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Tuesday, April 8

April 8, 2014


Today we talked about Niccolo Machiavelli, the first political scientist. (Yes, even before Tupac.) But first…

We went over what the Renaissance meant, philosophically. Even before technology allowed people like Galileo the opportunity to explore the heavens, a great deal of damage had been done to the authority of the Christian church. That came through William of Ockham’s insistence that there were no such things as universals, and that the only way we could possibly know God was via faith. He was doing this to be, as he saw it, devout. But his insistence that we could have no knowledge at all of God’s workings paved the way for the clash between church and state that followed.

Brief recap: Copernicus realized that the convoluted math needed to show that the sun revolves around the Earth would get a lot easier if the Earth revolved around the sun. He waited until after his death to publish his findings, because he knew they’d be controversial. (And then he dedicated them to the Pope.) Kepler furthered the project. And then Galileo came along, about a hundred years later, with his telescope, and showed that Copernicus was right. (Actually, the dispute between Galileo and the Church happened in part because Galileo insisted he had proven his point, which he hadn’t, yet. He was right, of course, but he was also stubborn.)

Then came Isaac Newton, possibly the greatest scientist who ever lived. (He invented calculus when he wasn’t much older than you guys.) So all this science led us to five fundamental questions:

1. If the world can be explained by mathematical formulae and experiments, then what is the role of faith? And is free will — and by extension, morality — even possible?

2. If the Church was wrong, couldn’t the State be wrong as well?

3. If the Church was wrong, wasn’t Aristotle wrong as well? (This is an early example of what we call in Argument “genetic fallacy.” Throwing out Aristotle — because his work had been absorbed by the Church — re-opened the mind-body question that Aristotle had basically solved 2,000 years earlier.)

4. If the Earth is just one world among many, what is man’s role in the universe?

5. If universals don’t exist, can we really know what is “good”?

That’s a lot of doubt for one historical period. But all these questions will find their way into our next group of philosophers.

Finally, we talked briefly about Machiavelli. Bullet points: his best-known work was called The Prince. It can be summed up two ways: in Francis Bacon’s quote that Machiavelli wrote about men as they acted, not as they ought to act. And in the pull quote from this section: “The end justifies the means.” That means a prince doesn’t worry about how he protects his kingdom and stays in power  — as long as he does it, that’s all that matters.

Of course, there’s the nagging historical question about whether Machiavelli actually meant what he wrote, or whether the whole book was meant tongue-in-cheek. But there’s no denying that lots of people, from businessmen to politicians to rappers, believed every word (even if they didn’t actually read the book) and acted like it. (Kind of like you guys did in the little political scenario I gave you at the end of class — very Machiavellian of you.)

For Thursday: please read the sections in your book on Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The last two should be a recap for some of you (those who were in Violence last semester), at least.

Adaptation: Today we talked a little bit about satire, parody, and intertextuality – all of this we’ll be talking about next week, after we overdose on Little Shop of Horrors, which we started watching today as well (the 1986 original ending version). We’ll finish it on Thursday, and then see the musical at LP on Friday night.

Siren: Work stories/planning for May prom coverage.

Film Studies: Today we finished watching Jurassic Park and had a pretty nice chat about it. Your response is due at the beginning of class on Thursday.

Bookbinding: Started a new project: Bookbinding 4.8.14 – Individual Project 1.

8th Grade: Today you wrote rhyme royals about the death of an unfavorite fictional character.

Survey: CNF: Prepared for our group interview with Mr. Schaller on Friday. If you were absent, please see me for the handout.

Update for Mr. Anderson’s Classes (from Monday): 

Long Form Fiction Workshop: Please turn in any over due prompts. We did one on travel today – you can turn in typed (over 500 words) for extra credit. Wend we will workshop Autumn, Danielle, and Victoria. (Copies of this story are on my desk.) Annotations and comments are due as well. All other Round 3 stories must be turned in by Wend. Please hand in permission slips if you have not.


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