Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NOTHING IS UNCAUSED



Image from mobipocket.com

One event is the result of other previous events, and is in turn the cause of other events that follow. Yesterday flowed into to-day, and to-day flows into to-morrow. The world as it exists to-day is the result of the world as it existed yesterday. This is true not only of the inorganic world—the world of physics and chemistry—but it is true of living things as well. The animals and plants that exist to-day are the descendants of others that lived before. There is probably an unbroken line of descent from the first life that existed on the earth to the living forms of to-day.
Our minds, too, have doubtless developed from simpler minds just as our bodies have developed from simpler bodies.
Not only are our movements caused, but our sensations, our ideas, and our feelings follow upon or are dependent upon some definite bodily state or condition. The moment that we recognize this we see that our sensations, ideas, and feelings are subject to control. It is only because our minds are in a world of causality, and subject to its laws, that education is possible. We can bring causes to bear upon a child and change the child. It is possible to build up ideas, ideals, and habits. And ideas, ideals, and habits constitute the man. Training is possible only because a child is a being that can be influenced. What any child will be when grown depends upon what kind of child it was at the beginning and upon the influences that affect it during its early life while it is growing into maturity. We need have no doubt about the outcome of any particular child if we know, with some degree of completeness, the two sets of factors that determine his life—his inheritance and the forces that affect this inheritance. We can predict the future of a child to the extent that we know and understand the forces that will be effective in his life.
As these lines are being written, the greatest, the bloodiest war of history is in progress. Men are killing men by thousands and hundreds of thousands. How can we explain such actions? Observation of children shows that they are selfish, envious, and quarrelsome. They will fight and steal until they are taught not to do such things. How can we understand this? There is no way of understanding such actions until we come to see that the children and men of to-day are such as they are because of their ancestors. It has been only a few generations, relatively speaking, since our ancestors were naked savages, killing their enemies and eating their enemies’ bodies. The civilized life of our ancestors covers a period of only a few hundred years. The pre-civilized life of our ancestors goes back probably thousands and thousands of years. In the relatively short period of civilization, our real, original nature has been little changed, perhaps none at all. The modern man is, at heart, the same old man of the woods.
The improvements of civilization form what is called a social heritage, which must be impressed upon the original nature of each individual in order to have any effect. Every child has to learn to speak, to write, to dress, to eat with knife and fork; he must learn the various social customs, and to act morally as older people dictate. The child is by nature bad, in the sense that the nature which he inherits from the past fits him better for the original kind of life which man used to live than it does for the kind of life which we are trying to live now. This view makes us see that training a child is, in a very true sense, making him over again. The child must be trained to subdue and control his original impulses. Habits and ideals that will be suitable for life in civilized society must be built up.
One should not despair of this view of child-life. Neither should one use it as an excuse for being bad, or for neglecting the training of children. On the contrary, taking the genetic view of childhood should give us certain advantages. It makes us see more clearly the necessity of training. Every child must be trained, or he will remain very much a savage. In the absence of training, all children are much alike, and all alike bad from our present point of view. The chief differences in children in politeness and manners generally, in morals, in industry, etc., are due, in the main, to differences in training. It is a great help merely to know how difficult the task of training is, and that training there must be if we are to have a civilized child.
Heredity is a corollary of evolution. Individual development is intimately related to racial development. Indeed, racial development would be impossible without heredity in the individual. The individual must carry on and transmit what the race hands down to him.
This likeness is a matter of form and structure as well as likeness of action or response. Animals and plants are like the parents in form and structure, and to a certain extent their responses are alike when the individuals are placed in the same situation. A robin is like the parent robins in size, shape, and color. It also hops like the parent birds, sings as they do, feeds as they do, builds a similar nest, etc. But the likeness in action is dependent upon likeness in structure. The young robin acts as does the old robin, because the nervous mechanism is the same, and therefore a similar stimulus brings about a similar response.
We expect a child to be not only of the same race as the parents, but to have family resemblances to the parents—the same color of hair, the same shape of head, the same kind of nose, the same color of eyes, and to have such resemblances as moles in the same places on the skin, etc. A very little investigation reveals likenesses between parent and offspring which we may not have expected before.
However, if we start out to hunt for facts of heredity, we shall perhaps be as much impressed by differences between parent and child as we shall by the resemblances. In the first place, every child has two parents, and it is often impossible to resemble both. One cannot, for example, be both short and tall; one cannot be both fair and dark; one cannot be both slender and heavy; one cannot have both brown eyes and blue. In some cases, the child resembles one parent and not the other. In other cases, the child looks somewhat like both parents but not exactly like either. If one parent is white and the other black, the child is neither as white as the one parent nor as black as the other.
The parents of a child are themselves different, but there are four grandparents, and each of them different from the others. There are eight great grandparents, and all of them different. If we go back only seven generations, covering a period of perhaps only a hundred and fifty years, we have one hundred and twenty-eight ancestors. If we go back ten generations, we have over a thousand ancestors in our line of descent. Each of these people was, in some measure, different from the others. Our inheritance comes from all of them and from each of them.
The question is often asked whether heredity or the influence of environment has the most to do with the final outcome of one’s life. It is a rather useless question to ask, for what a human being or anything else in the world does depends upon what it is itself and what the things and forces are that act upon it. Heredity sets a limitation for us, fixes the possibilities. The circumstances of life determine what we will do with our inherited abilities and characteristics. Hereditary influences incline us to be tall or short, fat or lean, light or dark. The characteristics of our memory, association, imagination, our learning capacity, etc., are determined by heredity. Of course, how far these various aspects develop is to some extent dependent upon the favorable or unfavorable influences of the environment. What is possible for us to do is settled by heredity; what we may actually do, what we may have the opportunity to do, is largely a matter of the circumstances of life.
The question may be asked whether genius makes its way to the front in spite of unfavorable circumstances. Sometimes it doubtless does. But pugnacity and perseverance are not necessarily connected with intellectual genius. Genius may be as likely to be timid as belligerent. Therefore unfavorable circumstances may crush many a genius.
(Excerpts from Project Gutenberg's The Science of Human Nature, Chapter II, by William Henry Pyle)


Monday, June 29, 2009

THE GRANDFATHER OF IMPRESSIONISM



Gustave Courbet's Self-Portrait, 1849
From smithsonianmag.com


Painter, provocateur, risk taker and revolutionary, Gustave Courbet might well have said, "I offend, therefore I am." Arguably modern art's original enfant terrible, he had a lust for controversy that makes the careers of more recent shockmeisters like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Robert Mapplethorpe seem almost conventional. As a rebellious teenager from a small town in eastern France, Courbet disregarded his parents' desire for him to study law and vowed, he wrote, "to lead the life of a savage" and free himself from governments. He did not mellow with age, disdaining royal honors, turning out confrontational, even salacious canvases and attacking established social values when others of his generation were settling into lives cushioned with awards and pensions.
Courbet arrived in Paris in 1839 at the age of 20 intent on studying art. Significantly, considering his later assault on the dominance and rigidity of the official art establishment, he did not enroll in the government-sanctioned Academy of Fine Arts. Instead he took classes in private studios, sketched at museums and sought advice and instruction from painters who believed in his future. Writing to his parents in 1846 about the difficulty of making a name for himself and gaining acceptance, he said his goal was "to change the public's taste and way of seeing." Doing so, he acknowledged, was "no small task, for it means no more and no less than overturning what exists and replacing it."
His dedication to the portrayal of ordinary life would decisively shape the sensibilities of Manet, Monet and Renoir a generation later. And Cézanne, who praised the older artist for his "unlimited talent," would embrace and build on Courbet's contention that brushwork and paint texture should be emphasized, not concealed. In addition, by holding his own shows and marketing his work directly to the public, Courbet set the stage for the Impressionists in another way. After their paintings were repeatedly rejected by the Paris Salon (the French government's all-important annual art exhibition), Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Cézanne organized their own groundbreaking show in 1874. It was at that exhibition that a critic derisively dubbed the group "Impressionists." Who knows, wrote art critic Clement Greenberg in 1949, "but that without Courbet the impressionist movement would have begun a decade or so later than it did?"
(from Smithsonian.com)
Criticised for deliberately adopting a cult of ugliness and for attacking the established social standards, he was also praised by such social reformers as his friend the social theorist Pierre Joseph Proudhon, who saw in The Stonebreakers a visual condemnation of capitalism and its potential for greed. When Courbet's work was rejected for the Paris International Exhibition in 1855, he took the novel approach of opening his own pavilion.
Still at the centre of political activity in the 1870s, he was arrested and imprisoned in 1871 when the Commune he supported fell. The following year he was released, and he moved to Switzerland, spending the remainder of his life in exile and painting the rough Swiss terrain in new, experimental ways.
(Contributed by Gifford, Katya in humanitiesweb.org)


The Beach at Trouville at Low Tide
Oil on canvas, 1865
Public collection
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Low Tide at Trouville is one of the seascapes that Courbet painted on his visit to the Normandy coast in the summer and autumn of 1865. We know from a letter that he wrote to his parents that the vastness of the sea had made a strong impression on Courbet as early as 1841. In another letter to his patron and friend Alfred Bruyas in 1866, Courbet records his joy of a summer holiday at Trouville and the paintings he produced there : "twenty fine autumn skies - each one more extraordinary and free than the last".
For much of his career Courbet focused on realistic rural landscapes. In painting this new subject, the sea, Courbet adjusted his style. Low Tide at Trouville is very harmonious in terms of colour. Indeed the skill of the artist lies in the atmospheric rendering of the seascape with minimal means.
The key of Courbet's palette was salmon pink and it can be seen in the centre of the painting where the horizon lies. From that he moved to softer pinks, blues and greys for the sky, sand tones and browns for the sand. The caricaturist G. Randon commented enthusiastically about the painting: "As God has created the sky and the earth from nothing, so has Courbet drawn his seascapes from nothing or almost nothing: with three colours from his palette, three brushstrokes - as he knows how to do it - and there is an infinite sea and sky
(© 2008 National Museums Liverpool)
Gustave Courbet died on New years Eve, 1877.


Self Portrait
Oil on canvas, 1848-1849
Musée Fabre, Montpellier
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In 1854 Gustave Courbet sent his patron and friend the rich philanthropist Alfred Bruyas a self-portrait, accompanying it with a letter:
It is the portrait of a fanatic, an ascetic. It is the portrait of a man who, disillusioned by the nonsense that made up his education, seeks to live by his own principles. I have done a good many self-portraits in my life, as my attitude gradually changed. One could say that I have written my autobiography.
This statement was somewhat premature (he was only forty-five at the time), but it is true that he was fascinated by his own appearance and some twenty self-portraits are extant. In the 1860s, when Emile Zola was trying to sum up Courbet's achievement, he wrote that he saw him as "simply a personality." Certainly Courbet made much of his own personality, and the revolution that he effected owed more than a little to the vividness of his presence and to the myth that he very soon succeeded in building up around himself.
In fact, at the time Courbet was sure of his principles and of the way he felt he must manipulate his career. In the restless political climate of the decades following the Revolution and right through until the 1870s, Courbet's views were consistently as far to the left as it was possible to be. In a letter to the writer Francis Wey and his wife in 1850 he declared himself thus:
I must lead the life of a savage.... The people have my sympathy. I must turn to them directly,...and they must provide me with a living ...so that their judgement won't be influenced by gratitude. They are right. I am eager to learn and to that end I will be so outrageous that I'll give everyone the power to tell me the cruelest truths.
(Copyright © 1963-2009, NYREV, Inc.)


After Dinner at Ornans, 1849
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Courbet gained fame with a series of large "manifesto" paintings. An After-Dinner at Ornans shows his father and three family friends in the kitchen of one of them, Urbain Cuenot; another friend, Alphonse Promayet, entertains the small group on his fiddle. The picture is large (77 x 101 inches) and was attacked as a blown-up genre painting, which is exactly what it is; but it is genre made monumental (the only truly valid parallel is with the monolithic seventeenth-century peasant pictures of the Le Nain family). The figures, boldly rendered in heavy chiaroscuro, have an extraordinary gravitas, and surely owe a lot to Spanish seventeenth-century painting; in Paris at this time there was great enthusiasm for Spanish culture. The depiction of the third friend, Marlet, seen from the back and slightly angled into shallow depth, is counteracted by the position of the hunting dog asleep under his chair. This figure looks straight ahead to Cézanne's late card players of the 1890s.
((Copyright © 1963-2009, NYREV, Inc.)


Stone-Breakers, (1849)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Many of Courbet's paintings focus on everyday people and places in daily French life. Courbet painted these ordinary people in an attempt to portray the French people as a political entity. In this way Courbet's republicanism showed through in his work. Courbet truthfully portrayed ordinary people and places, leaving out the glamour that most French painters at that time added to their works. Because of this, Courbet became known as the leader of the Realist movement.
The Stone Breakers, painted in 1849, depicts two ordinary peasant workers. Courbet painted without any apparent sentiment; instead, he let the image of the two men, one too young for hard labor and the other too old, express the feelings of hardship and exhaustion that he was trying to portray. Courbet shows sympathy for the workers and disgust for the upper class by painting these men with a dignity all their own.
(From Bohemianism and Counter-Culture)
An exhibition organised by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and the Musée d’Orsay with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Communauté d’agglomération de Montpellier / Musée Fabre was held at at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2008, which featured 120 paintings, about 30 graphic works and some 60 photographs in an area of 1500 square metres. Since 1977 (when the last major monograph exhibition on Courbet was held in Paris) extensive research in France and abroad has enabled Galeries nationales du Grand Palais to re-evaluate Courbet's (1819-1857) oeuvre in the context of the art of 1840-1860. The exhibition will be an opportunity for a new generation to discover the work of a painter who was a major figure in the history of nineteenth-century art in all its breadth and diversity.
The exhibition is divided into eight sections:
1. Inventing Courbet: Youthful Self Portraits
For the first time, this section brings together an important set of self portraits painted or drawn between 1840 and 1855. In a romantic vein, the artists put himself at the centre of his work giving his self portraits an importance that reminds us of Rembrandt.


Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet, 1854
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A Thicket of Deer at the Stream of Plaisir-Fountaine
Oil on canvas
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


The Cellist, Self Portrait
Oil on canvas, 1847
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Self Portrait with a Black Dog
Oil on canvas, 1842
Musée du Petit Palais, Paris
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


2. From Private Life to History. Throughout his life Courbet remained true to his family origins and his native land. They inspired his first great canvases which asserted his talent as an artist.


The Houses of the Chateau d'Ornans
Oil on canvas, c.1853
Private collection
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


La Ferme De Bonnevaux
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches (50.8 x 61 cm)
Private collection
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


The Quarry
Oil on canvas, 1857
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


3. The Manifestoes. This section focuses on the Burial at Ornans and The Artist's Studio, exceptionally transferred from the Musee d'Orsay to the Grand Palais; it brings out the coherence of Courbet's artistic ambitions in the early 1850s and the mise en scène of those ambitions by the painter himself.

4. Landscapes. The landscape section is arranged around two fine series on the grottoes along the Loue River and the waves on the Normandy coast, including the most important versions. This theme offers a pertinent examination of parallels with contemporary photography – especially the work of Le Gray, Le Secq and Giroux.


A Bay with Cliffs
Oil on canvas, c.1869
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Cliffs at Etretat, After the Storm, 1870
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


5. The Modern Temptation. During the 1860s, Courbet, then at the peak of his fame, was a key reference for the rising generation of New Painting and early Impressionism; the work of these young painters stimulated Courbet in return, particularly in his portraits and modern subjects.

6. The Nude: Flouting Tradition. The female nude was a major stake for Courbet who painted his first nudes in the 1840s. His presentation of Bathers in 1853 (Musée Fabre, Montpellier) gave him a chance to assert his faithfulness to tradition and his desire for a realist renewal. Around The Origin of the World (1866, Musée d'Orsay, Paris), this section brings together all his major canvases in this genre from Sleeping Bacchante (1844-45, UNICEF foundation, Cologne) to Woman with a Parrot (1866, The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

7. The Artist as a Melancholic Hunter. Courbet’s works on a hunting theme have often been overlooked by art historians. And yet they are an important part of history painting, highlighted in the exhibition by a display of large pictures – The Death of the Stag (1866, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Besançon), Stags Fighting (1861, Musée Départemental Gustave Courbet, Ornans) – surrounded by all the key works on this theme.

8. Personal Experience of History: Courbet and the Commune. Courbet’s relations with politics were complex. He took action for the first time during the siege of Paris and the Commune, when he was the president of the Artists’ Federation. He paid dearly for his political commitment, particularly for his part in pulling down the Vendôme column. Thrown into prison, in poor health and forced into exile in Switzerland from 1873, Courbet as an artist was thereafter a survivor. Except for his self-portrait at Sainte Pélagie (1861, Musée Départemental Gustave Courbet, Ornans), he did not deal directly with events he had witnessed or taken part in. The gloomy series of still lifes painted between 1871 and 1873 was an outlet for his distress.



Thursday, June 25, 2009

FATHER OF MODERN PAINTING



Self Portrait With A Palette


Edouard Manet was often regarded as the father of modern painting. Spurned and ridiculed by official art circles, he was a father figure to the young avant-garde. He portrayed modern urban and suburban art, a subject often chosen by artists of the day. It was at the Paris Salon that, for over 20 years, he sought academic and public acceptance for his original, brilliant and enigmatic canvases. Because of the furore that his works created at the Salon, he was the first artist whose career was influenced by journalists.
A combination of intimacy and aloofness. Often the main subject will be surrounded by action and drama but is aloof and distant, almost bored with the situation.
Thoughout his life he took an active part in Parisian life, particularly in cafe life with friends Zola and Baudelaire and the Impressionist circle. Manet never exhibited with the Impressionists but they saw his paintings as an inspiration.
(© 2006, Direct Art Australia)

CHRONOLOGY
1832
Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie on January 29. His Mother, Eugenie-Desiree Fournier, was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. Edouard's father, Auguste Manet, was a magistrate and judge.
1848
decided to be a painter. His Uncle Charles Fournier encouraged Manet's appreciation for the arts and often took him and his childhood friend, Antonin Proust, on outings to the Louvre
1850
after serving in the merchant marines, Manet entered the studio of Thomas Couture where he studied until 1856. He was influenced by the old masters, particulary Velazquez, Goya and also Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Giorgione.


Copy after Tintoretto, Self Portrait
1854
oil on canvas 61x50cm
Musee des Beaux-Arts
From mystudios.com

Executed when the artist was twenty-two years old, this is Manet's first dated painting. He had joined Thomas Couture's studio to study painting. The choice of this work seems to be Manet's own idea. Manet had told his biographer that he thought this the most beautiful portrait in the world and one he always stopped to admire when visiting the Louvre.
Manet's copy is the same size as Tintoretto's, but oddly he also copied the Latin inscription which was later removed during a restoration by the Louvre.
1858
He met Baudelaire and began his career with The Absinthe Drinker (6th picture in the exhibition), a painting depicting a debauched and solitary man amongst the shadows of the back streets of Paris.
1862
painted Spanish Guitar Player (7th picture in the exhibition), reflected the Parisian love of "all things Spanish" and was one of Manet's first works to be accepted by the Salon. İn the same year he painted the Old Musician, portray a darker aspect of Parisian life which was quite removed from Manet's circle, but nonetheless very real. Music in the Tuileries (9th picture in the exhibition list) peopled with Manet's friends and family celebrates fashionable society.
1863
Manet put great emphasis on Salon acceptance. In fact, he believed that success as an artist could only be obtained through recognition at the Salon. But, the Salon jury of 1863 refused Luncheon on the Grass (8th picture in the exhibition). To counter these refusals, the Salon des Refuses was established and Luncheon on the Grass was exhibited there. He also painted Olympia (13th picture in the exhibition) this year and created a scandal.
1866
The Fifer (1st picture in the exhibition) refused by the Salon jury. Emile Zola defended him in a controversial article for the periodical L'Evènement.


The Fifer
1866
From the Artchive

Brilliant as this picture is to modern eyes it is not so startling as it appeared to Manet's contemporaries, accustomed to the masking of colour by the veil of heavy chiaroscuro. Daumier, for example, used to near-monochrome effect in painting, thought Le Fifre resembled a playing-card, the flatness and brightness of colour giving rise to his comparison. A concealed element in the design is the influence of the Japanese print which was so marked on French painting in general in the second half of the nineteenth century. It is to be traced here in the almost flat areas of colour against a plain background. Colour seems on the point of escaping from a subservient descriptive role into the dominant factor it was later to become. Except among the few, this picture shared the unpopularity that previous works by Manet had suffered and was refused at the Salon of 1866. The refusal brought Emile Zola to the artist's defense in L'Evenement but Zola's assertion that he was `so convinced that M. Manet would be one of the masters of tomorrow that he would think it a good stroke of business, if he had money enough, to buy all its canvases now' infuriated the readers, and their anger caused the editor to dispense with Zola's services as critic. The novelist returned to the attack elsewhere with a longer eulogy. His description of the fifer as `le petit bonhomme' who `puffs away with all his heart and soul' was a literary approach but his polemics served to keep the issue of aesthetic freedom a living force for the younger generation.
(Copyright © 2009 2ArtGallery.com)


Woman with Parrot
1866
From The Artchive)


1867
Zola published a longer article on Manet, who that year exhibited his work in an independent pavilion at the Paris World's Fair.


Races at Longchamp
1867
From The Artchive


1868
Manet painted The Execution of Maximilian (15th picture in the exhibition) reaches out to Goya's Third of May but despite its masterly influence the painting was banned from being exhibited in Paris due to the "Frenchness" of the executioners costume. Political events between the years 1867-1871 were turbulent ones for Paris, and the Franco-Prussian war left Paris besieged and defeated.
1870
Manet sent his family south to protect them from the fighting in Paris and signed on as a gunner in the National Guard.
1872
The dealer Paul Durand-Ruel began buying his work.


The Railway, 1872
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


1879
He could hardly paint because of his ilness. From 1879 to 1882 Manet participated annually at the Salon.


Le serveuse de bocks (The Waitress)
1879
From The Artchive


1880
He was given a solo exhibition at Georges Charpentier's new gallery, La Vie Moderne, Paris
1882
In his last great masterpiece, Bar at the Folies-Bergère (38th picture in the exhibition), Manet returns again to studio painting. He was decorated with the Légion d'Honneur.



A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
(Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère), 1882
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Lilacs in a Vase
1882
From The Artchive


1883
Manet died in Paris, on April 30
1884
A memorial exhibition of his work took place at the Ecole des Beaux-Art.
(From grafiksaati.com)

The grave of Manet at Passy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



OUR LIVES


The circumstances of our lives and the dispositions of our characters mainly determine the measure of happiness we enjoy, and mere argument about the causes of happiness and unhappiness can do little to affect them.
It is impossible to read the many books that have been written on these subjects without feeling how largely they consist of mere sounding generalities which the smallest experience shows to be perfectly impotent in the face of some real and acute sorrow, and it is equally impossible to obtain any serious knowledge of the world without perceiving that a large proportion of the happiest lives and characters are to be found where introspection, self-analysis and reasonings about the good and evil of life hold the smallest place.
Happiness, indeed, like health, is one of the things of which men rarely think except when it is impaired, and much that has been written on the subject has been written under the stress of some great depression.
Man comes into the world with mental and moral characteristics which he can only very imperfectly influence, and a large proportion of the external circumstances of his life lie wholly or mainly beyond his control.
Men continually forget that Happiness is a condition of Mind and not a disposition of circumstances, and one of the most common of errors is that of confusing happiness with the means of happiness, sacrificing the first for the attainment of the second. It is the error of the miser, who begins by seeking money for the enjoyment it procures and ends by making the mere acquisition of money his sole object, pursuing it to the sacrifice of all rational ends and pleasures.
We were not intended to pick our way through the world trembling at every step.... It is worse than vain, for it encourages and increases the evil it attempts to relieve.... one half of the confirmed invalids of the day could be cured of their maladies if they were compelled to live busy and active lives and had no time to fret over their miseries.... One of the most seductive and mischievous of errors in self-management is the practice of giving way to inertia, weakness and depression.... Those who desire to live should settle this well in their minds, that nerve power is the force of life and that the will has a wondrously strong and direct influence over the body through the brain and the nervous system.
Another consideration in the cultivation of happiness is the importance of acquiring the habit of realising our blessings while they last. It is one of the saddest facts of human nature that we commonly only learn their value by their loss. This is very evidently the case with health. By the laws of our being we are almost unconscious of the action of our bodily organs as long as they are working well. It is only when they are deranged, obstructed or impaired that our attention becomes concentrated upon them. In consequence of this a state of perfect health is rarely fully appreciated until it is lost and during a short period after it has been regained.
And what is true of health is true of other things. It is only when some calamity breaks the calm tenor of our ways and deprives us of some gift of fortune we have long enjoyed that we feel how great was the value of what we have lost. There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed. Sometimes, indeed, our perception of this contrast brings with it a lasting and salutary result. In the medicine of Nature a chronic and abiding disquietude or morbidness of temperament is often cured by some keen though more transient sorrow which violently changes the current of our thoughts and imaginations.
There are countries where the wants of men are very few, and where, as long as those wants are satisfied, men will live a careless and contented life, enjoying the present, thinking very little of the future. Whether the sum of enjoyment in such a population is really less than in more advanced civilisation is at least open to question.
A discontent with existing circumstances is the chief source of a desire to improve them, and this desire is the mainspring of progress. In this theory of life, happiness is sought, not in content, but in improved circumstances, in the development of new capacities of enjoyment, in the pleasure which active existence naturally gives. To maintain in their due proportion in our nature the spirit of content and the desire to improve, to combine a realised appreciation of the blessings we enjoy with a healthy and well-regulated ambition, is no easy thing, but it is the problem which all who aspire to a perfect life should set before themselves. In medio tutissimus ibis is eminently true of the cultivation of character, and some of its best elements become pernicious in their extremes. Thus prudent forethought, which is one of the first conditions of a successful life, may easily degenerate into that most miserable state of mind in which men are perpetually anticipating and dwelling upon the uncertain dangers and evils of an uncertain future. How much indeed of the happiness and misery of men may be included under those two words, realisation and anticipation!
'Honesty is the best policy' represents no doubt a great truth, though it has been well said that no man is really honest who is only honest through this motive, and though it is very evident that it is by no means an universal truth but depends largely upon changing and precarious conditions of laws, police, public opinion, and individual circumstances.
Our mode of judgment acts promptly upon conduct. The humanitarian spirit which mitigates the penal code and makes the reclamation of the criminal a main object is a perfectly right thing as long as it does not so far diminish the deterrent power of punishment as to increase crime, and as long as it does not place the criminal in a better position of comfort than the blameless poor, but when these conditions are not fulfilled it is much more an evil than a good. The remote, indirect and unrealised consequences of our acts are often far more important than those which are manifest and direct, and it continually happens that in extirpating some concentrated and obtrusive evil, men increase or engender a diffused malady which operates over a far wider area. How few, for example, who share the prevailing tendency to deal with every evil that appears in Society by coercive legislation adequately realise the danger of weakening the robust, self-reliant, resourceful habits on which the happiness of Society so largely depends, and at the same time, by multiplying the functions and therefore increasing the expenses of government, throwing new and crushing burdens on struggling industry!
To see things in their true proportion, to escape the magnifying influence of a morbid imagination, should be one of the chief aims of life, and in no fields is it more needed than in those we have been reviewing. At the same time every age has its own ideal moral type towards which the strongest and best influences of the time converge. The history of morals is essentially a history of the changes that take place not so much in our conception of what is right and wrong as in the proportionate place and prominence we assign to different virtues and vices. There are large groups of moral qualities which in some ages of the world's history have been regarded as of supreme importance, while in other ages they are thrown into the background, and there are corresponding groups of vices which are treated in some periods as very serious and in others as very trivial.
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Map of Life, by William Edward Hartpole Lecky)


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

THE SELFISH POLITICIAN


Formerly when it was believed that poverty was synonymous with vice and laziness, and that the prosperous man was the righteous man, charity was administered harshly with a good conscience; for the charitable agent really blamed the individual for his poverty, and the very fact of his own superior prosperity gave him a certain consciousness of superior morality. We have learned since that time to measure by other standards, and have ceased to accord to the money-earning capacity exclusive respect; while it is still rewarded out of all proportion to any other, its possession is by no means assumed to imply the possession of the highest moral qualities. We have learned to judge men by their social virtues as well as by their business capacity, by their devotion to intellectual and disinterested aims, and by their public spirit, and we naturally resent being obliged to judge poor people so solely upon the industrial side. Our democratic instinct instantly takes alarm. It is largely in this modern tendency to judge all men by one democratic standard, while the old charitable attitude commonly allowed the use of two standards, that much of the difficulty adheres. We know that unceasing bodily toil becomes wearing and brutalizing, and our position is totally untenable if we judge large numbers of our fellows solely upon their success in maintaining it.
There is no doubt that the great difficulty we experience in reducing to action our imperfect code of social ethics arises from the fact that we have not yet learned to act together, and find it far from easy even to fuse our principles and aims into a satisfactory statement. We have all been at times entertained by the futile efforts of half a dozen highly individualized people gathered together as a committee. Their aimless attempts to find a common method of action have recalled the wavering motion of a baby's arm before he has learned to coördinate his muscles.
If, as is many times stated, we are passing from an age of individualism to one of association, there is no doubt that for decisive and effective action the individual still has the best of it. He will secure efficient results while committees are still deliberating upon the best method of making a beginning. And yet, if the need of the times demand associated effort, it may easily be true that the action which appears ineffective, and yet is carried out upon the more highly developed line of associated effort, may represent a finer social quality and have a greater social value than the more effective individual action. It is possible that an individual may be successful, largely because he conserves all his powers for individual achievement and does not put any of his energy into the training which will give him the ability to act with others. The individual acts promptly, and we are dazzled by his success while only dimly conscious of the inadequacy of his code. Nowhere is this illustrated more clearly than in industrial relations, as existing between the owner of a large factory and his employees.
The danger of professionally attaining to the power of the righteous man, of yielding to the ambition "for doing good" on a large scale, compared to which the ambition for politics, learning, or wealth, are vulgar and commonplace, ramifies through our modern life; and those most easily beset by this temptation are precisely the men best situated to experiment on the larger social lines, because they so easily dramatize their acts and lead public opinion. Very often, too, they have in their hands the preservation and advancement of large vested interests, and often see clearly and truly that they are better able to administer the affairs of the community than the community itself: sometimes they see that if they do not administer them sharply and quickly, as only an individual can, certain interests of theirs dependent upon the community will go to ruin.
We have assumed that much of our ethical maladjustment in social affairs arises from the fact that we are acting upon a code of ethics adapted to individual relationships, but not to the larger social relationships to which it is bunglingly applied. In addition, however, to the consequent strain and difficulty, there is often an honest lack of perception as to what the situation demands. It is most difficult to hold to our political democracy and to make it in any sense a social expression and not a mere governmental contrivance, unless we take pains to keep on common ground in our human experiences. Otherwise there is in various parts of the community an inevitable difference of ethical standards which becomes responsible for much misunderstanding.
The well-to-do men of the community think of politics as something off by itself; they may conscientiously recognize political duty as part of good citizenship, but political effort is not the expression of their moral or social life. As a result of this detachment, "reform movements," started by business men and the better element, are almost wholly occupied in the correction of political machinery and with a concern for the better method of administration, rather than with the ultimate purpose of securing the welfare of the people. They fix their attention so exclusively on methods that they fail to consider the final aims of city government. This accounts for the growing tendency to put more and more responsibility upon executive officers and appointed commissions at the expense of curtailing the power of the direct representatives of the voters. Reform movements tend to become negative and to lose their educational value for the mass of the people. The reformers take the rôle of the opposition. They give themselves largely to criticisms of the present state of affairs, to writing and talking of what the future must be and of certain results which should be obtained. In trying to better matters, however, they have in mind only political achievements which they detach in a curious way from the rest of life, and they speak and write of the purification of politics as of a thing set apart from daily life.
On the other hand, the real leaders of the people are part of the entire life of the community which they control, and so far as they are representative at all, are giving a social expression to democracy. They are often politically corrupt, but in spite of this they are proceeding upon a sounder theory. Although they would be totally unable to give it abstract expression, they are really acting upon a formulation made by a shrewd English observer; namely, that, "after the enfranchisement of the masses, social ideals enter into political programmes, and they enter not as something which at best can be indirectly promoted by government, but as something which it is the chief business of government to advance directly."
Men living near to the masses of voters, and knowing them intimately, recognize this and act upon it; they minister directly to life and to social needs. They realize that the people as a whole are clamoring for social results, and they hold their power because they respond to that demand. They are corrupt and often do their work badly; but they at least avoid the mistake of a certain type of business men who are frightened by democracy, and have lost their faith in the people. The two standards are similar to those seen at a popular exhibition of pictures where the cultivated people care most for the technique of a given painting, the moving mass for a subject that shall be domestic and human.
In certain stages of moral evolution, a man is incapable of action unless the results will benefit himself or some one of his acquaintances, and it is a long step in moral progress to set the good of the many before the interest of the few, and to be concerned for the welfare of a community without hope of an individual return. How far the selfish politician befools his constituents into believing that their interests are identical with his own; how far he presumes upon their inability to distinguish between the individual and social virtues, an inability which he himself shares with them; and how far he dazzles them by the sense of his greatness, and a conviction that they participate therein, it is difficult to determine.
Morality certainly develops far earlier in the form of moral fact than in the form of moral ideas, and it is obvious that ideas only operate upon the popular mind through will and character, and must be dramatized before they reach the mass of men.
Ethics as well as political opinions may be discussed and disseminated among the sophisticated by lectures and printed pages, but to the common people they can only come through example—through a personality which seizes the popular imagination. The advantage of an unsophisticated neighborhood is, that the inhabitants do not keep their ideas as treasures—they are untouched by the notion of accumulating them, as they might knowledge or money, and they frankly act upon those they have. The personal example promptly rouses to emulation. In a neighborhood where political standards are plastic and undeveloped, and where there has been little previous experience in self-government, the office-holder himself sets the standard, and the ideas that cluster around him exercise a specific and permanent influence upon the political morality of his constituents.
Nothing is more certain than that the quality which a heterogeneous population, living in one of the less sophisticated wards, most admires is the quality of simple goodness; that the man who attracts them is the one whom they believe to be a good man. We all know that children long "to be good" with an intensity which they give to no other ambition. We can all remember that the earliest strivings of our childhood were in this direction, and that we venerated grown people because they had attained perfection.
Primitive people, such as the South Italian peasants, are still in this stage. They want to be good, and deep down in their hearts they admire nothing so much as the good man. Abstract virtues are too difficult for their untrained minds to apprehend, and many of them are still simple enough to believe that power and wealth come only to good people.
The successful candidate, then, must be a good man according to the morality of his constituents. He must not attempt to hold up too high a standard, nor must he attempt to reform or change their standards. His safety lies in doing on a large scale the good deeds which his constituents are able to do only on a small scale. If he believes what they believe and does what they are all cherishing a secret ambition to do, he will dazzle them by his success and win their confidence. There is a certain wisdom in this course. There is a common sense in the mass of men which cannot be neglected with impunity, just as there is sure to be an eccentricity in the differing and reforming individual which it is perhaps well to challenge.
The kindness which a poor man shows his distressed neighbor is doubtless heightened by the consciousness that he himself may be in distress next week; he therefore stands by his friend when he gets too drunk to take care of himself, when he loses his wife or child, when he is evicted for non-payment of rent, when he is arrested for a petty crime. It seems to such a man entirely fitting that his representative should do the same thing on a larger scale—that he should help a constituent out of trouble, merely because he is in trouble, irrespective of the justice involved.
As many of his constituents in this case are impressed with the fact that the representative power is superior to that of government, so instances of actual lawbreaking might easily be cited. A young man may enter a saloon long after midnight, the legal closing hour, and seat himself at a gambling table, perfectly secure from interruption or arrest, because the place belongs to a representative; but in order to secure this immunity the policeman on the beat must pretend not to see into the windows each time that he passes, and he knows, and the young man knows that he knows, that nothing would embarrass "Headquarters" more than to have an arrest made on those premises. A certain contempt for the whole machinery of law and order is thus easily fostered.
The representative may himself be quite sincere in his acts of kindness, for an office seeker may begin with the simple desire to alleviate suffering, and this may gradually change into the desire to put his constituents under obligations to him; but the action of such an individual becomes a demoralizing element in the community when kindly impulse is made a cloak for the satisfaction of personal ambition, and when the plastic morals of his constituents gradually conform to his own undeveloped standards.
We are constantly underestimating the amount of sentiment among simple people. The songs which are most popular among them are those of a reminiscent old age, in which the ripened soul calmly recounts and regrets the sins of his youth, songs in which the wayward daughter is forgiven by her loving parents, in which the lovers are magnanimous and faithful through all vicissitudes. The tendency is to condone and forgive, and not hold too rigidly to a standard. In the theatres it is the magnanimous man, the kindly reckless villain who is always applauded. So shrewd an observer as Samuel Johnson once remarked that it was surprising to find how much more kindness than justice society contained.
We determine ideals by our daily actions and decisions not only for ourselves, but largely for each other. We are all involved in political corruption, and as members of the community stand indicted. This is the penalty of a democracy,—that we are bound to move forward or retrograde together. None of us can stand aside; our feet are mired in the same soil, and our lungs breathe the same air.
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Democracy and Social Ethics, by Jane Addams, 1902)


Friday, June 19, 2009

EVERYTHING, IT IS SAID, MUST HAVE A CAUSE


Everything, it is said, must have a cause; for if anything wanted a cause, it would produce itself; that is, exist before it existed; which is impossible. But this reasoning is plainly inconclusive; because it supposes that in our denial of a cause we still grant what we expressly deny, viz. that there must be a cause; which therefore is taken to be the object itself; and that, no doubt, is an evident contradiction.
An object, that exists absolutely without any cause, certainly is not its own cause; and when you assert, that the one follows from the other, you suppose the very point in questions and take it for granted, that 'tis utterly impossible anything can ever begin to exist without a cause, but that, upon the exclusion of one productive principle, we must still have recourse to another.
Whatever is produced without any cause, is produced by nothing; or in other words, has nothing for its cause. But nothing can never be a cause, no more than it can be something, or equal to two right angles. By the same intuition, That we perceive nothing not to be equal to two right angles, or not to be something, we perceive, that it can never be a cause; and consequently must perceive, that every object has a real cause of its existence.
To give an instance of this, we may chose any point of history, and consider for what reason we either believe or reject it. Thus we believe that Caesar was killed in the senate-house on the ides of March; and that because this fact is established on the unanimous testimony of historians, who agree to assign this precise time and place to that event. Here are certain characters and letters present either to our memory or senses; which characters we likewise remember to have been used as the signs of certain ideas; and these ideas were either in the minds of such as were immediately present at that action, and received the ideas directly from its existence; or they were derived from the testimony of others, and that again from another testimony, by a visible gradation, 'till we arrive at those who were eyewitnesses and spectators of the event. It’s obvious all this chain of argument or connection of causes and effects, is at first founded on those characters or letters, which are seen or remembered, and that without the authority either of the memory or senses our whole reasoning would be chimerical and without foundation. Every link of the chain would in that case hang upon another; but there would not be anything fixed to one end of it, capable of sustaining the whole; and consequently there would be no belief nor evidence. And this actually is the case with all hypothetical arguments, or reasoning upon a supposition; there being in them, neither any present impression, nor belief of a real existence.
It is no just objection to the present doctrine, that we can reason upon our past conclusions or principles, without having recourse to those impressions, from which they first arose. For even supposing these impressions should be entirely effaced from the memory, the conviction they produced may still remain; and 'tis equally true, that all reasoning concerning causes and effects are originally derived from some impression; in the same manner, as the assurance of a demonstration proceeds always from a comparison of ideas, though' it may continue after the comparison is forgot.
(From A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE, BOOK I. of the Understanding, PART III. OF KNOWLEDGE AND PROBABILITY by David Hume)


TO BELIEVE


It frequently happens that when two men have been engaged in any scene of action, the one shall remember it much better than the other, and shall have all the difficulty in the world to make his companion recollect it. He runs over several circumstances in vain; mentions the time, the place, the company, what was said, what was done on all sides; till at last he hits on some lucky circumstance, that revives the whole, and gives his friend a perfect memory of everything. Here the person that forgets receives at first all the ideas from the discourse of the other, with the same circumstances of time and place; though' he considers them as mere fictions of the imagination. But as soon as the circumstance is mentioned, that touches the memory, the very same ideas now appear in a new light, and have, in a manner, a different feeling from what they had before. Without any other alteration, beside that of the feeling, they become immediately ideas of the memory, and are assented to.
Since, therefore, the imagination can represent all the same objects that the memory can offer to us, and since those faculties are only distinguished by the different feeling of the ideas they present, it may be proper to consider what is the nature of that feeling. And here everyone will readily agree, that the ideas of the memory are more strong and lively than those of the fancy.
A painter, who intended to represent a passion or emotion of any kind, would Endeavour to get a sight of a person actuated by a like emotion, in order to enliven his ideas, and give them a force and vivacity superior to what is found in those, which are mere fictions of the imagination. The more recent this memory is, the clearer is the idea; and when after a long interval he would return to the contemplation of his object, he always finds its idea to be much decayed, if not wholly obliterated. We are frequently in doubt concerning the ideas of the memory, as they become very weak and feeble; and are at a loss to determine whether any image proceeds from the fancy or the memory, when it is not drawn in such lively colors as distinguish that latter faculty. I think, I remember such an event, say one; but am not sure. A long tract of time has almost worn it out of my memory, and leaves me uncertain whether or not it is the pure offspring of my fancy.
And as an idea of the memory, by losing its force and vivacity, may degenerate to such a degree, as to be taken for an idea of the imagination; so on the other hand an idea of the imagination may acquire such a force and vivacity, as to pass for an idea of the memory,, and counterfeit its effects on the belief and judgment. This is noted in the case of liars; who by the frequent repetition of their lies, come at last to believe and remember them, as realities; custom and habit having in this case, as in many others, the same influence on the mind as nature, and infixing the idea with equal force and vigor.
Thus it appears, that the belief or assent, which always attends the memory and senses, is nothing but the vivacity of those perceptions they present; and that this alone distinguishes them from the imagination. To believe is in this case to feel an immediate impression of the senses, or a repetition of that impression in the memory. It is merely the force and liveliness of the perception, which constitutes the first act of the judgment, and lays the foundation of that reasoning, which we build upon it, when we trace the relation of cause and effect.
(From A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE, BOOK I.Of the Understanding, PART III. OF KNOWLEDGE AND PROBABILITY by David Hume)


WE ARE PROUD OF RICHES IN OURSELVES


As we are proud of riches in ourselves, so to satisfy our vanity we desire that everyone, who has any connection with us, should likewise be posses of them, and are ashamed of any one, that is mean or poor, among our friends and relations. For this reason we remove the poor as far from us as possible; and as we cannot prevent poverty in some distant collaterals, and our forefathers are taken to be our nearest relations; upon this account every one affects to be of a good family, and to be descended from a long succession of rich and honorable ancestors.
Those, who boast of the antiquity of their families, are glad when they can join this circumstance, that their ancestors for many generations have been uninterrupted proprietors of the same portion of land, and that their family has never changed its possessions, or been transplanted into any other county or province. It is an additional subject of vanity, when they can boast, that these possessions have been transmitted thro' a descent composed entirely of males, and that the honor, and fortune have never past thro' any female.
When any one boasts of the antiquity of his family, the subjects of his vanity are not merely the extent of time and number of ancestors, but also their riches and credit, which are supposed to reflect a luster on himself on account of his relation to them. He first considers these objects; is affected by them in an agreeable manner; and then returning back to himself, thro' the relation of parent and child, is elevated with the passion of pride, by means of the double relation, of impressions and ideas. Since therefore the passion depends on these relations, whatever strengthens any of the relations must also increase the passion, and whatever weakens the relations must diminish the passion. Now it is certain the identity of the possession strengthens the relation of ideas arising from blood and kindred, and conveys the fancy with greater facility from one generation to another, from the remote ancestors to their posterity, who are both their heirs and their descendants. By this facility the impression is transmitted more entire, and excites a greater degree of pride and vanity.
Everything belonging to a vain man is the best that is anywhere to be found. His houses, equipage, furniture, cloths, horses, excel all others in his conceit; and it is easy to observe, that from the least advantage in any of these, he draws a new subject of pride and vanity. His wine, if you'll believe him, has a finer flavor than any other; his cookery is more exquisite; his table more orderly; his servants more expert; the air, in which he lives, more healthful; the soil he cultivates more fertile; his fruits ripen earlier and to greater perfection: Such a thing is remarkable for its novelty; such another for its antiquity: This is the workmanship of a famous artist; that belonged once to such a prince or great man: All objects, in a word, that are useful, beautiful or surprising, or are related to such, may, by means of property, give rise to this passion. These agree in giving pleasure, and agree in nothing else. This alone is common to them; and therefore must be the quality that produces the passion, which is their common effect.
When riches produce any pride or vanity in their possessors, as they never fail so do, it is only by means of a double relation of impressions and ideas. The very essence of riches consists in the power of procuring the pleasures and conveniences of life. The very essence of this consists in the probability of its exercise, and in its causing us to anticipate, by a true or false reasoning, the real existence of the pleasure. This anticipation of pleasure is, in itself, a very considerable pleasure; and as its cause is some possession or property, which we enjoy, and which is thereby related to us, we here dearly see all the parts of the foregoing system most exactly and distinctly drawn out before us. For the same reason, that riches cause pleasure and pride, and poverty excites uneasiness and humility, power must produce the former emotions, and slavery the latter. Power or an authority over others makes us capable of satisfying all our desires; as slavery, by subjecting us to the will of others, exposes us to a thousand wants, and mortifications.
(From A Treatise of Human Nature, Book II of the Passions, PART I of pride and humility by David Hume)