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Tuesday, April 15

April 15, 2014
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WWTWWT: Talked about Hobbes and Locke, and the differences between them, before taking a quiz on both guys.

Here’s how we summarized these two British empiricists:

1. Hobbes was such a strict empiricist that he was actually a materialist — that is, he thought that everything in the world was a physical substance, even thought. That’s one way to solve the mind-body problem; saying that they are essentially just the same thing. However, materialism also leads to a couple of inescapable conclusions:

a. There’s really no room for God in this view.

b. Free will becomes unlikely, when you insist that human beings are just “flesh-and-blood machines” who operate according to scientific laws.

2. Hobbes believed that man in his natural state was pretty lousy, a guy who would stab you in the back to get what you had — unless we came up with a strong, perhaps even repressive, government to rule us. That’s the “Leviathan” of his famous book. Without such a government, he famously said, it would be “war of all against all.”

This is why we can describe LotF as a book that is essentially Hobbesian in its outlook. Ralph’s “government” was weak because it didn’t account for man’s true, flawed nature. Jack’s “government” was effective (although tyrannical) because it did.

Hobbes, who lived through the English Civil War, saw plenty of chaos, and he saw what life under a dictatorship (Cromwell’s) would be like. He concluded that even though the latter is cruel and repressive, people still prefer it to anarchy because it (theoretically) keeps them safe. Chaos, he thought — “the war of all against all” — is the worst possible outcome, and people will do anything to avoid it.

3. Locke, by contrast, believed that man is born capable of reason. And for this reason, he doesn’t need a powerful, repressive government to keep him in line. (That’s one reason his ideas were appealing to America’s Founding Fathers.)

4. Locke also believed that everyone is born with the same blank slate (“tabula rasa”) mentally. (He shared this view with Aristotle, who also argued against innate knowledge.)

5. And Locke believed that we can only know things from our own experience.

6. For the reasons stated in #4 and #5, Locke was a big proponent of educating everyone. This was a revolutionary idea at a time when education was largely confined to the elites. It went right along with the Renaissance-era focus on man and how he could better himself. (That idea found its way to America, as well.)

7. Locke was an empiricist, of course, because of his insistence that experience (which we could say comes from our senses) is the only true source of knowledge. He claimed that man has reason, of course, and can use it to develop new ideas — but according to Locke, without any sensory data, we have nothing to reason about.

That wraps up a very short summary of the ideas of two very famous British empiricists. Now we’re going to take a look at some of the French rationalists. For next Tuesday: please read the section on Rene Descartes, who is the most famous example of the latter.

Adaptation: Today we started talking about your thoughts on Little Shop… and you filled out a response (here: Adaptation 4.15.14 – Response 8, Little Shop). Upon return, we’ll be talking more about parody, satire, and intertexuality, so please reread the handout on the latter – underline/mark sections that you think are important (like I said in class, this is really an overview of the topic and a lot of different issues are discussed).

Siren: Talked about invasion of privacy/copyright law. Reviewed the prom surveys, which will go out next week.

Film Studies: Today you did a response in class: Spielberg 4.15.14 – Response, Box office. This was handed in and followed by a bunch of film history bits and pieces that you’ll need to know in order to tackle upcoming topics:

The development of the motion picture begins in the 1800s, but for the purposes of our discussion, you don’t need to know too many of the particulars here. Just note that the late 1800s into the 1900s and 1910s is full of technological experiments and discoveries. At first, the moving image is thought of as an accompaniment to music, but this is quickly reversed once films get a smidge longer and become narrative driven. Most films are in black and white and are silent. Lots of people are trying lots of different things, but it’s all gaining speed – it’s pretty clear that it’s not just a trend. Film is becoming an industry.

STUDIO SYSTEM (1920s – 1960s)
Eventually most filmmakers move out to Los Angeles, and film as an industry is really born. The studio system prevails: under it, a limited number of studios run Hollywood. Five of them are vertically integrated, meaning that the studio owns the process from start to finish: they own the studios where the films are made. They have all technicians, actors, musicians, etc. on staff. They also own the distribution side of things – once a film is made, the studio itself sends the film out to be seen where? Surprise! Theaters that the studio also owns! The biggest studios are MGM, Paramount, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and RKO. They are all still around in some fashion.

But, as we discussed in class, vertical integration causes some issues, like price fixing. Consumer choice is limited, and it’s a very closed system. By the 1960s, the studio system was in serious decline thanks to natural progression and lawsuits. There were also other issues, like competition from television. It just wasn’t going to work out.

NEW HOLLYWOOD (1960s – late 1970s)
After the studio system was broken up, Hollywood had a bit of dry spell. Many tv directors tried their hands at film – some were successful, some were not. Lots of social issues and movements were happening during this time as well, and movie-going was just not on the top of many lists. Also during this time period, several French critics were waxing poetic about the awesomeness of directors (like Hitchcock) from the studio system era. This is when “auteur theory” started – film is serious business! Let’s study it!

BLOCKBUSTER ERA (1975ish – now????)
Jaws came out in 1975 and made a huge splash (GET IT). This was closely followed by Star Wars and Close Encounters. All three films were hugely successful, and a new era began.

Blockbusters share a few key characteristics: Big budgets. High quality production. High concept (plot driven). Heavily advertised.

Also during this time, new cineplexes were popping up all over the place – movie theaters with many screens. This meant that films could be shown on a lot more screens, meaning revenue could stack up super fast, as opposed to the past when a film would be shown in fewer places and take a long time to make money.

This is also when home viewing technology – VHS, for example – became viable, meaning that a film could live on after its theatrical release.

All of this adds to up to create a new paradigm for Hollywood, which we will continue to talk about after break.

Bookbinding: Continued current project.

8th Grade: Today we played Never Have I Ever, and then turned one of our “never”s into an eight-line poem (two quatrains of eight syllables per line; rhyme optional).

Survey: CNF: Sat in on Mr. Schaller’s class to gather info for the biographical sketches. Then we talked about the final question for our group interview and made a few changes.

Remember: he will be with us from 12:20 to 12:40 tomorrow to answer these final questions. I will add these to the transcript, which will be available via the blog at some point over the break. I will also post a link where you can download the audio of both conversations.

For Tuesday, April 22: please have read “The American Male, Age 10.” Know the author!

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