work in a hypothetical story, to hint at it is still just a play. The metaphor is false, but it symbolizes the truth. “Brooklyn without the charm.” So the story is false, but it hints at the real truth. The characters, like Oedipus embody qualities of us.  Hubris and striving to live beyond human measure- hubris is arrogance, when humans live like gods. Oedipus does this in the beginning when he says my children. Humans must have humility, and no their place in life. Oedipus loses this humility. Medea  Psychological tragedy- tragic in mind. Harms for the sake of it (gratuitous violence- I don’t have to have a reason to be mean.) Evil can be mundane. Gratuitous evil- no reason to do terrible acts and has generalized rage. Medea is a psychological collapse, because she is driven by revenge, and reason becomes the slave to passion.  Tripartite soul- angel and devil on your shoulder. Pulls someone in different sections. The mind represents reason/logic which distinguishes humans with judgement. The heart represents passion. The stomach represents appetite, desire, addiction. Humans are well-built because we always see us better than what we are. Deceiving.  Akrasia/weakness of the will- axiological reasoning is to but logic in charge of passion and appetite, but akrasia is when passion/desire is place over logic. “Weakness of will”  Medea embodies alienation and dehumanizing effects- because she is seen as an animal and barbarian after Jason leaves her. Over time, she believes that this is who she is, so she loses her humanity for animality.  Jealousy and the paradox of romantic love- Jealousy drives Medea to get revenge and perform gratuitous evil. The paradox of romantic love is that love can bring you together but it can also destroy what you love the most and bring the greatest violence. Jason left Medea, so she kills everything he loves, including her own children.  The problem of Otherness: Medea, since foreign, as ‘barbarian’ and not so fully human: After Jason leaves her, Medea loses all her status. She is not welcomed home, and she is a non-greek. Society sees her as an other, Dubois said that “you start to feel like a problem”. With society telling her that she is a barbarian, and akrasia to happen, she becomes more of an animal than a human. Paradise Lost and Tragedy  Tragedy of Reason/Tragedy of Moral Freedom. How does reason, indeed the gift of moral freedom, create the conditions for the greatest form of tragedy, namely alienation from God?- Thought can destroy everything, and reason can create evil things, because humans are productive at destroying. God gave us moral freedom, so we can choose to do the right thing, but reason is a double-edge sword. Satan becomes the first philosopher against tyranny. Satan doesn’t choose God to lead, so God is the first tyrant, and Satan is the first freedom fighter. Satan thinks for himself, so the gift of reason turns into a curse. Satan thinks himself out of heaven.  Tragedy of Human Separateness, how does the fall make alienation from one another an inescapable feature of human life? For a community to work, there’s one law a community must whole-heartedly follow. If someone questions it then it will fall apart. When Satan introduces freedom, which is correlated to the Intrusion of the I’s, he destroys the community. Satan makes freedom the principle that binds us together, but that will never work. Satan’s fall creates our fall. We live in the wake of the fall, because the human condition is now separateness since we place ourselves over the others through personal freedom. (ex: Black live matter- a true community would embrace people if they felt insignificant) (ex: Race barriers in Cleveland and Detroit- alienation) Life is now lost love and pain. “No light but rather darkness is visible”  The problem of divine foreknowledge and moral freedom (in Book 1), and Milton’s attempted solution to it (hint: it concerns how God “sees” past, present, and future).- Divine foreknowledge is that God is omnipotent, and knows the past, present, and future. Moral Freedom is the choice we have to control the future. The problem of divine foreknowledge is that if the future is planned by God, what part we have, because we no longer have moral responsibility for our choices. Milton solves this problem by taking God out of time, he sees us deciding, but does not control us.  The philosophical significance of the fall, especially in respect to the loss of innocence, the breaking of the one rule, and how the gift of reason, even the power to philosophize, leads to the fall.- The fall is significant because knowledge (like the fruit of Adam and Eve) makes us lose our innocence. The rule we are not supposed to break is God’s law, so if we are able to reason out of that, we are all morally responsible for the consequences  Community and alienation in Paradise Satan destroys community with the concept of freedom. Alienation takes the place of the community. There is no trust, and a lot of fear. Every crime committed is a crime against humanity (ex: rapist). No law or order. The Road  What, if anything is present in The Road that cannot be present in a genuine hell? - It’s not hell because of the father/son connection of trust, love, protection, hope. Father shows self-sacrifice which is not the intrusion of the I’s.  What does The Road tell us about the nature of morality and love? To be moral is hard work because there is no payback. The one thing you do not mess with is love, so that why he is obligated to protect his son. The father is a moral saint.  Compare the world to The Road to Milton’s vision of Hell in books 1 of Paradise Lost.- In the Road there is survival of humanity (fire) and community, where in hell there is no community due to the focus being on freedom. The Paradox of Romantic Love  The pain inherent in romantic love, and its capacity to destroy the self, as exemplified by the Sappho’s “Like the Very Gods”- love should bring us together but we create the greatest evil and harm to what we care about. It shows paradox of love through alienation. Poem of estrangement and broken hearts. Alienation is like death and self-destruction.  The capacity for violence that attends romantic love as exemplified my Medea- Medea love for Jason turns into revenge and she kills what she loves the most- her kids. Freedom  Freedom and Happiness- to be happy, we must have both negative and positive freedom.  Two kinds of Freedom - Negative- personal liberty- “no one’s watching”, absence of barrier of what you want, the only important thing is the choice you have. Drug addicts are free to do drugs, but they are now dependent on them. - Positive- Eudaimonia. You have the choice to live in a certain way. Freedom to be the person you wish to be. You must work for it, and follow rules. Freeing yourself from temptation.  Freedom as a kind of control over our future- through our choices we are morally responsible for the future. The future is open, and my decision decides it.  Moral freedom and moral responsibility- the freedom we have to make the right choice and stick by our decision and consequences.  Reference problem of freedom and divine foreknowledge Hamlet  As the tragedy of Deliberation- there is a gap between thought and action due to overthinking. Thinks rather than performs.  Why does Hamlet ‘hesitate’?- to act is to become. He has no hope for existence. Endless sea of possibility, when you act you choose one thing.  Why is Hamlet paralyzed by the need to act? He gives away his freedom of choice. He must step out into the sun. Thought destroys everything. Existence looks disgusting, reality is disappointing. “To be or not to be”- being and becoming because if you don’t, you can still hold onto your possibilities.  Action as self-definition and the fear thereof. We have a fear of existence, and we are burdened by thought. We can think ourselves out of existence. “Walk out into the sunshine” If you do not act, you can hide from existence and to be responsible for anything.  Compare Hamlet to Bartleby- Hamlet cannot decide, but Bartleby can. However, they both want the same thing.  (meta literary reflection with the mouse trap) Critique of Modernity  What and when is modernity?- when the world starts taking the shape it is now/ new way of living. Rise of the free market, business class, authority going to universities, revolutions.  The modern world as a kind of problem- were creating a monster, we can reason the holocaust and modern slavery, families are broken up and alienation is prevalent, failed communication, life is cheapened, experiences are ls not and the only thing we can do is drop out and escape into a dignified life or death. Looks great on paper, but does not work in reality.  What is the most philosophically reasonable way of responding to the problem of modernity: Through art (Romantics), through revolution (Marx), or through withdraw (Bartleby)? Bartleby the Scrivener and Tragedy  Does Existential tragedy or tragedy of modernity best deserve it? What is the difference between he two?  The philosophical significance of Bartleby’s refusals (what, exactly, is he refusing?)  Is Bartleby a hero?  The significance, bot literary and philosophical, of the Dead Letter office.  What does Bartleby get wrong, if anything? And how might a philosophical vindication of the value of life require that we so that Bartleby’s refusals were unwarranted or irrational?


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