Are the self and the material world distinct entities

II. Truth and Reality

Discuss how these ideas of the self are disclosed in art by choosing an example of a character/narrator/subject in a work of art (novel, poem, film, graphic novel, short story, television show, song, painting, etc.) who you think captures the avocado/modern idea that we have an essential, shared human nature and that the self and the world are distinct entities. Then, choose an example of a work of art that you think illustrates the artichoke/post-modern idea of the self.  Consider the following ideas and questions in your analysis of these two examples:

  1. Are the self and the material world distinct entities, as Descartes thinks? What are some examples of representative art that illustrate the idea that the subject/mind and the object/world/body are distinct? Alternatively, are the self and the world organic unities, as Schelling argues? How might artistic creation express this unity of subject and object?
  2. Is art mimesis/representation (as in Platonism and Aristotelian aesthetics) or is it a means of transforming the self and reality? Might it be aspirational, allowing us to achieve catharsis, as Aristotle suggests? Consider, too, how the idea of art as representation is akin to the avocado view while the idea of art as transformative is more like the artichoke view.


Truth and Reality

Oswalt in Spaceship zombie wasteland by Patton Oswalt

Oswalt tries to label all young personalities into either zombie, a spaceship or a wasteland. Zombies are the lumps that have apathy which is a defense mechanism that helps them to wade through life. Just like spaceships exist outside the earth’s surface. Spaceships in his work represent the social outcasts who do not fit in like computer nerds who desire to get away from the world and observe its’ happenings from a distance. Finally, the wastelands are those who seek to obliterate their past lives in an apocalypse and live free as changed men in the desert. Oswalt places himself among the wastelands as he has left the perceived safety of a planned career and life in the suburbs to become a coastal comedian. Oswalt does not conform to society and figures himself as being separate from the material world as Descartes thinks. However, he does so proudly despite classifying himself as a wasteland, he has achieved pretty much, and although he uses such taxonomy, he seems not to believe in it having broken off himself and not seeking to return.

Despite Oswalt being fascinated by the world and confused he identifies with the feelings of most teenage outcasts. According to Oswalt, misfit teens grow into adults and in the process strive to either simplifying, leaving or destroying the world that they live in. He highlights the struggle of growing up in a society with standards that do not allow for one to be different and accepted in their difference one cannot simply be. The disjoint in the character and the reality is a representation of what he is actually experiencing. It is outstanding how reality is different depending on which side one is. Instead of transforming the self and the reality, so there is congruence, the character chooses to exist as an outcast.

Bigger in The Native Son directed by Nambi Kelley

Bigger, the main character in the play is a poor, black and under-educated man in America. His status is representative of the status of a black man at the time the play is set in who was a slave, without a father and with no education. The living conditions of Bigger in the slum are the same as they would be if the movie were real life. In the film, the self and the world are organic units with no disjoint. Although Bigger is struggling, that is how the world is designed for a man like him. The way Biggie plays out his role despite himself being a totally different person in his real life, the part he plays fits well to unify the subject and object.

The experiences that Bigger goes through are an accurate representation of hat a black man like him was undergoing in real life. In the film, he does not make any attempt to break free from the struggles but goes through the motions and suffering like a slave would. While the play portrays an ugly past of slavery, it is real and honest. Bigger accepts the hand that he has been dealt without rebelling he is disgruntled just like the slaves but remains a slave all the same. There is a connection between the actors and their roles. If bigger being a slave were portrayed as owning a mansion and vast tracts of land it would be a disjoint.




Prof. Angela


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