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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

?Essay on Sigmund Freud - Understanding the Cause for Misery of the Modern Man

            Living in the modern society is supposed to make life better for the individuals who live in it.  First, it is presumed that modern man has started to understand more about nature and knows how to control it to man’s advantage.  Modern society with its modern technology is expected to be able to protect itself against the forces of nature.  For instance, man has been able to utilize the powerful forces of the wind and water to generate electricity.  At the same time, man has started to protect itself against the destructive forces of the tsunami, typhoon and tornadoes.  Second, modern society helps in regulating human behavior.  It has a set of laws and principles that governs the interactions between individuals for their mutual protection and benefit.  For instance, modern society has a set of laws that protect one person against the actions of another.  These laws define what acts are prohibited and punishable by the modern society.  Third, modern society also advances beauty, peace, justice and equality.  For instance, after realizing the impact of human practices on the environment, modern society now has various programs designed to protect the environment.  Practices which are sustainable and environment-friendly are now being promoted in a global scale. 

            At first glance, it would seem that modern society should be able to help man find happiness.  Modern society should be able to protect man against anything that may cause him to become unhappy such as sickness and disease.  Modern society should be able to allow man to be able to do anything that will make him happier. 

            Sigmund Freud, however, argued that modern society is also a cause for modern man’s unhappiness and discontentment.  In fact, modern society is also partially responsible for the misery and suffering experienced by modern man.  As a result, modern man has a subliminal hostility against civilization.

            There are several reasons why modern society has contributed to man’s misery.  First, modern society emphasizes on the sacrifice of individual happiness for the promotion of general welfare.  Modern society enjoins everybody to give up a portion of their happiness for the interest of the greater good.  For example, man’s instinct is aggression and sex.  Modern society however cannot tolerate violence and promiscuity.  “Men usually do not find it easy to do without satisfaction of their tendency to aggression that is in them: when deprived of the satisfaction of it they are ill at ease.” (Piero P. Giorgi 14)

            Second, modern society diminishes the freedom and liberty of individual for the sake of common good.  Modern society has rules and laws which restrict human freedom and liberty.  It is part of human personality to want to engage in action that will lead to his happiness.  Misery results when there are laws that restrict human freedom and liberty.  For example, the 2001 terrorist attacks had resulted in the government passing various laws that affect human freedom and liberty.  Because of the terrorist attacks, it has become a constitutional practice to harass and intimidate Middle Eastern men and women.  Because of terrorist attacks, the government had legitimized the search into suspected individual’s deposit account, emails, and telephone records.  The public are now subjected to strict rules and procedures before they can be allowed to board any airplane.  The situation nowadays is much worse than the situation in the past. 
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For example, drinking is a great stress-reliever.  It is a great way for an individual to relax and have fun.  However, when a person is drunk he cannot drive.  There are laws that make it a crime for a person to drink and then drive.  Its purpose is to protect the innocent pedestrians against the individual who is drunk driving.  While the purpose of the law is good, it restricts human behavior.  It curtails the basic desires of man which is to have fun.  It prohibits man from the pleasure of drinking.  While the protection of other individuals is a primordial right it should not be to the extent of sacrificing individual pleasure and happiness.   It must be stressed that there are individuals who can drink and drive safe.  There are responsible drinkers who can drink without being a menace to the society.  These kinds of individuals are greatly affected by the law against drunk driving.

            In contrast, those who lived in primitive societies do not have to be concerned with rules and laws.  In fact, in primitive societies, there was no restriction upon man’s instincts.  If an individual wants to do something he could most probably do it without having to go through the complex procedure the modern society has today. 

            Though there is a measure of inconvenience in today’s society, it can be argued that these are minor inconveniences that every member of this modern society should tolerate for the sake of long-term happiness and enjoyment of happiness by every body.  It should be understood that in view of the complexity of the modern society, a person’s happiness may not be the same as another person’s happiness.  Oftentimes a person’s happiness could be the source of sorrow and pain for another.  For example, an individual is a womanizer and enjoys being in the company of different women everyday.  If such activity is allowed in primitive societies then the same could no longer be tolerated as a practice in modern society otherwise the foundation of marriage will be destroyed.  His happiness can lead to the source of misery of his wife and his children whom he may not be able to adequately provide support due to his lifestyle.  In another example, a person likes to smoke and finds pleasure smoking even in public places.  An individual’s happiness can also be the source of misery of another because second hand smoke could also be harmful to other people. 

            Moreover, while the security procedures being observed now in public places such as malls are inconvenient they are necessary as a measure of security for everybody.  While it may be true that bank accounts, emails, telephone records are being peered into they are also necessary in the conduct of investigation by the government agencies who are tasked to protect the country against domestic and international threats.

            Instincts need to be curbed.  It is the only way by which everybody may be able to live in the modern society.  Without the restriction on basic human instincts then it would not be possible to live in the modern society.  There will be more misery, unhappiness, stress and pain.  According to Bernard Jolibert, “Just as civilization began to withdraw from the ‘primitive state’ as a result of ‘frustration’, ‘privation’, ‘prohibition’ or taboo, individual education, as a constraint, is a necessity, whereby the child can be steered from a state of primitive desire to one of controlled desire.” (463)  Moreover, there is an implied consent that the primitive desire to hurt other people or to cause damage to another should no longer be tolerated.  It is the reason why children are sent to school at a very young age.  In school, young children are disciplined by the school teachers.  They are taught not only the letters of the alphabet but even moral values.  The task of the teachers is to indoctrinate the children to the values of the society.  At the end of the day, the children are expected to learn these values and to practice these values at home.   

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Essay on Donnatello's St. Mark - Features of Renaissance Art

The word Renaissance is synonymous with rebirth.  It is this period in history where the art and culture of the period of antiquity were reborn.  In contrast to the Middle Ages which centered on God and how unimportant man was in relation go God, the Renaissance centered on man and his limitless capabilities.  While the Middle Ages saw every aspect of life through the divine, the Renaissance rediscovered man and his important role in the world.  For the Renaissance artists, man is great and valuable.  The Renaissance is also the rebirth of ancient Greek philosophy with emphasis on individualism.  Man is not only a living and breathing creature but a unique and special creature.  Thus, it was common among Renaissance artists to have a renewed interest in the human anatomy.  It was therefore very common for artists to have as their subject the human body in the nude.  For them, the human body is the most beautiful subject an artist can recreate and so there was nothing to be ashamed of with the human body.

Donatello’s St. Mark
One of the famous Renaissance artists was the sculptor Donatello.  One of his most famous works was Saint Mark.  Donatello was commissioned to create a sculpture of St. Mark for the linen drapers guild in 1411. (Allison Gille 3) It was supposed to be finished and installed in 1412.  However, it was not actually installed until 1413.  It was however very surprising that the committee who commissioned to create St Mark initially did not appreciate Donatello’s work and even asked him to retouch some aspects of the sculpture. 

Despite the lukewarm acceptance by the commissioners Donatello’s peers however appreciated his work. One of these is the Italian artist Michelangelo who said that he “had never seen a more convincing image of an honest man than this statue, and if the Evangelist was like that he could believe everything he had written.”

Saint Mark is a marble statue that is around seven feet and nine inches high.  A closer look at the image of Saint Mark will reveal that it is in a contrapposto pose, otherwise known as the natural pose.  The drapes also hang all over the body concealing St. Mark’s body and legs.  St. Mark poses in such a way that his weight is on his right leg and that his left knee is bent a little.  It also shows that his torso is slightly twisted.  Donatello also created St. Mark in such a way that the veins appear on its left arm.  The long and wavy mustache is also prominent. 

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Features of Renaissance Art
There are two features of Renaissance art that are distinct and separate from Medieval art.  The first is that the artists during the Renaissance period are different in the sense that they are no longer considered as simple craftsmen with special skills but as independent artists who have freedom to incorporate different subjects into their creation.  For this reason, the individual artists were not judged by strict laws.  Rather, individual ingenuity was encouraged and that artists were encouraged to make original works.  Thus, the value of an art work was determined by its originality and how different it was from the other previous works of art. 

Second, the human body is depicted as appreciated for what it is in the sense that it is rendered as self-activating and functional organism, and the human personality is shown with a confidence in its own worth.  In this sense, Renaissance artists returned to the period of Antiquity were Greek philosophers put emphasis on man’s place in the world.  For instance, Plato and Aristotle both discussed about man and how he could realize his potentials.  For them, man has a special role to perform in this world.  In the same manner, Renaissance artists depict that the human person is special.  The human person can reach a stage of perfection.  Renaissance artists also ensure that they portray a sense of emotion in their works.  It was common to see works of art which are full of emotion and expression.  It was as if these art works were living creatures.

These two features of Renaissance art are prominent in St. Mark.  Firstly, the over-all style is so much different from the artistic style during the Medieval Ages.  Compared to the Medieval Ages which emphasized on religious themes and which depicted faces which are unreal and disproportionate body parts, the Renaissance art was more free willing.  The free willing attitude is evident in the way the image of St. Mark was portrayed.  The human form is in a relax stance which is the human body’s natural pose.  The legs are also bent making it appear that the marble statute was real and full of emotion. It was as if the structure was movable and bendable.  It was as if the statute was a real person that communicates to the person who sees it. Even for a person who is not an art connoisseur one will feel that the expression of St. Mark conveys a sense of connection to him.  In the humanist spirit, these statutes appear that they breathe and pose like real man.

Secondly, St. Mark was the very first statute that stands in a completely relaxed pose.  This was completely different compared to the earlier statutes which were rigid and expressionless.  This was also to be contrasted with the disproportionate features as expressed by artists during the Medieval Ages.  

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Essay on Plato's The Ring of Gyges

            Plato’s the Ring of Gyges provides a discussion about why people do good and why people avoid evil.  It was made as a response to the dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus who was beaten the Socrates when the he insisted that Justice is in the interest of the stronger or might is right.  Plato, speaking through Glaucon, was not satisfied with the explanation given by Socrates.  He also sought to emphasize that no man is so virtuous that he will be able to resist the temptation of being able to do anything he wishes because of the power of invisibility. (Michael Davis 2)

            Plato, speaking through Glaucon made the following arguments.  No man wishes to do good and that if individuals choose to do as they wish a just and unjust man will follow the same path which is to do evil.  Plato added that the only reason why men actually do good and avoid evil is because it is in their best interest to do good.  He explained that men do good because there is nothing to gain by doing evil.  Doing good is therefore seen as an act of compromise precisely because doing evil has negative consequences.  Doing evil means that a person may face sanctions and penalties such as imprisonment, civil liability, and bad reputation in the community.

            Based on the Ring of Gyges, Plato wants to say two things.  The first is that when persons are given the discretion to do whatever they want, a good person and a bad person will do the same thing which is to do evil.  This is because evil is inherently more pleasurable for a person than to do good.  Thus, when a person does not need to think about the consequences of his actions, he will naturally follow what is more pleasurable for him which is to do evil.  The second is that despite the fact that evil is more pleasurable persons are forced to make a compromise by doing good and avoiding evil because evil has negative consequences.  Because the society has laws, customs and traditions which everyone is enjoined to observe, individuals are forced to make the decision of doing good.  Thus, the only conclusion that can be derived is that we do good and observe justice because of its consequences.

            The Ring of Gyges made me reflect about my possible choices and actions should I suddenly acquire extraordinary power.  A person need not have a ring that gives him the option to become invisible to become powerful.  A politician like a Mayor or a Congressman has power which an ordinary person does not have.  Should I become a Mayor or a Congressman what kind of person would I become? Would I become former Governor Eliot Spitzer who was involved in a sex scandal with a prostitute who was a member of a prostitution ring whom he paid $5,000 a night? Would I also commit the same mistake he did by becoming known as Client 9 of the Emperor’s Club VIP call-girl ring after his phone was tapped revealing that he wanted to be set-up with an American, petite, very pretty brunette prostitute named Kristen.  Would I also become involved and caught having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina just like the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford.

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             Before the scandal, many people thought that they had a lot of future in the political arena.  Some even considered then winnable for a position in White House.  However, with this power did these politicians make the right decision by following the right path? They did not.

            However, this does not mean that every person will follow the path of injustice in the same manner as these politicians.  While some individuals may decide to do evil given the power they have, some will still make the right decision by following the right path.  For instance, in Ipswich, Australia, a motorist risked his life by swerving his motorcycle and slamming into a building just to avoid hitting a young girl.  His act was considered truly heroic. (“'Heroic' act saves girl's life” 1) In Washington, two individuals were honored on Marc 21, 2009 for their heroic act in saving the life of another individual.  It appeared that James Dean and Phillip Vermeire, upon observing that a vehicle was engulfed in flame, made the decision to help the driver of the vehicle get out of the vehicle by breaking the car’s window and helping the person to get out. (“Two Men Honored for Heroic Act” 2)

            It bears stressing that these individuals were ordinary persons.  They had no political power.  They were just like every one of us.  Yet they made the right decision by following the right path.  Any of these individuals could have been any of one of us.

Thus, the only conclusion that can be derived based on these examples is that while there are individuals who will responsible for committing unjust actions, there will always be some individuals who will be recognized for their bravery and heroic act. We cannot generalize persons by making rules as to how they will behave given a specific situation. 

Personally, I am the kind of individual who strives to be just.  I am the kind of person who gives everyone his due.  As much as possible I try my best to not to commit an act of injustice against any person.  I do these things not because I do not want to be punished for committing an injustice but because it makes me happy to do good.  It also makes me feel good to do good to others.  

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Essay on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics - The Concept of Ultimate Good

The Nicomachean Ethics is the most comprehensive of Aristotle’s three ethical writings. It is regarded to be the most definitive statement of Aristotle’s ethical views. The title refers to Aristotle’s father whose name is Nichomachus. The entire book is divided into ten books. Book I talks about how good is going to be defined. Books II to V talk about the moral virtues. Book VI explains intellectual virtue. Book VII illustrate what moral continence and incontinence is. Book VIII-IX gives descriptions to the nature of friendship. The last book talks about the definition of pleasure and happiness.  (Aristotle)

According to Aristotle, every action of a human being is directed to the ultimate good. This raises the question on how good will be defined. Is there a single idea of “good”? There are some actions which are good in themselves and other actions which are good due to the fact that they are done for the objective of something good other than themselves. Aristotle argues that a virtuous person will enjoy acting good because it is his nature. It can also be the case that virtuous people accepts as true the fact that virtuous actions are intrinsically good.

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Aristotle also makes a distinction with moral virtue and intellectual virtue. He argues that moral virtue is not innate but they are attained by exercising them as much as possible like a habit. One has to have the habit of acting virtuously if a person wants to become virtuous. Some moral virtues are temperance, humility, truthfulness, moderation and courage. Justice as a moral virtue includes fairness. Injustice is a moral vice which includes unfairness. Virtue is in line with moderation and temperance. We should achieve being virtuous if we find the means between the excess and deficiency of the value. Some intellectual virtues include artistic knowledge, philosophic wisdom and scientific knowledge. Moral virtues can be combined with other intellectual virtues. A person can combine moral truthfulness and artistic knowledge.

Aristotle gives an explanation that says the ethics of friendship will be defined by goodness and richness of the person. A lot of people can become friends when they see virtues in that person. Only true friends can enjoy the interaction as well as the experiences of one another. This section of the book raises the question is friendship necessary for one to be happy? Aristotle answers this by saying that one has to have friends because it cannot be separated from being happy. It is a part of being happy.  (Aquinas)

Aristotle said that pleasure is not the ultimate goal of every human action. The reason for this is that pleasure is not always good. Pleasure and pain may be good or bad. Happiness is a virtuous activity of a human being which is guided by reason. In a way, it is also a contemplative activity. It is an end in itself. It is not merely a feeling of pleasure but of the fulfillment of a virtuous soul.

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Essay on Aristotle

A polymath in his own right, Aristotle has been prolific in almost all scientific disciplines as a formidable student, researcher, teacher, and philosopher. He made a profound impact on the praxis of mathematics and sciences through the Aristotelian logic. It became the backbone of the natural sciences not only in the Greek era but for all of history.

As a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great, we had writings on a spectrum of topics such as physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. He was considered alongside Plato and Socrates to be the biggest figures in the Western philosophy, conceptualizing a complex system on morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics. All of his works continue to be used as pieces of literature today, though only a third of these were preserved.

The essay on Aristotle His views on the sciences greatly influenced the medieval academe and resonated well beyond the Dark Ages towards the Renaissance. With regard to his zoological observations, they were only proven accurate in the advent of the 19th century. On the other hand, Aristotelianism helped shape the course of metaphysics and the religions such as Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism in the Middle Ages.

His foundation of the Lyceum paved the way for the learning of natural sciences, logic, physics, astronomy, zoology, metaphysics, theology, politics, economics, ethics, rhetoric, poetics, and mathematics. His lectures notes were preserved for many years after his death either as instructional material or as published source.

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The essay on Aristotle should highlight his contributions in mathematics involved writings in trigonometry and Physics, a discussion of the infinite. A treatise titled On Indivisible Lines which disputed Xenocrates’ claim on the indivisibles was also attributed to Aristotle. His greatest work, meanwhile, would be Prior Analytics, which laid the groundwork for all mathematical study. Analytical methods, he believed, were necessary to make the axioms that could lead to discoveries based on syllogisms and proofs.

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Essay on Rene Descartes' Proof of God's Existence

Philosophers have proposed different arguments to prove God’s existence.  Aristotle suggested that God is the unmoved mover and constructed his argument based on this idea.  St. Anselm advanced the Ontological Argument saying that God’s existence can be proved without any need for evidence.  St. Thomas Aquinas advanced the Cosmological Argument theorizing that the perfect harmony in the physical universe suggests the existence of a Supreme Being.  These arguments have their own strengths and flaws.  However, I find Rene Descartes’ argument one of the most logical and convincing.

Rene Descartes is one of the philosophers who provided sound arguments on the existence of God.  He patterned his theory after St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument.  The main difference is that St. Anselm referred to God as a being that than which nothing greater can be conceived.  The ontological argument was later on criticized and destroyed by St. Aquinas.

Descartes’ argument was so-called because it relies on the essence of God as a necessary being as one of the presumptions.  Descartes considered God as a necessary being as contradistinguished from contingent being.  As a necessary being God must exist otherwise we will be negating the very concept of God.

Descartes’ Proof of God's Existence can be restated as follows: Premise 1.  I think, therefore I am.
Premise 2.  I cannot be mistaken about the ideas that I have.
Premise 3.  There can never be more objective reality in the effect (i.e., the idea) than there is formal reality in the cause (i.e., object of the idea).
Premise 4.  I have an idea of perfection or infinite substance.
Premise 5. My idea of perfection is the most objectively real idea that I have.
Premise 6. The only possible formal cause of that idea is infinite substance.

Premises 1 and 2 are the foundations of Descartes’ philosophy.  He thought that our existence is proved by the fact that we are able to doubt our existence.  Since we are able to doubt our existence and argue about it then it follows that we exist.  In other words, it could not be possible for a non-existing being to be able to think.  The act of thinking also brings about ideas.  These ideas are mere reflections of an actual reality.  It follows that if the reflection is real then the cause of these ideas are also real since the effect could not be more real than its cause.  For instance, the idea horse came is just a result of the actual and existing horse.  The existence of an idea horse is as real as the actual horse.  Since an idea is simply an effect it follows that there is a cause behind the effect.  In the same manner, the idea perfection is just an effect of a real perfect being that actually exists.  Since our idea of perfection is real it follows that there exists a perfect being.  However, no human being is perfect.  Thus, the idea of perfection could only come from a perfect being which is God.

Though Descartes’ argument is sound there are criticisms against it.  One of the criticisms against Descartes’ argument is that it relies heavily on the idea of perfection that is in one’s mind which is stated in Premises 4 and 5.  It strength lies in the logical necessity of the idea of perfection because the idea exists in the mind.  Descartes’ argument, however, is contrary to human experience.  It can be argued that it is still possible for a person to create in his mind an idea of a perfect marriage or a perfect world without them having an independent existence outside of the mind.  In this case, my idea of a perfect president could not have an independent existence because no such being exists.  It is therefore possible that the idea of perfection is just a pigment of a person’s imagination which has no outside existence.

Descartes’ Proof of God's Existence is incomplete, insufficient and weak.  Instead of proving God’s existence it only affirmed and defined God’s quality of perfection.  Proving is different from defining.  Descartes made the error of defining God’s characteristics and relied on these characteristics without actually proving God’s existence.  However, Descartes’ argument’s strength lies in his use of Skepticism to prove that God’s existence is a logical necessity.

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Essay on Plato - What is Plato's Theory of Forms

Plato’s Theory of Forms occupies a central theme and one of his greatest contributions in the history of philosophy.  He was the first Greek philosopher to have made an exhaustive discussion on his concept of Forms or Ideas and the distinction between reality and appearance which were very influential to many philosophers including Hegel.  In fact, some authors say that the other philosophers were just modifications of Plato’s philosophy.  His extensive discussion on the Theory of Forms can be found in his work the Republic.

In writing an essay on Plato's Theory of Forms, there are some important points that need to be considered.  Plato was concerned with the distinction between reality and appearance.  What is real and what is not? What is mutable and what is immutable? Plato’s Theory of Forms is intricately connected with his other major philosophies.

Consider the situation wherein prisoners are chained inside a cave.  They are chained in such a way that they are unable to turn their heads to see what is outside the cave.  All the prisoners could see is the wall of the cave.  Behind the prisoners is a fire that casts a shadow on the wall.  Between the prisoners and the burning fire is a parapet where puppeteers can walk. When puppeteers walk, they cast a shadow the wall of the cave which the prisoners could see.  If a dog walks between the prisoners and the burning fire, the prisoners would naturally see the shadow of a dog.  Since they could only see the shadow of the dog they mistakenly assume that the shadows that they see are the real thing.  If a man walks between the prisoners and the burning fire, the prisoners would naturally see the shadow of a man.  Since they could only see the shadow of a man they mistakenly assume that the shadow that they see is the real thing.  This is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

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Plato goes on to say that just like the prisoners inside the cave what we see are mere shadows of the real things.  When we see a cat or a dog they are just reflections what is real which is the Idea of a cat or the Idea of a dog.  These are just reflections because the real Ideal cat or dog is not born when a particular cat or dog is born.  The real Ideal cat or dog does not die when a particular cat or dog is born.  It is immutable, unchangeable and can only be perceived by Reason.  On the other hand, the particular cat or dog that we see comes and go.  They are born and they die.            They can only be perceived by the senses.  Thus, for Plato, the Form or Idea dog or cat is abstract which is not subject to change.  It does not change and continue to exist even if every dog or cat in the world will be obliterated.

Plato’s concept of the Theory of Forms contains a number of obvious mistakes.  However, his Theory of Forms is an important piece in the advancement of the history of philosophy.  It was the first theory that emphasized the problem of the universals which until today is still the subject of debate among many philosophers.

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