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Man, God, and Society in Western Literature

by: Dianna Roob Sr.

Man, God, and Society in Western Literature PHILOS 6

Marketplace > University of California - Berkeley > PHIL-Philosophy > PHILOS 6 > Man God and Society in Western Literature
Dianna Roob Sr.

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H. Dreyfus

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H. Dreyfus
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Dianna Roob Sr. on Thursday October 22, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to PHILOS 6 at University of California - Berkeley taught by H. Dreyfus in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 31 views. For similar materials see /class/226743/philos-6-university-of-california-berkeley in PHIL-Philosophy at University of California - Berkeley.

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Date Created: 10/22/15
Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society 1 Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus Handout 11 21 107 beatrice sasha kobow Some Final Notes on the Odyssey Hermes Athena Zeus Zeus as the Father and Head of the family of the Olympian Gods illustrates how different moodsways of being can coexist and share the Pantheon The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein introduces in his work Philosophical Investigations 1953 the notion of family resemblance to characterize some notions which describe and group together phenomena with overlapping but not with a set of identical properties his example games we can think of the Olympian Gods as a family of moodsways of being in this way Zeus is the God who assures safe passage from one world into another he protects guests and strangers from other worlds His two favorite children are Athena and Hermes Athena stands for multi world adaptability she shines on Odysseus Hermes is the messenger god he stands for cross appropriation of practices from one world into the next example he shows Odysseus the plant which protects him against Kirke s poison Unified Life The Two Olive Trees If there is a pantheon of moods gods and each can shine on a situation how can life be unified for the Greeks Life is unified beyond the anecdotal it has coherence and continuity that might be the most remarkable fact about Odysseus travels and homecoming However Homer does not describe serial monotheism first king then war hero then traveler then lover then avenger then husband but a plurality of being and a cross world passage In the polytheistic culture all worldsways of life are interconnected The great heroes only die the heroic death in the battlefields to be sung about at the great banquets the guests at these banquets only attend because they want to hear epic poems about the great heroes and their heroic deaths In this way the singer Homer s alter ego is the real unifier of the worlds and the most important person The image of backgroundforeground nicely illustrates how the different parts of Odysseus life hang together How can he unify his life style as adventurer and his life style as fatherhusbandking When he is in one world the other becomes the background giving meaning and seriousness and contour to the way of being that is emphasized When Odysseus comes to shore and struggles to survive he makes his bed under an olive tree p 9495 when he comes home he is recognized by Penelope because he knows of their bed the safe and secure and irremovable trunk of an olive tree in the center of the house p435 We see how the adventurer s bed as a background to this story gives his homecoming more depth and meaning Moods Choice Psychology Some moods can be characterized as psychological they are fleetng and not caused by a god shining on the situation for example happy sad sulky giddy vengeful frivolous etc they cannot be the basis for a whole life People who act on these inner inclinations like the servant girls like the suitors are typically punished Homer does not deny that Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society 2 Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus free will exists but it is important for him that an appropriate response such as the heroesheroines can display is made possible by getting in sync with the situation to which one is attuned by a world disclosing mood god Free choice is therefore marginal for Homer while it is central for us Some g guestions to think about in relation to the Odyssey 39 What do we mean by Tolerance today 39 Why do we describe certain commitments as fanaticism or addiction How could the Greeks describe such behavior 39 Contrast Polytheism with Binary Monotheism and with Monotheism and think of the relevance of each concept today Some Introductory Notes on the Oresteia 39 Aeschylus describes how the Greek culture becomes what it is for the viewers of his time his play is a documentation of the foundation of civilization 39 New the chorus The chorus sometimes conveys the truth behind the events which is telling us of the darkness of the times and the tragically con icting values sometimes the chorus is the people of Argos who don t understand the events around them Both times it can be hard for the contemporary reader to understand them How has the relationship GodsMortals changed 39 Gods don t help mortals anymore The Gods are no longer exemplars or the attuning ones They don t take on the guise of friends to help heroes transition and get in sync with a situation 39 Gods represent different values in the cultural practices of the people since Aeschylus is describing a transitional period some of these practices come into conflict 39 Each set of values Furies Olympian Gods claims absolute authority over the others 39 This can be called binary monotheism because each god way of life set of values claims to be the only truth and therefore superior to the others Example Artemis She is the one who demands the sacrifice of Iphigenia Agamemnon is supposed to sacrifice his daughter to allow the fleet to travel onwards to Troy and he does How can the protectress of the young and innocent demand the killing of another innocent creature We must assume that she does not expect Agamemnon to go through with the sacrifice She does not expect Agamemnon to act on reason rationality his oath and against his feelings Agamemnon faces an impossible choice his feelingsblood ties vs his rationality oath role as king 300 years after Homer was written down in Athenian Greece we now hear from Aeschylus the story of how the two value systems were made compatible Old Gods E New Gods Furies Olympians Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus local particular familyclan private house earth low blood ties personalized culture of vengeance curses blood feud local familial justice familial relations universal polis city public world market place agora sky high strangers progress thinking day impersonal culture of retribution oaths law universal justice institutional relations king subjects citizens husband wife etc Aeschylus sees that both of these side need to be reconciled in his society That s what he writes about I Nal39lv Tragedv s I In the ontological tragedy the con ict of practices is played out by the entire culture in this sense there is no focus on personal suffering and personal agonizing over decisions In the psychological tragedy the single individual is suffering from the consequences of a decision which is due to his or her character and a tragic flaw that they have Oedipus Rex Some Aristotelian terms of the psychological tragedy are hubris pride mistakes and catharsis the cleansing effect the learning process has for hero and audience In the tragedy of Aeschylus the ontological tragedy individual choice and motives do not matter much neither does character The action is not seen because in a sense it is already determined and done The past and future dominate the present of the stage play Yet this is not determinism and not fate as it will be in Virgil Agamemnon can chose and the space in which people can actchose changes It changes through suffering Although Agamemnon is free in his choice should I sacrifice Iphi genie or not his choice is limited to the two conflicting value systems struggling in his culture 3 guestion Is it really Agamemnon s hubris a character flaw that justifies Clytemnaestra s murder Is the murder justified Clytemnaestra believes she as an individual has stopped the senseless bloodshed that runs in the family yet she was only a tool of the furies g guestion of Audience for Libation Bearers In whose name will Orestes kill those who killed his father Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus Handout I 12907 Veg Short Summary of Some Core Concepts as introduced in Lecture and discussed in Section By beatrice sasha kobow Lecture 1 In the traditional humanist understanding great books contain universal truths about what it means to be human The existential philosophers who provide the background for the approach taught in this course Pascal Kierkegaard Nietzsche Heidegger and Sartre claim that you cannot have this kind of universal truth about human beings The nature of human beings depends on their culture and on the contingencies of this culture in history Pascal in 1660 Custom is our nature Truth about human beings is never ahistorical universal crosscultural or essential Each culture opens up a space that allows people to live as if they had some nature or other As history changes so does what people things gods works of art etc are that means what they show us as For example Homeric Greeks could show up as heroes or slaves medieval Christians showed up as saints and sinners Pierre Bourdieu says that culture is embodied in us In the way we hold our bodies we reveal what it means to be a man a woman a baby etc in a given culture This cultural shaping happens very early on and does not require a conscious effort on our part example American vs Japanese baby Our understanding of being what it means to be someone in our culture is typically invisible to us we are in it like sh in water How can we become aware of it Myths rituals and works of art make it manifest according to Heidegger A work of art focuses glamorizes illuminates embodies reiterates and sometimes reconfigures our way of being for us This is how art is not a copy mimesis of reality nor a representation of it nor a symbol for something because it points to itself not to something else Works of art do this for some time if the culture they focus in this way ends these works of art die that we appreciate the aesthetic beauty of a cathedral is different it is not the work of art at work in Heidegger s sense The works of art up for our consideration in this class did the same job as the temple or the cathedral they unified and held up to the people at the time their understanding of being We seek to understand in this course what it means to have a world by way of looking at different worlds over the course of Western civilization Lecture 2 39 The songs of the harper focus the polytheistic world of the Greeks at the time Homer was singing them around 700 BC and even several hundred years later when they were written down Homer s work might have been written by several people it is based on a song from the oral tradition which was sung usually over the course of several evenings Certame it is composed of many of the setpieces stories legends the bards used in many songs The question of authorship does not really interest us here We want to see how the Odyssey exemplified to the Greeks of Homer s time and some following generations what it meant to be an excellent warrior wife father son etc We want to see how it Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society 2 Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus showed to them their world Greeks were able to cite the text and use it on all occasion as authoritative reference much like the Bible was used later Enlightenment believes in the uni ed responsible agentself of a uni ed culture these elements are missing from Homer Since we are not so assured of these things in our time it makes sense to look back at Homer and see what we have lost Though the heroes and heroines of the Odyssey and even the gods are much like us they are different in this crucial respect The Greeks understood gods who impersonated people disguised themselves fought with each other and these gods were very important to them Enlightenment Psychology assumes that the idea of gods are a childish way of putting what we now know better the gods were personifications of psychological forces the gods turn out to be outward projections of purely inward or subjective phenomena The enlighten thinker could say Thanks to Descartes and Freud we now understand better than they did This statement will be challenged in this course Our question What role do the gods play in the life of human beings Think about the following In what situations do the gods show up for people Is there a skill for recognizing them Why do they sometimes come as themselves sometimes disguised Does any one person see more than one god Are the gods defenders of morality Is the question of morality even relevant in relation to these gods Lecture 3 39 Focus on the Telemakheia first 4 books about Telemakhos coming of age There can be a psychological or an ontological reading of what happens to Telemakhos Psychological reading psychological comes from psyche It has to do with the self the soul the mind The Enlightenment explains human actions in terms of inner qualities of an individual human being such as desires beliefs emotions fantasies talents Since we can and should become lucid about our psychological states we can become and are expected to be mature autonomous free agents Telemakhos receives advice from a family friend He is inspired and due to his own impetus takes charge of the situation Ontological reading Ontology wants to understand being Human actions are understood in terms of the world that facilitates them For example Feminism shifted away from understanding women in terms of what they desire 7 Freud What do women want 7 to understanding the space in society that opened up possibilities and closed off others because of what it meant to be a woman in that world Homer understands human actions as being in tune with the world one is in or out of sync with it When Athena comes she attunes Telemakhos to the world he is in he is now able to see the possibilities he has for acting 7 as the future king not as the dreaming boy anymore Only this reading explains the events at the public meeting Everyone sees the change Telemakhos is radiant and in tune with the situation Yet he fails in his speech Possible explanation Gods are not magic or luck Athena does not give him superpowers She Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society 3 Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus merely enables him to see the situation for what it now is 7 he needs to take charge but of course he is still lacking experience 39 Focus on Helen Gods function like moods Helen allows herself to be swept away by the mood that Aphrodite put her in and runs off with Paris She is not sorry about it but rather it is prideinducing that she was able to let herself be in this mood so completely Most interpretations see a aw either in Helen or in Homer s understanding of psychology or morality but it is important to see that being attuned to the mood that surrounds one and colors the world is a good thing for Homer Helen does not repent and she does not feel guilty a Christian woman might 39 Focus on Odysseus Odysseus is just the opposite of Helen He never loses his cool and always is in this mood He never loses his head With the help of Athena his protectress he is able to get in sync with every new situation he is in He is eager to see new worlds and learn about them Odysseus is involved in every situation and open to all the current possibilities In this way he is also attuned to the world he is in Lecture 4 Explanation of the Godchart First generation forces of nature mythical no interaction with humans second generation time third generation general universal elements in human society invariant across all worlds fourth generation our 12 Olympians the gods particular to the world society of Homer s Greece Zeus is the god who protects strangers he is in charge of protecting different worlds His favorites are Athena and Hermes Athena is the god attuning to different worlds Hermes is the Gobetween he can cross between worlds and guides people For example he takes people from this life into the underworld Versus the Comparison of Lives Thesis In Homer there is a plurality of good lives and they are not ranked This thesis is tested on Achilles and the encounter Odysseus has with him in the underworld Book 11 Achilles short and glorious life is compared to Menelaus long and luxurious life which in fact has no ending Both are valuable and although Achilles seems to initially regret his choice he is content that his son did well as a warrior 7 he still holds true to all the values of his choice It is also tested in the scene in which Odysseus is interrogated by Calypso as to why he wants to go home to Penelope Odysseus does not choose between the two because the two do not compare Their lives are incommensurate and so are their qualities Homer s work unlike the Oresteia is a comedy not a tragedy because the worlds do not ght and do not really con ict They are acceptable and can exist next to one another Handouts Philosophy 6 Man God Society 4 Spring 2007 Prof Hubert Dreyfus 39 quot39 quot 39 39 quot 39 vs I 39 quot 39 ofthe Greeks We seem to value diversity and accept a plurality of good lives much like the polytheistic Greeks in Homer Yet for us this remains a question of choice and selfdetermination We seem to be able to go between worlds as we please the Greeks don t The upshot is that for us none of these lives have the same seriousness and weight that they could have for the Greeks What we can take from them is the idea that there is no common scale for ranking lives and that other worlds need to be respected mainly because they are unavailable for us though unless we are initiated into them by a god Study Questions 39 Why would Heidegger say that Marilyn Monroe or Martin Luther King are Works of Art Why is this account of Works of Art not mimetic copies of the world How can Works of Art cease to work What is the difference in understanding something as a great book and a great work Why is the question whether Homer was the author of the Odyssey or not unimportant for our approach What are the gods doing in Homer How are the gods like Works of Art for us What can they do for us How can Telemakhos story be understood from an ontological rather than a psychological point of view What is the difference Which one makes better sense of what happens to Telemakhos What does it mean to say that the different lives are incommensurate Use the examples HelenOdysseus AchillesMenelaus CalypsoPenelope 39 How does multicultural relativism differ for us from Homer s polytheism Suggestion for Further Reading 39 The Origin of the Work of Art Martin Heidegger 39 Existentialism Is a Humanism JeanPaul Sartre 1946 available online


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