Monthly Archives: April 2014

PART V-DISNEY DIDN’T DO IT!

Bursting BubbleMuch to the chagrin of my husband, I hold hard and fast to the notion that “the one” does not, let me repeat, does not exist. I was going to save such a blog for a better day, like Valentine’s Day because it would fit perfectly with my cynical sentimentality; however (or perhaps unfortunately in your case, whichever you choose), a headline shared on Facebook got me fired up enough that sooner, rather than later, is best especially with the recent buzz on this topic given the Frozen explosion (Disney, 2014).

First, I must give props to the writer of the Huffington Post article How Disney Sabotaged Our Love Lives, by Ashley Crouch (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashley-crouch/how-disney-sabotaged-our-love-lives_b_5194639.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000046), because from the headline alone I immediately knew where it was going and that’s one sign of a good writer (aside from the fact the article was well written). However, my purpose is not to critique one’s writing abilities, it’s to state my two objections to the article which was laying blame to Disney, or Hollywood for that matter, and not separating love, marriage and sex from one another.

Sure, we’ve grown up with those timeless tales about waiting for prince charming and a happily ever after, but Disney didn’t do it—they didn’t ruin our love lives or teach us about “the one.” In fact, the idea of “the one” was instilled in us, women that is, long before moving pictures. Two of my favorite philosophers, Frederick Nietzsche (1844 to 1900) and Emma Goldman (1864-1940), had some very strong views on this subject long before Disney (early 1920’s with Snow White having been released in approximately 1937) or even before the media began perpetuating. Hell, Renaissance poets penned such romantic idolatry and could stand to take a bit of the blame (if we are going that route).

Most of the article falls in line with what I concluded long ago and solidified in my mind after reading Nietzsche’s and Goldman’s take on love, marriage and sex. It also seems as though the article could have been somewhat influenced or inspired by their ideology, but since they were neither quoted nor referenced I think it’s safe to bet they were not. Regardless, what was missing and needed to be addressed is the concept that love, sex and marriage ought to be separated from each other. While they can coexist, one does not need the other to survive or to be good or great and neither should be used to define the other. And, if Ms. Crouch’s article separated love from marriage it would fall more in line with Nietzsche in that marriage is best put to use as a practical matter.

Now you know what I think—below is more specifically about Nietzsche and Goldman and why I think what I do (because I’m too lazy tonight to bother with revamping an old paper). With that, I bid you a “so long, farewell, alveterzane, good night.” Good luck—sleep tight for me, I’m gone!

NIETZSCHE AND GOLDMAN ON LOVE MARRIAGE

Black Rose

Love and marriage, according to Nietzsche and Goldman, do not go together like a horse and carriage, and marriage is oppressive to women. I will discuss the various thoughts of Nietzsche and Goldman on love, marriage, and gender roles upon which love and marriage are based, as well as compare and contrast each philosopher on these subjects.

Both Nietzsche and Goldman believe that love should be separated from the definition and application of marriage because they have nothing in common. Marriage is simply a means to control and oppress women. Both authors explain, with regard to marriage as oppressive to women, that women in their society were not as well educated in “marital relations” and females were socialized to bow down in servitude to the husband. Women were expected to maintain proper domestic order as well as serve their husbands sexually; however, women were taught to believe that love was required of sex[1], that sex was evil or dirty, and to feel shame for merely thinking about such an activity, let alone succumbing to natural desires. Both believe women are taught that marriage is their only outlet for copulation, which is required in marriage. And, the only way for them to find social penance for these dirty deeds was to find “love” and bear children.

However, while Nietzsche further develops his oppression theory by explaining that their modern marriage is designed to possess someone like a piece of property and that eventually the possessor will tire of it once the newness wears off (like landscaping), and the expectation of life-long commitment and fidelity is an act of possession, he does believe that marriage as an economic arrangement is just fine (i.e. marriage for practical purposes, financial security in exchange for a wife who can cook well, etc.). But, Goldman does not believe in marriage at all.

Both Nietzsche and Goldman believe that men and women are not given enough opportunity to get to know each other long enough to get past the infatuation stage [2] to be able to determine whether or not the other is who they perceived them to be and would really want to be with that person after finding out he/she is not who they perceived them to be. Think about a stereotypical, twenty-first century, young couple who is absolutely “in-love” with each other, have only been dating for a few months but decide to get married anyway. After the honeymoon period they are forced to really get to know each other, bad habits (smells) and all. Eventually, one of them realizes the one he or she married is not who they wanted to spend the rest of their life with in the first place and they ultimately end up divorcing. This is Nietzsche’s tiring landscape and Goldman’s not knowing each other well enough.

One of the big differences between these two philosophers, however, is in their views on love. Goldman believes in love while Nietzsche could do without it. Goldman is pro “free love” while Nietzsche is not. Goldman describes of love, “…the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy…the defier of all laws, of all conventions…the freest, the most powerful molder of human destiny….”  (Goldman, 1991) She believes that love, if anything, is freedom itself—not the “free love” coined by the hippies of the sixties. Goldman also believes in “free motherhood,” meaning that a woman should be able to bear children with the man she loves, should she choose, without her child being labled a “bastard” or denounced as illigitimate (or she a whore) and that a child born out of wedlock from this “free motherhood” enjoys a higher standard of care and love than those born in wedlock. Nietzche on the other hand seems to believe that in love, one is always more interested than the other, that men and women experience and expect of love in different ways, i.e. women expect “complete surrender” to love “…without any motive, without any reservation…” whereas a man expects this devotion from the woman, but does not return the same intensity and merely desires to possess her.  (Nietzsche, 1991).

Another difference is that Goldman believed that men and women were separated by society. That is, both were socialized to play specific gender roles which harmed a relationship. She believed women could be both feminine and powerful with a mutual respect to both genders—a celebration of their differences without oppression to the other and without women behaving as men. Nietzsche, on the other hand, believed women were best admired from a distance. In other words, he thought women were better if he didn’t know them and that, while he believed they should be better educated about sex, they were ultimately ignorant and could be better.

As you can see, there are similarities between Nietzsche and Goldman regarding the need to separate love from Marriage in definition of either term; one is not required of the other and that the institution of marriage is oppressive to women. I have also contrasted their different views on love itself (Goldman is for and Nietzsche is against), marriage (Goldman is against and Nietzsche is for practical marriage) and gender roles (Goldman believes in mutual respect, Nietzsche would rather not be bothered with women).

Ultimately, having sex does not mean there is love. Love is better served without the oppressive institution of marriage and if one chooses to be married they should do so because it serves a purpose other than the idea of love (practicality equals a contract whereby one agrees to provide some thing(s) in exchange for something else—all contracts require an offer, acceptance and consideration [the fair exchange]).

[1] Goldman says this is where the woman’s never ending search for “the one” begins

[2] They say it quite differently, but the message is the same.

Image credits: Google images

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Part IV–Paradoxical Irony

So-cratesWhile I am somewhat leaping from the original progression I had planned for this particular blog category or “part,” it still plays on the matter of thinking for ourselves in terms of what we know or don’t know and so I figured now was as good a time as any. I don’t know how much you or anyone else may know about Socrates, because I will never really know what you know or don’t know and perhaps, to some, he’s just that So-crates guy Bill and Ted brought into the future for their final project, but I’ll give you a brief overview anyway.

Despite debate about whether or not Socrates really existed or was merely a character Plato created, Socrates was considered a wise man by some and an extremely annoying smartass by others. Those who held disdain for him felt as though he mocked their intelligence by performing Socratic irony (plainly, it’s essentially asking questions you already know the answer to just to bait an argument and make the other look stupid).

In addition to infuriating most of society, Socrates taught Athenian youth to think for themselves and to seek out what they did not understand—to essentially examine life. Unfortunately, most Athenians did not care for his lessons or their children questioning authority; thus, he was accused of, put on trial for, and ultimately put to death by Hemlock for, amongst other things, corrupting their youth.

Now, if corrupting the young is teaching them to question authority and think for themselves, then I would have to say Socrates was guilty as charged—he did teach Athenian youth to think for themselves. This is not to say I think he ought to have been executed, or that he should have been tried or punished. Whether the charge of wrongdoing for this particular “offense” was just or unjust is something I won’t delve into; however, I do think that thinking for self (if we truly can as often as we think we can) and questioning certain authority is a wise thing to do (though it certainly can and often will land you in a lot of trouble, such as the case with Socrates).

With that being said, I’ve laid some background for where I will lead you now. That is, into the unexamined life and a paradoxical irony. I am posting a revised version of a paper I wrote on this subject. Unfortunately, it is a lengthy summary and analysis to get to my ultimate conclusion. Because, technically, to do the subject any justice one must walk through a forest of long-windedness to see where the path has led them. Good luck. If you make it all the way through, sleep tight for me—I’m gone.

 THE UNEXAMINED LIFE

Crito, an old friend and student, believed Socrates was unjustly convicted by the Athenian jury because they merely wanted to remove an annoying old man whom they felt insulted their intelligence. Because he did not believe Socrates was guilty of the charges against him, Crito visited him in his cell to convince him to escape, offering him a place to stay with his friends at Thessaly—essentially in exile. Crito, among other supporters, paid off the guards to grant his escape. Knowing Socrates was an ethical man who would resist, Crito appealed to him to save his life by being more just than the jury and by not subjecting his sons to the loss of their father by remaining alive so he could raise and educate them properly. Socrates agreed to entertain a debate to determine if escape was indeed the right thing for him to do and if so he would go with Crito as he asked, but if not he would remain and face his death.

Socrates held that a good life is most important and to have a good life is to have “the good life, the beautiful life, and the just life.” (Plato, Crito, 2002), pg. 51. To live a just life one must not commit a wrong in response to a wrong committed against them (i.e. two wrongs do not make a right); thus, despite the Athenian court having unjustly convicted him (the wrong) it is unjust for Socrates to escape from prison (commit a wrong against the wrongdoers). Furthermore, if Socrates escaped from prison he would have to live somewhere outside of Athens so as not to get rearrested and new charges brought against him (an end to a beautiful life).

Near the end of Socrates’ defense in the Apology he discusses the various alternative remedies of punishment, one of them being exile. Exile does not seem like a reasonable remedy because history would surely repeat itself wherever he went. Socrates claimed others would say he should just stop his inquiries so as not to annoy others in whatever city he lives out in exile; however, he also claimed he could not keep quiet because “the unexamined life is not worth living for men.” (Plato, Apology, 2002), pg. 41, para 38. In other words, the unexamined life is a life without beauty and justness required for a “good life.” If he cannot examine life to live the good, just and beautiful life, then what’s the point?

To ask Socrates to cease his inquires would be to ask him to be someone else, to be more ignorant than he already thought, to be useless to a city and country he loves, and to disobey the Gods; thus it would be no different than death itself and if he disobeyed the Gods he would suffer a worse fate in Hades than death by the hands of men who “can’t handle the truth.” (A Few Good Men).

Living an unexamined life would be a life performing certain duties without truly understanding the meaning of what we do “…it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile, but he thinks he knows something when he does not,” whereas a person who lives an examined life would be able to admit that they do not know something when they, in fact, do not know, “…when I do not know, neither do I think I know; so I am likely to be wiser than he to this small extent, that I do not think I know what I do not know.” (Plato, Apology, 2002), pg. 26, para. (d).

Furthermore, if one lives an unexamined life they would not have the power to reason whether some action is just or unjust—escaping from prison, for example. And so, he would not understand that, while he may feel wrongfully convicted he would ultimately be “destroying” a city upon escape by unknowingly proving that the City’s laws have no authority to keep him held in: “Or do you think it possible for a city not to be destroyed if the verdicts of its courts have no force but are nullified and set at naught by private individuals?” Nor would they understand that by disobeying the city in his escape attempt he would be allowing others to think that if he is capable of shattering the city’s legal system and power he would most certainly be capable of the charges he thought unjustly made against him in the first place: “…for anyone who destroys the laws could easily be thought to corrupt the young and the ignorant?” (Plato, Crito, 2002), pg. 56, para. (c). In order to systematically annihilate a city’s laws, whether by escaping from prison or committing some other wrong, one would have no choice but to live in exile and by doing so would have to “avoid cities that are well governed and men who are civilized” which would also be a life not worth living if it is without good governments and civilization—otherwise you live a solitary life or one amongst chaos and perhaps brutality far worse than death for a very old man, at least in his case.

Argument

If one lives an unexamined life they would be considered, by Socrates, as ignorant. However, “ignorance is bliss,” to the extent that you do not know what you do not know and cannot therefore know that there is something greater, more or better for you to either do or know.

Ignorance can also be, in certain cases, deemed as “innocence,” as in the case of a child. For example, a small child will freely run around stark naked with zero inhibitions, no feelings of guilt or shame over their nakedness or others seeing them in such a state. They are just this way, and we call it “innocence” because they have not yet learned the lessons from their adult caretakers and/or society that their nakedness is something that should be hidden. In this case the “ignorance” is bliss because they are free from the chains of shame over something that is completely natural.

An unexamined life could also potentially be bliss in the sense that one would not know how much “evil” is in this world and committed by man himself. Without this knowledge they could potentially live a more peaceful life in that they would not question why. They would not be constantly bombarded with seeking answers to endless questions that just open doors to more questions and the realization that despite how wise you may be you may never really know anything at all. And, if you can’t ever truly know anything at all, then what is the point of bothering with an examined life?

Of course, the downside to the above is that if you never question anything due to ignorance in the matter, then you could potentially enable unjustness in the world by not realizing the “evil” being done. Furthermore, Socrates would explain that with an examined life one would at least be able to determine right from wrong and therefore live a good, just and beautiful life—these qualities being of the utmost importance to him; however, if we life an examined life then we ought to know that we know nothing of anything and therefore can’t possibly really know what it is to live a good/virtuous life.

Conclusion

Either way we look at it we are screwed. If we are ignorant we know nothing and don’t know it; if we examine life we still know nothing, the difference is that we should then realize that we know nothing and if we realize we know nothing we are still, by technicality, ignorant. However, we can’t possibly know what we do not know and so, we cannot fully realize how little we know. And, if we cannot realize that we know nothing, or at least far less than we think we do, then we are right back at the beginning—ignorant and don’t know it. This is the ironic paradox in the unexamined life.