Tuesday, April 28, 2009

PRIDE AND HUMILITY


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David Hume wrote, "Pride and humility, though directly contrary, have yet the same OBJECT. This object is self. According as our idea of ourself is more or less advantageous, we feel either of those opposite affections, and are elated by pride, or dejected with humility. Whatever other objects may be comprehended by the mind, they are always considered with a view to ourselves; otherwise they would never be able either to excite these passions, or produce the smallest encrease or diminution of them. When self enters not into the consideration, there is no room either for pride or humility.
It is impossible a man can at the same time be both proud and humble; and where he has different reasons for these passions, as frequently happens, the passions either take place alternately; or if they encounter, the one annihilates the other, as far as its strength goes, and the remainder only of that, which is superior, continues to operate upon the mind.
Pride and humility, being once raised, immediately turn our attention to ourself, and regard that as their ultimate and final object.
A man may he proud of his beauty, strength, agility, good mein, address in dancing, riding, and of his dexterity in any manual business or manufacture. But this is not all. The passions looking farther, comprehend whatever objects are in the least allyed or related to us. Our country, family, children, relations, riches, houses, gardens, horses, dogs, cloaths; any of these may become a cause either of pride or of humility.
Thus the beauty of our person, of itself, and by its very appearance, gives pleasure, as well as pride; and its deformity, pain as well as humility. A magnificent feast delights us, and a sordid one displeases.
Thus the good and bad qualities of our actions and manners constitute virtue and vice, and determine our personal character, than which nothing operates more strongly on these passions. In like manner, it is the beauty or deformity of our person, houses, equipage, or furniture, by which we are rendered either vain or humble.
Pride is a pleasant sensation, and humility a painful; and upon the removal of the pleasure and pain, there is in reality no pride nor humility. Of this our very feeling convinces us; and beyond our feeling, it is here in vain to reason or dispute.
We may feel joy upon being present at a feast, where our senses are regard with delicacies of every kind: But it is only the master of the feast, who, beside the same joy, has the additional passion of self-applause and vanity. It is true, men sometimes boast of a great entertainment, at which they have only been present; and by so small a relation convert their pleasure into pride: But however, this must in general be owned, that joy arises from a more inconsiderable relation than vanity, and that many things, which are too foreign to produce pride, are yet able to give us a delight and pleasure.
The persons, who are proudest, and who in the eye of the world have most reason for their pride, are not always the happiest; nor the most humble always the most miserable, as may at first sight be imagined from this system. An evil may be real though its cause has no relation to us: It may be real, without being peculiar: It may be real, without shewing itself to others: It may be real, without being constant: And it may he real, without falling under the general rules. Such evils as these will not fail to render us miserable, though they have little tendency to diminish pride: And perhaps the most real and the most solid evils of life will be found of this nature.
As health and sickness vary incessantly to all men, and there is none, who is solely or certainly fixed in either, these accidental blessings and calamities are in a manner separated from us, and are never considered as connected with our being and existence. And that this account is just appears hence, that wherever a malady of any kind is so rooted in our constitution, that we no longer entertain any hopes of recovery, from that moment it becomes an object of humility; as is evident in old men, whom nothing mortifies more than the consideration of their age and infirmities. They endeavour, as long as possible, to conceal their blindness and deafness, their rheums and gouts; nor do they ever confess them without reluctance and uneasiness. And though young men are not ashamed of every head-ach or cold they fall into, yet no topic is so proper to mortify human pride, and make us entertain a mean opinion of our nature, than this, that we are every moment of our lives subject to such infirmities. This sufficiently proves that bodily pain and sickness are in themselves proper causes of humility.
We are ashamed of such maladies as affect others, and are either dangerous or disagreeable to them. Of the epilepsy; because it gives a horror to every one present: Of the itch; because it is infectious: Of the king’s-evil; because it commonly goes to posterity. Men always consider the sentiments of others in their judgment of themselves. This has evidently appeared in some of the foregoing reasonings.
Though pride and humility have the qualities of our mind and body that is self, for their natural and more immediate causes, we find by experience, that there are many other objects, which produce these affections, and that the primary one is, in some measure, obscured and lost by the rnultiplicity of foreign and extrinsic. We found a vanity upon houses, gardens, equipages, as well as upon personal merit and accomplishments; and though these external advantages be in themselves widely distant from thought or a person, yet they considerably influence even a passion, which is directed to that as its ultimate object.
Men are vain of the beauty of their country, of their county, of their parish. Here the idea of beauty plainly produces a pleasure. This pleasure is related to pride. The object or cause of this pleasure is, by the supposition, related to self, or the object of pride. By this double relation of impressions and ideas, a transition is made from the one impression to the other.
Accordingly we find, that the very same qualities, which in ourselves produce pride, produce also in a lesser degree the same affection, when discovered in persons related to us. The beauty, address, merit, credit and honours of their kindred are carefully displayed by the proud, as some of their most considerable sources of their vanity.
As we are proud of riches in ourselves, so to satisfy our vanity we desire that every one, who has any connexion with us, should likewise be possest of them, and are ashamed of any one, that is mean or poor, among our friends and relations. For this reason we remove the poor as far from us as possible; and as we cannot prevent poverty in some distant collaterals, and our forefathers are taken to be our nearest relations; upon this account every one affects to be of a good family, and to be descended from a long succession of rich and honourable ancestors.
Every thing belonging to a vain man is the best that is any where to be found. His houses, equipage, furniture, doaths, horses, hounds, excel all others in his conceit; and it is easy to observe, that from the least advantage in any of these, he draws a new subject of pride and vanity. His cookery is more exquisite; his table more orderly; his servants more expert; the air, in which he lives, more healthful; the soil he cultivates more fertile; his fruits ripen earlier and to greater perfection: Such a thing is remarkable for its novelty; such another for its antiquity: This is the workmanship of a famous artist; that belonged once to such a prince or great man: All objects, in a word, that are useful, beautiful or surprising, or are related to such, may, by means of property, give rise to this passion. These agree in giving pleasure, and agree in nothing else. This alone is common to them; and therefore must be the quality that produces the passion, which is their common effect.
Comparison is in every case a sure method of augmenting our esteem of any thing. A rich man feels the felicity of his condition better by opposing it to that of a beggar. But there is a peculiar advantage in power, by the contrast, which is, in a manner, presented to us, betwixt ourselves and the person we command. The comparison is obvious and natural: The imagination finds it in the very subject: The passage of the thought to its conception is smooth and easy. And that this circumstance has a considerable effect in augmenting its influence.
Our reputation, our character, our name are considerations of vast weight and importance; and even the other causes of pride; virtue, beauty and riches; have little influence, when not seconded by the opinions and sentiments of others.
We are not only better pleased with the approbation of a wise man than with that of a fool, but receive an additional satisfaction from the former, when it is obtained after a long and intimate acquaintance. This is accounted for after the same manner.
The praises of others never give us much pleasure, unless they concur with our own opinion, and extol us for those qualities, in which we chiefly excel. A mere soldier little values the character of eloquence: A gownman of courage: A bishop of humour: Or a merchant of learning. Whatever esteem a man may have for any quality, abstractedly considered; when he is conscious he is not possest of it; the opinions of the whole world will give him little pleasure in that particular, and that because they never will be able to draw his own opinion after them.
Every thing in this world is judged of by comparison. What is an immense fortune for a private gentleman is beggary for a prince. A peasant would think himself happy in what cannot afford necessaries for a gentleman. When a man has either been acustomed to a more splendid way of living, or thinks himself intitled to it by his birth and quality, every thing below is disagreeable and even shameful; and it is with she greatest industry he conceals his pretensions to a better fortune. Here he himself knows his misfortunes; but as those, with whom he lives. are ignorant of them, he has the disagreeable reflection and comparison suggested only by his own thoughts, and never receives it by a sympathy with others; which must contribute very much so his ease and satisfaction.
Proud men are most shocked with contempt, should they do not most readily assent to it; but it is because of the opposition betwixt the passion, which is natural so them, and that received by sympathy. A violent lover in like manner is very much disp pleased when you blame and condemn his love; though it is evident your opposition can have no influence, but by the hold it takes of himself, and by his sympathy with you. If he despises you, or perceives you are in jest, whatever you say has no effect upon him."
(Excerpts from A Treatise of Human Nature, Being an Attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects, Book II. Of the Passions, by David Hume, eBooks@Adelaide, 2006)



INHERITED PAST


Irwin Edman wrote, "To the very young the world seems an unprecedented novelty. It seems scarcely older than their own memories, which are few and short, and their own experience, which is necessarily limited and confined. Through education our experience becomes immeasurably widened; we can vicariously live through the experiences of other people through hearing or reading, and can acquire the racial memory which goes back as far as the records of history, or anthropological research. As we grow older we come to learn that our civilization has a history; that our present has a past. This past extends back through the countless eons before man walked upright. The past of human life on earth goes back itself over nearly half a million years. With this long past, the present is continuous, being as it were, additional pages in process of being written.
But we inherit the past in a more vital sense. We inherit ways of thought and action, social systems, scientific and industrial methods, manners and morals, educational bequests and ideals, all that we have and are. Without these, each Page 248 generation would have to start anew. If the whole of existing society were destroyed, and a newborn generation could be miraculously preserved to maturity, its members would have to start on the same level, with the same ignorances, uncertainties, and impotences as primitive savages. The cultural achievements of the past, which we inherit chiefly as social habits, are obviously not transmitted to us physically, as are the original human traits. They are not in our blood; they are acquired like other habits, through contact with others and through repeated practice.
We are thus to a very large extent conditioned by the past. It is as if we had inherited a fortune composed of various kinds of properties, houses, books, automobiles, warehouses, musical instruments, and in addition, trade concessions, business secrets, formulas, methods, and good-will. Our activities will be limited in measure by the extent of the property, its constituent items, and the repair in which we keep it. We may squander or mis invest our principal, as when we use scientific Page 249 knowledge for dangerous or dubious aims, for example, for conquest or rapine. We may add to it, as in the development of the sciences and industrial arts. We may, so to speak, live on the income. Such is the case when a society ceases to be progressive, and fails to add anything to a highly developed traditional culture. Again we may have inherited "white elephants," which may be of absolutely no use to us, encumbrances of which we cannot easily rid ourselves, influential ideas which are no longer adequate to our present situation, obsolete emotions, methods, or institutions. We may allow our cultural inheritance, through bad education, to fall into disrepair and decay.
Since we are so dependent on the past, our attitude toward it, which in turn determines the use we make of it, is of the most crucial significance. The several characteristic and varying attitudes toward the past which are so markedly current are not determined solely by logical considerations. For individuals and social groups particular features of their heritage have great emotional associations. The living past is composed of habits, traditions, values, which are vivid and vital issues to those who practice them. Traditions, customs, or social methods come to have intrinsic values; they become the center of deep attachments and strong passion. They are a rich element of the atmosphere of the present; they are woven into the intimate fabric of our lives.
Every one has felt more or less keenly this sense of being a link in a great tradition, whether of a college, family, or country. Sometimes this sense for tradition takes an æsthetic form, as in the case of ritual, whether social or religious. Old streets, ivied towers, ancient rooms, become symbols of great and dignified achievements; ceremonies come to be invested with a serious beauty and memorable charm. They become reminders of a "torch to be carried on," of a spirit to be cherished and kept alive, of a history to be carried on or a purpose or an ideal to be fulfilled. As we shall see in a moment, this sense for the past, which, as Santayana says, makes a man loyal to the sources of his being, has both its virtues and vices. It is of immense value in preserving continuity and cultural integration, in keeping many men continuously moving toward a single fixed end. It may also wrap dangerously irrelevant habits and institutions in a saving—and illusive—halo.
There are, on the other hand, individuals with very little sense for tradition. This may be accounted for in some cases by a marked aesthetic insensibility, which sees in ritual, ceremony, Page 251 or habit, merely the literal, without any appreciation at all of its symbolic significance. In other cases, individuals are insusceptible and hostile to tradition, because they have themselves been socially disinherited. This is illustrated not infrequently in the case of foreigners who, for one reason or another, have left and lost interest in their native land, and become men without a country.
There are others by temperament rebellious and iconoclastic, who combine a keen sense of present difficulties and problems with small reverence, use for, or interest in the past, and small imaginative sympathy with it. The past is to them a "sea of errors." They regard all past achievements as bad scribblings which must be erased, so that we may start with a clean slate. There have been included among such, great historical reformers. Bentham's enthusiasm for progress led him into most intemperate attacks on history and historical method. It is not surprising that men with an eye fixed on the future should develop a contempt or an obliviousness of the past. Utopians nearly always start with "a world various and beautiful and new."
Perhaps the chief ingredient in such discounting of all past history is the rebel temperament which wants to break away from what it regards as the chains, the dead weight, the ruts of tradition. It cheerfully says, "Nous changerons tout cela," and does not stop to discriminate between the roads and the ruts that have been made by people in the past.
These two temperaments play a large part in determining attitudes toward the past. The one regards with awe and reverence past achievement, and rests his faith on the experiments which have been tested and proved by time. The other, to state the position extremely, regards each day as the possible glorious dawn of a completely new world. The first attitude, when intemperately preached and practiced, becomes an uncritical veneration of the past; the second, an uncritical disparagement.
The extreme form of uncritical veneration of the past may be said to take the position that old things are good simply because they are old; new things are evil simply because they are new. Institutions, Ideas, Customs are, like wines, supposed to attain quality with age. A custom, a law, a code of morals is defined or maintained on the ground of its ancient—and honorable—history, of the great span of years during which it has been current, of the generation after generation that has lived under its auspices. The ways of our fathers, the old time-tested ways, these, we are told, must be our ways.
The maintenance of ways that have been practiced in the past has a large hold over people, for reasons already discussed. The old and the accustomed are comfortable and facile; change means inconvenience and frustration of habitual desires. This is in part the explanation of the increasing conservatism of men as they grow older. Not only do they have a keener sense of the difficulty of introducing changes, but their own fixed habits of mind and emotion make part of the difficulty. They like the old ways and persist in them just as they like and keep old books, old friends, and old shoes.
History may, in general, be said to reveal that, whatever the imperfections of our own age, we have immeasurably improved in many pronounced respects over conditions earlier than our own. The idealized picture of the Middle Ages with its guardsmen and its courtly knights and ladies, is coming, with increasing historical information, to seem insignificant and untrue in comparison with the unspeakable hardships of the mass of men, the evil social and sanitary conditions, the plagues and pestilences which were as much a part of it. The picture of the ideally gentle and benevolent attitude of the master to his slaves is by no means regarded as a typical picture of conditions of slave labor in the South. We know, positively, on the other hand, that our medicine and surgery, our scientific and industrial methods, our production and our resources are incomparably greater than those of any earlier period in history, as are the possibilities of the control of Nature still unrealized.
In social life, generally, there are fixed forms for given occasions, forms of address, greeting, conversation, and clothes, all that commonly goes under the name of the "conventions" or "proprieties." In law, as is well known, there is developed sometimes to an almost absurd degree a ritual of procedure. In religion, traditional values become embodied in fixed rituals of music, processional, and prayer. In education, especially higher education, there has developed a fairly stable tradition in the granting of degrees, the elements of a curriculum, the forms of examination, and the like. To certain types of mind, fixed forms in all these fields have come to be regarded as of intrinsic importance. Love of "good form," the classicist point of view at its best, may develop into sheer pedantry and Pharisaism, an insistence on the fixed form when the intent is changed or forgotten, a regard for the letter rather than the spirit of the law. In a large number of cases, the fixed modes of life and practice which are our inheritance come to be regarded as symbols of eternal and changeless values. Thus many highly intelligent men find ritual in religion and traditional customs in education or in social life freighted with symbolic significance, and any infringement of them as almost sacrilegious in character.
Change, again, may be discouraged by those who hold, with more or less sincerity, that no good can come of it. Such a position may, and frequently is, maintained by those in whom fortunate accident of birth, favored social position, exuberant optimism, or a stanch and resilient faith, induces the belief that the social order and social practices, education, law, customs, economic conditions, science, art, et al., are completely satisfactory. Like Pippa, in Browning's poem, they are satisfied that "God's in His Heaven; all's right with the world." That there are no imperfections, in manners, politics, or morals, in our present social order, that there are no improvements which good-will, energy, and intelligence can effect, few will maintain without qualification. To do so implies, when sincere, extraordinary blindness to the facts, for example, of poverty and disease, which, though they do not happen to touch a particular individual, are patent and ubiquitous Page 258 enough. In the face of undeniable evils the position that the ways we have inherited are completely adequate to our contemporary problems cannot be ingenuously maintained.
The position more generally expounded by the opponents of change is that our present modes of life give us the best possible results, considering the limitations of nature and human nature, and that the customs, institutions, and ideas we now have are the fruits of a ripe, a mellow, and a time-tested wisdom, that any radical innovations would, on the whole, put us in a worse position than that in which we find ourselves. Persons taking this attitude discount every suggested improvement on the ground that, even though intrinsically good, it will bring a host of inevitable evils with it, and that, all things considered, we had better leave well enough alone. Some extreme exponents of this doctrine maintain that whatever evils are ours are our own fault, that fault consisting in a lapse from the accustomed ancient ways. To continue without abatement the established ways is the surest road to happiness. Education, social customs, political organization, these are sound and wholesome as they are; and modification means interference with the works and processes of reason.
Genuine opposition to change arises from those who fear the instability which it implies. Continuation in established ways makes for integration, discipline, and stability. It makes possible the converging of means toward an end, it cumulates efforts resulting in definite achievement. In so far as we do accomplish anything of significance, we must move along stable and determinate lines; we must be able to count on the future. It has already been pointed out that it is man's docility to learning, his long period of infancy which makes his eventual achievements possible. But it is man's persistence in the habits he has acquired that is in part responsible for his progress. In individual life, the utility of persistence, and concentration of effort upon a definite piece of work, have been sufficiently stressed by moralists, both popular and professional. "A rolling stone gathers no moss," is as true psychologically as it is physically. Any outstanding accomplishment, whether in business, scholarship, science, or literature, demands perseverance in definite courses of action. We are inclined, and usually with reason, to suspect the effectiveness of a man who has half a dozen professions in half as many years. Such vacillations produce whimsical and scattered movements; but they are fruitless in results; they literally "get nowhere."
The other extreme is represented by the position that old things are bad because they are old, and new things good because they are new. This is illustrated in an extreme though trivial form by faddists of every kind. There are people who chiefly pride themselves on being up-to-the-minute, and exhibit an almost pathological fear of being behind the times. This thirst for the novel is seen on various levels, from those who wear the newest styles, and dine at the newest hotels, to those who make a point of reading only the newest books, hearing only the newest music, and discussing the latest theories. For such temperaments, and more or less to most people, there is an intrinsic glamor about the word "new." The physical qualities that are so often associated with newness are carried over into social and intellectual matters, where they do not so completely apply. The new is bright and unfrayed; it has not yet suffered senility and decay. The new is smart and striking; it catches the eye and the attention. Just as old things are dog-eared, worn, and tattered, so are old institutions, habits, and ideas. Just as we want the newest books and phonographs, the latest conveniences in housing and sanitation, so we want the latest modernities in political, social, and intellectual matters. Especially about new ideas, there is the freshness and infinite possibility of youth; every new idea is as yet an unbroken promise. It has not been subjected to the frustrations, disillusions, and compromises to which all theory is subjected in the world of action.[1] Every new idea is an experiment, a possibility, a hope. It may be the long-awaited miracle; it may be the prayed-for solution of all our difficulties.
The past is, by its ruthless critics, conceived not infrequently as enchaining or enslaving. Particularly, the radical insists, are men enslaved by habits of thought, feeling, and action which are totally inadequate to our present problems and difficulties. War-like emotions, he points out, may have been useful in an earlier civilization, but are now a total dis utility. Belief in magic may have been an asset to primitive man in his ignorance; it is not to modern man with his science. The institution of private property may have had its values in building up civilization; its utility is over. We still make stereotyped and archaic reactions where the situation has utterly changed. The institutions, ideas, and habits of the past are at once so compelling and so obsolete that we must make a clear break with the past; we must start with a clean slate. To continue, so we are told, is merely going further and further along the wrong paths; it is like continuing with a broken engine, or without a rudder.
That both positions just discussed are extreme, goes without saying. The past is neither all good nor all bad; it has achieved as well as it has erred. But it is, in any case, all we have. Without the knowledge, the customs, the institutions we have inherited, we should have no advantage at all over our ancestors of ten thousand years ago. Biologically we have not changed. The Page 264 past is our basic material. Each generation starts with what it finds in the way of cultural achievement, and builds upon that.
The standards of value of the things we have or do or say, the approvals or disapprovals we should logically accord them, are determined not by their history, not by their past, but by their uses in the living present in which we live. An institution may have served the purposes of a bygone generation; it does not follow that it thereby serves our own. The reverse may similarly be true. For us the specific features of our social inheritance depend upon the ends or purposes which we reflectively decide upon and accept. Whether capital punishment is good or evil; whether private property is an adequate or inadequate institution for social welfare; whether marriage is a perfect or an imperfect institution; whether collective bargaining, competitive industry, old age insurance, income taxes, nationalization of railroads are useful or pernicious depends neither on their age nor their novelty. Their value is determined by their relevancy to our own ideals, by the extent to which they hinder or promote the results which we consciously desire.
But a man who impartially examines the past will usually exhibit also an appreciation of its attainments and a sense of the present good to which it has been instrumental. He will not glibly dismiss institutions, habits, methods of life that are the slow accumulations of centuries. He will have a sense of the continuous efforts and energies that have gone into the making of contemporary civilization. He will have, in suggesting ruthless innovations, a sobering sense of the gradual evolution that has made present institutions, habits, ideas, what they are.
We can stop, therefore, neither in perpetual adoration of nor perpetual caviling at the past. Each age had its special excellences and its special defects, both from the point of view of the ideals then current, and those current in our own day. In so far as the past is dead and over with, we cannot legitimately criticize it with standards of our own day.
To the critical mind, neither stability nor change is an end in itself. There is no hypnotism about "things as they are"; no lure about things as they have not yet been. The problem is shifted to a detailed and thoroughgoing inquiry into the consequences of specific changes in social habits, ideas and institutions, education, business, and industry. Whether changes should or should not win critical approval depends on the kind of ideals or purposes we set ourselves and, secondly, on the practicability of the proposed changes. Change may thus be opposed or approved, in a given case, on the grounds of desirability or feasibility. Whether a change is or is not desirable depends on the ideals of the individual or the group. Whether it is or is not feasible is a matter open increasingly to scientific determination. Thus a city may hire experts to discover what kind of transportation or educational system will best serve the city's needs. But whether it will or will not spend the money necessary depends on the social interests current."
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg E Book of Human Traits and their Social Significance, by Irwin Edman)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

THE THREADS OF HABIT


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John Mather Austin has written:
"Habits are formed insensibly. We are not aware of any moment when they are created; but the first consciousness of their being fixed upon us, is, when their great power is felt impelling us strongly to certain courses. A single deed does not create a habit. One thread of hemp forms not a rope. It contains but a very slight amount of strength. But when a large number of threads are laid and twisted together, they make the mighty cable, which, attached to the ship, enables lier to bid a proud defiance to the fierce gales and mountain billows of ocean. Thus the young are continually, yet unconsciously, spinning the threads of habit. Day by day the strands increase, and are twisted tighter together; until at length they become strong and unyielding cords, binding their possessor to customs and practices which fix his character and prospects for life.
It is of the greatest importance that the young should inquire faithfully into the nature of the habits they are forming. They should not fall into self-deception—a common error, on this subject. The love of indulgence should not be permitted to blind them to the legitimate consequences of careless habits.
In youth, habits are much easier formed and corrected, than at a later period of life. If they are right now, preserve, strengthen and mature them. If they are wrong—if they have any dangerous influence or tendency—correct them immediately.
Usually at the age of thirty years, the moral habits become fixed for life. New ones are seldom formed after that age; and quite as seldom are old ones abandoned. There are exceptions to this rule; but in general, it holds good. If the habits are depraved and vicious at that age, there is little hope of amendment. But if they are correct—if they are characterized by virtue, goodness, and sobriety—there is a flattering prospect of a prosperous and peaceful life.
Among the many pastimes to which the young resort for amusement, card-playing often fills a prominent place. This is a general, and in some circles, a fashionable practice; but it is objectionable and injurious in all its influences, and in every possible point of view. Nothing good or instructive, nothing elevating or commendable, in any sense, can come from it. All its fruits must necessarily be evil.
It is a senseless occupation. Nothing can be more unmeaning and fruitless, among all the employments to which a rational mind can devote its attention. It affords no useful exercise of the intellect—no food for profitable thought—no power to call into activity the higher and better capacities. It is true, I suppose, there is some degree of cunning and skill to be displayed in managing the cards. But what high intellectual, or moral capacity is brought into exercise by a game so trivial? It excludes interesting and instructive interchanges of sentiment; on topics of any degree of importance; and substitutes talk of a frivolous and meaningless character. To a spectator, the conversation of a card-table, is of the most uninteresting and childish description."
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg eBook, Golden Steps to Respectability, Usefulness and Happiness, by John Mather Austin)


SOCIETY


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John Dewey wrote in DEMOCRACY AND EDUCATION:
"Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they have in common; and communication is the way in which they come to possess things in common. What they must have in common in order to form a community or society are aims, beliefs, aspirations, knowledge—a common understanding—like-mindedness as the sociologists say. Such things cannot be passed physically from one to another, like bricks; they cannot be shared as persons would share a pie by dividing it into physical pieces. The communication which insures participation in a common understanding is one which secures similar emotional and intellectual dispositions—like ways of responding to expectations and requirements.
A large number of human relationships in any social group are still upon the machine-like plane. Individuals use one another so as to get desired results, without reference to the emotional and intellectual disposition and consent of those used. Such uses express physical superiority, or superiority of position, skill, technical ability, and command of tools, mechanical or fiscal. So far as the relations of parent and child, teacher and pupil, employer and employee, governor and governed, remain upon this level, they form no true social group, no matter how closely their respective activities touch one another. Giving and taking of orders modifies action and results, but does not of itself effect a sharing of purposes, a communication of interests.
In brief, the environment consists of those conditions that promote or hinder, stimulate or inhibit, the characteristic activities of a living being. Water is the environment of a fish because it is necessary to the fish's activities—to its life. The north pole is a significant element in the environment of an arctic explorer, whether he succeeds in reaching it or not, because it defines his activities, makes them what they distinctively are. Just because life signifies not bare passive existence (supposing there is such a thing), but a way of acting, environment or medium signifies what enters into this activity as a sustaining or frustrating condition.
A being whose activities are associated with others has a social environment. What he does and what he can do depend upon the expectations, demands, approvals, and condemnations of others. A being connected with other beings cannot perform his own activities without taking the activities of others into account. For they are the indispensable conditions of the realization of his tendencies. When he moves he stirs them and reciprocally. We might as well try to imagine a business man doing business, buying and selling, all by himself, as to conceive it possible to define the activities of an individual in terms of his isolated actions.
Now in many cases—too many cases—the activity of the immature human being is simply played upon to secure habits which are useful. He is trained like an animal rather than educated like a human being. His instincts remain attached to their original objects of pain or pleasure. But to get happiness or to avoid the pain of failure he has to act in a way agreeable to others. In other cases, he really shares or participates in the common activity. In this case, his original impulse is modified. He not merely acts in a way agreeing with the actions of others, but, in so acting, the same ideas and emotions are aroused in him that animate the others.
Why does a savage group perpetuate savagery, and a civilized group civilization? Doubtless the first answer to occur to mind is because savages are savages; being of low-grade intelligence and perhaps defective moral sense. But careful study has made it doubtful whether their native capacities are appreciably inferior to those of civilized man. It has made it certain that native differences are not sufficient to account for the difference in culture. In a sense the mind of savage peoples is an effect, rather than a cause, of their backward institutions. Their social activities are such as to restrict their objects of attention and interest, and hence to limit the stimuli to mental development. Even as regards the objects that come within the scope of attention, primitive social customs tend to arrest observation and imagination upon qualities which do not fructify in the mind. Lack of control of natural forces means that a scant number of natural objects enter into associated behavior. Only a small number of natural resources are utilized and they are not worked for what they are worth. The advance of civilization means that a larger number of natural forces and objects have been transformed into instrumentalities of action, into means for securing ends. We start not so much with superior capacities as with superior stimuli for evocation and direction of our capacities. The savage deals largely with crude stimuli; we have weighted stimuli. Prior human efforts have made over natural conditions. As they originally existed they were indifferent to human endeavors. Every domesticated plant and animal, every tool, every utensil, every appliance, every manufactured article, every esthetic decoration, every work of art means a transformation of conditions once hostile or indifferent to characteristic human activities into friendly and favoring conditions.
Society is one word, but many things. Men associate together in all kinds of ways and for all kinds of purposes. One man is concerned in a multitude of diverse groups, in which his associates may be quite different. It often seems as if they had nothing in common except that they are modes of associated life. Within every larger social organization there are numerous minor groups: not only political subdivisions, but industrial, scientific, religious, associations. There are political parties with differing aims, social sets, cliques, gangs, corporations, partnerships, groups bound closely together by ties of blood, and so on in endless variety. In many modern states and in some ancient, there is great diversity of populations, of varying languages, religions, moral codes, and traditions. From this standpoint, many a minor political unit, one of our large cities, for example, is a congeries of loosely associated societies, rather than an inclusive and permeating community of action and thought.
The terms society, community, are thus ambiguous. They have both a eulogistic or normative sense, and a descriptive sense; a meaning de jure and a meaning de facto. In social philosophy, the former connotation is almost always uppermost. Society is conceived as one by its very nature. The qualities which accompany this unity, praiseworthy community of purpose and welfare, loyalty to public ends, mutuality of sympathy, are emphasized. But when we look at the facts which the term denotes instead of confining our attention to its intrinsic connotation, we find not unity, but a plurality of societies, good and bad. Men banded together in a criminal conspiracy, business aggregations that prey upon the public while serving it, political machines held together by the interest of plunder, are included. If it is said that such organizations are not societies because they do not meet the ideal requirements of the notion of society, the answer, in part, is that the conception of society is then made so "ideal" as to be of no use, having no reference to facts; and in part, that each of these organizations, no matter how opposed to the interests of other groups, has something of the praiseworthy qualities of "Society" which hold it together. There is honor among thieves, and a band of robbers has a common interest as respects its members. Gangs are marked by fraternal feeling, and narrow cliques by intense loyalty to their own codes. Family life may be marked by exclusiveness, suspicion, and jealousy as to those without, and yet be a model of amity and mutual aid within. Any education given by a group tends to socialize its members, but the quality and value of the socialization depends upon the habits and aims of the group. Hence, once more, the need of a measure for the worth of any given mode of social life. In seeking this measure, we have to avoid two extremes. We cannot set up, out of our heads, something we regard as an ideal society. We must base our conception upon societies which actually exist, in order to have any assurance that our ideal is a practicable one. But, as we have just seen, the ideal cannot simply repeat the traits which are actually found. The problem is to extract the desirable traits of forms of community life which actually exist, and employ them to criticize undesirable features and suggest improvement. Now in any social group whatever, even in a gang of thieves, we find some interest held in common, and we find a certain amount of interaction and cooperative intercourse with other groups. From these two traits we derive our standard. How numerous and varied are the interests which are consciously shared? How full and free is the interplay with other forms of association? If we apply these considerations to, say, a criminal band, we find that the ties which consciously hold the members together are few in number, reducible almost to a common interest in plunder; and that they are of such a nature as to isolate the group from other groups with respect to give and take of the values of life. Hence, the education such a society gives is partial and distorted. If we take, on the other hand, the kind of family life which illustrates the standard, we find that there are material, intellectual, aesthetic interests in which all participate and that the progress of one member has worth for the experience of other members—it is readily communicable—and that the family is not an isolated whole, but enters intimately into relationships with business groups, with schools, with all the agencies of culture, as well as with other similar groups, and that it plays a due part in the political organization and in return receives support from it. In short, there are many interests consciously communicated and shared; and there are varied and free points of contact with other modes of association.
This is a saying that there is no extensive number of common interests; there is no free play back and forth among the members of the social group. Stimulation and response are exceedingly one-sided. In order to have a large number of values in common, all the members of the group must have an equable opportunity to receive and to take from others. There must be a large variety of shared undertakings and experiences. Otherwise, the influences which educate some into masters, educate others into slaves. And the experience of each party loses in meaning, when the free interchange of varying modes of life-experience is arrested. A separation into a privileged and a subject-class prevents social endosmosis. The evils thereby affecting the superior class are less material and less perceptible, but equally real. Their culture tends to be sterile, to be turned back to feed on itself; their art becomes a showy display and artificial; their wealth luxurious; their knowledge overspecialized; their manners fastidious rather than humane.
Lack of the free and equitable intercourse which springs from a variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation unbalanced. Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought. The more activity is restricted to a few definite lines—as it is when there are rigid class lines preventing adequate interplay of experiences—the more action tends to become routine on the part of the class at a disadvantage, and capricious, aimless, and explosive on the part of the class having the materially fortunate position.
Talking about democratic ideal, two elements in our criterion both point to democracy. The first signifies not only more numerous and more varied points of shared common interest, but greater reliance upon the recognition of mutual interests as a factor in social control. The second means not only freer interaction between social groups (once isolated so far as intention could keep up a separation) but change in social habit—its continuous readjustment through meeting the new situations produced by varied intercourse. And these two traits are precisely what characterize the democratically constituted society.
A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity. These more numerous and more varied points of contact denote a greater diversity of stimuli to which an individual has to respond; they consequently put a premium on variation in his action. They secure a liberation of powers which remain suppressed as long as the incitations to action are partial, as they must be in a group which in its exclusiveness shuts out many interests.
If we do not know its end, we shall be at the mercy of accident and caprice. Unless we know the end, the good, we shall have no criterion for rationally deciding what the possibilities are which should be promoted, nor how social arrangements are to be ordered. We shall have no conception of the proper limits and distribution of activities—called justice—as a trait of both individual and social organization. But how is the knowledge of the final and permanent good to be achieved? Everywhere else the mind is distracted and misled by false valuations and false perspectives. A disorganized and factional society sets up a number of different models and standards. Under such conditions it is impossible for the individual to attain consistency of mind. Only a complete whole is fully self-consistent. A society which rests upon the supremacy of some factor over another irrespective of its rational or proportionate claims, inevitably leads thought astray. It puts a premium on certain things and slurs over others, and creates a mind whose seeming unity is forced and distorted.
Whether or not social efficiency is an aim which is consistent with culture turns upon these considerations. Culture means at least something cultivated, something ripened; it is opposed to the raw and crude. When the "natural" is identified with this rawness, culture is opposed to what is called natural development. Culture is also something personal; it is cultivation with respect to appreciation of ideas and art and broad human interests. When efficiency is identified with a narrow range of acts, instead of with the spirit and meaning of activity, culture is opposed to efficiency. Whether called culture or complete development of personality, the outcome is identical with the true meaning of social efficiency whenever attention is given to what is unique in an individual—and he would not be an individual if there were not something incommensurable about him. Its opposite is the mediocre, the average. Whenever distinctive quality is developed, distinction of personality results, and with it greater promise for a social service which goes beyond the supply in quantity of material commodities. For how can there be a society really worth serving unless it is constituted of individuals of significant personal qualities?"
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Democracy and Education, by John Dewey)


Thursday, April 9, 2009

EDUCATION


©2009 Google
In 1909, JOHN DEWEY, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY wrote:
"There cannot be two sets of ethical principles, one for life in the school, and the other for life outside of the school. As conduct is one, so also the principles of conduct are one. The tendency to discuss the morals of the school as if the school were an institution by itself is highly unfortunate. I am told that there is a swimming school in a certain city where youth are taught to swim without going into the water, being repeatedly drilled in the various movements which are necessary for swimming. When one of the young men so trained was asked what he did when he got into the water, he laconically replied, “Sunk.” The story happens to be true.
The only way to prepare for social life is to engage in social life. To form habits of social usefulness and serviceableness apart from any direct social need and motive, apart from any existing social situation, is, to the letter, teaching the child to swim by going through motions outside of the water. The most indispensable condition is left out of account, and the results are correspondingly partial.
Too often the teacher’s concern with the moral life of pupils takes the form of alertness for failures to conform to school rules and routine. These regulations, judged from the standpoint of the development of the child at the time, are more or less conventional and arbitrary. They are rules which have to be made in order that the existing modes of school work may go on; but the lack of inherent necessity in these school modes reflects itself in a feeling, on the part of the child, that the moral discipline of the school is arbitrary. Any conditions that compel the teacher to take note of failures rather than of healthy growth give false standards and result in distortion and perversion. Attending to wrong-doing ought to be an incident rather than a principle. The child ought to have a positive consciousness of what he is about, so as to judge his acts from the standpoint of reference to the work which he has to do. Only in this way does he have a vital standard, one that enables him to turn failures to account for the future.
By saying that the moral training of the school is formal, I mean that the moral habits currently emphasized by the school are habits which are created, as it were, ad hoc. Even the habits of promptness, regularity, industry, non-interference with the work of others, faithfulness to tasks imposed, which are specially inculcated in the school, are habits that are necessary simply because the school system is what it is, and must be preserved intact.
The duties, in other words, are distinctly school duties, not life duties. If we compare this condition with that of the well-ordered home, we find that the duties and responsibilities that the child has there to recognize do not belong to the family as a specialized and isolated institution, but flow from the very nature of the social life in which the family participates and to which it contributes. The child ought to have the same motives for right doing and to be judged by the same standards in the school, as the adult in the wider social life to which he belongs. Interest in community welfare, an interest that is intellectual and practical, as well as emotional—an interest, that is to say, in perceiving whatever makes for social order and progress, and in carrying these principles into execution—is the moral habit to which all the special school habits must be related if they are to be animated by the breath of life.
One reason why reading aloud in school is poor is that the real motive for the use of language—the desire to communicate and to learn—is not utilized. The child knows perfectly well that the teacher and all his fellow pupils have exactly the same facts and ideas before them that he has; he is not giving them anything at all. And it may be questioned whether the moral lack is not as great as the intellectual. The child is born with a natural desire to give out, to do, to serve. When this tendency is not used, when conditions are such that other motives are substituted, the accumulation of an influence working against the social spirit is much larger than we have any idea of,—especially when the burden of work, week after week, and year after year, falls upon this side.
Just because all are doing the same work, and are judged (either in recitation or examination with reference to grading and to promotion) not from the standpoint of their personal contribution, but from that of comparative success, the feeling of superiority over others is unduly appealed to, while timid children are depressed. Children are judged with reference to their capacity to realize the same external standard. The weaker gradually lose their sense of power, and accept a position of continuous and persistent inferiority. The effect upon both self-respect and respect for work need not be dwelt upon. The strong learn to glory, not in their strength, but in the fact that they are stronger. The child is prematurely launched into the region of individualistic competition, and this in a direction where competition is least applicable, namely, in intellectual and artistic matters, whose law is coöperation and participation.
Information is genuine or educative only in so far as it presents definite images and conceptions of materials placed in a context of social life. Discipline is genuinely educative only as it represents a reaction of information into the individual’s own powers so that he brings them under control for social ends. Culture, if it is to be genuinely educative and not an external polish or factitious varnish, represents the vital union of information and discipline. It marks the socialization of the individual in his outlook upon life.
It is only because we have different interests, or different ends, that we sort out the material and label part of it science, part of it history, part geography, and so on. Each “sorting” represents materials arranged with reference to some one dominant typical aim or process of the social life.
How, for example, should we define geography? What is the unity in the different so-called divisions of geography,—mathematical geography, physical geography, political geography, commercial geography? Are they purely empirical classifications dependent upon the brute fact that we run across a lot of different facts? Or is there some intrinsic principle through which the material is distributed under these various heads,—something in the interest and attitude of the human mind towards them? I should say that geography has to do with all those aspects of social life which are concerned with the interaction of the life of man and nature; or, that it has to do with the world considered as the scene of social interaction. Any fact, then, will be geographical in so far as it has to do with the dependence of man upon his natural environment, or with changes introduced in this environment through the life of man.
The ethical value of history teaching will be measured by the extent to which past events are made the means of understanding the present,—affording insight into what makes up the structure and working of society to-day. Existing social structure is exceedingly complex. It is practically impossible for the child to attack it en masse and get any definite mental image of it. But type phases of historical development may be selected which will exhibit, as through a telescope, the essential constituents of the existing order. Greece, for example, represents what art and growing power of individual expression stand for; Rome exhibits the elements and forces of political life on a tremendous scale. One reason historical teaching is usually not more effective is that the student is set to acquire information in such a way that no epochs or factors stand out in his mind as typical; everything is reduced to the same dead level. The way to secure the necessary perspective is to treat the past as if it were a projected present with some of its elements enlarged.
The principle of contrast is as important as that of similarity. Because the present life is so close to us, touching us at every point, we cannot get away from it to see it as it really is. Nothing stands out clearly or sharply as characteristic. In the study of past periods, attention necessarily attaches itself to striking differences. Thus the child gets a locus of imagination, through which he can remove himself from the pressure of present surrounding circumstances and define them.
History is equally available in teaching the methods of social progress. It is commonly stated that history must be studied from the standpoint of cause and effect. The truth of this statement depends upon its interpretation. Social life is so complex and the various parts of it are so organically related to one another and to the natural environment, that it is impossible to say that this or that thing is the cause of some other particular thing. But the study of history can reveal the main instruments in the discoveries, inventions, new modes of life, etc., which have initiated the great epochs of social advance; and it can present to the child types of the main lines of social progress, and can set before him what have been the chief difficulties and obstructions in the way of progress. Everything depends, then, upon history being treated from a social standpoint; as manifesting the agencies which have influenced social development and as presenting the typical institutions in which social life has expressed itself. The culture-epoch theory, while working in the right direction, has failed to recognize the importance of treating past periods with relation to the present.
It is quite true that the child is easily interested in history from the biographical standpoint; but unless “the hero” is treated in relation to the community life behind him that he sums up and directs, there is danger that history will reduce itself to a mere exciting story. Then moral instruction reduces itself to drawing certain lessons from the life of the particular personalities concerned, instead of widening and deepening the child’s imagination of social relations, ideals, and means.
It will be remembered that I am not making these points for their own sake, but with reference to the general principle that when a study is taught as a mode of understanding social life it has positive ethical import. What the normal child continuously needs is not so much isolated moral lessons upon the importance of truthfulness and honesty, or the beneficent results that follow from a particular act of patriotism, as the formation of habits of social imagination and conception.
The moral has been conceived in too goody-goody a way. Ultimate moral motives and forces are nothing more or less than social intelligence—the power of observing and comprehending social situations,—and social power—trained capacities of control—at work in the service of social interest and aims. There is no fact which throws light upon the constitution of society, there is no power whose training adds to social resourcefulness that is not moral.
I sum up, then, this part of the discussion by asking your attention to the moral trinity of the school. The demand is for social intelligence, social power, and social interests. Our resources are (1) the life of the school as a social institution in itself; (2) methods of learning and of doing work; and (3) the school studies or curriculum. In so far as the school represents, in its own spirit, a genuine community life; in so far as what are called school discipline, government, order, etc., are the expressions of this inherent social spirit; in so far as the methods used are those that appeal to the active and constructive powers, permitting the child to give out and thus to serve; in so far as the curriculum is so selected and organized as to provide the material for affording the child a consciousness of the world in which he has to play a part, and the demands he has to meet; so far as these ends are met, the school is organized on an ethical basis. So far as general principles are concerned, all the basic ethical requirements are met. The rest remains between the individual teacher and the individual child."
(Excerpts from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Moral Principles in Education, by John Dewey)


Sunday, April 5, 2009

THE PAINTER OF PAINTERS


A master of the art of painting, Velázquez handled composition, color, light and space to perfection and was masterful at painting historical scenes, still lifes, interiors, and portraits of noblemen or peasants. His influence extended to such artists as Goya, Courbet, Manet, Eakins, and the Impressionists, and is still being felt today.
(From Barewalls.com)


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (June 6, 1599 – August 6, 1660) was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).


Las Meninas (1656)
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Las Meninas shows a large room in the Madrid palace of King Philip IV of Spain, and presents several figures, most identifiable from the Spanish court, captured, according to some commentators, in a particular moment as if in a snapshot. Some figures look out of the canvas towards the viewer, while others interact among themselves. The young Infanta Margarita is surrounded by her entourage of maids of honour, chaperone, bodyguard, two dwarfs and a dog. Just behind them, Velázquez portrays himself working at a large canvas. Velázquez looks outwards, beyond the pictorial space to where a viewer of the painting would stand. A mirror hangs in the background and reflects the upper bodies of the king and queen. The royal couple appear to be placed outside the picture space in a position similar to that of the viewer, although some scholars have speculated that their image is a reflection from the painting Velázquez is shown working on.
Las Meninas has long been recognised as one of the most important paintings in Western art history. The Baroque painter Luca Giordano said that it represents the "theology of painting", while in the 19th century Sir Thomas Lawrence called the work "the philosophy of art". More recently, it has been described as "Velázquez's supreme achievement, a highly self-conscious, calculated demonstration of what painting could achieve, and perhaps the most searching comment ever made on the possibilities of the easel painting".
Velázquez showed an early gift for art; consequently, he began to study under Francisco de Herrera, a vigorous painter who disregarded the Italian influence of the early Seville school. Velázquez remained with him for one year. It was probably from Herrera that he learned to use brushes with long bristles.
After leaving Herrera's studio when he was 12 years old, Velázquez began to serve as an apprentice under Francisco Pacheco, an artist and teacher in Seville. Though considered a generally dull, undistinguished painter, Pacheco sometimes expressed a simple, direct realism in contradiction to the style of Raphael that he was taught. Velázquez remained in Pacheco's school for five years, studying proportion and perspective and witnessing the trends in the literary and artistic circles of Seville.
In December 1622, Rodrigo de Villandrando, the king's favorite court painter, died. Don Juan de Fonseca conveyed to Velázquez the command to come to the court from the Count-Duke of Olivares, the powerful minister of Philip IV. He was offered 50 ducats (175 g of gold—worth about €2000 in 2005) to defray his expenses, and he was accompanied by his father-in-law. Fonseca lodged the young painter in his own home and sat for a portrait himself, which, when completed, was conveyed to the royal palace.

Philip IV in Brown and Silver, 1632
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A portrait of the king was commissioned. On August 16, 1623, Philip IV sat for Velázquez. Complete in one day, the portrait was likely to have been no more than a head sketch, but both the king and Olivares were pleased. Olivares commanded Velázquez to move to Madrid, promising that no other painter would ever paint Philip's portrait and all other portraits of the king would be withdrawn from circulation. In the following year, 1624, he received 300 ducats from the king to pay the cost of moving his family to Madrid, which became his home for the remainder of his life.
In 1627, Philip set a competition for the best painters of Spain with the subject to be the expulsion of the Moors. Velázquez won. His picture was destroyed in a fire at the palace in 1734. Recorded descriptions of it say that it depicted Philip III pointing with his baton to a crowd of men and women driven off under charge of soldiers, while the female personification of Spain sits in calm repose. Velázquez was appointed gentleman usher as reward. Later he also received a daily allowance of 12 réis, the same amount allotted to the court barbers, and 90 ducats a year for dress.
In 1629, he went to live in Italy for a year and a half. Though his first Italian visit is recognized as a crucial chapter in the development of Velázquez's style - and in the history of Spanish Royal Patronage, since Philip IV sponsored his trip - we know rather little about the details and specifics: what the painter saw, whom he met, how he was perceived and what innovations he hoped to introduce into his painting. It is canonical to divide the artistic career of Velázquez by his two visits to Italy, with his second grouping of works following the first visit and his third grouping following the second visit. This somewhat arbitrary division may be accepted though it will not always apply, because, as is usual in the case of many painters, his styles at times overlap each other. Velázquez rarely signed his pictures, and the royal archives give the dates of only his most important works. Internal evidence and history pertaining to his portraits supply the rest to a certain extent.


Philip IV
c. 1624-1627
Oil on canvas
210 x 102 cm (82 3/4 x 40 1/8 in.)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
(artchive.com)


Besides the forty portraits of Philip by Velázquez, he painted portraits of other members of the royal family: Philip's first wife, Elisabeth of Bourbon, and her children, especially her eldest son, Don Baltasar Carlos, of whom there is a beautiful full-length in a private room at Buckingham Palace. Cavaliers, soldiers, and the prominent poet Francisco de Quevedo (now at Apsley House), sat for Velázquez.


Portrait of Philip IV
Oil on canvas, 1652-1653
18 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches (47 x 37.5 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Queen Doña Mariana of Austria
Oil on canvas, 1652-1653
90 7/8 x 51 1/2 inches (231 x 131 cm)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


One wonders who the beautiful woman can be who adorns the Wallace collection, a brunette so unlike the usual fair-haired female sitters to Velázquez. This picture is one of the ornaments of the Wallace collection. However, if few ladies of the court of Philip have been depicted, Velázquez painted several of his buffoons and dwarfs. Velázquez appears to represent them with respect and sympathetically, as in El Primo (1644, English: The Favorite), whose intelligent face and huge folio with ink-bottle and pen by his side show him to be a wiser and better-educated man than many of the gallants of the court. Pablo de Valladolid (1635, English: Paul of Valladolid), a buffoon evidently acting a part, and El Bobo de Coria (1639, English: The Buffoon of Coria) belong to this middle period


Diego de Acedo (El Primo)
Oil on canvas, 1644
42 1/8 x 32 1/4 inches (107 x 82 cm)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Pablo de Valladolid
Oil on canvas, c.1635
82 1/4 x 48 3/8 inches (209 x 123 cm)
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Philip now entrusted Velázquez with carrying out a design on which he had long set his heart: the founding of an academy of art in Spain. Rich in pictures, Spain was weak in statuary, and Velázquez was commissioned once again to proceed to Italy to make purchases.
In 1650 in Rome Velázquez also painted a portrait of his servant, Juan de Pareja, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This portrait procured his election into the Academy of St. Luke. It captures in great detail Pareja's countenance and his somewhat worn and patched clothing with an impressive economy of brushwork; it is one of his best known pieces of portraiture. The Juan de Pareja is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which purchased it in 1971. At the time, the purchase price of over $5.5 million set a new record for paintings at auction. This became a source of some controversy both for the museum and for its director, Thomas Hoving, who spearheaded the effort to acquire the work and considered it one of the finest paintings in the museum's collection. However, art prices have skyrocketed since the mid-1970s, and the Juan de Pareja could be expected to fetch easily ten times its purchase price today.


Portrait of Juan de Pareja
1650
Oil on canvas
81.3 cm × 69.9 cm (32.0 in × 27.5 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Cit
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


One of his final works was Las hilanderas (The Spinners), painted circa 1657, representing either the interior of the royal tapestry works or a depiction of Ovid's Fable of Arachne, depending on interpretation. It is full of light, air and movement, featuring vibrant colors and careful handling. Anton Raphael Mengs said this work seemed to have been painted not by the hand but by the pure force of will. It displays a concentration of all the art-knowledge Velázquez had gathered during his long artistic career of more than forty years. The scheme is simple—a confluence of varied and blended red, bluish-green, grey and black.


Las Hilanderas (The Fable of Arachne)
1657
Oil on canvas
167 cm × 252 cm (66 in × 99 in)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Las Hilanderas is a late masterpiece by Diego Velázquez, painted for Don Pedro de Arce, huntsman to King Philip IV. The private patronage of the painting has caused it to be shrouded in some mystery, one uncertainty being its date of creation. Stylistic elements, such as the lightness, the economical use of paint, and the clear influence of the Italian Baroque, have lead many scholars to assert that it was painted in 1657. Others place it earlier, at some time between 1644-50, perhaps because certain aspects of its form and content recall the bodegones Velázquez painted in his early career.
The second ambiguity concerns the subject matter. Traditionally, it was believed that the painting depicted women workers in the tapestry workshop of Santa Isabel. In 1948, however, Diego Angula observed that the iconography suggested Ovid's Fable of Arachne, the story of the mortal Arachne who dared to challenge the goddess Athena to a weaving competition and, in losing the contest, was turned into a spider. This is now generally accepted as the correct interpretation of the painting.
In Las Hilanderas, Velázquez developed a layered composition, an approach he had often used in his earlier bodegones, such as the Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary. In the foreground is the contest. The goddess Athena, disguised as an old woman, is on the left and Arachne, in a white top facing away from the viewer, is on the right. Three helpers assist them. In the background, a raised platform (perhaps a stage) displays the finished tapestries. The one visible to us is Arachne's, showing The Rape of Europa — another Greek myth. This is in fact a copy of Titian's version of the subject, which was in the Spanish royal collection.
The painting has been interpreted as an allegory of the arts and even as a commentary on the range of creative endeavor, with the fine arts represented by the goddess and the crafts represented by Arachne. Others think that Velázquez' message was simply that to create great works of art, both great creativity and hard technical work are required. Other scholars have read political allegories into the work. The canvas was probably damaged by the fire at the Alcázar in 1734. The result was the addition of a new section to the upper portion of the canvas.
Velazquez' final portraits of the royal children are among his finest works. These include the Infanta Margarita in blue dress and his only surviving portrait of the sickly Prince Felipe Prospero. The latter is remarkable for its combination of the sweet features of the child prince and his dog with a subtle sense of gloom. As in all of the artist's late paintings, the handling of the colors is extraordinarily fluid and vibrant.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


The Infanta Don Margarita de Austria
Oil on canvas, c.1660
83 3/8 x 57 3/4 inches (212 x 147 cm)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center


Infante Philip Prosper
Oil on canvas, 1660
50 1/2 x 39 1/8 inches (128.5 x 99.5 cm)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
This image is courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

Links:
Paintings until 1620
Paintings between 1621 and 1630
Paintings between 1631 and 1635
The Surrender of Breda (1634-35)
Equestrian portraits (1634-36)
Paintings between 1636 and 1640
Paintings between 1641 and 1650
Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV (1656-57)
Las Hilanderas or The Fable of Arachne (c. 1657)
Paintings between 1651 and 1660
(From Web Gallery of Art)

Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez
(By Senex Magister)



Friday, April 3, 2009

AMERICAN REALIST PAINTER


Edward Hopper
Born: 22-Jul-1882
Birthplace: Nyack, NY
Died: 15-May-1967
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: unspecified
Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Painter
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: American realist painter, Nighthawks
Father: Garret Henry Hoppe
Mother: Elizabeth Griffiths Smith Hopper
Wife: Josephine Nivison (painter, d. 6-Mar-1968)
High School: Nyack High School, Nyack, NY
University: Correspondence School of Illustrating (1899-1900)
University: New York School of Art (1900-06)

From museumsyndicate.com
Hopper is famous for capturing the mood and feel of the mid-20th century in his paintings. From lonely diners and hotel rooms to houses on the shore, his paintings lend a vision of what life was like in those times.
(From museumsyndicate.com)
Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching. In both his urban and rural scenes, his spare and finely calculated renderings reflected his personal vision of modern American life.
Hopper was a good student in grade school and showed talent in drawing at age five. He readily absorbed his father’s intellectual tendencies and love of French and Russian culture and demonstrated his mother’s artistic lineage. Hopper’s parents encouraged his art and kept him readily supplied with materials, instructional magazines, and illustrated books. By his teens, he was working in pen-and-ink, charcoal, watercolor, and oil—drawing from nature as well as making political cartoons. In 1895, he created his first signed oil painting, Rowboat in Rocky Cove, which demonstrated his early interest in nautical subjects.
In his early self-portraits, Hopper tended to represent himself as skinny, ungraceful, and homely. Though a tall and quiet teenager, his prankish sense of humor found outlet in his art, sometimes in depictions of immigrants or of women dominating men in comic situations. Later in life, he would be drawn mostly to depicting women in his paintings. In high school, he dreamed of being a naval architect, but after graduation he declared his intention of following an art career. Hopper’s parents insisted that he study commercial art so he could have a more reliable means of income. In developing his self-image and individualistic philosophy of life, Hopper was influenced by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, as he stated later, “I admire him greatly…I read him over and over again.”
Hopper began his art studies with a correspondence school in 1899. Soon, however, he transferred to the far more prestigious New York Institute of Art and Design. There he studied for six years, with teachers including William Merritt Chase who instructed him in oil painting. Early on, Hopper modeled his style after Chase and French masters Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Sketching from live models proved a challenge and a shock for the conservatively raised Hopper.
Another of his teachers, artist Robert Henri, taught life class. Henri encouraged his students to use their art to "make a stir in the world". He also advised his students, “It isn’t the subject that counts but what you feel about it” and “Forget about art and paint pictures of what interests you in life.” In this manner, Henri influenced Hopper, as well as famous students George Bellows and Rockwell Kent, and motivated them to render realistic depictions of urban life. Some artists in Henri's circle, including another teacher of Hopper’s, John Sloan, became members of “The Eight”, also known as the Ashcan School of American Art.[15] His first existing oil painting to hint at his famous interiors was Solitary Figure in a Theater (c.1904). During his student years, Hopper also painted dozens of nudes, still lifes, landscapes, and portraits, including his self-portraits.


Self Portrait By Edward Hopper
museumsyndicate.com
Date 1906 (1906)
Author Edward Hopper
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Self-Portrait
1925-30
Oil on canvas
25 1/16 x 20 3/8 in
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
© 14 Jul 2002, Nicolas Pioch at WebMuseum, Paris


He initially started out doing urban and architectural scenes in a dark palette. Then he shifted to the lighter palette of the Impressionists before returning to the darker palette that he felt most comfortable with. Hopper later stated, “I got over that and later things done in Paris were more the kind of things I do now.” Hopper spent much of his time drawing street and café scenes, and going to the theater and opera. Unlike many of his contemporaries who imitated the abstract cubist experiments, Hopper was attracted to realist art. Later, however, he admitted to no European influences except for the work of French engraver Charles Meryon, whose moody Paris scenes Hopper imitated.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Edward Hopper at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

In Edward Hopper’s world, everyone is lost in an unending rut of office overtime, rattling El trains, cheap fluorescent diners, and bad dates. Everything has fallen tensely quiet. And this anxious, itchy mood haunts even the urban landscapes — perhaps half his work — in which the only person around is you, the viewer. Here every man is an island.
“Edward Hopper,” a career-spanning survey that opens Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts, reminds us that Hopper has become perhaps the most famous and beloved American artist of the past century by picturing the disquieting film noir isolation lurking at the glass-and-steel heart of our modern metropolises, the frustration of being alone when we’re so damn together. Organized by the MFA, the National Gallery of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago and overseen here by MFA curator Carol Troyen, the show focuses on about 100 works from 1925 to 1950, including many of his most famous paintings.
sumwun commented:
"I think that this evaluation is missing something: if Hopper paints scenes of desolation, isolation, etc., then why are his paintings - the greatest ones - so engrossing, so pleasurable to look at? Why are we not just bummed out and repelled? There is something positively comforting in his presentation of alienation in paintings such as Nighthawks at the Diner, Gas, and Early Sunday. How does he do it? It has something to do with his bold contrasts of unexpected bright and dark patches. These mute paintings of silent people - or no people at all - still manage to suggest a world within, or just beyond, brimming with possibilities, that draws us in. The silence, and the other things it suggests, somehow form a pair which is tantalizing."
(Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group)
Paintings such as Nighthawks (Art Institute of Chicago, 1942) convey a mood of loneliness and desolation by their emptiness or by the presence of anonymous, non-communicating figures. But of this picture Hopper said: `I didn't see it as particularly lonely... Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.' Deliberately so or not, in his still, reserved, and blandly handled paintings Hopper often exerts a powerful psychological impact -- distantly akin to that made by the Metaphysical painter de Chirico; but while de Chirico's effect was obtained by making the unreal seem real, Hopper's was rooted in the presentation of the familiar and concrete.
(© 14 Jul 2002, Nicolas Pioch at WebMuseum, Paris)


Nighthawks
1942
Oil on canvas
30 x 60 in
The Art Institute of Chicago
© 14 Jul 2002, Nicolas Pioch at WebMuseum, Paris

Nighthawks is not an accomplished painting: it is an accomplishment. For members of a younger generation, Nighthawks is an iconographic image and idea that has rippled through situations as disparate as parodies on The Simpsons to regular recreations in cinematic scenes and Gottfried Helnwein's painted homage that replaces Hopper's figures with images of Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Elvis Presley. The painting has a cultural identity that lives as much in its recreation as it does in its original imprint, and there is a whole other Textual nexus of objects that have been produced as the direct results of independent artists experiencing the Text of the original Nighthawks for themselves.
Nighthawks might be more widely recognizable in America than most of the works by Pablo Picasso or even Jackson Pollock because its transparent subjectivity speaks directly to the American experience, its ambiguity encourages every viewer to identify personally with the painting, and it has evolved into a meta-object of American culture. No one knows what, exactly, those people in the diner are thinking, but they don't have to ask either. They are sad. They are lonely. They are desperate and depraved and they cling to one another and to some mysterious strand of waning hope that we all have, at one point, clung to ourselves.
— Christopher Graffeo
(Copyright © 1999-2009 ArtsEditor)
"Apparently, there was a period when every college dormitory in the country had on its walls a poster of Hopper's Nighthawks; it had become an icon. It is easy to understand its appeal. This is not just an image of big-city loneliness, but of existential loneliness: the sense that we have (perhaps overwhelmingly in late adolescence) of being on our own in the human condition. When we look at that dark New York street, we would expect the fluorescent-lit cafe to be welcoming, but it is not. There is no way to enter it, no door. The extreme brightness means that the people inside are held, exposed and vulnerable. They hunch their shoulders defensively. Hopper did not actually observe them, because he used himself as a model for both the seated men, as if he perceived men in this situation as clones. He modeled the woman, as he did all of his female characters, on his wife Jo. He was a difficult man, and Jo was far more emotionally involved with him than he with her; one of her methods of keeping him with her was to insist that only she would be his model.
Text from "Sister Wendy's American Masterpieces":
"From Jo's diaries we learn that Hopper described this work as a painting of "three characters." The man behind the counter, though imprisoned in the triangle, is in fact free. He has a job, a home, he can come and go; he can look at the customers with a half-smile. It is the customers who are the nighthawks. Nighthawks are predators - but are the men there to prey on the woman, or has she come in to prey on the men? To my mind, the man and woman are a couple, as the position of their hands suggests, but they are a couple so lost in misery that they cannot communicate; they have nothing to give each other. I see the nighthawks of the picture not so much as birds of prey, but simply as birds: great winged creatures that should be free in the sky, but instead are shut in, dazed and miserable, with their heads constantly banging against the glass of the world's callousness. In his Last Poems, A. E. Housman (1859-1936) speaks of being "a stranger and afraid/In a world I never made." That was what Hopper felt - and what he conveys so bitterly."
(From artchive.com)
Nighthawks" may be Hopper's take on the term 'night owl' used to describe someone who stays up late. The scene was inspired by a diner (since demolished) in Greenwich Village, Hopper's home neighborhood in Manhattan. The now-vacant lot is known as Mulry Square, at the intersection of Seventh Avenue South, Greenwich Avenue, and West 11th Street.
Hopper began painting it immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After this event there was a widespread feeling of gloominess across the country, a feeling that is portrayed in the painting. The urban street is empty outside the diner, and inside none of the three patrons is apparently looking or talking to the others; all are lost in their own thoughts. Two are a couple, while the third is a man sitting alone, with his back to the viewer. The couple's noses resemble beaks, perhaps a reference to the title. The diner's sole attendant, looking up from his work, appears to be peering out the window past the customers. His age is indeterminate.
The corner of the diner is curved; curved glass connects the large expanse of glass on its two sides. Weather is understood to be warm, based on clothing worn by the patrons. No overcoats are in evidence; the woman's blouse is short-sleeved. Across the street are what appear to be open windows on the second story. The light from the restaurant floods out onto the street outside, and a sliver of light casts its way into one of the windows.
This portrayal of modern urban life as empty or lonely is a common theme throughout Hopper's work. It is sharply outlined by the fact that the man with his back to us appears more lonely because of the couple sitting next to him. If one looks closely, it becomes apparent that there is no way out of the bar area, as the three walls of the counter form a triangle that traps the attendant. It is also notable that the diner has no visible door leading to the outside, which illustrates the idea of confinement and entrapment. Hopper denied that he had intended to communicate this in Nighthawks, but he admitted that "unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city." At the time of the painting, fluorescent lights had just been developed, perhaps contributing to why the diner is casting such an eerie glow upon the almost pitch black outside world. An advertisement for Phillies cigars is featured on top of the diner.
The conclusion can also be drawn that Hopper painted the emptiness pervading the city. This conclusion can be substantiated by the observation that three-quarters of the painting is empty and has no sign of human life in it.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)




Nighthawks from planetvideocouk
© 2009 YouTube, LLC


Interior scenes
Street scenes
landscapes
(© 14 Jul 2002, Nicolas Pioch at WebMuseum, Paris)

SAAM: An Edward Hopper Scrapbook