The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1734 Thursday, 4 September 2003
From: Clifford Stetner <
Date: Wednesday, 3 Sep 2003 17:31:54 -0400
Subject: 14.1726 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Comment: Re: SHK 14.1726 Re: Tillyard (Again)
Sean Lawrence wrote:
"I enjoyed Clifford Stetner's latest post about indirect responsibility.
I'm a little puzzled by this line, though:
>Since capitalism, like communism is a product of historical dialectics
>and not the invention of Adam Smith, I don't know whom (perhaps our bard
>again?) to blame for the countless dead in Iraq?
Surely this is to cast the blame so broadly that it's dissipated.
Blaming history strikes me too much as the stock defense of war
Ok you caught me. I was not *really* blaming Shakespeare. But Smith,
like Marx, was an ideologue and not a war criminal and neither is to
blame directly or indirectly for war crimes perpetrated in his name. I
am not "blaming" history either for anything beyond establishing the
dialectical terms of class struggle. It is still individuals who choose
sides and tactics.
It is capitalists who absolve themselves of responsibility for the
consequences of "free" market forces. "We only buy and sell stock in
poverty, oppression, and exploitation; we don't impoverish, oppress, or
exploit anyone. We would make everyone rich, but those corrupt local
politicians screw everything up." Only, unlike Marx, capitalist
imperialists finance, directly or "indirectly," those corrupt
politicians and sabotage any popular movement to oust them that
threatens to nationalize their private property, and in increasing
disregard for the consequences that fall on anyone else, no matter how
"No this logic does not. For the obvious reason as Aristotle and every
other serious aesthetic philosopher ever after has realised. Art is not
didactic. Moral theory and political theory (particularly of the sort
created by Marx's less able followers) is."
Then rejecting this claim renders one ipso facto unserious. I think
Aristotle called that in his Rhetorics ad hominem, reductio ad absurdum,
false duality, or some such. He also insisted that earth naturally falls
down and fire naturally falls up and many other amazing facts. Whether
art can be or should be not didactic is at best an hypothesis. That it
*is* not is patently false. Tell that to the Dante, Virgil, Homer. Tell
that to the bards, to the skalds, to the Wakefield master, to Da Vinci,
and to the Catholic Church. Tell it to Boethius, Lactantius, Erasmus,
Thomas More. Tell it to Phillip Sidney. This is another capitalist lie:
the free market expresses natural laws of economic relations; capitalism
is therefore not an ideology, and art is merely aesthetic.
Another way of putting it: though Newton attempted to describe the
nature of what is the case (as, it may be argued, did Shakespeare and
many other high artists) he did not attempt to tell people what to do
with the nature of what is the case as did Marx (by implication) and his
followers (by direct action e.g. my list of suspect 'Marxian'
Newton told us to throw off our mental chains and act in accordance with
the laws of motion and thermodynamics. Shakespeare told us many times
what to do: don't have your brother drowned in a butt of malmsey; don't
trick your boss into killing his wife; don't drip poison in your
brother's ear. Granted he tells us "indirectly" by fooling us into
thinking we're only eavesdropping on private conversations, but this is
why art is so much more effectively didactic than ideology. It makes
people think they're arriving at these conclusions themselves.
Shakespeare's art advocates English nationalism; English nationalism was
used to justify colonial atrocities. Ergo.
The French didn't need Marx to revolt against their oppressors, and
without Marx, the Russians would have got around to it eventually. These
are historical processes, whether war criminals attempt to use them as
excuses or not (although I don't know of any; whom do you mean Sean?
Milosevic, rotting in jail on trumped up genocides, or Pinochet,
drinking pina coladas on the French Riviera?).
"aint' nothin right or wrong but thinkin makes it so"
or in some cases forged documents
p.s. I checked around, and I'm pretty sure I'm not violating any current
copyrights. So anyone interested in a pretty complete version of Giorgio
Santillana and Hertha Dechend's Hamlet's Mill can find it at:
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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