Enlightenment

Author: joe

Thursday, 16 February, 2006 - 00:53

Last Sunday morning I went to the British Museum's exhibition on the Enlightenment. I found it a quite profound experience, and only partly because I'd had only 3 hours' kip :)

Seeing Linneaus' sketches of different kinds of plants and the way he developed a taxonomy to describe them is just an awesome thing - a whole collection of people, who devoured swathes of their lives in the pursuit of finding ways to organise and explain the world.

Of course, in a fairly reflexive way, the museum draws attention to their part in some of the things we tend to criticise about the Enlightenment - the cultural imperialism, orientalism, the use of Classical Art as a yard-stick by which to measure the cultural achievement of other cultures, the plunder of riches, the subjugation of nations...

But nevertheless, man! what people they were. The orreries are something to see - and imagine trying to build your own astrolabe. I dare anyone to find the maker of an astrolabe and tell them they're misguided imperialists exercising arbitrary discursive power over oppressed peoples.

Pondering this, I came home and reread Foucault's essay, 'What is Enlightenment' (hey it's my job, okay!). Something struck me in a way it hadn't before - Foucault talks of the 'modern' perspective as being transformational, about the way in which the real becomes 'more than real', the beautiful 'more than beautiful', and the changing interplay between the constraints of reality, and the exercise of freedom.

Seeing those fossils, not just the literal fossils displayed there, but the fossilised remains of a era which totally transformed the real world and man's freedom within it, really made me admire them even more.

I recommend it :)

Categories: enlightenment, exhibition, museum, reason, classicism, Foucault, Linnaeus,
Comments: 4

Comments

I seem to remember Joe describing an experience as 'more real than real' back in the early 90's, Was that also a reference to Foucault?

Author: Bill Sent: 2006-02-17 00:16:34


erm, no, I think that may have been a consequence of lysergic acid :)

so, as acid is to Joe, so the enlightenment is to society :)))))

Author: Joe Sent: 2006-02-17 10:23:25


Last Sunday morning I was in bed being enlightened by my dreams. :-)

Author: cathbond Sent: 2006-02-17 20:09:49


Evolving new pleasures and crftooms.It is indeed right that our western culture has become very oriented towards luxury and comfort. If we want to fight that, we have to know why it has become so and how it works. Here it is useful to see how comfort has been evolved in human beings. Good feelings like comfort has been created to guide the animal or the human being: Pain has been evolved to make you stop burning your hand or walk on a broken leg, pleasure has evolved to make you choose sweet fruit instead of bitter poison and so on. So we don't live for pleasure or comfort, but the other way around: they were meant to help us.Now where the evolution has been happening so fast our strive for comfort doesn't suit the needs of the future no more. Therefore: rather than rejecting the positivity of good feelings, we should realize that there is higher / better pleasures or crftooms that we have to make a shift into.So now the work is to find out what structures that is still helpful and what kind of structures we need to change, and what is the positive outcome that we can learn to feel? How does the new positive feelings feel like, and what is making us happy? We can not make it without feelings and passion helping us, which is also a point in the brain science of people like Damasio, who has discovered that no movement in the front brain (where self discipline ans compassion has evolved) can work without connection to the center of emotion. It must to go together.

Author: Andrea Sent: 2012-07-06 13:26:16


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