Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frankenstein: What is Horror?





Why is Frankenstein a horror story?




On a dark an' stormy night.....
Frankenstein wuz penned by Mary Shelley.




Akshully it were dark an' stormy weeks in Switzerland, 1816, an ever'body wuz batty crazy fer bein' couped up inside together whar' poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron had set up their house of horrors. Dark an' stormy describes the souls of such as Percy B Shelley an' teenaged Mary Godwin.

Shelley once tried to sell his sisters on the idea of incest and had failed to persuade his 18 year old pregnant wife Harriet of the joys of communal intimacies.

The poet idolized William Godwin, Mary's philosopher father. Percy did manage to seduce 16 year old Mary Godwin in 1814 to join him fer fun an games, an bring her half sister Claire along fer extra deviancy on a jaunt through France an' Germany. When the money dried up, the vagabonds returned to England to set new fires.

Dear Reader, pleeze push the pause button fer a minute:
Whar's this goin'? Straight to the NYTimes headlines of today. Hang in thar' wif' me, iffin' ya can, I'se hopin' to connect some very scary dots. (push play)


Shelley, an "angelic" lookin' son of minor aristocrats, caused convulsions in his family--tried to electrocute animals, maids an' his sisters durin' experiments wif' electrical currents, incurred embarrisin' debts, an was tossed from Oxford. He wuz enamored of the French Revolution (despite England's abject horror at the carnage they saw across the Channel) an' drank deeply from various Enlightenment philosophers including Mary's own father, Godwin, author of the radical
tome, Political Justice. Godwin, who preached free love an' insisted that marriage was bondage, had nonetheless married Mary's mother once she'd became pregnant.

Shelley, fer his part, had dabbled in all manner of galvanizing experiments (electricity) as the portal to scientific occultism--see, whar' them witches an' crones out on the moors were so low-tech, utterly unscientific wif' their incantations an' spells, Percy believed that alchemy revealed its secrets only to the man who threw off all fetters that held natural man in bondage--the more radical the break (incest) with "unnatural" constraints on man, the more one wuz made worthy of the secrets of science of nature.


Mary at age 16 wuz filled with knowing horror of the consequences of the social experiment called The Enlightenment. She wuz the product of a dead feminist mama an' fruitcake philosopher father-- understandably kooky from livin' in the midst of bizarre soirees her Pa held wif' England's weirdest an dearest.

She wrote
Frankenstein in a feverish few days confined to that gloomy villa on Lake Geneva wif' two laudanum drugged sadists, Byron an' Shelley. Mary, wif' her sister Claire, were shacked, er, "liberated" up wif' Byron, Shelley an' a young doctor friend. They had been readin' German ghost stories, swiggin' laudanum, an' surprise surprise, they hit on the idea of writin' their own scary tales. At this point in the horror of their personal lives, 18 year old Mary had already lost hers and Percy's illegitimate child to death shortly after it wuz born, while Percy's pregnant wife Harriet, distraught over "this vampire" husband, drowned herself a few months later. Jes' a few notes fer perspective, y'all.


If youse subjected to them conditions, you'd have dreams of
Frankenstein too, doan'cha reckon? It doan take nuthin' from her achievement, however. In truth, I reckon the horror she lived made possible her lurid tale.

Anyhoo, to set the scene, recall that the horrors of the French Revolution were still fresh--young Romantics clung to hopes that some true good would spring from the blood-soaked soil. They read the tracts an' books of "liberty" (read
license) an' the revolt against artificial constraints from all authority, especially religious or traditional. The dream of liberatin' "natural man" smoldered in ashy pockets throughout Europe.

Some say
Frankenstein is the first novel of the horror genre. Many acknowledge that Frankenstein is Mary Shelley's critique of the twisted philosophy that ruint her life an' led Percy to insanity.


We might jawbone fer a spell on the merits or demerits of the whole Enlightenment project
*, but fer our purposes, let's us'uns jes' set out that the idea of the project can be summed up in two major concepts:

1) The scientific or Newtonian revolution done recast the universe as mechanical--planets an' animals followin' the principles of physics which be devoid of moral weight. Science an' its power proved an irresistible elixir to men who sought to control the physical world by unlockin' the mysteries of physics.

2) Enlightened men are free men who understand that enlightened self-interest is natural, an' will lead to progress, profit an pleasure fer all, if ya jes' git them pesky morals out of the way. In the manner of the planets that simply follow their course yet do not collide, self-interest followed wif'out constraint should not cause men or nations to collide. Fer this to work, all fetters and constraints must be removed. When all live accordin' to "natural" self-interests, all will be well wif' the universe. Of course, this presupposes a mechanical man, devoid of soul or conscience.

Push Pause button again, if ya doan mind--thanky, Well, now, thang is, if man has no soul or conscience, how can there be anythang called "horror?"

Stuff jes' is, thas' all, no need to assign a pejorative label like "horror," right?


Why do "scary" thangs scare ya'? In a "natural" world of the Enlightenment, thangs ain't supposed to be scary. If ya die at the hands of passionate bloodsucker, or git caged in the basement of Jeffrey Dahlmer or loose a laig to a chainsaw, it's not an assault is it? It's part of the mechanical scientific natural world? If some fiend is jes' followin' its own enlightened self-interest, ain't that a thang of beauty? **
Is horror only horror when folks have failed to eject all moral compasses an' conscience? If ya' doan think a fiend is a fiend, then tar' ain't no fiends, right? Is modern malaise precisely 'cause we be livin' in a hybrid world whar' some is "naturalized" an some ain't? Thus we do have collisions? An no peace or justice can come of this hybrid world? Or, the reverse, horror is the consequence of violation of the moral law? Even if we doan believe in moral absolutes, do them absolutes an' their effects well up in the unconscious an' thas' why we'uns git scared?

If some ole moldy Tradition says "this is the moral law," cain't we Moderns jes'
unsay it, then the consequences will go away? What exactly is horror? An' why do it have the power to frighten us? Is it the discovery that all this " natural man" stuff is utterly loosed on the world? An' it ain't workin' so great, since some self enlightenment satisfaction comes at the expense of the oppression of others? (push play, pleeze)

The plot of
Frankenstein follows a bright an' promisin' young Viktor Frankenstein to the University whar' his passion is to learn how to bring back the daid--he lost his Mama when she gave birth to Viktor's wee brother. Of course, wise ole haids warn him not to try to mess wif' thangs that ain't given to man to control--life an death. Young an' passionate he cain't be dissuaded from the "beauty" of his quest.

It's good place to make note that Viktor were a good guy at the outset, good intentions an' all. But soon enough it wuz about the power--electrical power to create his creature/ monster, an personal power of the "unhallowed arts" of controllin' death an' life wif'out regard for life as more than mere mechanics. Viktor is soon demented wif' passion beyond his own ability to rein back.





"I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

Readers lose sympathy fer young Viktor ( who is NOT victorious by story's end) 'cause no amount of horror of the consequences causes him to pause or rethink--not his professors, friends, not his fiance. He is driven now by his unloosed passion. He justifies himself--as all dictators/ tyrants/ maniacs do.

The monster pursues an' destroys all that Viktor loved--jes as the monster of the Enlightenment philosophy pursued an destroyed all that Mary Shelley loved. The forbidden monster, once created, takes its own course--it cannot be controlled after all, nor can its consequences. An thar' is the horror. On Viktor's weddin' night when love should make life, death is the consequence. Think of how many horror movies have this theme-the scientist/ politician/ tyrant refuses limits, assumes science an' more power will contain whatever consequences erupt. But that is self delusion as Viktor learned "...the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart."

Mary Shelley puts some amazin' thangs in the mouth of her monster:

I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.

I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other."





True stories of Frankenstein
fill our news:

The New York Post reported an FBI sting that uncovered a ring of black market baby sellers--sold for $180,000 to people who cannot otherwise qualify to adopt or who want to insure a blue-eyed blond child. In many parts of the world sex selection abortions are standard. The sidebar of search pages for "surrogate mothers" offer top dollar to women who will incubate a cloned or selected embryo. Sales of babies as though they were commodities is not new, what is new is the massive scale an--here's horror--the justification of the practice by "enlightened" progressives who find nuthin' unsettlin' about it. Nor are some moved by the plight of kidnapped children sold into sex-slavery for sex-tourism in Southeast Asia and elsewhar'.



This wholesale disregard for life is barbaric. What is behind it? No one wants to put breaks on science--society should not condone cloning, or the genetic selection of embryos, or any number of other horrors made possible by advancing technology. Click here for the Human fertility Authority of the UK whar' animal an' human embryos is hybridized.

No one wants to impute to sex and life any moral code that contains constraint--do you recall that California couple who conceived a girl child in order to harvest her kidney to save the child they already had? And what of that British bill that would permit folks to clone themselves from stem cells an' harvest at will from the "twin" of yoreself when ya need a few spare body parts?




In the movie of Frankenstein the Monster asks why he was brought into existence--and millions of clinically conceived children will soon know that same disorientation--to have been brought to life but, only as a manipulation.

Elsewhar' we's monkeying around graftin' an' gene splicin' all manner of monsters--some plant, some animal, an some human, like this proud clinic that put a human ear on the back of a lab rat:


The movie Mimic explores the limits of science.



Looky, science is in neutral gear. It is not good or bad--fire either cooks yore food or burns yore house down--it is the use to which ya' put science--an, thas' the rub. We humans need to think long an hard about consequences we cain't control. We's spliced virus to make super bio-weapons, we's got frankenfoods--heard yet of the bacteria used as meat glue to smush together meat scraps but craft it to look like Fillet Mignon an charge ya' an arm an a laig?

Is nuthin' sacrosanct? Do contemporary societies want so desperately to be "free" of constraints that they stop at nuthin'?

What do y'all think? Should there be any boundaries? If so, where? and on what grounds do you draw yore boundary lines?

Gulliver's Travels
and Alice in Wonderland aren't really children's tales but sober adult discussions.

Frankenstein ain't just a frightenin' spooky story fer Halloween, either. Aunty reckon's it would be a good thang to teach Frankenstein to collich kids as a warnin'.
*


* Endarkment

** see La Mettrie, De Sade ( "Vice is freedom"), Bernard Mandeville.

21 comments:

pam said...

Oh, Auntie, such food for thought. I'd have never put all this together in my wee brain and I certainly did not know the history of Mary Shelly. It is a bit of a 'burning bed' kind of story if you think about it too. And alas, I have never actually read that book. I did read Dracula after having visited the ruins at Whitby Cathedral, but have not read Frankenstein. Mainly because I don't like the horror genre. We are definitely of a generation that was indoctrinated with the 'better living through chemistry' theory ... am so glad there are folks who are yearning for a simpler, cleaner life (if it can be found) ....

BTW, are you following the stories about unprocessed milk? It boggles the mind. It really does.

Troll said...

A lot to digest here. Seems like you and Glen Beck are the only people talking about that era and the USA's "progressive" era.

Perhaps I've been too focused on the threat posed by the masses of evil and STUPID people such as the dumber-than-dirt "American" and euro-trash New-New-Left and the followers of the form of Satan worship called "islam". People with less knowledge of the hard-sciences than demented wombats but who number in the billions.

Maybe I should spend more time considering the threats posed by people who actually have considerable intelligence but no moral clarity. But I think that threat would more likely come from Asia than from the West. Maybe a small team of smart scientists WILL do more damage than the stupid billions.

I guess the worst-case scenario would be the brain-dead leftist masses embracing some nascent Scientific Frankenstein developed by a small team of scientists who's work they could never comprehend at any level. Embracing it and forcing taxpayers to fund it's wide-spread use before the disastrous unintended consequences are known.

After all, they do embrace "global warming" without having anything approaching the intelligence and discipline it takes to understand real Climate Science.

Troll said...

Troll's Frankenstein Scenario One

The umbrella term "Addiction Science". Some are doing exciting new research on the brain. Some are investigating the genetic link. Why some addictions seem to run in families.

A team of atheist Chinese Scientists, using techniques currently frowned upon in the West such as experimenting on Christian political prisoners, make a genuine breakthrough combining both.

A section of the brain is found to be responsible for physical addiction/cravings. That section is more "active", for lack of a better word, for people with a genetic disposition to become addicted easier or more intensely than others.

The Chinese develop an injectable treatment that ends the symptoms of physical addiction. Millions can be freed from a horrible malady.

The reaction?

Intelligent Christians like Aunty will say "Whoa Now!" and instantly see some of the predictable bad unintended consequences. There are still physical consequences. Cocaine and booze are bad for the liver. People will try drugs they haven't previously used because they know they won't get physically addicted. Psychological addiction will still exist. Being intoxicated is a problem in itself even absent the possibility of physical addiction. Etc...

But the brain-dead slogan-chanting pot-bellied legions of dumb new-lefties will not listen to Aunty's "go slow" advice. Especially if George Soros and their other masters invest in the Chinese Innoculations, they'll clamor for it's wide-spread usage funded by taxpayers. Including innoculation of kids.

"Keep your X-tian morals out of my brain, Aunty" they'll be taught to chant.

But there's a side-effect that doesn't show up for 10 years. And the effect is more intense with kids. Long-term, the innoculation harms cognititive ability. Millions are dumber than they used to be. The kids who were innoculated wind up as virtual Sean Penns.

Karl said...

Good afternoon Aunty Belle,
Interesting post. I knew a little of the history of Mary Shelley never realized the level she was brought to.

Sometime next week the population will reach 7 billion. The last thing we need science doing is figuring out how to make more. Making babies unnaturally is just as bad as aborting them.

Making spares to harvest parts, is also wrong. On the other side of the coin, a technologies being developed to help those already living. Are not bad as long as they are managed properly. That's the real problem isn't it? A distinct lack of managers.

fishy said...

Mania, of one sort or another, has taken center stage for intervals throughout history. The idea science can replace God is another form of mania.
There is enough history, as well as literature, to show successive generations why straying too far off the path has proved a stupid decision.

Unfortunately, the current batch of big science, big pharma, big ego greeders are buying the acceptance they need from the power brokers so they can energetically pervert the unsuspecting.

You'se a pretty fair spooker yerself Aunty.
I is now afraid to turn on this hear computer and see images of frankenfools gone wild.

moi said...

Interesting, Aunty. So is it your belief that one can only be moral if one believes in God? That skeptics are by their very nature libertines? That science is not about understanding but about justifying unbridled exploration of our every impulse? And that the Enlightenment was not about freeing human beings' minds from mysticism, suspicion, and fear, but, again, an indulgence of every passion and whim?

Aunty Belle said...

Pam OKC,
I doan like the horror genre either. Ick. But Frankenstein is akshully literary. Mary Shelley was not uneducated, simply bent like a twig in her youth--a tragedy.

However, one thang I do see is that horror films intuitively grasp what it is that is horror--not some scary (scary is different from horror) creepy other-worldly thang, but the dark part of humanity that gits loose an goes evil or goes wild. The other thang horror films seem to unnerstand is tht technology won't save us--in Mimic, fer example, in the end it is an act of self-sacrifice that saves the innocent.

To mah thinkin' horror requires the willful breaking of the moral laws that humans have on board from the gitgo. A basic human respect for life an' the dignity of the other--violatin' nature at its core as if science could clean up the mess is definitely a horror.

Troll-Man,

heh..well, Beck would have none of me--he touches topics that have merit, an' need to be tickled in the public ribs, but Aunty sees the sources of the issues differently, an solutions too.

As fer the " go slow" approach, now ya have me--I'se guilty of that. An' "virtual sean Penns is the LOL line of the week!

P. S. I'se ole school--I do not trust Chinese or Russians. Or anybody wif' communist history. Period. Communism is an enormous temptation. An' that is a real life horror fer shure.

Karl,
hello polite Sir.

Ya make me wanna correct mahself an' say that Aunty is not anti-science. No no, not a'tall. I'se very grateful for the advances science has afforded man-kind, 'cause a world wif' indoor bathrooms is a giant leap I doan wanna do wif'out. :/

In all seriousness, the horror is making science the handmaid of twisted human desires.
Whar' man decides he can play God, an' thus pervert the true natural order such that nature an' man is perverted to serve disorder, that fer me is the scariest scenario of all.

A good scientist respects limits, an' unnerstands science as a tool to help and aid the good desires of man--those desires that promote order, not disorder.

On babies youse so right--we have no bidness makin' babies fer toys, sport or spare parts ( thas' pur cannibalism) as if human commodification were an "advancement."

Let nature make babies, an' let us respect that each life is MORE than its physical parts. Of course whar' science can aid us--adult stem cell miracles!!--sure, use all the science we can--wisely.

On the 7 billion--it appears alarmin' but now that trend will spiral down after 2030. This is because the current childbearin' generation and the one that follows in 10 years is already down by a 1/4 of the necessary women to bear children sufficient for to replacement their own numbers.

The population decline will be very rapid--an inverse pyramid, or the inverse of Malthus' geometric increase because two generations of one child (or no children) per woman means decreasing pool of childbearing women--exacerbated by the Chinese an' Western propensity for sex-selection: boys. As fewer females are born, fewer wombs. Europe is a dead man walking as it is. (Malthus, now there was a scientist who wrong, but his theory wuz accepted fer political an bidness reasons: he worked fer East India Corp an the slaughter of native peoples wuz seen as self defense against the hordes)


Japan is the world's fastest shrinkin' counry at 1.3 babies per woman--far under replacement--Germany at 1.3, Italy--all Europe under 1.6. This is a prescription for extinction--the real unstated population worry is that certain populations increase while certain others fall into extinction level death spirals.

What worries me most is bad science used fer worse political purposes.

Aunty Belle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickory said...

ha! you may recall this similar post by Freya http://freyavision.blogspot.com/2006/08/frankenfreya.html
with a hybrid monster photochoppy visual Monsanto would be proud of.

Fascinating and timely story of the Shelleys! If only the horror was limited to one creation. This world is now saturated with bad science -arrogant science. Its crime is against Nature which is as amoral as it gets. This is the season and time of the monster -and there is no institution on earth free of grotesque corruption enough to have any moral authority to name it with a straight face. Political, religious, cultural and financial forces are working together to fashion the biggest Frank of them all.

In the original frankenstein, the monster is a creature to be pitied.
He doesnt understand what he is. the scene where he throws the little girl in the pond is interesting because he thought she would float as the flowers did and was distraught and upset when she drowned. The new monster isnt this good.

as for horror -as a genre it is instructive:

do not go outside in a nightgown to investigate a "weird" noise. If you must go, then get some real clothes and serious footwear on, get some dogs, and a reliable firearm before you proceed.

do not pick on weirdos in high school

do not touch a Quiji board

dont build a house on top of a cemetery

and so on

Aunty Belle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aunty Belle said...

Fishy,

sorry fer spookin' thangs up...sorta the season, ya' see? Yore second paragraph is dead on, Icthy.



Moi...Moi?

Oh gracious, chile' ya' know Aunty well enough to know them answers. Self regulatin' virtuous skeptics is such fun an' a pleasure.

May we know yore own thoughts:
Should there be any boundaries? If so, where? and on what *grounds* do you draw yore boundary lines?

Chick9

Freya! Oh I went over to looky-see. FABULOUS--(2006?? eeeeek!) Freya knowed her stuff.

Yep, the Monster threw the chile' in the lake--on what he thought were RATIONAL grounds--the flowers floated, why not the girl? He didn't unnerstan'...an WE doan unnerstan as much as we would like to think we does.

But worse--to mah thinkin'--is that when we unnerstan' full well we's violatin' nature's fundamental urges an principles, violatin' the nature of nature if ya will, we still do it--an thas' a sin in the deepest meanin' of the word--a grievous transgression against the essence of the thang, the orderliness of nature, when we could be workin' in concert wif' nature. It's one thang to enhance nature's principles, a whole other to try to deliberately deconstruct nature's principles an' put stuff back in some demented parody of nature. For this there will be grave penalties.

Aunty Belle said...

@ Karl
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15449959

(BBC graph of projected population 2100)

chickory said...

yar i mean immoral not "amoral". you knowed what i meant though.

History channel had a good show on the development from the Samhain to halloween - and of course, how it became the fest it is now thanks to marketing of halloween schizz. I admit, i like halloween stuff. I will carve a fresh pumpkin today. I loved the thing about how Jack o Lantern was cast out of Hell. the devil gave him an ember, which he carried in a hollowed out turnip.

Boxer said...

I've tried to leave several comments and each was lost.... it's me, not you. Now I've loaded Safari and I hope this works. Of course, I'm also late to pick up a boy from the ferry dock so I'll be back later with thoughts. I'm enjoying the comments equally.

Boxer said...

whew. it took.

moi said...

@Chickory: Yes.

@Aunty: I don't like the word "boundaries" because it implies that someone or something (namely, church and/or state) has authority over my life, and I don't recognize the sanctity of either, at least not in that regard. Rather, I believe in the sanctity of contracts.

I think the individual, the self, is the ultimate guide to morality, one that has basis in religion (but which I like to think has a broader application): Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

In other words, any action that violates the existence of the individual and steals the fruits of its labor and intellect is immoral. You can't take my life, you can't assault my body, you can't enslave my labor, you can't steal my stuff. Leave me alone in that regard, and I'll leave you alone in return. If either of us breaks that essential contract, we take our grievances to court.

Call me simplistic, but I simply do not see the value of further mucking up one's way in the world. What's wrong with simple? Religious and political zealots are so ate up with trying to control everything in the mistaken belief that if we the people are left to our own devices, the fabric of "polite" society will be so rent beyond recognition, that soon we'll all end up living like a bunch of baboons.

Yes, nature and science are amoral. They are mechanistic. So what? The only thing that matters is the actions of the humans populating the universe.

And if I am against science running amok, so to speak, in the form of cloning or stem cell research, it is not because I believe this science is mechanistic. Rather, like Karl, I am "conservative" about our position as a species on this planet, with its limited resources and yet seeming unending quest to keep everyone alive and baby-birthing at all costs.

As for what I find to be horrifying (other than Crocs and jorts), not much. Horror is either a baroque exploration of the human impulse to play God (Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), which to me simply says: naughty, naughty human! Asking questions for which you have no right to the answers! Or it tells us there are malevolent forces in our lives over which we have no control, namely, Satan, vampires, poltergeists, and their ilk, forcing us to challenge our belief in the solidity and dependability of the material world. Which to me is pointless and why I'm not much of a horror fan.

Aunty Belle said...

Moi,

thanky fer this serious response--luvin' this.

I git the leeetle worry that Aunty din't make somethin' clear: Aunty ain't the least opposed to science or inquiry. I favor science an' scientific inquiry.

I goes to deep sighing when folks conflate "religious people" wif' anti-science mentality. Most religious folk believe God is the author of the laws of science, an' studying science is like a peek into the Mind of God.

An', as ya note, Moi, science is mechanistic. Of course it is--but MAN ain't.

What is a horror is to treat Man as if he were nuthin' more'n a cog in a mechanistic wheel, as if Man had no purpose greater than a rock, a plant, a gopher. That's the point of the story of Frankenstein.

The context of mah post is Frankenstein (not religion).

Mary Shelley had somethin' important to tell us wif' her novel Frankenstein. What she knew personally wuz the akshul real-life consequences of Percy and Byron's ideology of Man Unbound ( The sub title of Frankenstein is Modern Prometheus).

Breaking all the boundary lines of society, religion an' tradition wuz Percy Shelley's proof of his "liberty" an' his heinous acts were considered his sacraments. He din't give a coon's cap fer Do Unto Others--an
Mary, whose own mama witnessed and barely escaped the horrors of the Reign of Terror (And wrote of it), had thus far rejected criticism of the Reign of Terror. But now, Mary knew that the blood soaked streets of Paris meant something real--and in her own real life sorrow, the consequences of Percy an' Byron's perverted ideology was a horrifying, terror indeed.

So fer Aunty, Frankenstein ain't about "naughty naughty" Q&A in the realm of science. It is about Frankenstein's utter arrogance that in the name of science he could pursue the answers at any cost--cross all boundaries, even the lives of others includin' the monster he created to USE, not to love. It is the "enlightened self interest" of Frankenstein that leads him to commit that horror.

Man's glory is that he is a creature capable of creativity, rationalism, irrationalism and emotion. It is also the source of his flaws.

Because Man has free will, while still flawed, an' not a mechanical element of the cosmos, he is capable of great love an' self sacrifice --or great destruction. Boundaries are set to protect us from Man Unbound.

Thas' why Aunty jes' doan see how it can be simple--communities draw boundary lines an' decree that "When them lines is crossed, we'll set the dawgs on ya'."

Them lines is fer when Man slips into an irrational state, when he decides he can unilaterally burst the lines of wisdom NO MATTER THE COST.

Jes' cast a glance at Wall Street, the EU, Big Agriculture, Big Pharma--see any DO UNTO OTHERS flags flyin'? Me either. Lots of misery is lyin' all about us whar' a few folks has been pursuin' "enlightened self interest" wif' a vengeance, thas' without regard to the cost to us'uns.

In the short run raping Wall Street is rational (massive profits). But the community knows that it is irrational in the long run
(destroyed economy).

Communities set the boundaries by the authority we delegate to them, accordin' to the communal standards. Moi an' Aunty cain't act as army, police, judge an' warden 24/7 or no writin' would git done an' editors will grow real real grouchy.

moi said...

I will agree with you on your point that there is a difference between man unbound and man unbidden. I spent two years in kollich studying this period in history, six months on the French Revolution and de Sade alone (yay . . . NOT), and in my opinion, the French Revolution was NOT an offshoot of the ideas of the Enlightenment. It was a bastardization of those ideals, a putsch, similar to what we see today with the Wall Street protestors. On the other hand, look at what our founders did in this country, based on the same ideals.

So what I'm disagreeing with you on is that the Enlightenment, and ensuing Romantic movement, is responsible for the moral vacuum in which we find ourselves sucked today. In fact, I see little of either of those movements' ideal hanging around today.

I think you and I also agree that the universe is mechanistic, but humans are not. I think we also may agree that the the purpose of humankind is to lead a moral life, i.e., one that ensures our continued existence and happiness based on our ability to reason. Unlike animals, who do not have this ability, whose minds are not tools, but storage units for their various instinctual impulses.

So, yes, humankind needs "boundaries." But where I disagree with you, if I read between your lines correctly, is that there is some kind of religious line humans must tow in order to be moral. I say, no, there isn't. The only line humans must tow is the line of their own self-interest—but not in a Sade-ian way. It is my contention that religion, in fact, has been more damaging to humankind living moral lives than the isolated incidences of man playing God. And I'm not talking about the humble individuals who commit themselves to quiet lives of worship and faith, doing good work leaving everyone else alone. I'm talking about the institutions, I'm talking about those institution's so called leaders. I'm talking about the proselytizers and busy bodies who make your and my piety, or lack thereof, their personal business. Look around you at these people and ask yourself what it is they want from you, heck, ask THEM, and then tell me, who is enlightened?

Aunty Belle said...

Luvin' that this exchange is fruitful--amen to reasoned exchanges!


I do view the French Revolution as the main exhibit fer all that is wrong wif' Enlightenment philosophy--for that philosophy understands liberty as nearest kin to license, an' worse, it trusts that most men will do well--it lead to the Human Potential philosophy which holds (+/-) that Man is making progress through time an' history, but I say he ain't.

Oh sure--Man is makin' technical progress--fancy techno toys an/ all, but a simple review of history an' literature reveals the harsh truth that Man, in his heart an' soul, has not made much progress toward virtue --why? because no political system can bring that about--it is a one by one, person by person project.

Thus no Enlightenment theory or philosophy can bring about a better society--because the units of society are individuals. Simple history indicates that since the Enlightenment, virtue has not improved.

The standard line is that the Enlightenment freed man fer inquiry--a partial truth, the corollary is that it also posited that inquiry required unbound freedom (license), again trustin' that most would be good--an as ya point out, Wall Street is exhibit A fer the prosecution.

The utterly different character of Revolution in the US that led to our freedom is a huge topic that I hope we explore another time--suffice heah to remind ourselves that there's several other forces at work on this side of the Atlantic not at work in France.

Moi, (an' all ) to yore point of iffin' a body can be moral wif'out religion? It may surprise some readers to learn that Aunty do not hold that a religious adherence is the prerequisite fer moral life or development of virtue. Repeat: Religion is not absolute requirement fer the moral life.

I does think that certain (and few) religious teachings (scripture based) is the best an' surest guide for Man. Very few folks can judge themselves objectively, not subject to personal inclinations or the cultural standards in which they are born.

Aunty is of the school that believes that Jesus meant what He said, an He was very precise an' direct:

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

If He is the Truth, then all true thangs reflect Him. A person living in a manner that be an honest attempt to live true to the observable Truth of Things can be moral. Man is made in the image of God. That is, we are ordered toward God, even if we ain't never heered of God. He made us to respond to order. That is also why we crave order, attempt to bring order out of chaos. An ordered life is a moral life. An ordered garden grows good fruit, an ordered society does too.

All evil is a disorder. Minor disorder causes minor discomfort, but a choice for systemic disorder in personal lives leads to systemic disorder in the society that accommodates grave disorder.

It is, if ya will, the mechanistic law of the cosmos--evil is disorder, virtue seeks to return to order even if in the short haul, it is hard sloggin'.

Aunty Belle said...

Program note to all readers:

Aunty is also of the mind-set that seen that Jesus din't collar nobody an' force them to follow him. He proposed, in fact, a very tough row to hoe if ya' did choose to follow Him. In John 6:66 we have a most poignant scene where many disciples left Jesus because they found His teaching a "hard saying."

Aunty notices that Jesus din't run after them an say, "Wait! Hold up there,fellas, I can tone that down--we can accommodate this or that issue if ya prefer."

He let them go. No forced affiliation.

Thas' mah model.

Ya woan find no attempt heah to proselytize.

Y'all will find an energetic defense of orthodox Christian teachings when it arises from the subject or the comments. An' I'se pretty laid back about any energetic rebuttals anybody wants to offer, long as they keep their vocabulary dignified an' modest.

Fer the most part, Aunty keep the Front Porch free of "serious" topics including direct religious topics.

Mah view of the commission to Evangelize is two fold:

1)Live it the best ya can ( St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel. Use words if you have to.")

2) an' when anyone inquires after yore view of the matters of the world, introduce any salient Christian view--propose the Christian vision. But respect the freedom that is God -given to all Mankind.

God din't make to puppets. He wanted you to freely choose Him. He is a Lover, not a tyrant.

Final observation: One of the challenges fer Christian apologetics is that folks want to see a perfect result from the application of Christian teachings, an' they want to see perfect leaders in the Christian communities.

It's a large assignment to unravel that idea --too big fer now.

May I jes' ask all who mull on this stuff to think back on the bible stories ya know--how Jesus never called fer a change of government, or the formation of lobbies to force governments to do this or that for "the poor" or "the unemployed" or "the uninsured."


We tend to overlook the model He did give us--a community of believers who were to live accordin' to waht they believed--that is theor main witness. An' note too that early on St. Paul is takin' a few backsliders to task fer dissolute livin', backbitin' an general disorderliness.

The meanin' of that fer Aunty is that Christians ain't perfect, but the idea is that Christians doan give into disorder--they doan rename it as a good thang (dumbing down morality) they keep movin' toward a more perfect manner--a deeper love fer virtue fer virtue's own sake. Do the right thang because it is right.

Some Christians an nearly all observers of Christians seem to think that we should achieve perfection on this earth--but that is not what Christ said. He din't say, "One Day all My teachings will be internalized in all men an they will create a perfect society."

Jesus has much higher goals--yore soul, not yore society. Society passes away, souls live in eternity. We are to work to transform our families, communities an' nations--yes, that is a job we are given as Christians.

But not by force or manipulation--by demonstratin' that conformity to the Truth of Thangs as ordered in this universe, is to live well, to assist each other in love (not force) to work for the common good.

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