Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: February ::
Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0122 Wednesday, 20 February 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Jefferey Taylor <GR4302@SIUCVMB>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 February 1994, 10:52:04 CST
        Subj:   Sorry to keep it going, but...
 
(2)     From:   Barbara Simerka <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Feb 1994 15:54:44 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
(3)     From:   Michael Dobson <U63495@UICVM>
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Feb 94 17:27:07 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
(4)     From:   Al Cacicedo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 15 Feb 1994 23:40:35 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
(5)     From:   Pat Buckridge <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 1994 15:26:32 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   Ethics and the Human Condition
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jefferey Taylor <GR4302@SIUCVMB>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 February 1994, 10:52:04 CST
Subject:        Sorry to keep it going, but...
 
I'm sorry to keep this argument about Universals going, but I cannot sit still
while Relativism is accused of the being the source of all bigotry and racism.
Quite to the contrary, it is the Idealism of Plato that insists that since we
are all the same I can easily judge whether you are an Alpha Beta Gamma or
Delta and therefore can decide what fate you deserve.  It is Idealism that
insists Rushdie must die.  It is Idealism that has been the enemy of democracy
and open discourse since its beginning.  As soon as one claims that they can
identify Universals they can claim that they have the knowledge to decide who
is good and who is bad, whose ideas reflect the Universal good and whose are
trash.  Yes we can get something we call scientific truth by limiting our
focus--that's why it's science and not the humanitities.  Publically
demonstrable probability is science, by the pragmatist definition (which has
been the foundation for science this century!)  If there are Universals, then
why haven't we been able to agree on Shakespeare these past centuries in the
same way we come to agree on science??  ALSO:  if we are going to discuss and
deliberate then there will be intolerance, ideology, anger, and so on.  These
things are part of our lives and need not lead to terrible crimes. At the risk
of quoting a rational empiricist, Mills did say that truth emerges from the
clash of adverse ideas.  And clash I will with anyone who wants to blame
pragmatism and multiculturalism for the crimes of Idealism.  I've had enough of
this debate too--it stinks of the Eurocentrism that has been and remains the
heavy handed and arrogant defender of Plato's elitism and those who still "pray
in the dark in the Sciences' church" (P. Hammill).
 
Jefferey Taylor
Southern Illinois University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Barbara Simerka <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Feb 1994 15:54:44 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
The ethical considerations Richard Jordan rightly emphasizes, as well as
the notes of harmony from Luc Borot and Sean Lawrence are valid reasons to
argue towards the existence of universals. However, the problem always
remains, if we emphasize the shared experience, if we homogenize experience,
then there is the risk of marginalization, of exclusion.  Perhaps a
continual debate of this subject is beneficial, (despite the fact that some
readers are tired of this and certainly the discussion need not continue
HERE ad infinitum) in order to avoid the extremes that result from
"settling" the issue in favor of either term, universalism or relativism.
 
Barbara Simerka
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Dobson <U63495@UICVM>
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Feb 94 17:27:07 CST
Subject: 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
Dear SHAKSPER --
 
Nobody is keener than I am to see this particular debate peter out, and one
reason for its unhelpfulness is the fact, pace various recent contributors,
that it is *ethically* empty -- it is just as possible to commit atrocities in
the name of Universal Human Truth as it is to do so in the name of cultural
particularity.  Aesthetically, however, it seems to be far easier to be
po-faced and self-righteous on behalf of universals; in face of a looming and
censoring totality of disapproval, can I just say that I'd rather be insulted
by Terence Hawkes than praised by some of his adversaries any day of the week?
 
               Michael Dobson
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Al Cacicedo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 15 Feb 1994 23:40:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.0117  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
To whom it may concern:
 
I would like to share Sean Lawrence's optimism.  It's nice to think of
ourselves sitting at our keyboards like Arthur's knights at a round table of
open-minded camaraderie.  And on many subjects, of course, the optimism
is not misplaced.  On matters of fact, of reference, and of local
interpretation this list serves an invaluable function.  However, I also think
it obvious that the perspective by now associated with Terence Hawkes--
and in some ways any point concerned with almost any branch of
contemporary theory--is not given so tolerant a hearing.  To be sure, as
several netters (a lexicographical colleague of mine tuned me into that
term) have pointed out, Mr. Hawkes is not the most temperate of e-mailers
and seems to revel in the flames he invites.  But even when it is not Mr.
Hawkes who posts a historicist note, the reactions are pretty violent--and,
irony of ironies, the vehemence of the response tends to be attributed to
the historicist, who is then chastised for troubling the limpid stream of our
discourse.  Again as several netters have noticed, the vehemence of the
dialogue gives away the quasi-religious character of the controversy.
What is "at stake" in this argument is the very possibility of TRUTH, and
as Milton says, the wars of truth are always hard fought.  As I see it, the
issue is not a dead cert on either side of the question.  A few days ago,
Jeffrey Taylor referred us to the nominalist/realist controversy.  Surely that
tells us that we will not, and perhaps in principle no one ever will resolve
the issue.  Certainly a medium such as e-mail seems to me incapable of
adding much to the question.  I for one have decided to delete unread any
further postings headed "universal" or "human condition."
 
Praying for nature's first green,
Al Cacicedo (
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 )
Albright College
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 1994 15:26:32 +1000 (EST)
Subject:        Ethics and the Human Condition
 
Two points in this unending but fascinating discussion:
 
1. Richard Jordan writes that 'the ethical consequences of denying
universal humanity are horrendous'.  It could as easily be maintained that
the consequences of insisting upon it are at least equally horrendous. Two
consequences follow inexorably from the attempt to ground non-injurious
behaviour towards others in 'shared experiences and values'.  The first is
that it provides no grounds for not engaging in injurious behaviour
towards those others (e.g.non-human species) with whom (presumably) there
can be no such common experiences and values.  I am not as comfortable as
he is with the farmer and the fox example, but I can't really see why,
using his ethical framework, he would object to the killing of whales,
dolphins or African elephants (though I'm sure he does).
 
The second consequence is that non-injurious behaviour towards other human
beings is thereby made hostage to the NON-discovery of scientifically
undeniable biological differences between groups.  Whether one is prepared
to say that such discoveries have already been made or not - and I have no
opinion on this question - it is plainly an everpresent, even imminent,
possibility that such evidence of significant differences WILL be found.
What will Richard Jordan do then?  Adopt the usual old humanist strategy
of declaring that science - the troublesome areas of it anyway - is
irrelevant to human values?  The only logical alternative would be to say
that no ethical imperatives exist between the groups thus differentiated.
 
The way out of this univiting dilemma, I suggest, is to base ethically
sensitive interaction between individuals and species on something other
than actually shared characteristics.  Like respect for difference and a
recognition of shared *interests*.  Maybe Gene Roddenberry had it right all
those decades ago with the Prime Imperative!
 
2. I suppose it's a matter of taste, but I thought Terence Hawkes's reply
to his tormentors was very funny, and Luc Borot's reaction a bit pious. I
know humour can be an instrument of aggression and all that, but it would
be a great pity if people came to feel they couldn't engage in a bit of
light-hearted banter over the electronic airwaves without calling down
such heavy artillery on themselves.  (Sorry about the metaphor).
 
And what does any of this have to do with teaching Shakespeare?  Perhaps
quite a lot.  I neither read nor teach Shakespeare for the 'human values'
to be found there, but because it's great writing.  I happen to think that
an ability to appreciate (nay, love) great writing - to have a sense of
what's great about it - is a genuinely valuable item of cultural capital
which I can (sometimes) pass on to (some) students.  And the apprehension
of greatness seems to me to involve not just the recognition of shared
experiences or values in the writing (you can get that in the editorial of
your preferred newspaper) OR in the newness and strangeness of the
language AND the ethics AND the politics -  but in a fusion (or maybe a
dialectic) of both.  Nothing very profound there, but at least it's a
rationale that doesn't actively encourage students to pretend to
'spontaneities' they don't really feel, but can learn.
 
Patrick Buckridge
Griffith University, Brisbane.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.