Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

Our Deist Forefathers November 8, 2010

“Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear,” wrote Thomas Jefferson to his nephew in 1787. Thomas Jefferson and the other early writers of the American colonies, understood the ideals behind the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was, by definition, “a movement of intellectuals who popularized science and applied reason to human affairs” (Bishop 301). Reason – that, oh-so taken for granted trait that sets humans apart from the other primates – was the driving force behind the Age of Enlightenment, the impetus behind the movement’s key values, and is clearly seen in the United States Declaration of Independence.

The Age of Enlightenment began in the marketplace of ideas. As nobles rubbed elbows with the middle class in the salons of Paris (Bishop 301); as the upper and lower classes mingled in the coffeehouses of England (Jurich 5); as the ideas of the one were shared with the other and vice versa, “new ideas percolated” through them both (Bishop 301). Just as the “exploration and colonization” of the New World widened their physical horizons, this exposure to new people widened the horizons of the mind. The philosophy behind the Enlightenment was largely “[i]nspired by the Scientific Revolution” resulting in an increase in “intellectual inquiry” (301).

This newfound increase in questions and the tool of Science with which to answer them led to many key values, three of which were: 1) the belief that “politics and history” follow natural, universal laws just as gravity does; 2) the understanding that reason could bring a “prosperity” that superstitious beliefs could not; and 3) an understanding that the “chief barrier to human progress and happiness was not human nature,” as was taught by the Christian faith, but rather “social intolerance and injustice” (301).

The Declaration of Independence, the paper that formally severed ties between the thirteen colonies and their overseas oppressor, is a document which embraces these ideals of Enlightenment. With language such as “Laws of Nature” (retrieved from regarding the rights of the people, the writers reveal their belief that politics are governed by natural, universal laws, not just the laws put in place by men. By the fact of their parting with the King, who the Christian church taught was appointed by God (Romans 13:1 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” NKJV), the writers revealed that they understood the second key value: reason trumps religious superstition. They did not see a god appointed king. They saw a king who was not doing his job. They looked at the facts, applied reason to their situation, and decided that a merit based, rather than religiously based, government would bring the colonies greater prosperity. They revealed their understanding of the third value with the famous sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” ( The traditional belief was that human nature, being corrupt, needed to be ruled by one appointed by god, be that a religious leader such as the Pope or a civic leader such as a king. The writers of the Declaration of Independence believed, in accordance with the Enlightenment, that the impediments to happiness, success, prosperity, and progress, rested not in a fundamental flaw in humans but in the flaws of the systems surrounding them. They understood that injustice, inequality, intolerance, and ignorance were the obstacles that needed to be overcome. It is clear from this early American document that its writers were writing in agreement with Enlightenment philosophy.

The Enlightenment had many impulses and factors affecting its development but the primary force was reason. It was reason that led to the Age of Enlightenment, reason which formed the key values, and reason that led Thomas Jefferson and others to draft the Declaration of Independence. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason,” and it is clear from the Declaration of Independence, that was not an option.

Works Cited

Bishop, Philip E.  Adventures in the Human Spirit. 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2011.

Declaration of Independence. 24 October, 2010. <;.

Franklin, Benjamin. Poor Richard’s Almanack. 1758. 24 October, 2010. <;.

Jefferson, Thomas. 1787. Letter to his nephew. 24 October, 2010. <>.

Jurrich, Nick. Espresso: From bean to cup. Seattle, WA: Missing Link Press, 1991.


Read a Fairy Tale, Find a Value September 29, 2010

Filed under: educational,Religious,writing — Addicted to Yarn @ 3:55 pm
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Here is another brilliant essay from yours truly. Am I proud of this and the last few? No. Are they earning me an A in a class I detest? Yes. So here it is. Another brilliantly bullshitted piece of work from Becky “makes-shit-up-better-than-anyone” Walker. Without further ado, I give you “Read a Fairy Tale, Find a Value.”

Betrayal is how The Arabian Nights begins. It is a betrayal of such magnitude that it births the rest of the story into existence. The betrayal of one unfaithful spouse leads to the revelation of another, which leads to a King who seeks “refuge from women’s malice and slight” (7) by marrying anew each night and having his ‘wife’ executed each morn, least she dishonor him the next day. Three years later, this leads a young girl to offer herself as ‘a ransom for the virgin daughters of Moslems and the cause of their deliverance from his hands” (8). In order to forestall her death, Scheherazade, for that was the girl’s name, begins to tell tales, each leading to the next, and thus, The Arabian Nights is told. Every culture has values and those values are revealed in the culture’s literature. Just as one will find that the Western European culture values childhood by reading the stories of Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood, or beauty by reading Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, so will reading through the introduction and the first two tales Scheherazade tells the King, The Fisherman and the Jinni and The Ensorceled Prince, reveal to the observant reader values which are important to the Islamic culture; the values of faithfulness, justice, and cleverness.

It is clear from the very beginning that faithfulness is highly valued in the Islamic culture. Before the tales truly begin, we are introduced to two kings whose wives are both unfaithful. Shah Zaman, upon seeing the adultery of his queen, was overcome with “excessive grief” (2) and his health began to suffer. When his brother, King Shahryar, had his wife’s unfaithfulness revealed to him, he cried, “By Allah, life is naught but one great wrong” (5) and together the brothers left their kingdoms until they could find another who shared their “calamity” (5). After finding such a one (who, the kings said, had suffered a “greater mishap” (7) than they), King Shahryar returned to his kingdom with the aforementioned vow which led Scheherazade to tell her tales. The second of her tales features yet another example of unfaithfulness. Again a man, this time a young Prince, had been “cockolded” by his wife. When he saw the betrayal with his own eyes, he was mad with grief. Repetition of a theme reveals its importance and thus, it is revealed that in the Islamic culture, as in many others, unfaithfulness is a thing to be dreaded and avoided while faithfulness is something to be valued and valued highly.

As faithfulness is valued, unfaithfulness is met with justice, another value the Islamic culture merits highly. Shah Zaman enacts the death penalty upon his adulterous wife and her lover immediately upon discovery. King Shahryar commands his Wazir to take the Queen and “smite her to death for she hath broken her plight and her faith” (7). The young Prince who was betrayed by his wife is unable to enact his own justice as she, through dark magic (another betrayal, this time of Allah himself), turned his lower body to stone. However, in his stead stands a Sultan, who upon learning of his plight, promotes the cause of justice by restoring the Prince to health, his people to humanity, and his kingdom to its form, and also by bringing the sorcerous to justice by ending her life. These punishments, harsh as they are by modern standards, show how deeply the Islamic culture values justice.

Unfaithfulness leads to justice and justice to the manner in which it is enacted and that is through cleverness. Cleverness, Arabian Nights reveals, is also seen as a virtue. It is, perhaps, valued higher than the others as its theme is repeated more often – in every tale, in fact. It first appears in the introduction. The two kings, while searching for one who had shared the injustice of infidelity, come upon a Jinni who has stolen away a woman on her wedding night and has kept her locked away at the bottom of the sea so that no man may have her but himself. In retribution to such a heinous act, she has taken over 570 lovers saying, “Of a truth this Ifrit bore me off on my bride night…that I might remain chaste and honest, quotha! that none save himself might have connection with me. But I have lain under as many of my kind as I please” (7). Scheherazade, before going into the King’s chamber, told her sister, “Note well what directions I entrust to thee!” and proceeds to instruct her in how to convince the king into letting Scheherazade tell a story, “delectable and delightsome” (12). Her first tale is The Fisherman and the Jinni, which tells of a fisherman who finds a stoppered bottle while he is fishing. He removes the stopper, releasing a Jinni who had sworn to kill whomever opened the bottle. The fisherman pleads and begs the Jinni to spare his life but the Jinni is adamant that the fisherman must die. It is only when the fisherman is able to trick the Jinni into returning to the lamp, using the old “How didst though fit into this bottle which would not hold thy hand…I will never believe it until I see thee inside with my own eyes” trick, that he is saved (16). The Sultan, who released the young Prince from his curse in The Ensorceled Prince, also uses trickery to enact justice. He pretends to be a slave (the infirm lover of the adulterous woman), convincing the sorcerous queen to restore the Prince to his previous mobility, the people of the Prince’s kingdom to their rightful forms (having previously turned them into fish) and his kingdom also to its rightful form (from a pond back into a kingdom), before revealing his trickery and ending her treacherous life. Thus, in each story, cleverness, or ingenuity, plays a pivotal role, which communicates to us how highly it is valued.

Faithfulness. Justice. Cleverness. Three values which, as revealed by The Arabian Nights, are highly regarded in Islamic culture. Just as a pure heart and kindness to strangers is a cultural value seen in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, so are faithfulness, justice, and cleverness seen as cultural values throughout the tales of The Arabian Nights.

Works Cited:

Sir Richard Burton. The Arabian Nights. 21 September, 2010. <> (page numbers come from cutting and pasting into OpenOffice, Font: Times New Roman, Font size: 12)


Romerican? September 27, 2010

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The Roman empire may have fallen but many examples of their architecture and sculpture remain. The United States of America, a living and breathing nation, has many architectural and sculptural examples in its capital of Washington D.C. There are many similarities between the way Romans and Americans created art; similarities of style and form, similarities in statuary, and similarities in the symbolism within. There are as many differences between them as well. Looking at the art of these two powerful nations will shed light on some of the similarities and differences between them.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Looking first at style and form in architecture, the Pantheon in the Roman capital city of Rome, one of the more iconic buildings in the world, comes foremost to mind. Copied for centuries by architects the world over, it was the inspiration that blossomed into the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. nearly two thousand years after the Pantheon’s creation. Both feature domed roofs and drum-like supporting walls. The Pantheon was originally on a pedestal but the surrounding land has crept up and access to the Pantheon is now at street level. The Jefferson Memorial is also elevated by a series of steps. Pillars support the triangular pediment of both buildings, though the Pantheon has three rows of pillars, eight across the front and two rows of four behind, while the Memorial has two rows, eight in front and four in back. The D.C. Monument also has 26 columns surrounding the “drum” of the building and four more at each of the monument’s entrances while the Pantheon’s drum is free from adornment. Aside from the aforementioned differences, there are a few others as well. The Pantheon’s dome features an opening at its apex, called the oculus, which is open to the elements while the building itself is not. The memorial, on the other hand, features a solid dome but the building itself is open to the elements. The Pantheon’s spheric interior is not repeated in the memorial nor is its grand scope. The two buildings, one inspiring the creation of the other, have many similarities and as many differences.

Augustus of Primaporta

Lincoln Statue in the Lincoln Memorial

Moving from buildings to statues, specifically statues crafted to represent and honor specific real people, we find more similarities than differences between Roman and American statuary. Roman statues were lifelike, accurately representing the human form, often recognizably the person they were supposed to be. Augustus of Primaporta, c. 20 B.C. and the bust of Cicero, 1st century B.C. both show “the Roman era’s keen interest in realism” (Bishop 83). The statue of Abraham Lincoln featured in the Lincoln Memorial and the equestrian statue of Ulysses S. Grant are also very realistic (if larger than life) and excellent portrayals of realism. Augustus of Primaporta, the bust of Cicero, and the statue of Lincoln were all sculpted from marble and Grant from bronze. The Romans did create sculptures from bronze but as a more reusable medium than marble, fewer have survived to be studied by modern peoples. The above American statues were created to honor men who had lived and served their country. The Roman statues, on the other hand, were created during the lifetime of their subjects. This is an important difference between Roman and American statuary of real people. There are similarities and differences, as well, in why Roman and American artists created sculpture and architecture the way they did.

The Washington Monument

Comparing the Column of Trajan with the Washington Monument reveals much about what motivated the two cultures to erect stone sculptures in their capital cities. The Column of Trajan was designed by Apollodorus but was commissioned by the Roman Senate (wikipedia) and was constructed during Trajan’s lifetime,

Column of Trajan

between 106-13 (Bishop 75). The Column features a spiral of sculptural pictures which tell an uninterrupted story – that of Trajan’s conquest over the rebelling Dacian forces. It served as a powerful propaganda tool for “the gold from  Dacian mines funded public welfare and imperial construction during Trajan’s reign” (Bishop 77). The Washington Monument, while much larger in scale (over 555 feet tall to the Column’s 125 feet including the pedestal) (National Park Service), is perhaps more modest in motive. The monument was built almost 100 years after the life of George Washington, the first President of the United States, had ended. It was built not to glorify a living god-man but to honor the memory of a good man. The Column of Trajan’s pictorial sculptures showcase the suppression of rebel forces. The Washington Monument memorializes the victorious rebel general. The Roman emperor was believed to be a god and, just as lavish and opulent cathedrals are built “for” god(s), so buildings and monuments were built “for” the emperor. American leaders, on the other hand, having been chosen by the people, are seen as a reflection of the people and, as such, are honored, not for their status as “gods” but for the characteristics that Americans like to imagine themselves as having – independent, self-sufficient,  freedom-loving. Perhaps, there are not so many differences after all. The Roman emperors built to honor themselves as gods and the American people build to honor themselves through the men they have chosen to lead them and the ideals they espouse to have.

The dreams of the Roman leaders – to bring the entire world under Roman rule – largely remained unfulfilled but their architecture and sculpture lives on. Only time will tell if the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all will come to fruition or not and only time will tell if America’s contributions to architecture and sculpture will be as lasting. As shown, there are many similarities between the two cultures’ architecture and sculptures and there are many differences. There are not, however, as many differences as might be expected for two cultures separated by nearly 2000 years.


We are all naked . . . September 23, 2010

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Humanity has always had one thing in common: under our clothes we are all naked. Throughout the ages artists have drawn, chiseled, shaped, cast, painted, sculpted and in every conceivable way represented the naked human form. The artistic rendering of the nude has changed over the centuries, from the symbolic sculpture of early humanity to the lifelike sculptures of the classical era and from the near photorealism of the Renaissance to the abstractions of artists such as Picasso. A closer look at the the ancient sculptural nudes Kouros, Riace Warrior, and Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Cnidos and the modern painting Venus by Fernando Botero, will reveal some crucial differences between the views of the ancient world and those of the modern world. Differences include the setting of the nude, the artistic representation of the human body, and what the nude reveals about society’s views on sexuality.

The stiff formality of the ancient nude Kouros, sculpted around 590 BC, contrasts sharply with the stark informality of Botero’s Venus, painted in 1989. Kouros stands stiffly, “fists clenched,” marking or guarding a tomb or temple (Bishop 45), while Venus stands relaxed, her hands loose and busy while she goes about her mundane, everyday tasks. Kouros’s hair is “geometric” and his body rigidly symmetrical (Bishop 45), the epitome of order and ‘correctness.’ Venus, on the other hand, has her pair pulled back in a relaxed, informal manner. Her body is not presented symmetrically as she stands unevenly and is turned somewhat away from the viewer. Clothing drapes out of an open bureau drawer and her bed is not made. She is, in contrast to Kouros, not especially orderly. Kouros, whose creation served a very formal purpose, is presented very formally – his hair orderly, his body straight and symmetrical – whereas Venus, whose creation serves no higher purpose than the pleasure of the artist and the viewer, is presented in a ‘slice of life’ manner – relaxedly preparing for the day ahead.

Turning our eyes to the Riace Warrior of mid-5th century BC (photo on page 55 of Bishop), and comparing it to Botero’s Venus, we see how the artist’s representation of the human body reveals something about how they (and by association their society) view the human body. Riace Warrior is lean, his muscular body well defined and apparently, ready for action. In contrast, Venus is round and soft, her muscles buried under ample flesh. Her shape is over exaggerated so much so that she would not fit on the bed pictured in the background. The Riace Warrior is perfectly crafted, from the curls of his head to the toenails on his feet. Whereas every curl is defined on Riace Warrior, Venus’s hair is fuzzy and unclear. Her hands, and the rest of her for that matter, are free of wrinkles and lines, creating a much softer, laid-back quality to the art. Though now missing, the Riace Warrior was equipped with a sword and shield, the weapons of a warrior. It is clear that a warrior’s body – strong, capable, ready – was very important to society at the time Riace Warrior was cast. So important, in fact, that the sculptor saw fit to equip this warrior with sword and shield but not armor. Botero, on the other hand, said he wanted to “create sensuousness through form” (Faerna) and he does so. However, in doing so, he reveals that society no longer needs a utilitarian reason to honor the body. The human body is now seen to be for pleasure above purpose, alluding perhaps to an increase in hedonism. By recognizing these differences, we can see that the warrior ethos of 5th century BC has given way, perhaps, to the hedonistic pleasures of the modern era.

Differing levels of hedonism may explain some of the differences between Praxiteles’s Aphrodite (sculpted around 350-340 BC) and Venus and what they reveal about society’s views of sexuality and the ‘place’ of sex in society. Looking first at Aphrodite, she stands, legs crossed slightly, her hand covering her groin. She has just removed her robe as she prepares for her bath ( Venus, on the other hand, stands with one leg brought forward and her arms over her shoulders, making no effort to hid her groin. She is nude, not because she is getting dressed or undressed, preparing for a bath or some such task requiring a state of undress. She is nude, apparently, for the sheer pleasure in being nude. Aphrodite’s hair, which it is believed would originally have been gilded (Bishop 54) is pulled neatly away from her face and coiled at the base of her neck, suggesting a certain amount of reserve. Venus, on the other hand, sports full bangs and unrestrained hair cascades down her back, suggesting an increase in personal freedom. Aphrodite’s gaze captures a hint of the demure and the diffident. She is nude, save for the arm band and jewelry she may have been adorned with originally (Bishop 54), not for sake of pleasure but of necessity. It would indicate a certain hesitancy to fully expose oneself, a feeling of reserve in regard to sexuality. She does not stand as proud and unselfconscious as the male nudes of the same time frame.  Venus is unadorned, save for a simple hair ribbon and a pair of shoes, yet her nudity seems much more natural and comfortable, suggesting a more open attitude towards sexuality. Venus’s lack of shame or demurral appearance would also suggest a more equitable sexual relationship between male and female. Both pieces of art center around a nude female and yet are wildly different because the worlds they sprang from are wildly different. While all of a society’s views can not be seen in two snapshots of life such as these two pieces provide, by comparing them, we can see some broad differences in how sexuality is viewed.

Perhaps no amount of study will ever reveal all the differences between the ancient cultures and more modern cultures but the art that a society produces does bring some revelation. From the stylized and simplified Kouros to the strong and sturdy Riace Warrior, from the demure and diffident Aphrodite to the supple sensuousness of Venus, we see that what artists produce is, at least in part, due to how society views the object that is the subject of their art.

Works Cited

Bishop, Phillip E. Adventures in the Human Spirit. 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River:  Prentice Hall, 2011.

Faerna, Jose Maria. “Fernando Botero: The Praise of Opulance.” 9 Sept. 2010 <;.

Wikipedia. “Aphrodite of Cnidus.” 9 September, 2010 <;.


Enemy… September 22, 2010

Filed under: educational,Political,Religious — Addicted to Yarn @ 7:59 am

Richard Dawkins at the “Protest the Pope” rally, 18 September, 2010

Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity. He’s an enemy of children whose bodies he’s allowed to be raped and whose minds he’s encouraged to be infected with guilt. It’s embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving childs’ bodies from rapists than saving priestly souls from hell and most concerned with saving the long-time reputation of the church itself. He’s an enemy of gay people, bestowing on them the bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews before 1962. He’s an enemy of women, barring them from priesthood as though a penis was an essential tool for pastoral duties. He is an enemy of truth, promoting bare-faced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa. He’s an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families that they cannot feed and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty which sits ill beside the obscene wealth of the Vatican. He is an enemy of science, obstructing vital stem cell research on grounds not of true morality but on pre-scientific superstition. Ratzinger is even an enemy, he is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly dissing Anglican orders as quote absolutely null and utterly void while at the same time shamelessly trying to poach Anglican Vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood. Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, Ratzinger is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that has made Catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation, and authority. His authority.

Watch the whole speech here:


Science with Becky September 18, 2010

Filed under: Anecdotal,educational,Home Schooling,parenting — Addicted to Yarn @ 10:53 pm
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I am taking two classes this term: Introduction to Humanities and Intro to Natural Science. Intro to Humanities sucks and I don’t want to talk about it. Intro to Physical Science is AWESOME and I love it. One of the assignments for that class is the keeping of a “science” blog. Here’s the link for ‘Science with Becky‘.

That’s that but there is something else I want to get off my chest. It has to do with science but its of a more personal nature so I thought I’d share it here instead of the graded blog.

My science education was horrible. It wasn’t so much that I had a poor scientific education. No, no, no. I had a BAD scientific education. As in, I was taught LIES and purposefully misinformed. I actually feel kind of embarrassed writing this because it reveals the incredible level of ignorance and stupidity that I walked in for over a decade and it’s humiliating. However, the best way to discourage mind rot is to expose it to the light of day so here we go with the list of scientific things I didn’t know until I was almost 30:

1.    The difference between a scientific theory and an “I have a random thought” theory. A random “I have a theory” theory is one like, “Hey, Becky. I have a theory on why your car won’t start. I think the gnomes did it,” or “I have a theory as to why the Air Force sucks…too much starch in the uniforms.” A scientific theory, on the other hand, is “[a] synthesis of a large body of information that encompasses well-tested and verified hypotheses about certain aspects of the natural world” (Hewitt, Suchocki, & Hewitt, p. 10) (emphasis mine). It’s not just some made up bullshit.

This was most commonly misapplied to the “theory” of evolution. Much was made of it being “just a theory.” Of course, it was never suggested that the “theory” of gravity was “just a theory.”

2.    What a hypothesis was. A hypothesis is easy. It is a statement that is testable. That’s it. The definition, again from Hewitt, etc, is “[a]n educated guess; a reasonable explanation of an observation or experimental result that is not fully accepted as factual until tested over and over again by experiment” (p. 10). Included in that definition is the fact that it must be testable. That means it must be possible to prove it WRONG! If it cannot be proven wrong, it’s not a hypothesis.

Example of a non-hypothesis: The universe is permeated with non-detectable particles that control everything.

How do you create a test for non-detectable things? You can’t. Therefore, such a statement can NEVER be proven wrong because you can’t create a test for it.

3.     What “peer-reviewed” meant. This is something I learned before this class but it’s not something I learned in “school.” I had no understanding of what it meant when scientist made discoveries. I had the impression that you went to school to become a “scientist” and then went to work and your title was “scientist” and you fiddled around with sciencey stuff then made wild claims and people were supposed to believe you because your name tag said, “Joe Brown – Scientist.”

I want to write more but I’m tired and need to sleep. Science is cool. I leave you with these two videos. I hope you enjoy.


Truth and Error September 9, 2010

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G. W. F. Hegel makes some very contradictory statements in his Lectures on Aesthetics, some true and some erroneous. Andrew Sola, writing for The Literary Encyclopedia, 2004, records that Hegel places art at the same level of importance as religion and philosophy and believes it must be studied as “patiently and laboriously as theology and philosophy are studied” (1). Hegel also rejects the two conventional approaches to studying art, empirically and “the study of the beautiful” (2), developing instead his own method, which he calls the dialectic method. He denies the belief that art is deceptive and opines that art is higher than nature, both thoughts in opposition to commonly held beliefs about art. Hegel does not believe that “art has a purpose outside of itself” (7), such as purifying and preparing humanity’s passions for “moral perfection”(7) and providing instructions on attaining said moral perfection; instead claiming that art has no purpose outside of itself. He finds meaning in art as a mediator between the inner and outer lives of the artists and their audiences. Hegel, recognizing the three stages of art – Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic – and implies that the latter are ‘higher’ than those that came before. He also places art into a hierarchy based on form. However, while Hegel makes some very good points, he is mistaken in these final regards. Art, as a mediator between the inner and outer realities of life, has no hierarchy.

There is no escaping the fact that art is a mediator, a crucial concept to Hegel’s dialectic approach to studying art. He first recognizes “the classical philosophical opposition between the inner and the outer” (Sola 4), believing that art brings reconciliation to them. He then defends this stance against the commonly held belief that art is less ‘real’ than the outer reality it represents, by writing, “Genuine reality is only to be found beyond the immediacy of feeling and of external objects” (qtd. in Sola 4).  Hegel believes, quite rightly, that even when nature (an ‘outer’ reality) is the subject of art, it must first pass through the artist’s mind (the ‘inner’ reality) in order to strip away the “arbitrary, chaotic, and contingent details” and “gain its universal or spiritual qualities,” (5) thus qualifying it as ‘art.’ When art, which “relies on the representation of natural forms of transitory emotions and of sensual stimulations,” (4) passes through the mind of the artist, it acts as a mediator, bridging the gap between the inner and the outer.

Unfortunately, it is on the subject of hierarchy in art that Hegel becomes entangled in his own arguments. Hegel mistakenly assumes that art has a hierarchy. He places architecture and sculpture at the bottom, because they are bound by ‘matter’ as the other arts are not. Following architecture and sculpture, he places painting and music, as they are not bound by the physical – if it can be imagined it can be put to paint brush and canvas or set to music. At the top, or “apex,” Hegel places poetry, stating, “Poetry is the universal art of mind which has become free of its own nature, and which is not tied to find its realization in external sensuous matter” (qtd. in Sola 10). However, if art’s purpose is to bridge the gap between the inner and outer realities of life, as Hegel argues, than any form of art which does so serves its purpose, whether it be a soaring, epic poem which causes the reader to ponder the mystery of god, or the lofty architecture of a cathedral which draws the viewer’s eye upward into contemplation of god’s greatness. Poetry requires not only simple literacy but also literacy in poetry in order to communicate to the audience (Hegel considers it crucial that art be made available to others (Sola 6)) while other forms of art do not  require the same level of literacy. Art, in its many forms, has no hierarchy for any form can  communicate the artist’s reconciliation of the inner and outer.

Hegel again comes into conflict with himself in regard to the three stages of art: Symbolic, corresponding to pantheistic religions and subjective thought, Classical, corresponding to Greek polytheism and objective thought, and Romantic, corresponding to Christian monotheism and dialectic thought (Sola 7). He wrongly implies that each is higher than that which came before. Sola records, referring to art of the symbolic stage which grants natural objects symbolic meaning, that Hegel considers Eastern art to be “still ‘primitive’ in this respect” (7) calling it “bizarre, grotesque and tasteless” (qtd. in Sola 8). In saying such, he contradicts his own belief that “the world always is as it ought to be in any given moment” (7) and that art’s purpose is to reveal the truth of the moment. As previously mentioned, Hegel believes that genuine reality is found through art. In pejoratively labeling Eastern art as “tasteless,” “grotesque,” and “bizarre,” he implies that this is not happening. The Eastern artist views her natural world, which according to Hegel “always is as it ought to be,” passes it through her mind, and produces art (bridging the gap between the inner and outer), which fulfills its function – the “representation and revelation” of said reconciliation (qtd. in Sola 7). Since art has no other purpose, so long as it is representing and revealing the struggle and bridging of the inner and outer realities, no one can place one stage above another as Hegel does.

Hegel presents numerous ideas and thoughts in his lecture on aesthetics. He correctly recognizes the antithesis between the physical outer world and the universal or spiritual inner world. He correctly sees that art is not meant to have a purpose beyond revealing the artist’s interpretation of the world. However, he incorrectly places art into an unnatural hierarchy, working against his own arguments. There is much we can learn from Hegel about art and the meaning it brings to our world but we must remain aware of his erroneously decided hierarchy.

Works Cited

Sola, Andrews. “Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics.” The Literary Encyclopedia. 2004 ed.