As simplified by Kanas (2018 pp.104), humanism is the ethical and philosophical perspective with emphasis on the value of human beings, either individually or collectively. Thus, this paper discusses various viewpoints on humanism in terms of religion, social classification, and utopia and gender equality. The philosophers being discussed include the likes of Shakespeare, Sor Juan Ines, Descartes, and Voltaire. The authors ask diverse questions on humanity, most of which are answered in this paper.
Thomas More’s Utopia (A Man for All Seasons)
Thomas More wrote utopia’ as a means of revolutionizing the European society, particularly in the Renaissance whereby the likes of Da Vinci, Galileo, and Michelangelo had made strides in art and science. While the text on utopia was not meant to be an antitheist, Sir Thomas More directed his intentions on the changes taking place at the time. Sir More’s beliefs went against King Henry VII’s divorce and the need to claim the church, whereby he argues, the church is a spiritual supremacy determined by God [A Man of All Seasons, 1988].
Religion informs Thomas More as a pious and religious man, who did not tolerate other faiths and convictions. Although not displayed much in the movie, Sir T. More was known for his campaigns against heresy, and he even burnt six heretics. Despite his religious view, Thomas demonstrated humanism by standing for God’s work over King Henry VII, who was his dear friend. He believed in servicing the people over personal love a trait that lacked in the king. Hence, regarding the possibility of utopia, it depends on an individual’s definition and perspective on the word utopia. Personally, I do not think utopia can work, because the world cannot be perfect. The world will forever consist of human beings, who are characteristic of imperfections. In essence, we cannot eliminate faultiness in the world without getting rid of human beings.
Cervantes’ Don Quixote
Don Quixote’s difficulty recklessness and inability to understand is attributed to his idiocy and the belief in imaginary things. Sancho Panza keeps acting as his sidekick because his aspirations to become a governor, which Don Quixote promised. As an uneducated lad, Sacho believes Quixote’s madness, and this leads both of them into crazy adventures. Unluckily, Sancho Panza starts to believe in Don Quixote’s imaginations whereby he starts to see Dulcinea be truly the Don’s lower. The concept of the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza still exists in today’s world.
While Sancho acts as the realist, Don Quixote represents the imaginative individual who prefers living in a fantasy world by occasionally escaping the reality. While Sancho starts as a timid person, he later succumbs to Don’s imaginations. Sacho doesn’t stop the Don and he instead says, I am myself of peace and never fond of feuds and quarrels (Cervantes and Smollet,). Readers easily understand Don Quixote as a representation of different things. He first starts as an imaginative person, but later realizes his stupidity. As a peasant, I would most probably think of Don Quixote as a dreamer, which is a good thing; however, the manner at which he persists on imagining things is excessive and thus he needs some doses of reality.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Mel Gibson film)
We have not inherited much of Shakespearean performances and attention to the audience. Rather, we have managed to develop and evolve our works to fit the modern setting. Concerning humanism, nothing is different from Shakespeare’s time of writing Hamlet and today’s world. For instance, Machiavelli’s rules are notable in Hamlet, which is evidenced through Claudius. As a way of securing his position as the heir apparent, Claudius married Gertrude and then killed his brother so that he could take over the throne. Thus, this is Machiavelli’s rule of obtaining whatever you want at all cost.
On humanism in Hamlet, the To Be Or Not To Be’ speech is a reflection of a humanistic viewpoint whereby Shakespeare (via Hamlet) believes that we are all agents of our lives and humanity in general. Because of this, the movie Hamlet feels modern to me, especially with the stressful meltdown Hamlet goes through. For instance, he cries, Am I supposed to put up with this crap forever? Just feels like it would be easier to end it all now (Hamlet, 1990). Such suicidal and sentimental expressions are timeless.
The Hamlet film questions the divinity of kings whereby Shakespeare depicts Claudius as an unfair king, who considers little of others’ feelings and thoughts. The king particularly restrains the women’s freedom and desires. It is unlikely to classify Hamlet as a misogynistic play; however, it clearly indicates Claudius’ misogyny. Both Gertrude and Ophelia have minimal power due to social, economic and legal restrictions, which end up placing women in difficult situations.
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Netflix series)
Sor Juana Ines benefits from both Spain’s ruling class and Mexico’s culture because this allows her to get the best of both sides. For instance, she received support from both the elite and the peasants and only received resistance from the church and misogynistic men. Without the viceregal, she would not have received the education she needed, and with Mexico’s cultural up bringing, Sor Juana Ines became popular and her views were supported across the country. Unluckily, it this representation worked against her when she could not have a particular group to stand for her.
Regarding her point and what she wanted, Sor Juan Ines defended the education rights for women and even openly criticized men who condemned prostitutes yet privately hire their services. Her thoughts on the church would be valid today and understandable because education is accessible for all genders both men and women. Moreover, her views on educated women’s role in the church would be welcomed in today’s world (Paz, 1988). Women no longer struggle the way Sor Juana Ines did, which makes her a great example of the importance of an educated woman in a society. Her determination to learn and become educated would be impactful to peasants, who would work hard to make similar achievements.
Descartes’ definition of truth is the rationalism that we do not need real-world experiences to have knowledge. Well, this trivial did not surprise me because most of us learn of something through teachings, reading and wise thoughts. However, the fact he dismissed experiences as non-requirements in acquiring knowledge was amazement. Luckily enough, after scientific research to challenge Descartes’ views, it definitely makes more sense regarding the acquisition of knowledge. That is, as opposed by Locke, real knowledge is a result of nature and thus an individual cannot gain knowledge solely on thinking.
After watching the movie Vatel, it is clear that humanism does not apply to everyone. For instance, Mr. Vatel could not marry Anne de Montausier due to the difference in their social statuses (Vatel, 2000, 00:59:12). Moreover, Descartes’ rationalism differs with Louis XIV’s absolutism whereby the latter is more about social stereotyping whilst rationalism is based on actions and opinions detached from religious and emotional response.
Voltaire’s cynicism is still referenced in the modern world because it critiqued the unfair balance of leadership power and biased taxation, which are applicable in today’s context. In his book, Candide, Voltaire demonstrates deism whereby he describes God as a Dervish sending a ship with goods to another country, but without the worry of mice or condition of the ship. Voltaire believed in a God that lacks supervision, hence deism. Religious representation in Candide is important because the travel to Eldorado indicated a world without religion and yet the society operated in a delightful manner.
If Voltaire were a Catholic, his fate would have been different. Perhaps, he would have been martyred, and he definitely would have faced resistance from the church, just like Sor Juana Ines. Nonetheless, with his belief in an overseeing supreme, maybe Voltaire would have been spared for having different opinions. However, I doubt the probability of this pardon, mainly because heresies were serious offenses during those times. More importantly, it is vitally significant to understand that Voltaire did not rail against Christianity, but he rather criticized the institution, which was corrupted (Voltaire and Fern, 2009).
The Candide story reminds me of the movie Vatel. In a similar manner, Candide is denied the opportunity to marry the love of his due to their differences in social class. Both Amadeus and Vatel support Voltaire’s cynicism whereby social stereotypes are rampant amongst society. It also confirms Voltaire’s definition of an unfair humanism among people, which makes it difficult to understand from a religious point of view. For instance, in the movie Amadeus, Salieri cannot understand how God would grant Mozart with so much talent despite practicing hedonism (Amadeus, 1984, 01:15:38). Better yet, Voltaire’s depiction of humanism is notable in his writings whereby he believes in defending someone to the death despite disagreeing with their thoughts and beliefs.
Based on movies, lectures, and readings, I agree that art matters a lot and that without it, humanity would lack culture and identity. As reiterated by Gombrich (1987, pp.221), every society uses art to address issues that influence its cultural form, from which philosophers can debate upon thus expand human knowledge to other regions. In the current world, being an artist means the capability to build and create something that expresses feelings and emotions. I honestly believe that an artist does not necessarily have to perfect something, but he/she ought to move to a new and different creativity.
Today’s artists are mostly self-taught and business oriented, thus proof of a tremendous change in the artistic world. Moreover, the definition of being an artist has evolved whereby the term has become more fluid and does not have a fixed definition. Unlike the past, an artist was someone who produced drawings, music, paintings, and sculptures with the intentions of earning money or simply for fun. However, the definition of being an artist is more about anyone who is skilled enough to complete an impressive artistic task and occupation.
In essence, the culture of art has widened up in the past decades and it no longer exclusive to painters and sculptors. Today, an artist is anyone in the careers such as writing, acting, singing, photography, poetry and directing of movies. It has become less of inborn talent and passion, and more about a career. Art has also evolved to be technologically advanced, which has enabled artists to create more beautiful works than ever before.
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Dir. Milo Forman. Barrandov Studios: the Czech Republic, (1984) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2SwQ8NJ
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Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Icon Productions: United States (1999) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BdeMgT
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Dir. Roland Joff©. Gaumont Film Company: France (2000) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2QeYXiR
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