Tag Archives: Enlightenment

From the 18th century museums to the present Jewish Museum in New York city

The great museums of the 18th and 19th centuries — the British Museum in London (1753), the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg (1764), the Louvre in Paris (1792), the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (1891), and many others — were encyclopedic in scope and ambition. Born, in part, of an imperial impulse, they aimed to demonstrate the geographical and intellectual range of great national powers by becoming repositories of some of the most precious objects on earth. Simultaneously, they were shaped by the Enlightenment conviction that both the natural and human worlds could be understood and even mastered by subjecting their diverse offerings to scientific analysis and discerning the universal laws at work in the midst of miscellany. The Enlightenment museum tried to answer great human questions: where did we come from? what is the significance of what we see? how have we come to be its overseer?

For humankind such questions are important and should regularly be posed. At the same time musea should be a reflection of peoples and their culture. One expects than enough artefacts, letters, paintings and objects that can be a witness of the culture spoken about.

By the turn of the 20th century everywhere, interest in ethnicity and folk heritage was growing. In 1908, the composers Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály traveled the Hungarian countryside, memorializing the music of Magyars; the American ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore, foremost American authority of her time on the songs and music of American Indian tribes, and widely published author on Indian culture and life-styles, was recording, for the Smithsonian, 3,000 wax cylinders of songs by Indian tribes. In Eastern Europe, Shlomo Zanvl Rappoport (pen name S. Ansky), educated in a Ḥasidic environment was as a young man attracted to the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskala) and to the populist doctrines of the Narodniki, a group of socialist revolutionaries, became conducting an ethnographic survey among the rural Jewish communities of Russia and Poland.

Cyrus Adler 001.jpg

Cyrus Adler (1863–1940), American educator, Jewish religious leader and scholar.

Along with the amassing of music and oral testimony came the amassing of objects. At the Smithsonian, a Judaica collection was begun in 1887 by Cyrus Adler, who, having obtained the nation’s first doctorate in Semitics at Johns Hopkins University, would found the American Jewish Historical society in 1892. In 1904, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York received a gift of 26 artifacts that it displayed in its library; they became the seeds of the Jewish Museum, which after World War II would move into its current home in the Warburg mansion on Fifth Avenue. A similarly small-scale collection, mainly of family heirlooms, was housed in the Hebrew Union College, the seminary of Reform Judaism, in Cincinnati. In 1913, the holdings became incorporated as the first Jewish museum in the United States; today its successor is the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles.

Such were the halting beginnings of the Jewish museum in the United States, and once again a difference is to be observed. In other museums, collections of artefacts were often associated with a culture’s thriving continuity; the objects were there to testify to that culture’s power and range. By contrast, a Jewish religious object put on exhibit was no longer playing its vital role in synagogue or home; taken out of its context and function, it had been turned into a relic, more closely resembling the artefacts of a fading Native American tribe in a museum of natural history than a 17th-century Dutch portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

JTS building at 3080 Broadway in Manhattan

Warburg mansion in New York, today the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum was founded in 1904 with only 26 pieces and was originally located in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1946 the museum moved to the Felix Warburg mansion (see Warburg family) located on New York City’s “Museum Mile.” The Jewish Museum is one of the foremost museums of its kind.

The present exhibition and the position of the museum is reviewed in the article: New York Jewish Museum’s Discomfort with Religion

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Looking at a conservative review of Shop Class As Soul Craft

Some might think we are

“constantly striving to develop lives of meaning without any outside recourse. The soul is increasingly insulated from the world outside our heads.” {Against Kant and Consumerism}

but today lots of people strive to enrich themselves with material wealth and consider their live worthwhile when they can be more wealthier and better showing off than others. Lots of people think they miss enough money or enough gadgets to enjoy fully life. For many everything seems to turn around the gathering of as much money as possible.

Lots of people do not look for the depth of meaning of life and are not so much interested in the others around them and the influence or necessity of them for them.

thisissueappearsThe American Conservative in the May/June 2015 article speaks about Matthew Crawford his books “Shop Class As Soul Craft” plus “The World Beyond Your Head” and looks at ‘the subtitle to his latest book which promises a look at our “age of distraction“.

The article says:

The premise of Crawford’s book is that our distractedness is merely symptomatic of a deeper cultural defect, a misrepresentation of the self that has permeated our society. He traces this back to Enlightenment philosophy, especially the thought of Immanuel Kant. Enlightenment thinkers of the late 17th and 18th centuries presented a view of the person that contrasted drastically with medieval and ancient thought: they put unprecedented emphasis on the rational individual as separate from society or community. They posited new theories about freedom founded upon reason and self-determination, with epistemological roots in ideas such as Descartes’s famous claim that “I think therefore I am.” Kant believed that knowledge and ethics must necessarily be situated within the mind—that existence must be interpreted through the autonomy of the individual.

The writer thinks

The soul is increasingly insulated from the world outside our heads.

Whereas in the real world, Crawford writes,

“we are subject to the heteronomy of things; the hazards of material reality,”

and continues

what Kant has given us is our modern identification of freedom with choice, in which choice is a “pure flashing forth” of the individual will.

that identification of freedom with choice has been there already from the period of the beginning in the Garden of Eden. Man had the choice either to follow his Creator His Will or to go his own way. Man choose the latter.

Thousand of years later, many think the world around them limits them and nature is to  block  their leg.

dumb nature is understood to be threatening to our freedom as rational beings, it becomes attractive to construct a virtual reality that will be less so, a benignly nice [reality] where there is no conflict between self and world

How many people do not want to be on their own and have the world turning around themselves. For many it is most important that everything turns around their own “I” so that they can say with proud: “I am“.

The associate editor of  The American Conservative Gracy Olmstead writes:

Consumer culture tries to destroy the discomforts and imperfections that are necessarily part of life.

Is not there one of the greatest problems of our present society, which has put most of its hopes on the material things it can require to make its own. It is not that they want to hoard things, but they love to gather all the newest things so that they can show off against others who have to do with older things.

Though the writer of the article finds that modern cars are designed in an insulating and distracting way, we more see them as copies of each other not having any more the specific personality or difference as the cars had in the 1950ies, when each car looked so specific and really could get its fans for one or another model and each model with its own flashy personal colours. to us it looks like that car owners lost the interest to have a car or any other object (clothes, houses) that look very personal and have their won story to tell. People do want all the same and are willing to cue for the latest gadget. Everybody else has to be able to see that they have this or that brand and can afford this or that mobile or i-pad, which has to be of the latest and newest ‘invention’.

Concerning the cars we could agree with the idea the  critic has

Everything within a car is constructed to give a sense of isolation and ease.

When the author would mean that the person who is driving the car would like to have the feeling to being his own world, having his own little world where nobody else around is being part of it. When the music can play loud it does not matter that others can hear it in their bathroom or are whipped out of bed. It is there music and everybody else should have to hear that is the best music to listen to.

Naturally the cultivation of “me-worlds” extends beyond auto-mobile design, but form men this might still be the thing to make their ‘me’, though the i-pad has taken a lot of that place.

Olmstead finds that Crawford spends a good deal of the book arguing that an Enlightenment approach to epistemology leads to narcissism: an understanding of the world that revolves entirely around the self and writes

The narcissist “treats objects as props” and struggles to comprehend them as objects with a reality of their own. The fantasy of autonomy, when full-grown, results in a “project of open-ended, ultimately groundless self-making.” {Against Kant and Consumerism}

Interestingly, Crawford identifies our treatment of others as the root of online narcissism in the age of Facebook:

“We increasingly deal with others through representations of them that we have,” he writes. “This results in interactions that are more contained, less open-ended, than a face-to-face encounter or a telephone call, giving us more control.”

Automobiles, the reviewer says

“can foster circumspection—literally, looking around for others and regarding oneself as an object for others in turn—or a collection of atomized me-worlds.” Our experience becomes ever more “mediated by representations, which remove us from whatever situation we inhabit directly, as embodied beings who do things.”

Throughout the ages the world has received its many distractions. The tools may have changed but the aim and way has stayed the same. Today “virtual reality” allows many to find back lost friends or schoolmates and gives the opportunity to interact with more, and more diverse, people, not fewer and not more homogeneous.

For American society to emerge from the distractions of consumer culture and virtual existence

Ms Olmstead finds

we must look beyond the symptoms and consider the disease: the shroud of individualism that prevents us from fully embracing the real world.

The individuals looking for themselves to acquire as much material wealth as possible have to come to see that they would be better to work at their social contacts spending more time to be with each other in real life than in chat sessions, never going deep in a conversation. For sure we we must

cultivate an awareness of—and love for—the world beyond ourselves.

The Edge Foundation / Flickr

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Preceding articles:

Material wealth, Submission and Heaven on earth

Why “Selfishness” Doesn’t Properly Mean Being Shortsighted and Harmful to Others

The I Am to explore

little i

Path/Walk/Sink

Comic: The Last Time I Felt Accepted For Who I Am

Be realistic, do not pretend

The world starts with yourself

Believe in yourself!

Believe in your greatness

Find Inspiration and Follow Your Dreams

Wishy-Washy…

There can only be hope when there is a will to be and say “I am”

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Additional reading:

  1. Souls and Religions with Nirvana and light
  2. For those who make other choices
  3. Being Religious and Spiritual 1 Immateriality and Spiritual experience
  4. Detroit, A city not to be understood

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Cosmina Craciunescu looks on Positivism

Positivism and its developments in Europe

Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that information derived from sensory experience, logical and mathematical treatments, being the exclusive source of all authoritative knowledge, stating that only in science there is a valid knowledge or truth.

Positivism is an older quarrel between philosophy and poetry later being described as a middle way between the humanities and the sciences. It was laid out by Plato , and it states that the only authentic knowledge is the one that allows for positive verification and assumes that valid knowledge exists only in science.

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Among the most important Enlightenment thinkers, we can refer to Auguste Comte, who was a French philosopher and sociologist. He followed the creation of a positivist philosophy, and embraced the concept of the evolution of the modern society and of the people through time. The idea of progress was central to Comte’s new science, called sociology, which will eventually lead to the historical consideration of every science.

The positivist phase requires a complete understanding of the universe and the world around us and states that the society should never know if it is in this positivist phase.

As for scientific positivism, it was considered one of the most influential ideologies of progress in the early modern period and had a powerful impact in Europe during the course of 19th Century. It took form in France and had a great impact over other European movements.
The contemporary positivism actually meant the use of scientific methods to uncover the laws according to which both physical and human events occur, while sociology would tend to synthesize all knowledge in order to make a better society.
Positivism is a way of understanding based on science, (Auguste Comte) in which people do not rely on the faith in God, rather on the science behind humanity.

Moritz Schlick, the founding father of logical...

Moritz Schlick, the founding father of logical positivism and the Vienna Circle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Logical positivism, later called logical empiricism, is a school of philosophy that combines empiricism, the idea that the observational evidence is indispensable for the knowledge of the world, along with a version of rationalism, being the idea that our knowledge includes a component that is not derived from observation.
Logical positivism developed in a group of discussions called the First Vienna Circle that was organized after the end of the First World War. Some of the important names that tried to support this movement were Hans Reichenbach, Otto Neurath and Rudolph Carnap. The main idea that was supported by them was called synthetic a priori propositions – meaning that the rejection of metaphysics had no meaning, without actually being wrong. In the end, this project did not seem to last for too long.

Stephen Hawking is a recent high profile advocate of positivism, regarding the physical sciences. In his work, called The Universe in a Nutshell , –

English: NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.

English: NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

– “…a scientific theory is a mathematical model that describes and codifies the observations we make. A good theory should describe a large range of phenomena on the basis of a few simple postulates and will make definite predictions that can be tested…if one takes the positivist position, as I do, one cannot say what time actually is. All one can do is to describe what has been found to be a very good mathematical model for time and say what predictions it makes…”

Through the Vienna Circle, the positivist movement emerged in Europe in the late 1920s. The members of the Vienna Circle had a great antipathy toward the German speculative philosophy and toward sweeping metaphysical theories that had flourished on the continent all throughout the 20th Century.
An interesting aspect of the positivist movement was that the positivists regarded women as being superior to men. Comte praised women as being the vehicles of feelings over reason, of morality over politics .

 Positivism in the Frame of International Relations

In international relations, positivism has been the dominant epistemological point of view. In the theory of the International Relations, positivism tends to create knowledge that is being supported by four foundational assumptions.
The first one is that methodologies that apply in the scientific world can be assumed to perform the same in the non-scientific world. This is referred to as the unity of science .
The second assumption would constitute the fact that there is a clear delineation between values and facts , as well as the belief that facts remain neutral between various theories.
The third assumption is that both the natural and the social environments have regularities that can be uncovered by theories, being the same kind of process that is used when a scientist approaches the natural world, also being used in the context of the social research.
Positivism has a major role to play in international relations theory. It is considered to be one of the explicit alternatives among many, but rather as the implicit Gold Standard which stands against all values that were known before this particular time, along with all of the approaches that were evaluated in the past decades.
International theory underpins and informs international practice even if there is a lengthy lag between the major theories all the way to their absorption in the social, political and economic life.
In the context of international relations, positivism is regarded by scientists in different manners. Based on the works of John Locke and David Hume , the central premise of positivism is that science must be based on a Phenomenalist Nominalism expressing the notion that only statements about a particular phenomena which can be directly experiences can count as knowledge, and that any statements that do not refer to independent atomized objects cannot be granted the status of justified knowledge.

 – Cosmina Craciunescu

  Continue reading: Social Constructivism and Positivism in the Context of International Relations

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    Logical Positivism is an outdated, radical idea that started in the Vienna Circle as far back as the early 1800s. The main view that logical positivists held is that no statement is legitimate or meaningful until it can be proven true or false. In the minds of logical positivists, personal opinions and values only warps science, and it can only be objective through the scientific method. During or class discussion, with the help of a spectrum of ideologies such as instrumentalism and postmodernism, the majority of the class came to the conclusion that science is not objective. This agreement was based on the idea that science is about the process of which we come to a conclusion, rather than the conclusion itself. Logical positivists would disagree with this analogy, as they believe that science is about coming to a proven legitimate conclusion rather than the process.
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  • Quote for the Day – C.S. Peirce’s Refutation of Positivism (philosophyandpsychology.wordpress.com)
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    he chief results of empiriocriticism are theories that concern concepts and scientific laws very different from those of classical positivism. Forms of positivism that developed later, including logical positivism and neopositivism, which are directly related to critical positivism. Positivism and more usually logical positivism is also used to refer to the radical empiricism and scientism advanced at the beginning of the 20th century by the Vienna Circle. It is considered to be the main influence on sociological positivism, through the philosophy of theorists including Czech-American philosopher Ernest Nagel (1901-1985), philosopher of science Carl Gustav Hempel (1905-1997) and American sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld (1903-1976).

 

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