Why Study Literature?

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midas77
 
Reply Sat 21 Jun, 2008 06:45 am
@Fido,
Fido wrote:
In addition logic tells much of the behavior of physical reality, but the dominant reality of our lives is moral. We know how to live in the physical world, but we do not have a moral logic for not overpopulating it and killing ourselves for sport. The nature of truth in the physical world can be arrived at in a straight forward and logical manor. Moral truths do not present as a target that can be seen through a scope, but as a destination requiring travails, and ardour to reach. The story of humanity is a moral story, and every story has a moral.


Logics are simple rules of argumentation. It does not have physical content. It simply deals with forms. Hence, a logically true argument does not mean necessarily true.

"The story of humanity is a moral story, and every story has a moral." What do you mean by that?
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 06:01 am
@midas77,
midas77 wrote:
Logics are simple rules of argumentation. It does not have physical content. It simply deals with forms. Hence, a logically true argument does not mean necessarily true.

"The story of humanity is a moral story, and every story has a moral." What do you mean by that?

Then it is not logical to expect gravity to exert equal force upon each side of a scale? Were Nature not predictable, and so, logical we could not be logical either. A logically true argument follows nature, and it is when we draw conclusions with some mix of logic and ignorance that logic seems to fail us. We can logically predict what will happen in every known and controlled situation, but what does that tell us about unknown situations? If logic seems a straight line applied to reality it bends like a fishing pole if pushed too far into the future.

What I mean by my conclusion is this. What people do is not logical given all of the facts because people have never had all of the facts. Even those who most prize reason are in most of their affairs the prisoners of prejudice, and emotion. And this is true across the board through all time with people so that in art, one should look both for the accuracy of ones conceptions, which is truth; but also moral understanding and perhaps, sympathy for the dirty little Yahoos we are. We are not nice. We are not kind to each other or to God's other living creations. No one wants justice in reality because that would mean wiping this species from the face of the earth so that, when we seek justice as we inevitably must, it is limited in every sense. It is difficult to look at humanity through an existential lens and not be some what depressed, but if we can look at ourselves and see personal growth, or the beauty of it all before us we can find much reason for happiness. There is a challenge in every life to not give in, to maintain ones virtue or to retrieve it if lost, and to not become demoralized because all around us seem so mired in inertia as to be beyond redemption.

That is the purpose of liturature, even of philosophy, to teach a moral lesson without forcing people to fixate on themselves. They must be first made happy to accept truth, and accept truth before they can change, and truth is always an emotional quality. Truth, no matter how grim it may seem is really same as happiness since no one reaches happiness with a ration of truth. No one can be forced by insult to accept truth, but the truth, no matter how bitter in taste can often be swallowed whole if it is wrapped in candy, and liturature as entertainment is mind candy when done right.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 10:20 am
@Fido,
Fido wrote:
Then it is not logical to expect gravity to exert equal force upon each side of a scale?
It was logical until 1988 when it was discovered that the expansion of the universe was accelerating, and therefore either gravity was NOT acting equally OR there was an undiscovered force, i.e. "dark energy" that was countering it.

Point is that while our logic makes assumptions about consistency within nature (not necessarily predictability, though), that's only as good as the discoveries we've made. All it takes is a new understanding to overturn our application of logic to nature. Look at what Einstein did. Look at what Newton did. They overturned the previous paradigms, rendering them ILLOGICAL in the face of their discoveries.

Quote:
A logically true argument follows nature
Logic is based more on syntax than on nature. If you want to get down to atomic logic, i.e. of the style of Bertrand Russell, then at best logic can only correspond to our best understanding of nature, rather than nature itself.
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2008 04:46 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
It was logical until 1988 when it was discovered that the expansion of the universe was accelerating, and therefore either gravity was NOT acting equally OR there was an undiscovered force, i.e. "dark energy" that was countering it.

Point is that while our logic makes assumptions about consistency within nature (not necessarily predictability, though), that's only as good as the discoveries we've made. All it takes is a new understanding to overturn our application of logic to nature. Look at what Einstein did. Look at what Newton did. They overturned the previous paradigms, rendering them ILLOGICAL in the face of their discoveries.

Logic is based more on syntax than on nature. If you want to get down to atomic logic, i.e. of the style of Bertrand Russell, then at best logic can only correspond to our best understanding of nature, rather than nature itself.

It is a small point, but one I readily concede. Since we do not talk about our best understanding of justice when we concieve of a notion of justice or of our best understanding of any other concept, it must be because we realize that no concept is exact to reality, and each must be continually tried and tested, and proved to the best of our ability. And so you are correct, and yet the same is true for all forms of understanding, so if you want to carry it around with you, and say as much, then be my guest. Thanks.
 
midas77
 
Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2008 01:33 am
@Fido,
Lets go back then to the original question, why study literature?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2008 01:44 am
@midas77,
Why not study literature?

Questioning the value of literature is acceptable, question everything, but I really do not see the question as a very serious one. The benefits are almost endless. If nothing else, the study of literature helps us communicate more effectively.

Literature gives insight into man - literature is the struggle of man against himself. In times of war we should set ourselves to studying the enemy, and at all times we should set ourselves to studying our greatest enemy - our selves.
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 25 Jun, 2008 06:46 am
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
Why not study literature?

Questioning the value of literature is acceptable, question everything, but I really do not see the question as a very serious one. The benefits are almost endless. If nothing else, the study of literature helps us communicate more effectively.

Literature gives insight into man - literature is the struggle of man against himself. In times of war we should set ourselves to studying the enemy, and at all times we should set ourselves to studying our greatest enemy - our selves.

When any generation, through art or literature, tells what it is, it is easier for the next to see what it has become.
 
Subjectivity9
 
Reply Tue 27 Oct, 2009 11:09 am
@Kooker,
I study literature because it allows me to live more than one life at a time.

It takes this small, lineal thread called my life and makes it into a tapestry.

It allows me to walk right out of my own skin and be someone else for a little while.

It gives me a far wider perspective on life than my being in the prison of this one small body.

S9
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 27 Oct, 2009 11:57 am
@Khethil,
Khethil;11946 wrote:

Language compartmentalizes our memories. We who speak English primarily, think in English! Thus it seems to follow that as one's vocabulary, ability to express ideas and conceptualize increases, so does one's mind. Perspicuousness is invaluable! Communication, on the whole, lacks with most people. The ability to express yourself (and think clearly, with exactness), I believe, is in direct proportion to an individual's command of language.
The best way I know to expand ones' vocabulary and conceptualization skills is through literature.


The leading experts in language death note that the only real way in this day and age to keep the 'life support' on any particular dying language is to make sure that there is original literary work being written in them. Although the written word is not language proper, it has a prestige to it that the spoken word does not have. it also has the benefit of being portable, through time and space.

We do think in the language in which we most commonly speak and write, and those languages are specific to their environment. One language I work with has a single word for banging a medium sized basket full of berries against a tree to deposit them in a larger basket. Another language I know has a system of deictic mapping reference that establishes the distance, visibility, and definiteness of all nouns/pronouns/places in the conversation. Another has verb prefixes for purely informational nouns and purely mental verb processes. All these features play directly into the material and cultural lifesways of the speakers. Whether the language is a reflection of the lifestyle or the life a refelction of the language or they are in symbiosis no one can really tell. All we can tell is that our language puts definite communcation limitations which require real ingenuity or education to overcome. Thus I think that the innovations and inventive machinations of liturature from a cultural linguisitic perspective are very important, to create, read, and hopefully study in earnest.
 
Subjectivity9
 
Reply Tue 27 Oct, 2009 01:36 pm
@Kooker,
Goshisdead,

You make a very good point here, but…

When we study literature are we studying only how it is done, a bit like studying the brush strokes of an artist, or do we also study what it is being said and how well?

Do we look at how literature, this written work, transcends the mundane day to day of this our life and transports us into a more versatile existence, that of the mind, or even that of multiple minds through perspective?

So yes, we are making a record, or even building a bridge between us and our future selves, (our children), but at the very same time do, we not building a bridge between our smaller definitions of our own selves, right now, and that part of our self that is able with the use of words to fly and, even further, to be free?

S9
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 28 Oct, 2009 05:25 am
@Subjectivity9,
Subjectivity9;100127 wrote:
I study literature because it allows me to live more than one life at a time.

It takes this small, lineal thread called my life and makes it into a tapestry.

It allows me to walk right out of my own skin and be someone else for a little while.

It gives me a far wider perspective on life than my being in the prison of this one small body.

S9

How about feeding the imagination, which is difficult to be without...How about life presented as a moral argument in situ...How about entertainment...I read to look like some one who reads, but it is all bird tracks with an occasional splash...When literature is done well it is the artistic expression of philosophy...It is life in miniture...It is us...

---------- Post added 10-28-2009 at 08:48 AM ----------

Khethil;11946 wrote:
That's a whole lot of directions to be going in at once! :p

But if I take your meaning correctly, I'd agree. As to the basic question of Why Study Literature, its most poignant benefit I've found is the expansion of one's own mind.

Language compartmentalizes our memories. We who speak English primarily, think in English! Thus it seems to follow that as one's vocabulary, ability to express ideas and conceptualize increases, so does one's mind. Perspicuousness is invaluable! Communication, on the whole, lacks with most people. The ability to express yourself (and think clearly, with exactness), I believe, is in direct proportion to an individual's command of language.

The best way I know to expand ones' vocabulary and conceptualization skills is through literature.

Thought would be impossible without forms, and words are all the names of forms...Sure; the more you use them the better you get... If I knew the meaning of every word in the dictionary, I would know everything... Every form is a name and a set of definitions with an image, if that is possible...Liturature uses these forms wholesale, and to paint a portrait of a physical reality, or to present a moral argument by way of signs speaking to the emotions, or ideas speaking to the reason...
 
Subjectivity9
 
Reply Wed 28 Oct, 2009 09:38 am
@Kooker,
Fido,

Yes indeed, literature can be a self-portrait, but not just of who we are. Literature gives us an opportunity to look at who we wish to be, and also, who we wish (no pray) that we would never be. (Like a serial killer.)

We can get right inside a serial killers head and look out at the world from there. This is certainly eye opening, and puts the lie to Disney land.

Yes, imagination, too. We might even imagine things that would eventually prove useful to mankind.

A friend of mine told me about a sci fi story, he once read, that spoke about the invention of a space elevator. This elevator would be used to shuttle people and goods from the earth to spaceports without the terrible cost of breaking through gravity every time.

I smiled when he told me this. “Oh go on,” I said.

Speaking of life being stranger than fiction. Were we?

Anyways, would you believe that a group of geniuses are working on this very problem in places like MIT, and other scientific strongholds, right now as we speak?

Ah yes, entertainment, a necessity to me, sometimes seemingly more important than food. Because, if life isn’t any fun, no how, what’s the use?

S9
 
Fido
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 05:41 am
@Subjectivity9,
Subjectivity9;100314 wrote:
Fido,

Yes indeed, literature can be a self-portrait, but not just of who we are. Literature gives us an opportunity to look at who we wish to be, and also, who we wish (no pray) that we would never be. (Like a serial killer.)

We can get right inside a serial killers head and look out at the world from there. This is certainly eye opening, and puts the lie to Disney land.

Yes, imagination, too. We might even imagine things that would eventually prove useful to mankind.

A friend of mine told me about a sci fi story, he once read, that spoke about the invention of a space elevator. This elevator would be used to shuttle people and goods from the earth to spaceports without the terrible cost of breaking through gravity every time.

I smiled when he told me this. "Oh go on," I said.

Speaking of life being stranger than fiction. Were we?

Anyways, would you believe that a group of geniuses are working on this very problem in places like MIT, and other scientific strongholds, right now as we speak?

Ah yes, entertainment, a necessity to me, sometimes seemingly more important than food. Because, if life isn't any fun, no how, what's the use?

S9

Are you worried about becoming a serial killer??? It strikes me that no one would dwell upon such a subject unless they have considered it... It is not much of a threat, but it is common enough... A Dick Cheney who can torture or order war without a thought is no better than a serial killer... They can disconnect their sense of well being from the pain of their victims... Nothing is more dangerous, but no one reads the work of politicians for a moral lesson, but to lessen their moral inhibitions...

As entertainment, literature takes too much of an investment... T.V is the way to go, with nothing for nobodys...

The problem with sci fi is that people are the same when transported into the future...It is impossible to believe that a hundred years later that people would have taken no lesson from the present... Their technology is great, and their humanity is small... It may be that the same is true for us, that in reading history which is my form of literature, that humanity is reveald as always being what it is, even when it had little technology... People have always been Yahoos...Seen objectively we have little to recommend us; so why should we spend trillions trying to export us to some other planet???
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 07:49 am
@Fido,
Fido;100447 wrote:
The problem with sci fi is that people are the same when transported into the future
Wow, I have the complete opposite opinion about this, for a couple reasons. (In summary, I believe there IS a problem with sci fi, but it's the opposite of what you describe as the problem).

First, having read the entire complete works of shakespeare over the last 3 or 4 months, what's abundantly clear to me is that 400 years ago, during the life of Shakespeare, people's obsessions, loves, hates, inclinations, hesitations, and basic 'human nature' were no different at all than they are right now. Go back farther -- look at the story of Job from the Bible -- this is a character than anyone in today's world, 2500 or 3000 years later, can instantly identify with. So why should this not be the same 500 or 1000 years from now?

Second, I was once reading a review of a sci fi novel in the NY Times Book Review, and the reviewer made an extremely poignant comment about sci fi. The reviewer said that fundamentally the problem with science fiction is that it's about the premise and not about the characters. This is probably even more true for fantasy novels, because the archetypes are better established.

In my opinion the best sci fi novels expound on human nature -- they put complex humans into situations in which their psychology, their motivations, and their personalities propel the action. Ender's Game is a great example of this. On the other hand, a novel like Dune, like Lord of the Rings, is impressive and lurid because of the highly ornate and imaginative setting and exceptional language, but these works suffer because the characters are types. They're stuck in their molds, they hardly change.

Is it plausible or implausible that humans should have changed in the future?

Doesn't matter -- the book is being written for us and our current understanding of humans. As they say, ghost stories aren't written for ghosts...
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 10:41 am
@Aedes,
Sorry but I just have to give a WOOT WoOt! for the Enders Series, minus the Shadow book of course.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 10:54 am
@Kooker,
yeah too bad Orson Scott Card is a raving psychopath in real life
 
Subjectivity9
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 11:43 am
@Kooker,
Fido,

If we are talking about mankind, and we were, then yes some man may become a serial killer, and therefore being a part of this group called mankind, we might consider a cure to this condition. You might also consider what a serial killer is and how to prevent it, if you had a lovely young daughter just right for victimization. That is just a few reasons to make this problem your own.

Not just Dick Cheney, I have to wonder about a soldier going into foreign lands and shooting up whole villages simply if they are ordered to by some general, without blinking an eye. Or any person who can flying over God knows who, men, women and children, not to mention innocent animals, and just dropping bombs.

We are far too sophisticated, in general, to actually believe that these generals and politicians all are telling us the truth about why and have good reasons for what they are asking us to do. This is also disconnecting our self from reality and/or everything that we have held, up until that moment, as being morally right. What we are doing, in order to carry out such horrendous acts as these, is to dehumanize the enemy. They aren’t living/breathing/bleeding people like we are. These are rag heads.

Literature does take more of an investment of time than TV. But you also receive back more for your expenditure. To me, literature is like a little vacation, it relaxes me and stimulates my mind at the same time. In this way you might consider it an investment in good health. I guess I could do a similar thing with a pill, but it certainly wouldn’t be as much fun. How many people say that their medicine from the doctor, an antidepressant perhaps, is fun?

For most people Sci Fi is a guilty pleasure. They don’t expect it to change the world, or mankind, as we know him.

As far as the future goes, most of us have bought our ticket and are on our way there, whether for better or worse. There is only one way off this train.

People are very affected by their environment. This is why some people are considering environment engineering (manipulation) as a way to manipulate man. For instance, they have found that moving water is very relaxing to man. So to relieve anxiety, we might introduce more moving water (fountains) into our environment. Healthy people in general would cost the taxpayer less money in many ways.

Or I suppose most people are familiar with that experiment where they had some student be guards and some be prisoners and how it got completely out of hand.

Also genetic technology may be the answer to some of our problems, technological evolution may be our next big step. Why leave everything to chance?

S9
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 12:25 pm
@Subjectivity9,
Quote:
For most people Sci Fi is a guilty pleasure. They don't expect it to change the world, or mankind, as we know him.


Shakespeare, Ovid, Poe, Twain etc... were the pulp fictionists of their times. The Pop-lit of today could very well be the classic lit of tomorrow. The prejorative intellectual view toward Sci-Fi and Fantasy is likely a matter of the cultural tendency to romaticize the past and aechetypal traditions created by the past.
 
Subjectivity9
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 01:45 pm
@Kooker,
Aedes,

I like that. Ghost stories aren’t written for ghosts. Nor do “Ghostwriters” write them, I might add.

Let us remember, (shall we?), that Shakespeare was entertaining the same type of crowd that pretty much tunes into Oprah on the TV today. I don’t think that everyone alive today is necessarily an emotional “drama queen” along with her mate and friends.

Just because Shakespeare was a genius in writing, doesn’t mean that he was equally qualifies in the social sciences. Am I right? I am guessing many of his archetypal character descend directly down from the old Greek plays, where they also were trying to please the crowds, (AKA the man on the street).

Not all literature needs to include character development, although it certainly adds a richness if done right, and not (God help us) over done. Some literature can simply tell a darn good story. In other words, the events themselves can take center stage.

Writers like John Updike develop their characters, often to a nauseating degree, and the people he has chosen to develop (well) could be marketed as a great new sleeping pill. There is no story, only boredom.

S9
 
hue-man
 
Reply Thu 29 Oct, 2009 06:39 pm
@Kooker,
I agree, but I just want to add that while language may be a secondary cause of the development of self-identity, language itself is a result of consciousness and perception.
 
 

 
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