Thursday, January 26, 2012

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

Dig the monkey and the pages of manuscript. The artist is unknown, and the painting is dated between 1665-1670. If the later date were true, that would put the painting of the portrait five years before the publication of the Satyr Against Mankind and ten years before his death, presumably from various venereal diseases exacerbated by alcoholism.

Christina Elliott – Week 2 Reading Responses

Christina Elliott – Week 2 Reading Responses
Rochester: A Satyre Against Mankind
In A Satyre Against Mankind Rochester highlights the despair and doubt associated with intellectual pursuits. Overall the piece is quite pessimistic in its opinion of Reason. Rochester uses the metaphors of a man lost in a foggy bog, nights spent with “common whores,” slavery, witchcraft, and tormented flesh-ripping battles to illustrate the frustration involved in scholarly thought. A second voice emerges in the poem to defend Reason, stating that it allows for distinction between man and beast and permits “flight beyond material sense.” Yet, this argument is short lived and quickly turns against Reason once more. He likens educational institutions to insane asylums filled with “frantic crowds of thinking fools.” Warning is offered against becoming overly engulfed in philosophic thought, that sensible reason can bring about happiness but overthinking these issues can destroy any inherent pleasure and lead to anxiety and listlessness.
Rochester’s ridicule against institutions such as universities and government bureaucracies draws to mind Goya’s Los caprichos, a series of etchings completed in 1799[1] that offered brutal criticism of the elite, the government, the clergy, societal norms, superstitious behavior, and the arrogance held in intellectual circles. Plate 43 The sleep of reason produces monsters, depicts a man falling asleep while studying. The man is immediately surrounded by owls, a typical symbol of wisdom. Yet, these creatures begin to morph into absurd monstrosities as they fly from the man. This image echoes Rochester’s warning against Reason becoming perilous if taken too far. Rochester’s prose “So charming ointments make an old witch fly. And bear a crippled carcass through the sky” readily relates to Plate 68 Pretty Teacher!, which portrays an old witch and her young apprentice. The owl in the upper right corner reflects back on the subject of reason, and may allude to a similar opinion held by Rochester, that scholarly endeavors are fraught with as much mischief, fear, dishonesty, and dread as demonic practices.  
“Tis evident beasts are, in their own degree, As wise at least, and better far than he.”
Hobbes on Equality
“Hobbes on Equality” seems to present a contradiction from the very start. Immediately he makes a distinction and alludes to a hierarchy in human thought. He states that men are basically equal, aside from those who inhabit the arts or sciences. Another thought he proposes seems to strike a nerve regarding current events. Hobbes states “For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of any thing than that every man is contented with his share. From this equality of ability arise the quality of hope in attaining our ends.” This statement is haunting in light of the current “Occupy” movements and growing discontent over the uneven distribution of wealth. Certainly “every man” is no longer content with his share.
Hobbes on Power
“Hobbes on Power” outlines the qualities deemed fundamental in acquiring power. Of these he highlights authority, financial freedom, reputation, and popularity. Yet, Hobbes has left out the role of sexuality in power struggles.[2] He proposes that power has its own inertia, “increasing as it proceeds.” Amusingly, Hobbes also states that “The value or worth of a man is, as all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power, and there for is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and judgment of another.” In this sense Hobbes makes man a commodity and his exchange-value is highly dependent on how others rate his level of power. “Exchange-value manifests itself as something totally independent of … use-value.”[3] So then if the community refuses to recognize him, they deny him power, and his acquisitions of wealth and prestige become trivial and worthless.
Also interesting within this text is Hobbes statement that “Nor does it alter the case of honour whether an action (so it be great and difficult, and consequently a sign of much power) be just or unjust: for honour consisteth only in the opinion of power.” He goes on to explain that depicting Gods as rapists and thieves is honorable because they are actions produced by wielding power. Although these acts require power, does this still make them equitable in an honorable sense when they carry a heavy social stigma? Do we honor modern icons in similar manners? In Hobbes interpretation, politicians caught with their pants down should feel honored. The fact that they have the means and resources to engage in multiple affairs is proof of their power.
Questions for Discussion
Do you think Rochester had anyone in mind when he talks of the “whimsical philosopher” liking his tub better than the spacious world?
Do you personally believe that ‘knowledge is power’ or ‘ignorance is bliss’?

Goya, Plate 43: The sleep of reason produces monsters, 1799
Goya, Plate 68: Pretty Teacher!, 1799
David, Marat Assassinated, 1793
“his tub prefer”

[1] Basic information on Goya’s Los caprichos can be referenced in Perez Sanchez, Alfonso E. & Gallego, Julian. Goya: The Complete Etchings and Lithographs. New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1995. Print: 32-34.
[2] Luckily for us, Foucault elaborates quite extensively about the role of sexuality in systems of power…
[3] For more on the topic of various values and commodities see Tucker, R. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1978. 302-304.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rochester: A Satyre Against Mankind

Were I (who to my cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious creatures, man)
A spirit free to choose, for my own share,
What case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
I'd be a dog, a monkey, or a bear,
Or anything but that vain animal,
Who is so proud of being rational.

The senses are too gross, and he'll contrive
A sixth, to contradict the other five,
And before certain instinct, will prefer
Reason, which fifty times for one does err;
Reason, an ignis fatuus of the mind,
Which, leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
Pathless and dangerous wand'ring ways it takes,
Through Error's fenny bogs and thorny brakes;
Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain
Mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain;
Stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down,
Into Doubt's boundless sea, where, like to drown,
Books bear him up awhile, and make him try
To swim with bladders of Philosophy;
In hopes still to o'ertake the escaping light,
The vapour dances, in his dazzled sight,
Till, spent, it leaves him to eternal night.
Then old age and experience, hand in hand,
Lead him to death, and make him understand,
After a search so painful and so long
That all his life he has been in the wrong.
Huddled In dirt the reasoning engine lies,
Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.

Pride drew him in, as cheats their bubbles catch,
And made him venture, to be made a wretch.
His wisdom did his happiness destroy,
Aiming to know that world he should enjoy;
And Wit was his vain, frivolous pretence
Of pleasing others, at his own expense.
For wits are treated just like common whores,
First they're enjoyed, and then kicked out of doors;
The pleasure past, a threatening doubt remains,
That frights th' enjoyer with succeeding pains:
Women and men of wit are dangerous tools,
And ever fatal to admiring fools.
Pleasure allures, and when the fops escape,
'Tis not that they're belov'd, but fortunate,
And therefore what they fear at heart, they hate.

But now, methinks, some formal band and beard
Takes me to task. Come on sir, I'm prepared.
"Then, by your Favour, anything that's writ
Against this jibing, jingling knack called Wit
Likes me abundantly: but you take care
Upon this point not to be too severe.
Perhaps my Muse were fitter for this part?
For I profess I can be very smart
On Wit, which I abhor with all my heart.
I long to lash it in some sharp essay,
But your grand indiscretion bids me stay,
And turns my tide of ink another way.

What rage ferments in your degenerate mind,
To make you rail at reason, and mankind?
Blessed glorious man! To whom alone kind heaven
An everlasting soul hath freely given;
Whom his great maker took such care to make,
That from himself he did the image take
And this fair frame in shining reason dressed,
To dignify his nature above beast.
Reason, by whose aspiring influence
We take a flight beyond material sense,
Dive into mysteries, then soaring pierce
The flaming limits of the universe,
Search heaven and hell, find out what's acted there,
And give the world true grounds of hope and fear."
Hold mighty man, I cry, all this we know
From the pathetic pen of Ingelo,
From Patrick's Pilgrim, Sibbes' Soliloquies,
And 'tis this very reason I despise:
This supernatural gift, that makes a mite
Think he's an image of the infinite,
Comparing his short life, void of all rest,
To the eternal and the ever-blessed.
This busy, puzzling stirrer-up of doubt,
That frames deep mysteries, then finds 'em out,
Filling with frantic crowds of thinking fools
Those reverend bedlams, colleges and schools;
Borne on whose wings, each heavy sot can pierce
The limits of the boundless universe;
So charming ointments make an old witch fly
And bear a crippled carcass through the sky.
'Tis this exalted power, whose business lies
In nonsense and impossibilities,
This made a whimsical philosopher
Before the spacious world, his tub prefer,
And we have modern cloister'd coxcombs who
Retire to think, 'cause they have nought to do.

But thoughts are given for action's government;
Where action ceases, thought's impertinent.
Our sphere of action is life's happiness,
And he that thinks beyond, thinks like an ass.
Thus, whilst against false reasoning I inveigh,
I own right reason, which I would obey:
That reason which distinguishes by sense
And gives us rules of good and ill from thence,
That bounds desires with a reforming will
To keep 'em more in vigour, not to kill.
Your reason hinders, mine helps to enjoy,
Renewing appetites yours would destroy.
My reason is my friend, yours is a cheat;
Hunger calls out, my reason bids me eat;
Perversely, yours your appetite does mock:
This asks for food, that answers, "what's o'clock?"
This plain distinction, sir, your doubt secures:
'Tis not true reason I despise, but yours.

Thus I think reason righted, but for man,
I'll ne'er recant, defend him if you can.
For all his pride and his philosophy,
'Tis evident beasts are, in their own degree,
As wise at least, and better far than he.
Those creatures are the wisest who attain,
By surest means, the ends at which they aim.
If therefore Jowler finds and kills his hares
Better than Meres supplies committee chairs,
Though one's a statesman, th' other but a hound,
Jowler, in justice, would be wiser found.

You see how far man's wisdom here extends,
Look next if human nature makes amends.
Whose principles most generous are, and just,
And to whose morals you would sooner trust.
Be judge yourself, I'll bring it to the test:
Which is the basest creature, man or beast?
Birds feed on birds, beasts on each other prey,
But savage man alone does man betray.
Pressed by necessity, they kill for food;
Man undoes man to do himself no good.
With teeth and claws by nature armed, they hunt
Nature's allowance, to supply their want.
But man, with smiles, embraces, friendships, praise,
Inhumanly his fellow's life betrays;
With voluntary pains works his distress,
Not through necessity, but wantonness.

For hunger or for love they fight or tear,
Whilst wretched man is still in arms for fear.
For fear he arms, and is of arms afraid,
By fear to fear successively betrayed;
Base fear, the source whence his best passions came:
His boasted honour, and his dear-bought fame;
The lust of power, to which he's a slave,
And for the which alone he dares be brave;
To which his various projects are designed;
Which makes him generous, affable, and kind;
For which he takes such pains to be thought wise,
And screws his actions in a forced disguise,
Leading a tedious life in misery
Under laborious, mean hypocrisy.
Look to the bottom of his vast design,
Wherein man's wisdom, power, and glory join:
The good he acts, the ill he does endure,
'Tis all from fear, to make himself secure.
Merely for safety after fame we thirst,
For all men would be cowards if they durst.

And honesty's against all common sense:
Men must be knaves, 'tis in their own defence.
Mankind's dishonest, if you think it fair
Among known cheats to play upon the square,
You'll be undone.
Nor can weak truth your reputation save:
The knaves will all agree to call you knave.
Wronged shall he live, insulted o'er, oppressed,
Who dares be less a villain than the rest.
T hus sir, you see what human nature craves:
Most men are cowards, all men should be knaves.
The difference lies, as far as I can see,
Not in the thing itself, but the degree,
And all the subject matter of debate
Is only: who's a knave of the first rate?
All this with indignation have I hurled
At the pretending part of the proud world,
Who, swollen with selfish vanity, devise
False freedoms, holy cheats, and formal lies
Over their fellow slaves to tyrannise.
But if in Court so just a man there be
(In Court, a just man - yet unknown to me)
Who does his needful flattery direct,
Not to oppress and ruin, but protect
(Since flattery, which way soever laid,
Is still a tax on that unhappy trade);
If so upright a statesman you can find,
Whose passions bend to his unbiased mind,
Who does his arts and policies apply
To raise his country, not his family,
Nor, while his pride owned avarice withstands,
Receives close bribes, from friend's corrupted hands.
Is there a churchman who on God relies;
Whose life, his faith and doctrine justifies?
Not one blown up with vain prelatic pride,
Who, for reproofs of sins, does man deride;
Whose envious heart makes preaching a pretence,
With his obstreperous, saucy eloquence,
To chide at kings, and rail at men of sense;
None of that sensual tribe whose talents lie
In avarice, pride, sloth, and gluttony;
Who hunt good livings, but abhor good lives;
Whose lust exalted to that height arrives
They act adultery with their own wives,
And ere a score of years completed be,
Can from the loftiest pulpit proudly see
Half a large parish their own progeny.
Nor doting bishop, who would be adored
For domineering at the Council board,
A greater fop in business at fourscore,
Fonder of serious toys, affected more,
Than the gay, glittering fool at twenty proves
With all his noise, his tawdry clothes and loves.

But a meek, humble man of honest sense,
Who, preaching peace, does practise continence;
Whose pious life's a proof he does believe
Mysterious truths, which no man can conceive.
If upon Earth there dwell such god-like men,
I'll here recant my paradox to them,
Adore those shrines of virtue, homage pay,
And with the rabble world their laws obey.

If such there be, yet grant me this at least:
Man differs more from man, than man from beast.

Hobbes on Equality

Leviathan, 1651 Part I, Chapter XIII NATURE hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another, yet when all is reckoned together the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself.

And as to the faculties of the mind, setting aside the arts grounded upon words, and especially that skill of proceeding upon general and infallible rules, called science, which very few have and but in few things, as being not a native faculty born with us, nor attained, as prudence, while we look after some what else, I find yet a greater equality amongst men than that of strength. For prudence is but experience, which equal time equally bestows on all men in those things they equally apply themselves unto. That which may perhaps make such equality incredible is but a vain conceit of one's own wisdom, which almost all men think they have in a greater degree than the vulgar; that is, than all men but themselves, and a few others, whom by fame, or for concurring with themselves, they approve. For such is the nature of men that how so ever they may acknowledge many others to be more witty, or more eloquent or more learned, yet they will hardly believe there be many so wise as themselves; for they see their own wit at hand, and other men's at a distance. But this proveth rather that men are in that point equal, than unequal. For there is not ordinarily a greater sign of the equal distribution of any thing than that every man is contented with his share.

From this equality of ability arise the quality of hope in the attaining of our ends.

Hobbes on Power

Leviathan, 1651

Part I, Chapter X

THE POWER of a man, to take it universally, is his present means to obtain some future apparent good, and is either original or instrumental.

Natural power is the eminence of the faculties of body, or mind; as extraordinary strength, form, prudence, arts, eloquence, liberality, nobility. Instrumental are those powers which, acquired by these, or by fortune, are means and instruments to acquire more; as riches, reputation, friends, and the secret working of God, which men call good luck. For the nature of power is, in this point, like to fame, increasing as it proceeds; or like the motion of heavy bodies, which, the further they go, make still the more haste.

The greatest of human powers is that which is compounded of the powers of most men, united by consent, in one person, natural or civil, that has the use of all their powers depending on his will; such as is the power of a Commonwealth: or depending on the wills of each particular; such as is the power of a faction, or of diverse. factions leagued. Therefore to have servants is power; to have friends is power: for they are strengths united.

Also, riches joined with liberality is power; because it procureth friends and servants: without liberality, not so; because in this case they defend not, but expose men to envy, as a prey.

Reputation of power is power; because it draweth with it the adherence of those that need protection.

So is reputation of love of a man's country, called popularity, for the same reason.

Also, what quality soever maketh a man beloved or feared of many, or the reputation of such quality, is power; because it is a means to have the assistance and service of many.

Good success is power; because it maketh reputation of wisdom or good fortune, which makes men either fear him or rely on him.

Affability of men already in power is increase of power; because it gaineth love.

Reputation of prudence in the conduct of peace or war is power; because to prudent men we commit the government of ourselves more willingly than to others.

Nobility is power, not in all places, but only in those Commonwealths where it has privileges; for in such privileges consisteth their power.

Eloquence is power; because it is seeming prudence.

Form is power; because being a promise of good, it recommendeth men to the favour of women and strangers.

The sciences are small powers; because not eminent, and therefore, not acknowledged in any man; nor are at all, but in a few, and in them, but of a few things. For science is of that nature, as none can understand it to be, but such as in a good measure have attained it.

Arts of public use, as fortification, making of engines, and other instruments of war, because they confer to defence and victory, are power; and though the true mother of them be science, namely, the mathematics yet, because they are brought into the light by the hand of the artificer, they be esteemed (the midwife passing with the vulgar for the mother) as his issue.

The value or worth of a man is, as of all other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his power, and therefore is not absolute, but a thing dependent on the need and judgement of another. An able conductor of soldiers is of great price in time of war present or imminent, but in peace not so. A learned and uncorrupt judge is much worth in time of peace, but not so much in war. And as in other things, so in men, not the seller, but the buyer determines the price. For let a man, as most men do, rate themselves at the highest value they can, yet their true value is no more than it is esteemed by others.

The manifestation of the value we set on one another is that which is commonly called honouring and dishonouring. To value a man at a high rate is to honour him; at a low rate is to dishonour him. But high and low, in this case, is to be understood by comparison to the rate that each man setteth on himself.

The public worth of a man, which is the value set on him by the Commonwealth, is that which men commonly call dignity. And this value of him by the Commonwealth is understood by offices of command, judicature, public employment; or by names and titles introduced for distinction of such value.

To pray to another for aid of any kind is to honour; because a sign we have an opinion he has power to help; and the more difficult the aid is, the more is the honour.

To obey s to honour; because no man obeys them who they think have no power to help or hurt them. And consequently to disobey is to dishonour.

To give great gifts to a man is to honour him; because it is buying of protection, and acknowledging of power. To give little gifts is to dishonour; because it is but alms, and signifies an opinion of the need of small helps.

To be sedulous in promoting another's good, also to flatter, is to honour; as a sign we seek his protection or aid. To neglect is to dishonour.

To give way or place to another, in any commodity, is to honour; being a confession of greater power. To arrogate is to dishonour.

To show any sign of love or fear of another is honour; for both to love and to fear is to value. To contemn, or less to love or fear than he expects, is to dishonour; for it is undervaluing.

To praise, magnify, or call happy is to honour; because nothing but goodness, power, and felicity is valued. To revile, mock, or pity is to dishonour.

To speak to another with consideration, to appear before him with decency and humility, is to honour him; as signs of fear to offend. To speak to him rashly, to do anything before him obscenely, slovenly, impudently is to dishonour.

To believe, to trust, to rely on another, is to honour him; sign of opinion of his virtue and power. To distrust, or not believe, is to dishonour.

To hearken to a man's counsel, or discourse of what kind soever, is to honour; as a sign we think him wise, or eloquent, or witty. To sleep, or go forth, or talk the while, is to dishonour.

To do those things to another which he takes for signs of honour, or which the law or custom makes so, is to honour; because in approving the honour done by others, he acknowledgeth the power which others acknowledge. To refuse to do them is to dishonour.

To agree with in opinion is to honour; as being a sign of approving his judgement and wisdom. To dissent is dishonour, and an upbraiding of error, and, if the dissent be in many things, of folly.

To imitate is to honour; for it is vehemently to approve. To imitate one's enemy is to dishonour.

To honour those another honours is to honour him; as a sign of approbation of his judgement. To honour his enemies is to dishonour him.

To employ in counsel, or in actions of difficulty, is to honour; as a sign of opinion of his wisdom or other power. To deny employment in the same cases to those that seek it is to dishonour.

All these ways of honouring are natural, and as well within, as without Commonwealths. But in Commonwealths where he or they that have the supreme authority can make whatsoever they please to stand for signs of honour, there be other honours.

A sovereign doth honour a subject with whatsoever title, or office, or employment, or action that he himself will have taken for a sign of his will to honour him.

The king of Persia honoured Mordecai when he appointed he should be conducted through the streets in the king's garment, upon one of the king's horses, with a crown on his head, and a prince before him, proclaiming, "Thus shall it be done to him that the king will honour." And yet another king of Persia, or the same another time, to one that demanded for some great service to wear one of the king's robes, gave him leave so to do; but with this addition, that he should wear it as the king's fool; and then it was dishonour. So that of civil honour, the fountain is in the person of the Commonwealth, and dependeth on the will of the sovereign, and is therefore temporary and called civil honour; such as are magistracy, offices, titles, and in some places coats and scutcheons painted: and men honour such as have them, as having so many signs of favour in the Commonwealth, which favour is power.

Honourable is whatsoever possession, action, or quality is an argument and sign of power.

And therefore to be honoured, loved, or feared of many is honourable, as arguments of power. To be honoured of few or none, dishonourable.

Dominion and victory is honourable because acquired by power; and servitude, for need or fear, is dishonourable.

Good fortune, if lasting, honourable; as a sign of the favour of God. Ill and losses, dishonourable. Riches are honourable, for they are power. Poverty, dishonourable. Magnanimity, liberality, hope, courage, confidence, are honourable; for they proceed from the conscience of power. Pusillanimity, parsimony, fear, diffidence, are dishonourable.

Timely resolution, or determination of what a man is to do, is honourable, as being the contempt of small difficulties and dangers. And irresolution, dishonourable, as a sign of too much valuing of little impediments and little advantages: for when a man has weighed things as long as the time permits, and resolves not, the difference of weight is but little; and therefore if he resolve not, he overvalues little things, which is pusillanimity.

All actions and speeches that proceed, or seem to proceed, from much experience, science, discretion, or wit are honourable; for all these are powers. Actions or words that proceed from error, ignorance, or folly, dishonourable.

Gravity, as far forth as it seems to proceed from a mind employed on something else, is honourable; because employment is a sign of power. But if it seem to proceed from a purpose to appear grave, it is dishonourable. For the gravity of the former is like the steadiness of a ship laden with merchandise; but of the like the steadiness of a ship ballasted with sand and other trash.

To be conspicuous, that is to say, to be known, for wealth, office, great actions, or any eminent good is honourable; as a sign of the power for which he is conspicuous. On the contrary, obscurity is dishonourable.

To be descended from conspicuous parents is honourable; because they the more easily attain the aids and friends of their ancestors. On the contrary, to be descended from obscure parentage is dishonourable.

Actions proceeding from equity, joined with loss, are honourable; as signs of magnanimity: for magnanimity is a sign of power. On the contrary, craft, shifting, neglect of equity, is dishonourable.

Covetousness of great riches, and ambition of great honours, are honourable; as signs of power to obtain them. Covetousness, and ambition of little gains, or preferments, is dishonourable.

Nor does it alter the case of honour whether an action (so it be great and difficult, and consequently a sign of much power) be just or unjust: for honour consisteth only in the opinion of power. Therefore, the ancient heathen did not think they dishonoured, but greatly honoured the gods, when they introduced them in their poems committing rapes, thefts, and other great, but unjust or unclean acts; in so much as nothing is so much celebrated in Jupiter as his adulteries; nor in Mercury as his frauds and thefts; of whose praises, in a hymn of Homer, the greatest is this, that being born in the morning, he had invented music at noon, and before night stolen away the cattle of Apollo from his herdsmen.

Hobbes on Wit

Leviathan, 1651

Part I, Chapter VIII

VIRTUE generally, in all sorts of subjects, is somewhat that is valued for eminence; and consisteth in comparison. For if all things were equally in all men, nothing would be prized. And by virtues intellectual are always understood such abilities of the mind as men praise, value, and desire should be in themselves; and go commonly under the name of a good wit; though the same word, wit, be used also to distinguish one certain ability from the rest.

These virtues are of two sorts; natural and acquired. By natural, I mean not that which a man hath from his birth: for that is nothing else but sense; wherein men differ so little one from another, and from brute beasts, as it is not to be reckoned amongst virtues. But I mean that wit which is gotten by use only, and experience, without method, culture, or instruction. This natural wit consisteth principally in two things: celerity of imagining (that is, swift succession of one thought to another); and steady direction to some approved end. On the contrary, a slow imagination maketh that defect or fault of the mind which is commonly called dullness, stupidity, and sometimes by other names that signify slowness of motion, or difficulty to be moved.

And this difference of quickness is caused by the difference of men's passions; that love and dislike, some one thing, some another: and therefore some men's thoughts run one way, some another, and are held to, observe differently the things that pass through their imagination. And whereas in this succession of men's thoughts there is nothing to observe in the things they think on, but either in what they be like one another, or in what they be unlike, or what they serve for, or how they serve to such a purpose; those that observe their similitudes, in case they be such as are but rarely observed by others, are said to have a good wit; by which, in this occasion, is meant a good fancy. But they that observe their differences, and dissimilitudes, which is called distinguishing, and discerning, and judging between thing and thing, in case such discerning be not easy, are said to have a good judgement: and particularly in matter of conversation and business, wherein times, places, and persons are to be discerned, this virtue is called discretion. The former, that is, fancy, without the help of judgement, is not commended as a virtue; but the latter which is judgement, and discretion, is commended for itself, without the help of fancy. Besides the discretion of times, places, and persons, necessary to a good fancy, there is required also an often application of his thoughts to their end; that is to say, to some use to be made of them. This done, he that hath this virtue will be easily fitted with similitudes that will please, not only by illustration of his discourse, and adorning it with new and apt metaphors, but also, by the rarity of their invention. But without steadiness, and direction to some end, great fancy is one kind of madness; such as they have that, entering into any discourse, are snatched from their purpose by everything that comes in their thought, into so many and so long digressions and parentheses, that they utterly lose themselves: which kind of folly I know no particular name for: but the cause of it is sometimes want of experience; whereby that seemeth to a man new and rare which doth not so to others: sometimes pusillanimity; by which that seems great to him which other men think a trifle: and whatsoever is new, or great, and therefore thought fit to be told, withdraws a man by degrees from the intended way of his discourse.

In a good poem, whether it be epic or dramatic, as also in sonnets, epigrams, and other pieces, both judgement and fancy are required: but the fancy must be more eminent; because they please for the extravagancy, but ought not to displease by indiscretion.

In a good history, the judgement must be eminent; because the goodness consisteth in the choice of the method, in the truth, and in the choice of the actions that are most profitable to be known. Fancy has no place, but only in adorning the style.

In orations of praise, and in invectives, the fancy is predominant; because the design is not truth, but to honour or dishonour; which is done by noble or by vile comparisons. The judgement does but suggest what circumstances make an action laudable or culpable.

In hortatives and pleadings, as truth or disguise serveth best to the design in hand, so is the judgement or the fancy most required.

In demonstration, in council, and all rigorous search of truth, sometimes does all; except sometimes the understanding have need to be opened by some apt similitude, and then there is so much use of fancy. But for metaphors, they are in this case utterly excluded. For seeing they openly profess deceit, to admit them into council, or reasoning, were manifest folly.

And in any discourse whatsoever, if the defect of discretion be apparent, how extravagant soever the fancy be, the whole discourse will be taken for a sign of want of wit; and so will it never when the discretion is manifest, though the fancy be never so ordinary.

The secret thoughts of a man run over all things holy, prophane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame, or blame; which verbal discourse cannot do, farther than the judgement shall approve of the time, place, and persons. An anatomist or physician may speak or write his judgement of unclean things; because it is not to please, but profit: but for another man to write his extravagant and pleasant fancies of the same is as if a man, from being tumbled into the dirt, should come and present himself before good company. And it is the want of discretion that makes the difference. Again, in professed remissness of mind, and familiar company, a man may play with the sounds and equivocal significations of words, and that many times with encounters of extraordinary fancy; but in a sermon, or in public, or before persons unknown, or whom we ought to reverence, there is no jingling of words that will not be accounted folly: and the difference is only in the want of discretion. So that where wit is wanting, it is not fancy that is wanting, but discretion. Judgement, therefore, without fancy is wit, but fancy without judgement, not.

When the thoughts of a man that has a design in hand, running over a multitude of things, observes how they conduce to that design, or what design they may conduce unto; if his observations be such as are not easy, or usual, this wit of his is called prudence, and dependeth on much experience, and memory of the like things and their consequences heretofore. In which there is not so much difference of men as there is in their fancies and judgements; because the experience of men equal in age is not much unequal as to the quantity, but lies in different occasions, every one having his private designs. To govern well a family and a kingdom are not different degrees of prudence, but different sorts of business; no more than to draw a picture in little, or as great or greater than the life, are different degrees of art. A plain husbandman is more prudent in affairs of his own house than a Privy Counsellor in the affairs of another man.

To prudence, if you add the use of unjust or dishonest means, such as usually are prompted to men by fear or want, you have that crooked wisdom which is called craft; which is a sign of pusillanimity. For magnanimity is contempt of unjust or dishonest helps. And that which the Latins call versutia (translated into English, shifting), and is a putting off of a present danger or incommodity by engaging into a greater, as when a man robs one to pay another, is but a shorter-sighted craft; called versutia, from versura, which signifies taking money at usury for the present payment of interest.

As for acquired wit (I mean acquired by method and instruction), there is none but reason; which is grounded on the right use of speech, and produceth the sciences. But of reason and science, I have already spoken in the fifth and sixth chapters.

The causes of this difference of wits are in the passions, and the difference of passions proceedeth partly from the different constitution of the body, and partly from different education. For if the difference proceeded from the temper of the brain, and the organs of sense, either exterior or interior, there would be no less difference of men in their sight, hearing, or other senses than in their fancies and discretions. It proceeds, therefore, from the passions; which are different, not only from the difference of men's complexions, but also from their difference of customs and education.

The passions that most of all cause the differences of wit are principally the more or less desire of power, of riches, of knowledge, and of honour. All which may be reduced to the first, that is, desire of power. For riches, knowledge and honour are but several sorts of power.

Hobbes on Laughter

Of Human Nature, 1650.

Chapter IX.

13. There is a passion that hath no name; but the sign of it is that distortion of the countenance which we call laughter, which is always joy: but what joy, what we think, and wherein we triumph when we laugh, is not hitherto declared by any. That it consisteth in wit, or as they call it, in the jest, experience confuteth: for men laugh at mischances and indecencies, whereto there lieth no wit nor jest at all. And forasmuch as the same thing is no more ridiculous when it groweth stale or usual, whatsoever it be that moveth laughter, it must be new and unexpected. Men laugh often (especially such as are greedy of applause from everything they do well) at their own actions performed never so little beyond their own expectations; as also at their own jests: and in this case it is manifest, that the passion of laughter proceedeth from a sudden conception of some ability in himself that laugheth. Also men laugh at the infirmities of others, by comparison wherewith their own abilities are set off and illustrated. Also men laugh at jests, the wit whereof always consisteth in the elegant discovering and conveying to our minds some absurdity of another: and in this case also the passion of laughter proceedeth from the sudden imagination of our own odds and eminency: for what is else the recommending of ourselves to our own good opinion, by comparison with another man's infirmity or absurdity? For when a jest is broken upon ourselves, or friends of whose dishonour we participate, we never laugh thereat. I may therefore conclude, that the passion of laughter Is nothing else but sudden glory arising from a sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others, or with our own formerly; for men laugh at the follies of themselves past, when they come suddenly to remembrance, except they bring with them any present dishonour. It is no wonder therefore that men take heinously to be laughed at or derided, that is, triumphed over. Laughing without offence, must be at absurdities and infirmities abstracted from persons, and when all the company may laugh together: for, laughing to one's self putteth all the rest into jealousy, and examination of themselves. Besides, it is vain glory, and an argument of little worth, to think the infirmity of another sufficient matter for his triumph.

Our Syllabus

What Now? Aesthetics and Politics Between Past and Future

Critical Studies 500-1, Spring 2012

Third Street Lecture Hall, Fridays, 9.00-11.45

Instructor: Dale Carrico;

Course Web-Site: whatnowbetweenpastandfuture

Approximate Grade Breakdown: Attendance/Participation 25%; Precis/Co-facilitation 25%; Symposium Presentation 10%; 25pp. Paper 40%

Provisional Schedule of Meetings:


Week One | 20 Course and Personal Introductions.

Week Two | 27 Fontenelle Digression on the Ancients and the Moderns | Hobbes, excerpts from Leviathan on Power, Wit, Equality -- Poems by Rochester, all posted on the blog | George Etherege, The Man of Mode

Supplemental: William Temple, On Ancient and Modern Learning, Jonathan Swift, "The Battle of the Books," Luc Ferry, Rights: The New Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns


Week Three | 3 Kant Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, What Is Enlightenment? | Willian Congreve, The Way of the World

Supplemental: Hannah Arendt, Lectures on Kant's Political Philosophy, J.B. Schneewind, The Invention of Autonomy

Week Four | 10 Schiller, Aesthetic Education of Man | Richard Sheridan, The School for Scandal

Supplemental: Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

Week Five | 17 Engels "Marx as the Darwin of History" on blog, Marx on the Fetishism of Commodities | Adam Smith: excerpts from Wealth of Nations and John Stuart Mill on Homo Economicus, all on the blog | John Gay, The Beggar's Opera

Supplemental: Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature

Week Six | 24 Oscar Wilde, "Soul of Man Under Socialism," and The Importance of Being Earnest, including the cut "Grigsby Episode" on the blog; Preface to Dorian Grey, Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young, Transcripts of the Wilde Trials.

Supplemental: Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process


Week Seven | 2 From Aesthetics and Politics, Presentation I, Ernst Bloch Versus Georg Lukacs, Presentation II, Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin, pp. 9-99; Fredric Jameson, Reflections in Conclusion, pp. 196-213 | in class screening of Noel Coward, "Hands Across the Sea"

Supplemental: Gayatri Spivak, Death of a Discipline, Paul Gilroy Postcolonial Melancholia

Week Eight | 9 From Aesthetics and Politics, Presentation III, Adorno Versus Benjamin, pp. 100-143 | Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility | Horkheimer and Adorno, Culture Industry; Adorno Culture Industry Revisited | Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto | Joe Orton, The Good and Faithful Servant

Supplemental: Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing, Dreamworld and Catastrophe

Week Nine | 16 Spring Break

Week Ten | 23 Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses | Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future, "Preface: The Gap Between Past and Future," pp. 3-14, Human Condition: Action (handout) | Kafka Before the Law, and on the blog "Give It Up!"

Supplemental: Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Week Eleven | 30 Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, and also the Preface to the Third French Edition | Joe Orton, "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"

Supplemental: Roland Barthes, Mythologies


Week Twelve | 6 Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style | Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp

Supplemental: David Lloyd, Paul Thomas: Culture and the State

Week Thirteen | 13 MFA Reviews

Week Fourteen | 20 in-class screening of Todd Haynes' "Velvet Goldmine," videos on blog by David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, and others.

Supplemental: From Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, from Jameson,Postmodernism, Bruno Latour We Have Never Been Modern

Week Fifteen | 27 Naomi Klein -- Introduction to No Logo One and Two, and Patriarchy Gets Funky | Claire Bishop Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics -- in-class screening of AbFab episode, "Doorhandle"

Supplemental: David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Saskia Sassen Territory, Authority, Rights


Week Sixteen | 4 Symposium
Hand in Final Essay no later than May 8

Course Objectives:
1. To think the "now" as a modernity substantiated in serial quarrels of ancients and moderns, as a vantage from which offer up aesthetic judgments, and as a provocation to change implicating the aesthetic in the political.
2. To think the relation of aesthetics and politics -- in our own "now," construed as the consummating moment of Neoliberalism -- via a survey of mostly post-marxist aesthetic and cultural theory.
3. To contemplate some of the ways in which cultural/political subjects have made spectacles of themselves for audiences of themselves, especially on stages and screens, roughly concurrently with the ways in which they have struggled to think themselves along the way.
4. To grasp some of the fraught relations of the cultural and the social to one another through the indispensability to each of the state and of the state itself to the states of culture and society.