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Ch. 10: The Tawdriness of the Miraculous and the Decline...
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Author:  Thomas Hood [ Sun Apr 19, 2009 6:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: ethics vs. morality

Suz wrote:
Thomas, are you speaking of ethics or morality?


In so far as ethics is the study of existing moral systems, both.

Quote:
. . . a well read person does not gain great moral wisdom from the books that she chooses to read. However, how does a literary person become less trustworthy?


That is indeed a good question. Booktalk persons, I imagine, would have a bias toward the belief that a literary education is uplifting. However, I have a specific model in mind, an intellectual and literate classmate of mine whose life has been devoted to wine, women, and song, and who abandoned his wife with several small children and left the country in order to evade child support. Somehow, too much imagination seems to deprive a person of ordinary moral sensibilities.

The personal lives of literary persons are typically less than admirable -- Frost, Vachel Lindsey, Whitman, Melville -- for example. Their works would be unreadable were it not for the separation that is typically made between literature and morality. And as for Shakespeare, perhaps you are aware of the physical horror and revulsion that underlies the sonnets?

Quote:
It is impossible to debate, or exchange opinions, or discuss topics with a person uneducated on the proposed topic, a monologue would be the result. It has been my personal experience to find the one man show monologue untrustworthy.


Supposing you are speaking of me by indirection and are accusing me of a "one man show monologue" -- do three sentences make a monologue? Think of me as the loyal opposition who wonders whether an author who supports a war begun on lies and carried through with corruption and torture has any morality to speak of.

Tom

Author:  Suzanne [ Sun Apr 19, 2009 7:49 pm ]
Post subject:  ethics vs. morality

Hello Tom:

Gotcha, Hemmingway, and Slyvia Plath may meet your critieria as well, Mark Twain maybe? I see your point, and if I see it correctly, I agree. Many authors and playwrights are far from role models. The drunken author is a stereo type after all. Shakespeare, my opinion, he wrote for the appetites of the people of the time, simular to the Grimm brothers, or Jodi Piqualt. I do not appreciate shock value. You do support your point very well wtih Melville and Whitman.

I am not sure what author you are referring to about the war based on lies, I would like to refer to the author who wrote about a war fuled by missals due to a man's erection. War based on testasterone. Can't ellaborate on Pynchon, he won't take off the paper bag.

Please consider, Jane Austen, Philip Roth, Margaret Attwood, and Toni Morrison. Sad tale about your friend, I hope he makes it big, maybe send some royalty checks to his wife.

Your loyal opposition,
Suzanne

P.S.
I thought I was being direct.

Author:  DWill [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:24 am ]
Post subject: 

Thomas Hood wrote:
DWill wrote:
In Shakespeare, Homer, Milton, Joyce and so many others we do have a treasury of moral literature that can serve as well as various scriptures.


Joyce?

The supposition that a literary education improves one's morals has no foundation that I know of. From personal experience I have found literary persons as a group to be less trustworthy than the uneducated.


Yes, Joyce. Read his story "The Dead," (for instance) and tell me if that is not an example of moral literature. I'm not speaking in terms of explicit moral directives, which I think can be arguably less effective, for adults at least, than the complex renderings of human motivations and actions that we find most plentifully in great novelists and playwrights. I should have added Dickens, who is above all a moral novelist.

Author:  Penelope [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 7:29 am ]
Post subject: 

Call me a pedantic old nitpicker......DWill, but although, I love Dickens and his characters. I think he was more of a social reformer than one to look to for moral guidance.

His women characters are awful, more often than not. Either prostitutes or madonnas.

I much prefer Arnold Bennet - Hilda Lessways was so good, I could hardly believe it was written by a man.

I suppose we are talking about the difference between books which tell a moral tale, (the good are rewarded and the wicked come to a sticky end) and books which explore 'why' people behave the way they do.

I think most of us are born with a propensity to do what is 'right' - ie a child doesn't share his sweets naturally but it is easy to persuade him/her why it is best to do so.

I like the kind of books which attempt to explain why people do bad things. And then go on to 'suggest' productive ways to deal with that behaviour. I liked 'A Clockwork Orange' for this reason. A very violent book, with a hateful hero, but by the end of the book, I didn't want him to be executed, or even brainwashed. I so desperately wanted him to 'choose' to do right. So, it changed me a little, and I think for the better.

Which is rather more than the words in the NT could do by just saying 'Love your Enemies', but it doesn't tell you how to even begin to do that.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:00 am ]
Post subject: 

DWill wrote:
[quote="Thomas Hood
Joyce?
Quote:

Yes, Joyce. Read his story "The Dead," (for instance) and tell me if that is not an example of moral literature.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dead_(short_story)
summary and resources

http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/englis ... s/dead.htm
text of The Dead

I did read it, maybe thirty years ago, and the impression I remember is that Joyce was unfair to the husband. Could you please say in a sentence or two why you think The Dead is moral literature?

Tom

Author:  DWill [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thomas Hood wrote:
I did read it, maybe thirty years ago, and the impression I remember is that Joyce was unfair to the husband. Could you please say in a sentence or two why you think The Dead is moral literature?
Tom

Sure, Tom--but not in a sentence or two. Throughout the story, Gabriel Conroy is preoccupied with his rather petty personal concerns, as we all often are. He agonizes over the impression he will make giving the toast at the dinner. Yet he has flashes of something larger going on amid all the hubbub, for example his aunts and all the older people he has known gradually fading into shadows. Meanwhile, his wife (is it Greta?) is detached from him, thinking about a poor, doomed, poetic lover of hers back in the West of Ireland named Michael Furay. At the climax of the story, Gabriel feels the rising of lust for his wife when they return to the hotel room. She is crying, though, and he learns it is about Michael and realizes that she has such a deep well of emotion that exposes him in all his shallowness. It starts to snow, and this, peculiarly enough, elicits an epiphany in Gabriel that you'll just have to read the final paragraphs of the story to experience. Response to literature is an individual matter. There is no doubt in my mind that the story presents a profound moral vision.

Author:  DWill [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 5:58 pm ]
Post subject: 

Penelope wrote:
Call me a pedantic old nitpicker......DWill, but although, I love Dickens and his characters. I think he was more of a social reformer than one to look to for moral guidance.

Penelope, I wish I could take back whatever I said that produced the phrase "moral guidance" in response. I hope I didn't say it myself! I do not mean that literature should tell us how to act, in a didactic manner. That sounds like the old McGuffey's reader in this country. Pretty clearly, too, moral literature will give us a lot of unsavory characters, and also I hope a lot of characters who act perfectly humanly, that is sometimes as we would wish for them to do, and sometimes in an opposite or at least ambiguous manner. Biblical characters sometimes act in this inconsistent, human way, as well. Think of David and even Jesus. I think this is not the particular strength of the Bible, though.

Author:  DWill [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: ethics vs. morality

Thomas Hood wrote:
The personal lives of literary persons are typically less than admirable -- Frost, Vachel Lindsey, Whitman, Melville -- for example. Their works would be unreadable were it not for the separation that is typically made between literature and morality. And as for Shakespeare, perhaps you are aware of the physical horror and revulsion that underlies the sonnets?

Oh my, Tom, how ever did we get onto the topic of the moral uprightness of "lit'ry set"? Let's get off it right away! We know nothing about the moral fiber of those scribes who wrote the bible verses, either. In both cases, whether these folks were good family people, or whatever, is irrelevant. Martin Luther King, also, had serious failings as a husband. I think he was a great man.

Author:  DWill [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

Robert: "In practice, Hitchens did align with Wolfowitz over the Iraq War, as part of his chameleon transformation from Trotskyite to neoconservative."
Aw, Robert, does one change of coloring make him a chameleon? Better to change than be a fossilized Trotskyite, right? I thought his passage on that part of his life in God Is Not Great was admirable in its frankness. He had youthful passion, which in itself is a good thing, I think.

Author:  Saffron [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 6:45 pm ]
Post subject: 

Penelope wrote:

His women characters are awful, more often than not. Either prostitutes or madonnas.


Oh, Penny, I beg to differ. I would say the main characters in a Dickens novel can be a bit flat sometimes, all good or all bad, and generally male. I can think of several female characters that are neither prostitutes or madonnas; Little Dorrit for one.


Quote:
I think most of us are born with a propensity to do what is 'right' - ie a child doesn't share his sweets naturally but it is easy to persuade him/her why it is best to do so.


Babies do share without being taught. I am sure you must have had the experience of sitting with a baby that is eating and it insists on putting food in your mouth.

Quote:
I like the kind of books which attempt to explain why people do bad things. And then go on to 'suggest' productive ways to deal with that behaviour. I liked 'A Clockwork Orange' for this reason. A very violent book, with a hateful hero, but by the end of the book, I didn't want him to be executed, or even brainwashed. I so desperately wanted him to 'choose' to do right. So, it changed me a little, and I think for the better.


It seems to me, if memory serves and sometimes it doesn't, that at the end of A Clockwork Orange the main character is actually unchanged and either chooses to continue to be violent or is unable to not be violent.

I think literature can and does provide for moral development. For a piece of literature to fall into the category of morally instructive or to have moral value or I don't know -- not sure how to phrase it, it simply needs to provoke you into examining your own worldview and sense of right and wrong. The first step toward moral development is self awareness; not someone telling you what is good and bad.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Mon Apr 20, 2009 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: ethics vs. morality

DWill wrote:
Oh my, Tom, how ever did we get onto the topic of the moral uprightness of "lit'ry set"? Let's get off it right away!


For me it started here:

Quote:
In Shakespeare, Homer, Milton, Joyce and so many others we do have a treasury of moral literature that can serve as well as various scriptures.


And, not to step on anyone's reverences, I do question whether literature has moral suasion and can serve as a replacement for scripture. But I will follow your advice and meditate on the question privately.

Tom

Author:  Penelope [ Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:06 am ]
Post subject: 

Tom, dear Tom, said:-

Quote:
I do question whether literature has moral suasion and can serve as a replacement for scripture.


Literature is scripture (writings) isn't it Tom? The Jews are influencial in religious thinking today, only because they wrote everything down. They wrote everything down because they had a lot of rules and regulations to record. If they had no rules and regulations, there would be no Jewish Race. Because they had no Country for a long time. And even now, they are fighting for what was imo - given to them, injudiciously.

What I am saying is, that the only thing which makes a Jewish person separate from the rest of us....is their recorded history and rules.

You are an American, because you were born there. I am English because I was born here....but the Jews don't have a Country they are everywhere. They have an international language - Yiddish. They only have their laws, to keep them separate.

I don't dislike Jewish people. But I don't think we should revere their rules and laws, belief system......just because it is ancient and written down.

Author:  Penelope [ Tue Apr 21, 2009 9:17 am ]
Post subject: 

Saffron:

Quote:
It seems to me, if memory serves and sometimes it doesn't, that at the end of A Clockwork Orange the main character is actually unchanged and either chooses to continue to be violent or is unable to not be violent.


I didn't read it like this. This is how I read it:-

Alex, after having been brainwashed, felt sick at the thought of doing a violent act, but he still wanted to do it......and my goodness, I wanted him to do it too......because I wanted him to choose...

Eventually, he married the girl he raped earlier in the book.....and she 'balanced him'. He didn't want his children to be how he was and so, he 'chose' not be be 'nasty'. Maybe there are two endings.

I also was impressed with the idea, that it took a thug to deal with a thug. So Alec's friends became policemen and were responsible for his arrest and torture. Our police, actually are becoming more yobbish, but they have 'yobs' to deal with....I don't know what the answer is, but at least I feel I understand the question. :(

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

DWill wrote:
Robert: "In practice, Hitchens did align with Wolfowitz over the Iraq War, as part of his chameleon transformation from Trotskyite to neoconservative." Aw, Robert, does one change of coloring make him a chameleon? Better to change than be a fossilized Trotskyite, right? I thought his passage on that part of his life in God Is Not Great was admirable in its frankness. He had youthful passion, which in itself is a good thing, I think.
The attractiveness of Leon Trotsky to impressionable youth was rather like the cult of Che Guevara, high on romance and low on facts. Orwell went the same path, fighting with the Trotskyite POUM in Catalonia and going on to write Animal Farm, which could almost be read as a Trotskyite work except that Orwell is too humane and sane to support Trotsky’s mad totalitarianism. You are right that ‘chameleon’ is too strong a term to describe Hitchens as he is stable in his views. I just used it to highlight the chasm between his communist past and his capitalist present. Indeed, it is better to change than be a fossilized Trotskyite, but the interesting thing here, in Orwell and Hitchens, is that both retained from Trotsky an orientation towards large scale questions of world politics and a desire to articulate global strategies for reform. This neo-Trotskyism can be compared to the outlook of former Chinese Premier Jiang Zemin, whose favourite authors were reportedly Milton Friedman and Mao Zedong, in that both combine a communist eschatology with capitalist rationality.

Author:  Grim [ Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:20 pm ]
Post subject: 

Robert Tulip wrote:
The attractiveness of Leon Trotsky to impressionable youth was rather like the cult of Che Guevara, high on romance and low on facts. Orwell went the same path, fighting with the Trotskyite POUM in Catalonia and going on to write Animal Farm, which could almost be read as a Trotskyite work except that Orwell is too humane and sane to support Trotsky’s mad totalitarianism.


Yes, difficulty does arise when one is shifting from the theory of political philosophy towards its relationship to the functional practice of the political movement as unwittingly a disjunction inevitably occurs. Perhaps no small reason why Che is afforded a cult while Trotsky and Orwell are given the trust of dissimulators? Che was never a novelist where as Orwell and Trotsky were never more than intellectual revolutionaries.

This is important as in the cases of Trotsky and Orwell, with regards to the personal dynamism Che, the theory was able to substitute its own frames of references and suggestions without the need for all that detailed of an awareness as to specific sociological and political function within which it would necessarily operate as a emergent process. Functional process was Che's legitimacy. In this sense, that the political theory of Trotsky and Orwell is a actually a simplified subset of rather particular assumptions opposed to a balanced theory tested in action, the projection of particular features onto disparate types of hypothetical situations based on preceding thought fostered a rather distrusting mutual development. Based on the almost implicit duplexity in creating a moral double standard rather than a more accommodating systems or meta-systems perspective concerning intraspecific competition within a community adopted by the pragmatic Che.

Che and Orwell were different from Trotsky in many respects not the least in amount of respect they willingly afforded to alternative fields of thought and reasoning. The distrust of general intellectual reasoning (especially formal philosophy and philosophers) was a trait of Trotsky who saw action only in disregarding moral qualms. This results in a continual requirement for the taxation of a readers sensitivities towards a specific recognition that his works require careful reconsideration in light of its many presuppositions. Ignorance to what Trotsky represents may create an artificially stimulating read, but only through ignorance of the factors I have briefly outlined. To simply make the assumption that defining either Trotsky or Che as distastefully "low on facts" as constructive commentary constitutes an evasion regarding the reasonable nature and significance of association formed effectual responses to particular works, sentences, and words continually and more importantly dynamically as constructed and as identifiable in modern western society.

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