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Tensions between inner and outer reality

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The English government and aristocracy started enclosing land claiming it would allow for better raising of crops and animals particularly sheep for their wool. They claimed that large fields could be farmed more efficiently than individual plots allotted from common land -- and the profit could be kept by the aristocrats who now owned the legally confiscated land.

Some claim this was the beginning of commercial farming. Poor people had no way of subsistence apart from working for the land owners. It brought about more poverty and poor people drifted from the countryside to the cities, where the Industrial Revolution had begun, based on the steam engine and the creation of factories where poor people were employed in bad working conditions, pollution, criminality and corruption. The paradox was that more and more people moved into the cities when they all had terrible living conditions.

Tensions between inner and outer reality

Nature became idealized as life in the country was more virtuous. Romantic poets did not talk about cities but realists did. There was a regeneration of human life destroyed by cities, an idealized vision of nature : they were looking for a renewed humanity. Wordsworth and Coleridge left the city for the Lake District.

In America, transcendentalists such as Emerson or Thoreau did the same. Thoreau went out in the wilderness to Walden Pond to write Walden in They discovered the American identity : the civilization was European. There is a kind of individualism that refuses every kind of moral convention who you really are and pantheism belief that Nature is divine and has a soul. Nature was not only peaceful and meditative but also stormy, tempestuous and too big for man sublime. In Shelley's Ode to the West Wind , the poet starts by identifying himself with the wind : he wants to have the same power and the same liberty.

As such, it can be considered a political poem. The "west wind" is the wind from America, from the Revolution. The romantic world is a dynamic world of change. When there is beauty, it's always ephemeral. What creates the changes are the elemental forces storm, power etc. Energy can come from human beings too. Romanticism is the emphasis of feelings, passions and intuitions. It differs from the 18th century, which was based on reason and reflection.

Reason is universal, everyone uses the same logic : it is not personal. On the other hand, feelings, passion and intuition are what make people different from each other; it is very individualistic and selfish. Passion is one of the dynamic elements of romanticism, it's a factor of change for the individual and a factor of historical change as Hegel once said "nothing great was accomplished in history without passion".

Passion is also extremely changing : nothing is closer to love than hate. It alternates between exaltation and melancholy, between nostalgia and optimism. The lover is killed by Isabella's brothers.

Edgar Allan Poe | Poetry Foundation

She digs his grave, cuts his head and hides it in a pot of basil with a flower in it. As she cries everyday, it turns to a beautiful flower. Contrasts, dichotomies can be seen on all levels between reason and emotion, beautiful and sublime, reality and imagination. Dialectics are the dynamic principle behind everything and could be seen as a rational monism the antonym of "pluralism" with the religious revival and the visionary style. Wuthering Heights takes place in Yorkshire moors.

Catherine Earnshaw hesitates between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. She chooses Edgar but Heathcliff comes back rich. There is a conflict between what men represent and what places represent. It's the conflict of "the children of calm, the children of the storm". The dualism is a cosmic matter between calm and quietness, storm and passion.

It's the idea of homo duplex : man is double in a "double simultaneous postulation". There is a rediscovery of history and exoticism through local colour : few details to show you are not at home for instance, if you write about Asia, add some geishas in kimonos. With romanticism, there is an outburst of cultural nationalism : German romanticism was a flowering of vernacular literatures. The vernacular is the language spoken by the people; it's different from the language spoken by the cultural elite French, Latin.

What is Deconstruction?

It was good enough to produce good literature. There was also a going back to folklore, legends, and fairy tales. However, like the previous rationale, the inferential structure of this one seems weak; even if an afterlife were required for just outcomes, it is not obvious why an eternal afterlife should be thought necessary Perrett , Work has been done to try to make the inferences of these two arguments stronger, and the basic strategy has been to appeal to the value of perfection Metz , ch.

Perhaps the Tolstoian reason why one must live forever in order to make the relevant permanent difference is an agent-relative need for one to honor an infinite value, something qualitatively higher than the worth of, say, pleasure.

Edgar Allan Poe

And maybe the reason why immortality is required in order to mete out just deserts is that rewarding the virtuous requires satisfying their highest free and informed desires, one of which would be for eternal flourishing of some kind Goetz While far from obviously sound, these arguments at least provide some reason for thinking that immortality is necessary to satisfy the major premise about what is required for meaning.

However, both arguments are still plagued by a problem facing the original versions; even if they show that meaning depends on immortality, they do not yet show that it depends on having a soul. By definition, if one has a soul, then one is immortal, but it is not clearly true that if one is immortal, then one has a soul. Perhaps being able to upload one's consciousness into an infinite succession of different bodies in an everlasting universe would count as an instance of immortality without a soul.

Such a possibility would not require an individual to have an immortal spiritual substance imagine that when in between bodies, the information constitutive of one's consciousness were temporarily stored in a computer. What reason is there to think that one must have a soul in particular for life to be significant?

The most promising reason seems to be one that takes us beyond the simple version of soul-centered theory to the more complex view that both God and a soul constitute meaning. The best justification for thinking that one must have a soul in order for one's life to be significant seems to be that significance comes from uniting with God in a spiritual realm such as Heaven, a view espoused by Thomas Aquinas, Leo Tolstoy , and contemporary religious thinkers e.

Another possibility is that meaning comes from honoring what is divine within oneself, i. As with God-based views, naturalist critics offer counterexamples to the claim that a soul or immortality of any kind is necessary for meaning. Great works, whether they be moral, aesthetic, or intellectual, would seem to confer meaning on one's life regardless of whether one will live forever.

Critics maintain that soul-centered theorists are seeking too high a standard for appraising the meaning of people's lives Baier , —29; Baier , chs. Appeals to a soul require perfection, whether it be, as above, a perfect object to honor, a perfectly just reward to enjoy, or a perfect being with which to commune. However, if indeed soul-centered theory ultimately relies on claims about meaning turning on perfection, such a view is attractive at least for being simple, and rival views have yet to specify in a principled and thoroughly defended way where to draw the line at less than perfection perhaps a start is Metz , ch.

What less than ideal amount of value is sufficient for a life to count as meaningful? Critics of soul-based views maintain not merely that immortality is not necessary for meaning in life, but also that it is sufficient for a meaningless life. One influential argument is that an immortal life, whether spiritual or physical, could not avoid becoming boring, rendering life pointless Williams ; Ellin , —12; Belshaw , 82—91; Smuts The most common reply is that immortality need not get boring Fischer ; Wisnewski ; Bortolotti and Nagasawa ; Chappell ; Quigley and Harris , 75— However, it might also be worth questioning whether boredom is truly sufficient for meaninglessness.

Suppose, for instance, that one volunteers to be bored so that many others will not be bored; perhaps this would be a meaningful sacrifice to make.

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Another argument that being immortal would be sufficient to make our lives insignificant is that persons who cannot die could not exhibit certain virtues Nussbaum ; Kass For instance, they could not promote justice of any important sort, be benevolent to any significant degree, or exhibit courage of any kind that matters, since life and death issues would not be at stake. Critics reply that even if these virtues would not be possible, there are other virtues that could be.

And of course it is not obvious that meaning-conferring justice, benevolence and courage would not be possible if we were immortal, perhaps if we were not always aware that we could not die or if our indestructible souls could still be harmed by virtue of intense pain, frustrated ends, and repetitive lives.

There are other, related arguments maintaining that awareness of immortality would have the effect of removing meaning from life, say, because our lives would lack a sense of preciousness and urgency Lenman ; Kass ; James or because external rather than internal factors would then dictate their course Wollheim , Note that the target here is belief in an eternal afterlife, and not immortality itself, and so I merely mention these rationales for additional, revealing criticism, see Bortolotti I now address views that even if there is no spiritual realm, meaning in life is possible, at least for many people.

Among those who believe that a significant existence can be had in a purely physical world as known by science, there is debate about two things: the extent to which the human mind constitutes meaning and whether there are conditions of meaning that are invariant among human beings. Subjectivists believe that there are no invariant standards of meaning because meaning is relative to the subject, i.

Roughly, something is meaningful for a person if she believes it to be or seeks it out. Objectivists maintain, in contrast, that there are some invariant standards for meaning because meaning is at least partly mind-independent, i. Here, something is meaningful to some degree in virtue of its intrinsic nature, independent of whether it is believed to be meaningful or sought.

There is logical space for an intersubjective theory according to which there are invariant standards of meaning for human beings that are constituted by what they would all agree upon from a certain communal standpoint Darwall , chs. However, this orthogonal approach is not much of a player in the field and so I set it aside in what follows.

According to this view, meaning in life varies from person to person, depending on each one's variable mental states.

Post-structuralism

Common instances are views that one's life is more meaningful, the more one gets what one happens to want strongly, the more one achieves one's highly ranked goals, or the more one does what one believes to be really important Trisel ; Hooker ; Alexis Lately, one influential subjectivist has maintained that the relevant mental state is caring or loving, so that life is meaningful just to the extent that one cares about or loves something Frankfurt , , Subjectivism was dominant for much of the 20 th century when pragmatism, positivism, existentialism, noncognitivism, and Humeanism were quite influential James ; Ayer ; Sartre ; Barnes ; Taylor ; Hare ; Williams ; Klemke Such a method has been used to defend the existence of objective value, and, as a result, subjectivism about meaning has lost its dominance.

Those who continue to hold subjectivism often are suspicious of attempts to justify beliefs about objective value e. Theorists are primarily moved to accept subjectivism because the alternatives are unpalatable; they are sure that value in general and meaning in particular exists, but do not see how it could be grounded in something independent of the mind, whether it be the natural, the non-natural, or the supernatural.

In contrast to these possibilities, it appears straightforward to account for what is meaningful in terms of what people find meaningful or what people want out of life. Wide-ranging meta-ethical debates in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language are necessary to address this rationale for subjectivism. There are two other, more circumscribed arguments for subjectivism. One is that subjectivism is plausible since it is reasonable to think that a meaningful life is an authentic one Frankfurt If a person's life is significant insofar as she is true to herself or her deepest nature, then we have some reason to believe that meaning simply is a function of satisfying certain desires held by the individual or realizing certain ends of hers.

Another argument is that meaning intuitively comes from losing oneself, i. Work that concentrates the mind and relationships that are engrossing seem central to meaning and to be so because of the subjective element involved, that is, because of the concentration and engrossment. However, critics maintain that both of these arguments are vulnerable to a common objection: they neglect the role of objective value both in realizing oneself and in losing oneself Taylor , esp. One is not really being true to oneself if one intentionally harms others Dahl , 12 , successfully maintains 3, hairs on one's head Taylor , 36 , or, well, eats one's own excrement Wielenberg , 22 , and one is also not losing oneself in a meaning-conferring way if one is consumed by these activities.

There seem to be certain actions, relationships, states, and experiences that one ought to concentrate on or be engrossed in, if meaning is to accrue. So says the objectivist, but many subjectivists also feel the pull of the point. Paralleling replies in the literature on well-being, subjectivists often respond by contending that no or very few individuals would desire to do such intuitively trivial things, at least after a certain idealized process of reflection e. More promising, perhaps, is the attempt to ground value not in the responses of an individual valuer, but in those of a particular group Brogaard and Smith ; Wong Would such an intersubjective move avoid the counterexamples?

If so, would it do so more plausibly than an objective theory? Objective naturalists believe that meaning is constituted at least in part by something physical independent of the mind about which we can have correct or incorrect beliefs. Obtaining the object of some variable pro-attitude is not sufficient for meaning, on this view. Instead, there are certain inherently worthwhile or finally valuable conditions that confer meaning for anyone, neither merely because they are wanted, chosen, or believed to be meaningful, nor because they somehow are grounded in God.

Morality and creativity are widely held instances of actions that confer meaning on life, while trimming toenails and eating snow and the other counterexamples to subjectivism above are not.