The Eighteenth Century
1) AGE OF EXPLORATION
with Captain Cook’s voyage to
b) “blank” spaces on the map filled-in with well-defined places all populated by different societies with different customs
c) Craze for travel narratives—why?
commercial interests, such as the present interest in
ii) new cultures provide windows on new societies and potentially superior ways of living (and provide the opportunity to critique our present society)
(1) think More’s Utopia, Don Quixote, The Tempest, Gulliver’s Travels, Candide, and Johnson’s Rasselas
2) AGE OF EMERGING CAPITALISM
a) lawless world of economic exploitation
b) natural resource exploitation
c) trading in artefacts, objects, humans
d) possession of land and dispossession of cultures
e) laissez-faire—emergence of capitalism and philosophy of the marketplace—“All that’s golden is good.”
3) AGE OF EMPIRICISM/REASON/SCIENCE
a) Descartes’ Discourse on Method (1637) and Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620)
i) We can understand the world equipped with only our perceptions and our Reason
ii) the World is ultimately knowable (not mysterious)
iii) Nature is divine revelation equivalent to scripture—so being able to read Nature is equivalent to being able to read scripture (More on Nature in a moment)
b) Great public and intellectual interest in scientific discoveries
i) scientists were not professionals (i.e. anyone could be a scientist)
ii) The optics revolution
(1) the microscope
(2) the telescope
saw new worlds beneath the water lie,
New people, and another sky.” (Thomas Traherne)
Eighteenth Century Enlightenment (briefly)
a) Nature—a contested term
i) but in 18th C not so unclear
(1) natural world subjected to laws
(2) human nature as divine revelation
(3) human reason as a means of discovering both
b) Nature contrasted with the supernatural
a) Religion had rested on “revelation”
i) what God has revealed to humans through
(1) the Bible
(3) Jesus and his life
b) Now it rested also on Nature
i) the natural world reclaimed as a system of visible signs
3) THIS SHIFT PRODUCED BY
a) The Scientific movement of the 16th and 17th centuries
b) Religious conflicts following the Reformation
c) These two forces produced a climate where supernatural and occult explanations ceased to satisfy. The universe moved from the mysterious and unknowable mind of God to the “Great Machine” working rigidly by natural laws and set in motion and kept running by God, the “Divine Mechanic”
4) SCIENTIFIC MOVEMENT
a) BEFORE WORLD SEEN AS FALLEN
i) the fallen world
ii) the mundane shell
iii) mountains themselves seen as horrible scars upon the earth
iv) the domain of Satan and dark spirits
(1) science in the Middle Ages linked to black magic
(2) Nature full of pagan divinities
(3) think of Faust legend
b) BY 1620 SCIENCE OR NATURAL PHILOSOPHY COULD SUGGEST NATURE WAS DIVINE REVELATION
i) in the 1620s, Bacon could write that God provided two channels of revelation
(1) Scripture (the traditional source
(2) Nature itself
ii) Up to well into the 18th C, Science and Theology proceeded together
(1) What had science revealed?
(a) Where humans previously saw chaos, now they saw order, design, law
(b) The very great visible through the telescope and the very small visible through the microscope obeyed these laws
(c) All was organized “according to the Ordainer of order and mystical mathematics of the city of heaven” (Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), Religio Medici)
5) RELIGIOUS CONFLICTS
a) How did they lead to the growth of natural religion?
i) by calling into doubt all the points of faith and reducing them to mere controversy
ii) Faith based on revelations but what had been revealed?
(1) No one could agree so the Bible as revelation had fallen into controversy
(2) What should we do?
iii) Turn to the other source of revelation
(1) Nature—natural world and human nature
(2) The God without AND the God within
(a) Natural Religion reaches God not only through the starry heavens above, but also through the moral law within: through Nature as well as through Reason
(i) And what would you find when you looked within? not the specters of psychoanalysis (which didn’t exist yet), but the laws of God and Nature written on the heart
1. Available to All
2. Optimistic View—divine both within and without
6) THIS SENSE OF GOODNESS WITHOUT AND WITHIN PRODUCED A NEW OPTIMISM
a) In short, we see a decline in what has been called the “tragic sense of life”
i) we are miserable offenders
ii) we are fallen and depraved
iii) jealous and offended God
iv) we are full of sin
b) Replaced by
i) A loving and tender God
ii) Perfectable humans in the image of the divine
7) EVIDENCE OF THIS “NATURAL MORALITY”
a) Noble savage—Pigafetta (who traveled with Magellan) wrote that Brazilians followed Nature, wore no clothes, lived to be 140 years old and were free of the vices of civilization
b) Montaigne’s essay “Of Cannibals” describes the conduct of three “savages” at court and declares that their manners surpassed all the pictures with which the poets had adorned the golden age
c) Even Jesuit missionaries praised the virtues of unspoilt natural humans
d) These accounts frequently noted the absence from “savage” societies of
ii) coercive governments
iii) institutional church
e) Saw primitives living in a paradise
f) This contrasted to European society which was seen as degraded
i) civilization as fallen
ii) Rousseau—“Man is born free and yet everywhere he is in chains”
8) BENEVELONT GOD = DIVINE WORLD = DIVINE PLAN = THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS
a) Locke—“The works of Nature everywhere sufficiently evidence a Deity”
b) Natural World, the divinely created world
i) if so, if Nature is God’s own work, then certainly the mighty maze of things cannot lack a plan—indeed, it must have the best of all possible plans and the world must be the best of all possible worlds
c) Cosmic Optimism
i) Pope, “Whatever is, is Right”
9) BUT HOW DO WE ALIGN THIS OPTIMISM WITH THE PRESENCE OF NEGATIVES AND EVIL?
a) We used to refer everything to the fall, but that mode of explanation had fallen away
b) Instead we must try to understand God’s purpose in making such a world
i) Perhaps even suffering is part of the divine plan
ii) Perhaps even want and hierarchy are part of the divine plan
iii) If everything created is perfect, then even suffering must be perfect
iv) The scale of creation from lowly worm to angel all fulfills a purpose
c) Therefore SUBMIT—stop complaining; live according to Nature
Structured like an argument
Introduction (lines 1-16)
I. What can we know? Only what we can see, no more.
II. What we can see/know is suited to our rank. We are not imperfect; rather we are perfectly suited to our place.
III. If we knew more, such as the future, we could not live. Our present happiness depends on ignorance and on the hope that compensates for that ignorance.
IV. In fact, the pride that aims at more knowledge and more perfection only produces misery.
V. Think how absurd it is to believe that the entire universe was made for us—pride leads us to believe so.
VI. We demand to be like angels and to possess the traits of animals, but in fact we have been made perfect in our own way, in exact proportion to what we require.
VII. In fact, all of creation is made perfect it its own way, in exact proportion to what each species in the great chain of being requires. And ultimately, humans possess the greatest gift of all, Reason.
VIII. And this vast chain of being extends to both directions, down to the lowest species and up to God.
IX. Our desire for more, our desire to exceed our place is simply madness.
X. Therefore, cease your complaining and curb your pride. Know who and what you are and submit to the higher power who has ordained this place for you.
Lines 29-34: What is the "great chain"?
Lines 61-68: How is the human condition like that of the
Lines 69-76: What is Pope's reply to those who say that man
is not perfect?
Lines 81-84: Explain the use of the lamb to explain why it
is better not to know one's fate. Would you be happy to know your fate?
Lines 99-112: What's the point of the example with the
Line 123: "In pride, in reas'ning pride, our error
lies"—How so, according to Pope?
Lines 131-140: human conceit—In what ways are humans
Lines 141-144: does Nature err when bad things happen to
Lines 244-256: what might happen if the balance in nature
Lines 288-294: Do you agree?
The Lady at her loom (Elizabeth Siddal)
The Embowered Lady at a window (Millais' "Mariana")
"I am half-sick of shadows"
The Lady looks at Lancelot (Waterhouse)
"The mirror cracked from side to side"
William Holman Hunt (painting)
Sydney Harold Meteyard
"Like some bold seer in a trance" (Waterhouse)
"Singing in her song she died"
T. S. Eliot reads Part V, What the Thunder Said, of The Waste Land