Race and Biology

Introduction and Methodology

The concept of race is an obelisk in Western societies.  Some scholars assert race as an irrevocable fact of life, while others argue that race is a mutable and performative social construct. I believe that both are positions simultaneously true. In other words, I believe that history supports the idea that humanity attempts to extend (imperfectly) biological concepts of race and their subsequent implications, into the social atmosphere, while simultaneously maintaining that race is a valid biological concept.  Furthermore, by locating the history of modern concept of race to the prominent philosopher Immanuel Kant (with important developments from Aristotle), I make distinctions between race as a biological fact, and racist implications and conclusions drawn from those established racial facts, while calling attention to the relationship between Kant’s racial ideas and his racists ideas, and how his racists ideas may have negatively impacted his ideas of universalism and cosmopolitanism as a way to emphasize  that race is not synonymous with racism despite that fact that racism is only possible within the context of race; in this way, it becomes possible to separate or distinguish with reliable certainty,    Kant’s white supremacy from his theories of human differentiation and variation.

Race and Biology

In today’s contemporary world, the consensus of popular opinion assert that race is not real. Furthermore, opponents of racial categorization argue for the destruction of the concept of race based on the assertion that race exists merely as a social construct rather than as a valid biological concept.  In this paper, I will attempt to illustrate that race is real–that is that race exists as a social construct and as a valid biological concept. Furthermore,  for example, consider D.L. Chollett words in “Reflections on Reflections: Dialectical Commentaries on Gender and Class in NTAE Production, as presented in John Furest’s the Nature of Race, when Cholett informs, “Since ‘race’ is not a biologically valid concept as applied to human populations, ethnicity is a more appropriate concept for examination of ethnicity-gender-class dialectics” (Qtd. in Fuerst 7). While the overall spirit of Chollett’s words is admirable, the statement makes a claim that has yet to satisfy the burden of proof: the claim that race is not a legitimate biological concept require us to know, first and foremost, what a legitimate biological concept looks like, then proceed to explain how the concept of race falls outside of the scope of biological legitimacy or validity. I suspect that it has not been illustrated the concept of race exceeds the scope of biological legitimacy because race is, in fact, a valid biological concept.

Fuerst, again, is apropos in guiding our thinking: elucidating the criterion for a biological concept Fuerst informs “that a ‘valid concept,’ in whatever field, must be (ns) not-self-contradictory and (ck) consistent with the state of knowledge in the field in question” (7). Yet importantly, he also informs what should be obvious, that is “…that concepts  that [are] considered valid, can with further developments in the field, switch from valid to invalid and vice versa” (7). Thus, an intellectual framework is possible to examine and investigate a biologically derived legitimate conception of race—so as long as the above: that the concept be both congruent (not self-contradictory, and consistent with valid previous conclusions. It is the latter part of this description that enables us to make distinctions within the sciences, with respect to the concept of race in particular. The Social and political value of the concept of race is distinct from its epistemic value, and furthermore, “once this distinction is drawn, it becomes clear that social [cannot] directly cancel out epistemic value (as they are different categories) (9). In other words the value of race is not wholly drawn in terms of the social or the political, and moreover, its epistemic value is distinct, separate, and independent of the political value of race or the philosophical value of race. In this way, it is possible to conceptualize human difference (i.e., race) without resorting to racist thinking, because race and racism are not synonymous, but are distinct.

What is Race? Type and Kind

Assuming we are not referring to the Olympics or Nascar, Merriam Webster informs that when applied to human beings, ‘race’ is a taxonomic category. 2. ‘A class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics. The Oxford English Dictionary enlightens: 1.1 “The fact or condition of belonging to a racial division or group; the qualities or characteristics associated with this”; 1.2 “A group of people sharing the same culture, history, language, etc.; an ethnic group;” 1.6 “A group of people descended from a common ancestor.” One can see, from a cursory glance that there is a panoply of competing understandings of the concept race that, might complicate clarity and understanding. However, with a little reflection, there are some features that seem common to every conception of race: that is, race is associated with difference. Race always refers to some type or kind of difference. Whether this difference is real or imagined, insignificant or inescapable, are second and third-order questions to be explored later.  If race is a stand-in for types and kinds or, at very least, claims concerning type and kind, race, then presuppose more primary concepts of type and kind. Types and kinds are two ways human beings can classify knowledge about the world. The issue is, however, is that our understanding of type and kind are indefinite and incomplete, and when they are not self-contradictory or circular, they invalidated one another. Consider these three conceptions of type and kind:

  1. “[S]ome race theorists – such as Anthony Appiah (1996, 40), Robin Andreasen (2000, S655-S657), and Naomi Zack (2002, 4) – define a natural kind as an objectively real kind. A paradigm example is Andreasen’s view. According to Andreasen (2000, S655), race must be a “natural kind” in order to be biologically real…”
  2. “[S]ome race theorists – such as Edouard Machery (2005, 446) and Glasgow (2009, 81) – define a natural kind as an inductively useful kind in science. For example, Machery (2005, 445, 446) defines “natural kinds” as “classes about which non-accidental, scientifically relevant inductive generalizations can be formulated,” and Machery and Faucher (2005, 1209) go on to require that race must have “inferential power” in order to be biologically real”
  3. “[S]ome race theorists define a natural kind as a kind that is a useful object of study in a natural science. For example, Haslanger (2008, 58) claims that biological racial realism requires that “races are natural kinds,” and she goes on to define a natural kind as a kind whose constitutive properties are “natural,” where “natural properties of things are… those studied by the natural sciences”(Haslanger 2008, 60).
  4. “Fourth, some race theorists define a natural kind using pragmatism. Philip Kitcher is the main proponent of this view. Kitcher (2007, 299, 301) rejects that there are any objectively real kinds in nature. Instead a kind is natural to the extent that it is… useful for some valuable project P in some scientific context C, and [its utility] outweighs its “potential damage.” (Qtd. in Fuerst 5)

In other words, “our philosophers [cannot] decide what it really means to be ‘biologically real’” (Qtd. in Fuerst 5).  If there is no basis (or agreement on a basis) of what, in reality constitutes biological reality, it is logically impossible to assert race as a biologically unfit or invalid. Although, this lack of continuity and cohesion among scholars is less an indication of a failure on part the parts of scholars, and more of an indication of the inherent difficulty of classification. In the Categories, for example, Aristotle establishes a four-fold division for categorizing all things along with ten-fold division or “a canonical list of ten categories” that as served as the foundation of western philosophical and scientific thinking (“Aristotle’s Categories” 2013).

 Racial Classification: Aristotle and Linnaeus

The contemporary system for identifying and classifying living organisms, like plants and animals (taxonomy), is derived from the insights of Aristotle, as primarily presented in the History of Animals, and much later, from the Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus’ The System of Nature, published in 1735.

Aristotle contrived of a hierarchical and binomial classification system, termed the “ladder of nature” whereby “creatures could be grouped in order from lowest to highest, with the human species being the highest,” according to “genus and difference” (Tilton “From Aristotle to Linnaeus”). While Aristotle’s system of classification had neither an evolutionary or genetic basis, it marked an unprecedented plateau in western thinking that would not be rivaled until the 16th century.  Lois Tilton places Aristotle’s within the larger context of history when Tilton explains that:

The word “genus” comes from the Greek root for “birth,” and among its meanings are “family” and “race.” Aristotle’s notion of definition was to place every object in a family and then to differentiate it from the other members of that family by some unique characteristic. He defined humans, for example, as the “rational animal.” This, according to Aristotelian thought, defines the essence of what it is to be human, as opposed to such pseudo-definitions as “featherless biped.

Aristotle’s initial system of classification has seen many changes since Antiquity. Nevertheless, Aristotle’s major premise, fomented on a rationale of grouping similarities and dissimilarities, with respect to organisms, has survived, arguably, until the present day.

Indeed, Aristotle’s system of classification can be seen as a foundation of sorts for Carl Linnaeus’ system of classification. Tilton enlightens:

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Figure 1. Linnaean system of Taxonomy. https://wikieducator.org/Biological_Anthropology/Classification

“[Linnaeus] published his most innovative work as a young man in 1735. The System of Nature (Systema Naturae) is notable for an overall framework of classification that organized all plants and animals from the level of kingdoms all the way down to species. The full subtitle of its tenth edition was: System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with characteristics, differences, synonyms, places. This system of classification, although greatly modified, is essentially the one we use today.” (Tilton)

Kant’s Invention of Whiteness and the Modern Concept of Race

            Immanuel Kant is likely the most prominent philosopher to discuss race. Indeed Kant is attributed with the first instance of employing “race” as a signifier of human difference. According to Mark Larrimore, “ ‘Race’ was invented in 1775 as an advertisement for the new disciplines of geography and anthropology that Kant inaugurated and promoted through his career (Larrimore 1). However, beyond mere linguistic coinage, Kant’s concept of human race significantly prefigure our modern concept of race insofar as Kant configures race as “lineage-based divisions of a species, which [were] distinguishable from one another by the members’ inherited characters” (Fuerst 31). In other words, Kant understood race as both hereditary and genetic concepts  that were natural consonants—as facts of natural history, Kant believed race to be “an exception-less law in human heredity” (Larrimore 3) that were (a la Aristotle) non-accidental, albeit with mutable and immutable characteristics inherited characteristics. For Kant, (and thinkers like Buffon) “all the different kinds of human beings were…members of the same [human] species,” as evidenced by the interbreeding amongst the different human varieties   (Larrimore 344).  As such, Kant’s racial theory culminated into the claim that “…human nature contained within itself seeds and predispositions for the races, which were triggered by but not caused by climate…” and geography (344). In this way, race comes denote inheritable changes as catalyzed by geographic environs and locales.

Kant’s Four Race Schema

“Stem Genus:

Whites of brunette colour

First race, very blond (northern Europe) of damp cold.

Second race, copper-red (America) of dry cold.

Third race, black (Senegambia) of damp heat.

Fourth race, olive-yellow (Indians) of dry heat (2:411).” (Qtd. in Larrimore 349).

Kant contrived a four race schema to account for all of human variation: “‘1) the race of the Whites, 2) the Negro race, 3) the Hunnish (Mongolian or Kalmuck) race, 4) the Hindu or Hindustani race’” (Larrimore 345). While Kant’s schema accounted for all racial mixtures, Larrimore informs “Kant argued…not all people were fully raced” (345). Kant identified two races in particular as anomalous populations: (Native) Americans and Whites. Of the former, Kant argues that Americans, ancestrally speaking, “apparently migrated too fast” and subsequently, their “congenital weakness could be explained by the incomplete achievement of the Hunnish Keim[1] exacerbated by a further degeneration as they moved south from one climate to another” (345). In other words, Kant argues that Indigenous American ancestors had migrated too quickly for “any Keim fully too unfold” (345).  On the other hand, Whites were also beyond full racialization. However, “the consequence was not weakness” as with the Americans “but strength,” for the Whites “had moved slowly enough not to trigger the development of one Keim at the expense of another” (345).

From Race to Racism: whiteness to white supremacy

While neither Americans nor Whites were fully raced, White persons were naturally extraordinarily strong and potent. Consider Kant’s remarks on the obvious  superiority of European stock: “If one asks with which of the present races the first human stock (Menschen Stamm) might have had the greatest similarity, one would, though without prejudice, pronounce in favor of the Whites because of the evidently greater perfection of one colour over others” (Qtd. in Larrimore 345). Juxtaposed with Kant’s comments on the semi-race of Americans, and a very unsavory portrait–depending on one’s sensibilities–beings to emerge, whereby Kant moves, almost immediately, from the development of a racial typography to the establishment of a white supremacist hierarchy. Consider Kant’s statements in his work, “On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy,” remarking upon the inherent laziness of Negroes and Americans as informed by Pauline Kleingeld:

That their temperament has not become entirely adequate to any climate can also be inferred from the fact that it is hard to find any other reason why this race, which is too weak for hard labour and too indifferent for industrious work, and which is incapable of any culture even though there are enough examples and encouragement in the vicinity [namely, the example set by the European colonial settlers], stands far below even the Negro, who occupies the lowest of all other levels which we have mentioned as racial differences.  (Qtd. in Kleingeld 574)

 It is likely that Kant believed his racial theories could serve as a basis for global human unity, as his monogenetic theory was congruent with pervading Christian mythology (the whole of humanity as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve) and the teachings of the church, of which he was exposed to through the Pietism of his religious upbringing. Prima facie, there is nothing inherently illogical or immoral (i.e., racist) about Kant’s hypothesis–thus far. Kant does claim to believe that all human beings are human beings notwithstanding their varieties.  However, Kant (a la Aristotelian natural slavery) moves beyond mere description of the natural history of human genetic and hereditary variation, and proceeds to develop racial prescriptions that are indicative, and at other times deterministic, of human ability. For example, “their mixtures”; “anomalies and relative strength or weakness,” as derived by—and in some instances determined by—race (Larrimore 346).  The problems that plague Kant’s thought are captured explicitly in footnotes spanning the much of his oeuvre. A footnote in Lectures on Anthropology, written between 1781-2 reads “Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of the Whites” (Qtd. in 574). One must wonder: just how did Kant understand perfection? Was this statement confined to be applied to a specific moment in time, or was this a blanket statement, applying to all of the people, in all of the places, at all times? Kleingeld helps to flesh out Kant’s prescriptive ideas when she informs that “… [Kant] asserts that Native Americans are the lowest of the four races, as they are completely inert, impassive, and incapable of being educated at all. He places the ‘Negroes’ above them, as they are capable of being trained to be slaves (but are incapable of any other form of education) (Italics added) (Kleingeld 576). Another footnote in on ‘Of the Different Human Races’ seems evidence of an endorsement, at worst, and a casual banality, at best, concerning slavery. For example, Kant writes of the utility of Native American slaves in comparison to African slaves:  “To mention just one example, in Surinam one uses red slaves (Americans) only for domestic work, because they are too weak for work in the field. For field work one needs negroes” (Qtd. in Kleinfeld 576).

What is truly fascinating is how hierarchical notions of race and the fantasy of white supremacy were concomitant with the so-called Enlightenment of Europe. The allure to study racial pathology crescendos into mysterium fascinans in light of the fact that Europe’s greatest philosopher, for all his foresight and piercing intellect, was nevertheless blind drunk on the myth of white supremacy.   In any case, however, is Kant’s special treatment of whiteness. Albeit, Kant’s treatment of whiteness is  unsurprising given the preceding 250 years of European history which saw the not only the discovery of the New World in the Americas, but had also saw what could only be described as a nascent racism, citing the history of European imperialism and genocide in the Old World[2], New World, and Africa.

Immanuel Kant, the most prominent philosopher to discuss race, juxtaposed a natural (meaning genetic based) understanding with a scholastic (meaning phenotypic resemblance based) one and situated the race concept in the genealogy-based perspective: A scholastic division is based upon classes and divides things up according to similarities, but a natural division is based on identifying lines of descent that classify the animals according to reproductive relationships. The first of these procures a scholastic system for memory; the second, a natural system for the understanding. (Of the Different Human Races) What is a race? The word is not to be found in any systematic description of nature, so presumably the thing itself is nowhere to be found in nature. The concept which this expression designates is, well established because every nature observer has been produced via interbreeding. That means a union does not lie in the concept of its species, but was certainly originally placed in the lineal system stock of the species itself (On the Use of Teleological Principles in Philosophy 13).

Race Today

In 2001, Andrew Peyton Thomas published a robust yet poignantly constructed biography of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, aptly entitled, Clarence Thomas. In Peyton Thomas’ historical panorama,  race functions as the aggregate sum of distinct cultural and genetic markers, and aligns with the view that race is simultaneously socially and biologically valid. Uncovering Justice Thomas’ familial roots back to that morally bereft era of American history when the enslavement of Africans and African descendants was protected by local custom, and inevitably enshrined and preserved in local, state, and federal laws, Peyton Thomas writes that contemporary antebellum white slave-owners, “To avoid contracting malaria, to which African blacks (conveniently enough) were genetically more resistant than whites, the local rice aristocracy entrusted the cultivation of this crop to the slaves while retreating to higher ground in the summer”, and thus Peyton Thomas’ conception of race entails: (1) genetic distinctions and (2) cultural distinctions or hereditary habits found in the agricultural “expertise” of  enslaved Africans (Thomas, A.P. 15).

Peyton Thomas’ variegated conception of is race in the 21st century is not an anomaly. Many other thinkers and scientists have come to accept race as a valid concept along both scientific and social lines. For example, the following descriptions of race were are all commissioned in the 21st century:

[A] phenotypically and/or geographically distinctive subspecific group, composed of individuals inhabiting a defined geographical and/or ecological region, and possessing characteristic phenotypic and gene frequencies that distinguish it from other such groups. Homo sapiens can be subdivided into five races on the basis of the geographic origin…. (Qtd. in Fuerst 38).

And,

“Genetic differences between these groups have accumulated throughout the thousands of generations during which they have shared only a minute portion of their ancestry. Certain constellations of characteristics have become typical of the peoples of East Asia, others have become just as typical of Europeans It is the breeding population into which one was born which determines one’s race, not one’s personal characteristics… One cannot change one’s race, but, by mating with someone of another race, one can produce offspring who may fall into a different classification: only the future can tell” (Qtd. in Fuerst 39-40).

Both descriptions exhibit an affinity for race as biologically and socially solvent.

Notwithstanding the valid biological aspects of race, race is a dynamic concept and often exceeds a simplistic representation. While there are biological aspects of race, there are also social aspects of race, which are manifestly historical, cultural, and performative.  Capturing Peyton Thomas’ biography is noteworthy for its nuanced treatment of the concept of race in the context of American history. Justice Thomas, who Peyton describes as “proudly independent to the point of vice,” exhibits what can only be described as complex views on race. The complexity of Justice Thomas’ view are encapsulated in his 1998 address to the annual session of the National Bar Association entitled “I Am a Man, A Black Man, an American”:

As Ralph Ellison wrote more than 35 years ago, “Why is it so often true that when critics confront the American as Negro, they suddenly drop their advanced critical armament and revert with an air of confident superiority to quite primitive modes of analysis?” Those matters accomplished by whites are routinely subjected to sophisticated modes of analysis. But the when the selfsame matters are accomplished by blacks, the opaque racial prism of analysis precludes such sophistication, and all is seen in black and white. And some who would not venture onto the more sophisticated analytical turf are quite content to play in the minor leagues of primitive harping. (Thomas, Clarence 1998)

 

Works Cited

Fuerst, John. The Nature of Race: the Genealogy of the Concept and Biological   Constructs

Contemporaneous Utility. Open Behavioral Genetics. Dec. 20, 2014. 301293756_The_Nature_of_Race_the_Genealogy_of_the_Concept_and_the_Biological_Construct’s_Contemporaneous_Utility

Kleingeld, Pauline. “Kant’s Second Thoughts on Race.” The Philosophical             Quarterly. Vol 51.No 229. Oct 2007.

Larrimore, Mark. “Antinomies of Race: Diversity and Destiny in Kant. Patterns of Prejudice. Vol. 42. No.4-5, 2008.

Thomas, Andrew Peyton. Clarence Thomas: a Biography. 2001. New York.

Thomas, Clarence. “I am a Man, a black man, an American.” Speech to the National Bar Association. Memphis TN. 1998. http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/speech-to-the-national-bar-association/

Tilton, Lois. “From Aristotle to Linnaeus: the History of Taxonomy.” Jan. 10 2009. https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2051

Footnotes

[1] Kant uses the word Keim or ‘seeds’ to refer to latent human potential.  See Larrimore 343-344.

[2] King Edward I expelled all Jews from England in 1290. Jews were not allowed to return until 1656. Likewise, Queen Elizabeth I barred”blackmoores” [sic] from her realm, thus establishing a long tradition racial-ethnic animosity long before Kant. The UK national archives provide electronic versions of the Queen’s decrees free of charge.  See link for further reading:http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/early_times/elizabeth.htm

The Evolution of Style

I don’t care what you wear: wear it well. While this post mainly focuses on: the historical evolution of dress, Dandyism, and inevitably, literature, I hope the reader will forgive me, if, from time to time, I relay unsolicited advice in regards to dress and manners. This unsolicited advice may take the form of general rules of thumb—formulated by time and traditions of Western civilization–, as well as particularities derived from my own prejudices and proclivities.  

My objective here is to inform. Thus, if you (the reader) should learn even one new thing, I have succeeded in my task; however, if at any point someone should let out a little giggle, or a laugh, I will have surpassed by objective, having fulfilled the soul in sharing a morsel of pleasure and enjoyment to another human being.   

This is one author that recognizes a difference between Style and Fashion. Enlightening those differences, Style starts from within one’s self, and involves the process of communicating aspects of one’s identity to the world, through dress. In contrast fashion is imposed from outside of oneself, and is largely concerned with the latest trends. Through cultivating a sense of style based on the relationship between our individual and collective selves and the external world, style is truly about knowing one’s self.

 

History

 

 

 

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Fig. 1 King Charles II and Nell Gwyn. 

The History of the modern suit can be traced back to King Charles II (b. 1630-d. 1685), aka Charles the Bald, aka the “Merrie Monarch.” Charles had many liaisons, and loved prostitutes. In literature, Charles’s appetite for women is preserved in the poetry of Earl of Rochester, who described Charles as rolling, insatiably I imagine, “from whore to whore” and thus the prototypical image of the debonair “playboy”  begins to take form and

 

shape.

Charles II was one of the more interesting monarchs to assume the throne. Charles II was the son of Charles I, and subsequently, was born Prince of Wales in London, on 29 May 1630.

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Fig. 2. King Charles II. 

In 1641 Charles II took his seat in the House of Lords in 1641 and held nominal military positions commanding troops in the civil wars of the English Revolution, before fleeing in exile to The Hague (Netherlands).  In exile, Charles II made at least two attempts to rescue his father who was being held prisoner by political dissidents. Several days late, and many dollars short, however, Charles I was executed in 1649, despite Charles’s efforts. Charles II assumed kingship of Scotland and (some parts of) Ireland and England in 1651. In August (1651), Charles invaded England with 10,000 souls. Long story short, he lost the battle, and lived in poverty and exile for 8 years. Although Charles lost the battle, he did–eventually– win the war. Parliament requested Charles II be restored and proclaimed in him King 8 May 1660.  

These things notwithstanding, Charles’s pertinence to use his he gave us the three-piece suit, by declaration in 1666. Permanent Style “How Charles II Invented the Three-Piece Suit” relays the matter succinctly:  

So on October 7 1666 Charles issued a declaration that his court would no longer wear ‘French fashions’. Instead, it would adopt what was known at the time as the Persian vest. A long waistcoat to be worn with a knee-length coat and similar-length shirt, it was made of English wool, not French silk. The emphasis was on cloth and cut, not ruffles and accessories.

And there, arguably, it all started, not just the forerunners of the modern three-piece, which includes:  Waistcoat (vest), Trousers, and a Jacket, but more significantly, what would come to be the hallmark of British style: an emphasis on cloth (fabric) and cut (or fit), which would be famous by the tailors and clothiers of the famed Savile Row.

Beau Brummell and the Rise of the Dandy

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Fig .3. Beau Brummell. 

There are many ideas about what a Dandy is. There are many characterizations of Dandyism that, in my view, completely misses the mark, such as those who erroneously associate Dandyism with superficial self-indulgence, the “effeminate,” and narcissism. In any case, a Dandy is characterized by a man of places a particular importance on individual presentation—refined, albeit, though sometimes extravagant, in both dress and mannerisms.

 

Brummell was born in 1778 and died in 1840. At 21, Brummell received a modest inheritance, and from there, set out to live the good life—spending most of his money on clothes, gambling, and eating and drinking. In an era where bathing once per week was a seldom occurrence for the general European, Brummel’s morning routine lasted four to five hours. He bathed twice daily: first in milk, then in water. Every day, he shaved and exfoliated, and was a preeminent gentleman, becoming known, near and far for little else than his eccentric dress and habits, and thus enjoyed freedom of movement in the highest strata of the social sphere, where his manner of dress and habits created a cult following.

Brummell died broke and insane, a fate, ironically, that many Dandies would come to share. In 1840 Brummell died in an insane asylum.   Nevertheless, during his life Brummell’s influence was an important development in the rise of Dandyism: having influenced real and imagined Dandies. Oscar Wilde, a Dandy in real life, based many of his heroes on Brummell, and consequently, Dorian, of the Picture of Dorian Grey and Algernon Moncrieff of The Importance of Being Earnest bear striking similarities to Brummell. Traces of Brummell can even be found in Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus—the posthumous semi-autobiographical comedy and part philosophical reflection, that set a standard for the budding genre now known as satire.

More pertinent to our purposes here, Brummell is important to us because it is from him that we arrive at the modern trouser. Today, a statue of Brummell towers in bespoken dignity in Savile Row, London.

Pro Tips: Wearing it well

Needless to say perhaps, I am united, in principle with King Charles II on the tenants of Fit and Fabric as a guideline for a gentleman’s wardrobe.  When comparing European suits to American suits, generally, the European suit fit closer to the body, have higher arm-holes, and are typically slim lined, giving the suit an overall “smart” appearance. In contrast, American suits have lower armholes, larger armholes, and do not fit as close to the body—generally.

All suits are  not created equal. Knowing what to wear, as well as when and how to wear it, can make life a little less hectic. I believe that when most people know better, they do better. Consequently, infractions in etiquette  are usually due to unfamiliarity rather than poor taste.

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Fig.4. Western Suit Fits.
  1. Start with the shoulders. The shoulders pads of the suit should fit your shoulders. Usually, as long as the shoulders fit, everything else can be adjusted by your tailor. Naturally, the closer the suit is, initially, to your ideal fit, the less money you will spend on alterations and tailoring (and likely the more money you will spend on the suit).

 

 

At the shoulder, the fabric should fall naturally, giving a smooth and seamless appearance leading all the the way down to the sleeve.

When smartly fitted, the shoulders will be squared, giving a sharp and formal appearance.

If the shoulders on a jacket are too wide, the head will appear small. When the shoulders are too wide, the head is seemingly inflated.

2. Jacket Length. Ideally, the jacket should stop where the buttock meet the thigh. Slightly longer or shorter is acceptable depending on the tastes and preferences of the gentleman wearing the suit.

*Jackets may be purchased in Short (s), Regular (R), and Long (L) lengths, and may be further customize by a tailor as needed.

**Most jackets have extra fabric as to be lengthened or shortened as needed. However, too much alteration will disturb the proportions of the jacket, eliminating the natural balance of the garment.

3. Jacket Collar. There are many different collars and lapels. The perfect jacket collar gently and comfortably, sits below the shirt collar, which frames the face. Collars are so important, they will get their own section.

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Fig.5. Jacket Collar. 

The Gorge is where the jacket’s collar meets the jacket’s lapel, and should always be about the upper chest. Ideally, the jacket collar will sit 1/2 or more inch below the blouse.

4. Jacket Width. Always, let your body guide you. However, a proper coat fits such that a gentleman should be able to comfortably rest a hand between the fabric and the chest.

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Fig.6. Jacket Sleeves.

5. Sleeve Length. Not too long. Not too short. But just right. The sleeves of the Jacket should let your blouse (shirt) peak from under the jacket. Traditionally, the “proper” exposure is ¼-3/4 of blouse. However, hand-dressing, is highly personal, and these rules may discarded at will. The higher the sleeve, the higher the level of extravagance. In professional settings, however, it is not unwise to be modest, staying within that ¼ – ¾ range. Whistle at play, expose as much sleeve as you desire—without being obnoxious.  Sleeves should never be too long, and thus at least some of your blouse should be seen under the jacket sleeve, tastefully dressing the hand. (See Nat’s expertly dressed sleeves: Fig. 7.).

 

 

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Fig. 7. Nat King Cole. 

 

 

 

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Fig.8. Sammy Davis Jr.                                                          6. Trousers: Trousers are one aspect of a suit, and dress in general, that is very personal. My advice is: as long as your trousers fit at and on the waist, let comfort and function dictate the rest. Additionally, thou shall never, simultaneously, wear a belt and braces. Other than that: rock out, let loose, follow your heart.

 

* Here I will take note to insert my unsolicited opinion and advice: if your trousers fit, you will require neither a belt nor braces (suspenders). Given that the purpose of a belt is to hold trousers in place, it stands to reason that trouser that actually fit will require no belt at all. Furthermore, wearing a belt  breaks up the seamless silhouette that a suit is designed to emphasize. On a smart-fitting suit, the eye is naturally drawn to the main focal point of a suit, the waist-button, which is a about the navel. Wearing a belt effectively divides the top and lower halves of the body, instead of allowing for an elegant, seamless, and uniformed appearance. Additionally, getting your trousers fitted to your waist is often inexpensive, and can be done by all tailors and even most dry cleaners that offer alterations for a nominal fee.

**There are many options when it comes to trousers. But our main focus is  trouser fit at the waist. There are slightly more involved aspects of trousers like pleats—which are little folds, and breaks, and breaks—the point where the trouser meets the shoe. You can read more about trousers here: (https://www.gentlemansgazette.com/how-pants-should-fit/).

 

I have put together a modest gallery for your browsing pleasure. Do note that none of these photos are my own, nor do I have any rights pertaining thereto.

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Works Cited:

Brummell, Beau.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2017, p. 1p. 1. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.umuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=funk&AN=BR189600&site=eds-live&scope=site

Figure. 1: https://www.google.com/search?q=charles+ii+and+nell+gwyn&tbm=isch&tbs=simg:CAQSlwEJwA458BvVCuUaiwELEKjU2AQaBAgVCAIMCxCwjKcIGmIKYAgDEiiDBIIEvxf0GNEKpxXcCvULlhmSDokuuDq5OooujC61Otg-iy7TIrQ6GjAJb8U-AaCqchtzSx8bxgKDwkxrFwyP5WhtVwuOVaIk5bwSTfzB-C3zPHIwKSo1U0AgBAwLEI6u_1ggaCgoICAESBOMyousM&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbnr_c5uzbAhXQjVkKHRAoCRQQwg4IJigA

Figure 2: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiErM7x5ezbAhUNrVkKHQQwBToQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fin.pinterest.com%2Fpin%2F136445063688672202%2F&psig=AOvVaw1eZ2Mny2OequeAA6adGHAq&ust=1529946737189854

Figure 3: https://www.google.com/search?q=beau+brummell+portrait&tbm=isch&tbs=simg:CAQSlQEJsrSDqL2VYOkaiQELEKjU2AQaAggVDAsQsIynCBpiCmAIAxIo9BiWGYEP8xiOD5IOqxGRDqoRvRuMLrU6gC6_1Ot8vvjq9OuEviy6VLhowe48h4aZWZWz6kDwgaZu5kkNgifr_1JpFqSVQCNAo-XZMUo6a2h5lwYg22fDcCLb4QIAQMCxCOrv4IGgoKCAgBEgQJlVuFDA&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ1vy95-zbAhXhzVkKHTtuDXcQwg4IJigA

Figure 4: https://keep.google.com/u/0/media/v2/1VbjefZxNudksLWqETyq5zZkxNelJljM_xAuf0Vao0dcxhimn1BxbX7YrOWVUtg/1jQfh5FAny7zoMRjIg8unsbmLPY_WI2TKNSnq_sajj3yE-zGdhWnMD2LPCNLsOgg?accept=image/gif,image/jpeg,image/jpg,image/png,image/webp,audio/aac&sz=750

Figure  5:  https://keep.google.com/u/0/media/v2/1yJZqp5q1OjX72IWNTK6CRWSnSJ1VaiKVkPc8CE2Cu-DTn7CUcH9ZEXzRdHu2jVg/1_NI8eXQTAry1SaVCp-1X44tbCX2UzbBXStxXopNVLpLiXh0apLiV8aR5RM2nVw?accept=image/gif,image/jpeg,image/jpg,image/png,image/webp,audio/aac&sz=419

Figure 6: https://keep.google.com/u/0/media/v2/1jjSwpsOUC6gthZ-iPIWNf5mK-JkWtWdrXnXVkqsBSKiQCF1hCYrvC_DZ7Kt9cNM/13dRDJRMi3X3RhQJnKbZBDVuEg-YN7OEuJZByIABbUdGYmR3AwuATvZ2z_qXY3Uk?accept=image/gif,image/jpeg,image/jpg,image/png,image/webp,audio/aac&sz=419

Figure 7:  https://keep.google.com/u/0/media/v2/1aMmYFcOce77voLYRmWvmDd39y2qTn99BCqg3Uy9nkRZ0uphznbcKru3uKkZ4Dsc/1-Aa8RmE1EAHUNHoNQHxyWhGZqy-YqRQgbJgVcXV8z-cLtQqG6CDqcGpEEYjQL8M?accept=image/gif,image/jpeg,image/jpg,image/png,image/webp,audio/aac&sz=254

Figure 8:  https://keep.google.com/u/0/media/v2/1NghEth0BUUaD2Nru_QQox8MGpT1LZERIGRcPxcUfc2xkSyfuyf5UsN5t0E3kVA/1XiW599lm71Dz0VeaEZ5B_Z2FKT21sdkQ5HCh7PfR2t-gJzNWou6FV6VnvcvVoFQ?accept=image/gif,image/jpeg,image/jpg,image/png,image/webp,audio/aac&sz=225

 

 

Cartesian Doubt in the 21st Century

In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes identifies three important Philosophical motifs: (1) the nature of methodical doubt (What is doubt); (2) the Substance of methodical doubt, i.e., what can be called into doubt and when (When and what to doubt); and (3) how to doubt.
Descartes, in his first Meditation, establishes the nature of doubt as a means to epistemic certainty, whereby some reasoner maybe given “to establish…stable” and enduring knowledge (para 18). To this end, Descartes further informs that doubt assumes nothing is true that is “not completely certain and indubitable” (para 18);
The substance of doubt concerns that which may or may not be doubted. For instance, Descartes asserts there must “at least be some reason for doubt”, and thus conflates the applicability of doubt to matters that are uncertain and yet to be reasonably demonstrated. To this regard, sensory information– gathered through sensory perception, e.g., sight or the eyes; scent or the nose, sound hearing through the ears, touch–may be reasonably called into doubt simply because the senses are unreliable: “ Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust completely those who have deceived us even once” (para 18). In this way, Descartes makes important a priori/priori distinctions, such that a priori or deductive propositions are largely outside of the bounds of rational doubt simply because a priori propositions do not rely on sensory observation to be asserted or proved. To further illustrate this point, Descartes asserts that “arithmetic, geometry, and other studies of the simplest and most general things” notwithstanding actuality, are “certain and indubitable” and thus beyond reasonable doubt (para 18).
Descartes’s method for doubt is seemingly simple. In explicating how one should doubt, Descartes first narrows the scope of what is doubtable. For example, Descartes says it would be improbable to show that “all beliefs are false…,” alternatively, the Cartesian method of doubt, rather than examine every possible belief, “withhold[s] assent from propositions that are obviously false,” instead focuses only on those underlying foundational (general) principles of the information being so doubted (para 19). In other words, “once the foundations of a building have been undermined, the rest collapses of its own accord” (para 18). And thus, the Cartesian method for doubt supposes the object of reasonable doubt is assumed to be “utterly false and imaginary” until reasonably justified (para 20).
These three motifs: what doubt is, what and when to doubt, and how to doubt said thing, have implications concerning  contemporary beliefs like climate change and climate change denial. Descartes, in assuming nothing is true, seemingly rejects the whole of man’s knowledge, and seems superficially, in agreement with contemporary climate change deniers, who maintain that anthropogenic climate change cannot be asserted as scientific fact.

II. Contemporary Implications of Cartesian Doubt
In our own time, contemporary skeptics have taken notions of Cartesian doubt far beyond their original scope as presented in the Meditations; using skepticism as a means to obfuscate and derail, rather than to elucidate and reinforce the certainty and credibility of modern science.
Before we can consider further the Cartesian implications of doubt in the contemporary debate about climate change, it may first be helpful to define the terms and concepts central to the discussion thereof. As such, throughout this paper, doubt/skepticism will refer to that method established by Descartes in the Meditations, whereby our knowledge of the truth of what we know, is assumed to be false, then assiduously demonstrated as true (Descartes, para 12). Furthermore, climate change, in this instance, refers to human caused (anthropogenic) heating of the planet through an excessive accumulation of greenhouse gases in earth’s atmosphere. Climate change denial, then, is the intentional misrepresentation of scientific fact or “climate change.”
A. Important Distinctions:
Catriona McKinnon, in the article “Should We Tolerate Climate Change Denial,” assists in making important distinctions pursuant to the issue of doubt and climate change. McKinnon’s analysis is conducive for making nuanced distinctions between healthy skepticism and what is termed “climate denial.” Concerning the former, McKinnon informs that the “aspects of climate science that lie within the range of normal and healthy disciplinary disagreement” are indicative of healthy scientific discourse (McKinnon 205); whereas climate denial refers to “the deliberate and deceptive misrepresentation of the scientific realities of climate change, such as the fact that climate change is happening, its anthropogenic causes, and its damaging impacts” (205). In this way, climate change denial exceeds the bounds of Cartesian doubt. For, if the aim and intent of Cartesian doubt resolves to bolster, rather that erode certainty and credibility regarding human knowledge, by, in Descartes’ words in Meditations “…making it impossible for us to doubt any further those things that we later discover to be true”, climate denial, then, by virtue of the denial, rather than the confirmation of truth, is impertinent to the goals of Cartesian doubt (Descartes para 12).
Not all skepticism, as it regards anthropogenic climate change, is unreasonable. Consequently, pervading doubts about climate change, as Steven Dutch informs in “Climate Change Skeptics,” there are varying degrees of skepticism which may be described as legitimate and illegitimate; moreover, many scientists who accept the fact the anthropomorphic climate change is occurring, are nevertheless mistakenly “described in the media as skeptics…” when they “…are merely describing problems that are common in knowledge in the scientific community” (Dutch 1). For example, legitimate doubt might voice concerns about data and data interpretation, without doubting that climate change is occurring. These concerns may identify “features not adequately modeled by climate studies, or may, perhaps, doubt the “validity of computer climate modeling” or even “how to link recent quantitative measurements with older historical and prehistoric climate indicators”, are all examples of legitimate doubt within the bound of Cartesian Skepticism (Dutch 1). On the other hand, extreme skeptics doubt that anthropogenic climate change as a matter of fact. Subsequently, climate-deniers may question or “[claim] that the warming of the climate might actually be beneficial,” or “claims that the earth is actually cooling, or has begun to cool after a warming period,” or “claims that attempts to halt or even reverse climate change would impose unacceptable economic or political costs,” and are all indicative of extreme doubt, that lie outside of the Cartesian method.
B. The Greenhouse Effect:

Greenhouse
Fig.1. The Greenhouse Effect. http://whrc.org/publications-data/understanding-climate-change-a-primer/

Woods Hole Research Center informs that “understanding the greenhouse effect is the first step to understanding how climate change is affecting our planet” (2018). To this end, the greenhouse effect refers to the natural process of solar energy heating the earth through radiation. A portion of the incoming solar radiation is absorbed in earth’s atmosphere by gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and other gases. In turn, the unabsorbed solar energy is reflected back into outer space. The absorption of solar energy by atmospheric gases allows the earth to sustain a temperate climate, by acting as “…a blanket around the planet, keeping the heat in,” thus, enabling the earth to support life (Woods Hole Research Center, 2018). While the greenhouse effect is necessary to sustain life on earth, “Too great a concentration of greenhouse gases can have dramatic effects on climate,” and subsequently, the increased presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere corresponds with an overall increase in atmospheric temperature.

C. Anthropogenic Climate Change
Consequently, anthropogenic climate change refers to changes in climate that are caused by human actions; furthermore, McKinnon informs that “97 percent of peer-reviewed articles published between 1991 and 2011 taking a position on climate change assert that it is happening and that it is anthropogenic” (McKinnon 206). Anthropogenic climate change, as a matter of fact, identifies human action as the cause of climate change, by exacerbating the greenhouse-effect through an increase in the saturation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Additionally, there are matters pursuant to anthropomorphic climate change that Dutch informs, are “settled beyond debate,” such as the fact that “the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased since the start of the Industrial Revolution (roughly since 1750)” (Dutch 2).

Fig.2. Changes in Greenhouse Gases Changes in Greenhouse Gases. https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/tssts-2-1-
1.html

Instances as such suggest that outright climate change deniers are more interested in undermining the validity and credibility of scientific investigation, rather than offering pointed and valid critiques to make scientific inquiry more accurate and more certain.
Conclusion
Climate denial in contemporary society is largely at odds with the Cartesian programme for doubt. Evidence of this fact is clear when Descartes enlightens that permissible doubt arises out of “valid and considered reasons” rather than “of frivolity or lack of forethought” (Descartes papra 21), further coupled with the assertion that Descartes calls for the “rejection of all…opinions…,” rather than facts, suggests that the extreme forms of doubt, which culminate into an outright denial of anthropogenic climate change, are at best, ostensibly, at odds with the scope and method of Cartesian doubt (para 18).

Works Cited:
Descartes, René, and Donald A. Cress. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First
Philosophy. Hackett Publ, 1998.
Dutch, Steven I. “Climate Change Skeptics.” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science, 2013.
EBSCOhost, ezproxy.umuc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89475557&site=eds-live&scope=site.
McKinnon, Catriona. “Should We Tolerate Climate Change Denial?.” Midwest Studies in
Philosophy, vol. 40, no. 1, Sept. 2016, pp. 205-216. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/misp.12056.
The Greenhouse Effect. Photo. http://whrc.org/publications-data/understanding-climate-change- a-primer/
Changes in Greenhouse Gases. https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/tssts-2-1-
1.html

Meditations on Ethics and Morals

I. Moral and Ethical Modality

When it comes to considering ethics and morals, it may be prudent to first study the more primary branches of philosophy–ontology and epistemology; thus my meta-ethical view is one that believes that deontology and consequentialism are complementary rather than oppositional, precisely because of the epistemological and ontological distinctions between ethics and morals.

The graphic (see fig. 1), illustrates the five major branches of philosophy, as well as the relation between the branches in descending order. In this way, metaphysics, also called the first philosophy, determines epistemology; epistemology determines logic, and so on.  This graphic is apropos in illustrating visually, precisely why and how ontology and epistemology precede the study of axiology or ethics.  Ontology is the study of existence or being, while epistemology is the study of knowledge. One can see, prima facie, that before a given concept is qualified, the concept must first exist—and this ontology may be either real and/or imagined. Logically, then, before we can assert or identify what good morals or bad morals are; and before we can evaluate and/or investigate what good ethics or bad ethics look like, morals and ethics must first be, and thus are necessarily predicated on ontological and epistemological antecedents.

Philosphy Flow chart.jpg
Fig. 1. Hierarchy of major braches in Philosophy.
Pierce, Karla. Web. 5 June. 2018 http://www.packstarusa.com/index.php/homework/14283/

Existence and Identity are concomitant insofar as a given entity must have unique and distinct properties unto itself, in order to (be said to) have existence (Rand, Ayn). Yet, it seems likely that an entity must exist in some capacity, before that given entity assumes identifiable characteristics. There must be some-thing, as opposed to no-thing, in order to identify general and specific characteristics, qualities, and attributes. However, for the purposes of this paper, citing the conundrums concerning the tensions between existence and identity as explored in matters of  instantiation, we defer to Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Russel, Rand, and a plethora of others philosophers that existence is not a quality, or property, or characteristic. Therefore, we will say, for semantical purposes that identity follows from existence (Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason).

Identity speaks to both general and specific attributes. Surly, Sparky is a dog; having established what (something as opposed to nothing), we now look to type and kind of dog Sparky is and thus, furthering or expanding the investigation of idenity.[1]Aristotle informs that everything that exists has a specific nature, which distinguishes a specific entity, from other entities in relating or varying categories. In grammar, for instance, proper nouns name individual people, places and things— distinguishing the specific from the general. In this way, for example, the proper noun, Albert Murray, would distinguish Mr. Murray, in general from other American writers. Similarly, the proper nouns Pequod and USS Abraham Lincoln, distinguishes those particular sea vessels from other sea vessels, in general, and thus existence or being itself becomes first-order, while identity modifies or qualifies said existence (notwithstanding there is no instance of an existence without identity, hence a conundrum).

II. The Ontology and Epistemology of Ethics and Morals

 What is knowable about the nature of morality? That is, what can we know and how do we come to know information pursuant to the nature or ontology of moral principles and ethical thinking? These epistemological concerns beg answers to such questions as such; inquiring not only if morals and ethics exist, but also, perhaps more pertinent to societal life, how are morals and ethics knowable?  The implications of one’s epistemological beliefs immediately presumes force and magnitude in the wake of probing inquisitions as:  do morals exist as matters of independent facts? Are morals subjective or objective? The answer to this question—as with most all questions—depends on one’s epistemology. The answers to questions as such may look markedly different, if not wholly contradictory, within, for example a Constructivist epistemological framework as opposed to a Positivist epistemological framework. Even epistemologies that are united on many basic principles—like rationalism and empiricism—many end up with wildly different results. Are there facts? Are there opinions? How do we tell the difference between the two? What is trueness? What is falseness and how do we distinguish between the two? Also what are arguments? Are arguments (or prepositions) truth-creating or merely truth-preserving? One’s epistemological assumptions, presumptions, and presuppositions, will dictate the methodology employed in inquest.

Guiding my approach into moral and ethical thinking is a commitment to reason and objectivity. We can objectively state, however ironically, that a belief in objectivity is not unanimous among humanity. And as human beings are able to compartmentalize thoughts and emotions, it is possible to subscribe to objectivity in one aspect of life, and not others. Notwithstanding, beliefs, one way or another, do not cause or determine reality. That which exists, exists whether not some perceiver believes—albeit Bertrand Russell would disagree.

Nevertheless, if morality exists objectively, then what might this justification look like?  We have previously established that questions pursuant to the nature and existence of morality is situated within the philosophical domain of ontology or first philosophy, and buttressed, secondarily by epistemological concerns; and therefore, investigations of morality must start in the realm of the a priori. Jason S. Baehr, in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in the entry of necessary versus contingent distinctions that:  “It is reasonable to expect, for instance, that if a given claim is necessary, it must be knowable only a priori. Sense experience can tell us only about the actual world and hence about what is the case” (Baehr). In simpler terms, Baehr asserts that: all necessary conclusions are a priori, though not all a priori conclusions are necessary.  Yet remember, there is some-thing as opposed to no-thing. In this way, existence (life/being) becomes necessary, as all other concepts presuppose existence, identity, and consciousness, and that without assuming the above, nothing can be said because there is no-thing to say or anyone to say it. There would be, absolutely, no-things.

Supposing that reason is the vehicle through which human beings can learn a priori truths about the world around us—both within and without ourselves—and moreover, that all human beings are capable of reason; and further, given that good and bad, (i.e. morals), are rational concepts rather than material conditions: as a matter of consequence it follows, then that good and bad, may be deduced with the same level of certainty as other a priori and analytic concepts that inform of actual world.

III. Ethics: the Application of Morals

It would also follow that the same moral principles are discoverable by virtue of reason, to every being with the capacity for reason. Good-ness or bad-ness; wrong-ness or right-ness, of ethics is not determined by the fact that itself, but our conception of good and bad must come from a realm set a part, in order to have an intelligible discussion about ethics and morals. That is: good and bad must be logically distinct and independent in for “good consequences” or “bad consequences” to have any adequate meaning or practicable value.  A bad act (the unethical) presupposes the very idea or concept of bad. A good act presupposes the idea of good; and thus intuitively, we can see that morals and ethics are not synonymous or interchangeable, but more accurately, that morals inform ethics; and thus morals derived from deontological thinking can refine and inform the application of consequentialism. Morals are the substance of ethics. When ethics is understood in this way, ethics may be more accurately described as: accepted behavioral norms that may or may not be in accordance with or reflective of moral principles. In America, for example, slavery was ethical—slavery and white supremacy are as American as apple pie; subsequently, the abhorrent institution of slavery, and the vapid myth of white supremacy functioned as the vade mecum of American life, predominating both law and custom, and thus may be described as ethical. However, there are few who would argue that slavery or and white racism is not moral, despite being accepted throughout.

Conversely, if one believes morals are subjective, then ethics are justified in and of themselves. Furthermore, if morals are subjective, there is no such thing as good and bad at all, and it makes little sense to evaluate ethics (actions) in any terms outside of the ethical context that one finds it in. itself. In each case, “good” and “bad” would be relative to some intent, some purpose, and thus, dependent on some agent or reasoner. In other words, good and bad would be determined circumstantially.

IV. Conclusion

If Kant’s Categorical imperative provides a reliable way to investigate morality, Consequentialists, like John Mills, through emphasizing the relationship of the means to ends, or morals to consequences, provide a reliable way to: (1) apply moral principle amongst human beings, and (2) enable us to determine the effectiveness of the application of moral principle.  The merging of these two systems is not without difficulty, however and therefore, many important questions must be answered. Like for example, what is morality’s relationship with the physical environment? How does objective morality interact with chance/randomness? And are there degrees of objective morality? Are just a few questions that might be considered in the construction of a unified theory, guiding man’s relation to man.

[1] In reality, existence and identity occur simultaneously because existence entails identity in every case. Any entity without a distinct and unique identity cannot be said to exist at all. However, for sake of argument here, existence will precede identity for the purpose of semantics, and the fact that we cannot simultaneously conceptualize the distinctions of existence and identity.

Treatise on Modern Democracy: An Ideal Candidate

pexels-photo-356844.jpeg“Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, — all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked, — who is good? not that men are ignorant, — what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men.”

“Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched,- criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, – this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society”–Souls of Black Folks, WEB Dubois (1903).

Introduction

When America was founded, it was a shining vision made tangible by flawed men. The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, declared “All men are created equal” (1776). This Declaration, borne of the highest virtues of European philosophical and political thought, had captured, what seemed, to be the epoch of man’s creativity, by seeking to establish a nation for and of the people. This same Declaration, reflected a damming paradox. Those lofty words, for all their luster, were merely words. The circumstances and experiences of enslaved Africans and their descendants, Native Americans, Irish Immigrants, Pacific Islanders, and early Asian Immigrants, had shown American reluctant to extend and practice her democratic principles. Nevertheless, since her founding, America has been stubbornly forced and unwillingly prodded along the road to actualizing her democratic potential by a committed and courageous few, for the sake of all.

Matters of Importance

Progress, in America, is marked the slow intellectual and spiritual evolution of the status quo. To put the matter another way, progress is the rate in which the majority of white Americans change their minds about old ideas and habits. In this way, the most important issue would be advancing a democratic and equitable America, as well as the destruction of entranced institutional white supremacy, through a renaissance in the American spirit.

This Renaissance in American spirit could be advanced by enlightened members of the legislative branch, who, in passing laws for the common good and of the cultivation of democracy, have a civic responsibility, to develop through the apparatus of law, the interests and wellbeing of the public. As such, the changes I would like to see in government would be best enacted through private citizens first, and secondarily through the legislative apparatus known as Congress.

The Role of Government

The United States Constitution is the source of the letter and spirit of the law. The spirit of the nation can be found explicated in the Preamble, which defines national virtue along the lines of general welfare, secured liberty, justice, and common defense (U.S. Constitution, 1787). To achieve this end, Article 1 (Sections 1-10) of the Constitution charges the legislature—consisting of both the Senate and the House of Representatives—with the responsibility and honor of the construction and enactment of all laws “necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States…” (Section 8, 1781).

The Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate would support reforms in: education, economics, and foreign policy, as these three areas are indispensable to the solvency, sustenance, and defense of any modern nation.

Education- The ideal Candidate would support robust and equitable education reform, committed to developing modern citizens for modern democracy. As such, the candidate would support free, secular humanist education, blending the best of the: classical arts, technology, artisanal and technological trades. The curriculum for a basic and mandatory Civic education program would focus proficiency of the trivium, and developing critical thinking skills. Ideally, basic Civic education, would culminate with students graduating with an Associate’s degree in their concentrations of choice, thereby adding an additional 2-3 years to the current standard academic program. Upon graduation, students would of the choice of serving in the: Military, the Peace Corps, Diplomacy Corps, The National Arts, Civil Service, for a minimum of three years.

Economics- The ideal candidate would support policies and plans to benefit the larger mass of society, seeking to minimize extremes in wealth and income inequality. The ideal candidate would support a regressive tax, with aims of expanding the middle by raising the bottom. In turn, Business and Industry are free to  pursue private and public business ventures within the bounds of legal and ethical limits pursuant to maximizing both profit and innovation while minimizing harm to human and environmental resources.

Foreign Policy- The ideal candidate would be committed to positioning America as the world’s foremost Democracy by being an example of a fair and equitable society. The ideal candidate would support a foreign policy program insistent on: human dignity, respect, the pursuit and defense of mutual interests, with all nations. Further, the ideal candidate will respect the State Sovereignty of all nations, acknowledging the right of others to self-govern, while being committed to the defense of human rights.

Conclusion

The issues as identified above is but a pleasant fiction. Other than serving as to incite the mind to imagine a better world, the above is not largely useful in the here-now. Nevertheless, I believe that there are actionable steps that we all can take to make America a more inclusive and equitable society, for like Mithrandir, in The Fellowship of the Lord of the Rings, I too believe that “It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love” (Tolkien, J.R.R.), and to this end, wish to impart a few actionable steps to extend, expand, and cultivate humanity and healthy curiosity. Our hope lies in man coming to know more of man, in all of his similitude.

 

Invite someone to dinner. Ask them over for a cup of coffee, tea or a beer and pick their brain. I think many of our problems can be resolved (or at least better understood) at kitchen or dining room table with good music, food, and a sincere and willing heart.

Learn how to listen, through study and practice. “active-listening” is listening with the intent to understand the speaker’s message, rather than listen to merely respond. Mindtools.com provides a great starting-point for tips on active-listening, check it our here: (https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm).

Learn World History in all of its colors: black, white, red, yellow, green, purple, grey, etc. All culture and history was taught side by side, not hierarchically

Examine the intellectual frameworks that enables, cause, and/or encourages offenses to the human spirit such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, etc. Look for that (or those) “root-cause(s),” affecting matters most important to you. Again, Mindtools.com is a good starting point for learning about root-causes. Check it out here (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_80.htm).

Overtime, historically, the chasm between America’s potential and America’s actuality has narrowed, if only at the beckoning effort of citizens who demand that substance of our society be reflective of its rhetoric, bringing lofty democratic abstractions into the realm of reality. At all points in time, I advocate for encouraging human curiosity and intellectual honesty. A Renaissance of the American Spirit is needed to make our union more perfect. Further, I believe this Renaissance must begin with the common man and woman, and can only be achieved through: dialog and robust education, mutual understanding of historical facts, and the enactment of equitable policies under the law.

Works Cited:

“Active Listening.”N.d., Mind.com. https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm

Charters of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence 1776, the Constitution of the United

States 1787, the Bill of Rights 1791. Washington, DC, 1952.

Dubois, W E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

“Root Cause Analysis.” N.d., https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_80.htm

Contemplation

darkness-7

A Darkness Ensues

The mind does strange things. My mind is even stranger at night. At night, my mind tries before the court of passionate, albeit, waning reason, all manner of thoughts. Robed in the thick blackness of night, I find myself pitted against villainous implications, of my mind’s own making, constructed of tattered recollections of earlier readings, interspersed with memories and dreams, darting here and there, back and forth as hasty shadows, all before my half-waking, half-sleeping, but all-too-tired mind.

I lay in bed, helpless. My mind prosecuting whom and what it would. I was merely an unwilling participant in this moonlight requisition–my mind turning as it would, fleshed out devious implications, making them viscerally palpable in my mind’s eye in the smiur of creeping night.  The whole of it was completely unnecessary, and the trouble self-caused. But my mind, being slave to edumonic virtue, took up a romantic crusade in defense of the human soul. Anything that could possibly diminish the plenum of the human soul had to be brought to full stature in the extreme, before being brought to heel. And thus, I began to muddle over an argument I recently read in the Daily News entitled: “No President Who Ever Owned Human Beings Should be Honored,” written by Shaun King, and took up my axe.

The Broom of Anger, a Beast of Fear

In retrospect, what I appreciated about King’s article was its ability to serve as a starting point for important conversations concerning the complex  relationship of history to the present. In his article, King rightly levels a uncategorical rejection of American slavery. Further, he argues that no American President who ever owned slaves should be honored. Shaun King writes:

While it [slavery] may have been legal in this nation, it was always horrific. Its legality and its morality have nothing to do with each other. Anyone who sustained slavery was grossly inhumane and immoral. From the beginning of the system until the very end, good people always objected and refused to participate. It was an optional choice to own human beings. Those who chose to own people were monsters” (S. King para 4).

While I am united with King in his consternation of American slavery and racism, after logging off my computer, retiring to bed, for hours, in the twilight of my solitude, I was vexed by what I had read before. I was unsettled and perturbed by the possible conclusions one could draw if none too wise, for one in the twilight I saw the darker nature of sinister implications, gnashing with totalitarian teeth at the soul of humanity–which need not be denied or withheld in order to correct even the most inhumane of men.     

Writing about Andrew Jackson, Shaun King asserts: “Nothing he did as President of the United States is good enough to look past this” (S.King para 9). I not only found that statement woefully tragic in its arresting damnation, but too: painfully misaligned, and at other times altogether perplexing.

Our views, criticisms, and beliefs, when they concern human beings, must be nuanced enough to realize the complexities and interconnectedness of human society. The consequences engendered by our beliefs demand we always deal in reality, or woe unto us.  While it can be said, unequivocally: the act and instance of owning another human being, without question, is beyond atrocious; to end the investigation here, could risk an incomplete understanding of historical realities, and the loss of the soul. Rather than accept a false dichotomy that demands either rejection oresteem, I posit that we adopt a holistic view that seeks to build equitable societies by learning from the triumphs andthe failings of men.

No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

On the Centennial celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., offered astute advice and a viable framework for historical investigation. Dr. King illustrated just how to meaningfully relate the transactions of the past to the state of current events, in efforts to construct the future, while thus improving the soul. In his speech, Dr. King poignantly identifies and rejects moral deficiencies of  American presidents like Thomas Jefferson, who owned human beings, while simultaneously, elevating the conversation beyond a focus on injury and bitterness; consequently, Dr. King forges a complex and nuanced narrative that is applicable to realistic circumstances, rather than a capricious rendering of historical events. Dr. King says:

If we look at our history with honesty and clarity we will be forced to admit that our Federal form of government has been, from the day of its birth, weakened in its integrity, confused and confounded in its direction, by the unresolved race question. We seldom take note or give adequate significance to the fact that Thomas Jefferson’s text of the Declaration of Independence was revised by the Continental Congress to eliminate a justifiable attack on King George for encouraging slave trade…Jefferson knew that such compromises with principle struck at the heart of the nation’s security and integrity. In 1820, six years before his death, he wrote these melancholy words:

But this momentous question (slavery), like a fire bell in the night awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away, and my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it.” (M.L. King para 4-5)

The intellectual honesty that Dr. King demands is exactly what is possible to lose, if not too careful, when reading S. King’s article; for S. King implies that both the baby and the bath water therein, have but one place to go, and implicitly suggests the conversation  ends, rather than begin with slavery.

Both, not Either

A complete rejection of Thomas Jefferson and his legacy, could result in a precarious fragmentariness. Further, this oversimplification leaves little room for the contemplation of real or actual events; and thus emerge as inadequate for real life.  As such, S. King’s argument, through implication, risks an underwhelming impotence that is unable to reconcile historical realities. This is evidenced in his perplexing extolment that “Presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln never owned human beings, historical research shows” (S. King para 14). Simply, S. King suggests that the presidents who did not own slaves are morally superior, in that they are less morally corrupt, than the American presidents that did own slaves. To this end, the infertility of S. King’s argument is made plain by this fact: all slave owners were white supremacists, but not all white supremacists owned slaves.  

While I do not contest the historical validity of S.King’s assertion– that Presidents Lincoln and others did not own human beings–to absolve the non-slaveholding presidents of transgression, and assert them as moral exemplars over the presidents that did hold slaves emerges as absurd. This view is  unable to wrestle with the fact that the aforementioned were, at best, eternally conflicted with notion of equality, and largely remained unqualified racists notwithstanding the lack of human ownership. Consider Lincoln’s words here: “You are we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races… [it is] better for us both, therefore, to be separated” (qtd. In Hogan 12). Simplistic narratives, of the likes that S.King suggests, are unable to begin to make sense of the ambivalence and paradoxes endemic to American life, and are ill-equipped to go any further into the historical past or the conceptualized future.  

The complexity and color of real life are all the more fascinating and enlightening. How could such a myopic view, teadering on the edge of a very  slippery slope, begin to see the prismatic mysteries and the multifariousness of real life? Jefferson an owner of human beings, came to be one of the most fervent opponents of a market-based society prominent in early American politics, though his vision was ultimately defeated by Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson also details in his Notes on the State Of Virginia keen insights of the degenerative effects of white supremacy on the souls of white Americans:

There must doubtless be an unhappy influence on the manners of our people produced by the existence of slavery among us. The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this, and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do…

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have

removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the [white] people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution….(Jefferson 163).

The preceding quote represents the best of Jefferson, and by no means absolves or excuses Jefferson from his documented and unequivocal moral  failures, to include the ownership of human beings, the rape and torment of Sally Hemingses, or his perilous “…suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind” (Jefferson 143). However, by virtue of his unparalleled, sheer force of influence, having served as: the 1st Secretary of State (1790-1793), 2nd Vice President of the U.S. (1797-1804), 3rd President of the U.S. (1801-1809), U.S. Minister to France (1785-1789), 2nd governor of Virginia (1779-1781), founder of the University of Virginia (1825), and 3rd president of the American Philosophical Association (1797-1815), (citation: historical record)–Jefferson and the other presidents S.King present for rejection , demand to be viewed with a wide enough lens to encompass their stature and variety. Like most human beings, Jefferson is never completely one thing or another for too long. Therefore I feel justified in my sensitivity, for much could easily be lost if we are not careful to temper ourselves, being sober and prudent in judgment. We, as sons and daughters of the experiment of democracy, have just as much right to benefit from the intellectual heights of all American minds, as we have the right, and duty, to adjudge their flaws.

The Volta:

And yet, the darkness had passed as an unmemorable slumber. I awoke from my nightmare just before the sun came to greet me. Slowly, the sun, with crepuscular fingers began his work of peeling back the slough—bringing clarity. In the cool dispassion of early morning light, the shadowy figures that plagued me with impish implications had began to recede as dew on the yellow felt of a lion’s tooth in early spring. The implications are possibilities rather than certainties. My mind was now relaxed, for I had taken the argument to its worst case scenario, and now felt confident in my ability to rescue any poor soul who may unwittingly plummet over the steep cliff.

No more was it clear to me, however, that S. King’s argument, was solvent: one cannot reject information one is not aware of. That is to say, the conscious action of rejection requires one to first be aware of whatever one chooses to deny or throw away–to reject X, one must first know what X is. In this way, the rejection that S. King calls for can only occur, as a conscious act, and is therefore valid. Subsequently, a rejection of Jefferson, does not necessarily equate to a loss of truth, as any enduring truths revealed by Jefferson, et. al, could be apprehended independently of Jefferson. Such is the nature of truth. But it is the Romantic in me, in all of his dramatic flair, that is  concerned less about the argument and its cogency, and more concerned about the harm, consequences, and implications that could affect a reading public, that might mistakenly equate honor with knowledge, or fail to see that rejection is not necessary for condemnation, and that perhaps, an inclusion of men like Jefferson, presented as their full human selves, may be more expedient to cultivating a more equitable society.

Works Cited:

Hogan, Jackie. “Whitewashing the Great Emancipator: Racial Politics and the Legacy of

Lincoln”. N.d. PDF. Accessed 20 Mar 2018.

https://edocs.uis.edu/ggiannot/www/Wepner%202012/Hogan%20-%20Whitewashing%20the%20Great%20Emancipator.pdf

Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. 1785.

King Jr., Martin Luther. “On the Emancipation Proclamation.”The New York Civil War

Centennial Commission’s Emancipation Proclamation Observance, New York City, 12 September 1962. Accessed 20 Mar 2018. https://www.nps.gov/anti/learn/historyculture/mlk-ep.htm

King, Shaun. “No President who ever owned human beings should be honored.”Daily News.  17

Mar 2017. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-no-president-owned-human-beings-honored-article-1.2998816

Meditations on Academic Endeavors: A Self Reflection

Fortunately for me, my initial choice remained my final choice. The methodology guiding my choice was prefaced by three facts: (1) Thomas Jefferson has a direct hand in establishing America as a nation; Jefferson’s words and thoughts as expressed in his writings are reflective of not only himself, but of an entire nation—and therefore indicative of a national American identity; (2) Jefferson’s personal racism and intellectual dishonesty is woven into the national fiber; (3) Through an examination of the fallacies and refutations Walker provides of Jefferson’s major arguments, we can gain a larger, more complex, more nuanced, more accurate view of human society.

The PowerPoint presentation is not an effective medium for the kind of considerations I would like my audience to make. My presentation relies on the extensive use of primary and secondary texts. The nature of the PowerPoint presentation as a digital medium that presents concise information in an engaging and visual way, conflicts with the at-length, hair-splitting nuanced treatment of historical and political subject matter. Knowing this, I adapted my presentation to utilize video—whereby the audience could be introduced to complex information in a way that is academically appropriate, yet engaging.

The principles that guide my life are respect and honesty. In all things, I endeavor to be respectful and honest. Consequently, the methodology for this project was ineffably influenced and guided by a commitment to intellectual honesty and respect. As someone who identifies with a narrative of oppression, I am required at every point, to go beyond the face value of a text and venture into the wilds of interconnectedness. I am in search of cause and effect: excising fact from opinion to construct knowledge that is meaningful and applicable to my experiences and circumstances, as I believe that is the function of education. To begin this project, I looked within—to my core values of respect and intellectual honesty—rather than without.

The natural starting point of this project is found in two foundational documents: The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, and David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World. The Declaration marks the formation of a confederation that declared itself free of all, severing the bonds of colonial domination from Britain, and free for all. The Appeal is a declaration that invalidates the claims of the Declaration and its author—and all those he represents—by examining Jefferson’s racist ontology. Walker identifies white supremacy as deliberate and fundamental to American society. Subsequently, Walker calls for Colored Citizens of the World to unite under the banner of collective self-interests, establishing a distinct nation and identity.

I believe that all problems are solvable (if they are not solvable, they are not problems). Consequently, I believe a careful and measured analysis of literature, analysis of the problems and solutions it presents, can engender insights that will enable us, as members of society, to avoid the fallacies of the past and create a better future. In this way, the most challenging aspect of this project emerged in attempting to convince my peers that racism is: (1) solvable; (2) intellectual honesty enables us to identify racism and subsequently respond appropriately to racism; and (3) examining instances of racism of a historical or contemporary nature, is not a personal attack on white people or a plea for white acceptance.

My skills were most gainfully employed during the historical research and textual analysis aspects of this project required, whereas relating the value of that subsequent research, or discussing the merits of its contents, emerged as the most difficult. To mitigate this issue, I attempted to present my material in a way that illustrates how issues like racism adversely affect all members of society, and how examining historical and literary constructions of American identity can inspire us to to effect a more equitable society. This approach has the added effect of illustrating the value of Literature as a tool for understanding the human endeavor as it prompt us to reflect on the relation of the future to the past, and vice versa.

Despite this conciliatory approach, I suspect the intentions as expressed above to be lost for fear of being uncomfortable by dealing with subject matter many find difficult or irrelevant. This sordid expectation is caused by the perpetual disappointment experienced when calls for critical discussion and analysis of literary subject matter is met with dismissiveness. Citing the limitations of generalizations, I am able to acknowledge the reality that future experiences may be vastly different from past experiences. As such, I yield to the possibility that the project could be assessed on the base of its merits and contents, rather than dismissed.

I was brave enough to get my heart broken. My courage was rewarded with dolorous and abysmal disappointment: learning, first hand, who the caged bird is and why she sings. I learned of the paradox inherent in American society that Countee Cullen asserts in “Yet Do I Marvel,” for indeed, it is a “curious thing: / To make a poet Black, and bid him sing!” (Cullen 13-14). I learned, first hand, how irritating and exhausting it can be to be a Black intellectual at a white institution.

Works Cited

Cullen, Countee. “Yet Do I Marvel.” 1925.

https://genius.com/Countee-cullen-yet-do-i-marvel-annotated. Accessed 15 February 2018.

William Who? Will the Real Shakespeare Please Stand Up.

The question of Shakespeare’s identity is contentiously debated. Arguments tend to take two main forms: the first supposes Shakespeare was not only an actual person, but that the actual person identified as Shakespeare is valid and accurate. The other arguments, quite necessarily, assert nothing other than what can be deduced, should be considered as fact—which is to say, the speculative details associated with the entity known as Shakespeare, are limited to the realm of speculation.   
For purposes of this assignment I was tasked with answering two primary (pseudo) questions: (1) “What aspects of Shakespeares’ life raise suspicion, in [my] opinion?” and (2) What elements “cause some people to think that [Shakespeare] did not write the works attributed to him?” The answer to both questions are one in the same insofar as: the view one holds regarding the former will have necessary implications for the latter. Succinctly, there are no aspects of Shakespeare’s life that raise suspicion because there a few facts about the entity known as Shakespeare that can be reliably and reasonable ascertained. Therefore, the circumstances that would cause one to doubt the accuracy (or reliability) of the works attributed to Shakespeare are the same circumstances that would engender doubt concerning an alleged biographical fact. 

The above questions are limited by their epistemological scopes, in that these questions presuppose more primary issues such as: is it possible to know—with reasonable certainty—anything of Shakespeare’s life, at all? Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, how are such facts said to be known? Brian Cummings, Professor of English at the University of York elucidates the inherent epistemological constraints or “…huge problems in reconstructing the Shakespearean” (Cummings 1) biography in his Folger Institute Shakespeare Birthday Lecture 2014 entitled ‘Shakespeare, Biography and Anti-Biography.’ 

Interestingly, Cummings disclaims in his introduction that “even if we knew everything, it would tell us the answer to our real question: how a great writer writes and why writing matters. Many great writers have written about how their own everyday lives are irrelevant to the books they have given us. Perhaps we do not believe them” (1). Here Cummings suggests that questions seeking to probe the arguably trivial details of a writer’s life are seemingly real. 

The pith of Cummings’s lecture is relayed in the form of a warning that details the paradox of human memory. Memory is a strange thing. As humans, we often “remember things not the way they were, but the way [we] want them to have been” (6). Consequently, facts that rely on premises established by faulty memory as a primary means of validation have therein the inherent problems of human memory. Furthermore, the problems of memory compound with time and with number. To put the matter differently, as time progresses, pristine yet unreliable memories begin to decay; additionally, the number of fragmented memories used to construct a comprehensive or collective picture increases the distortion of the sum.  

In my view of things, who Shakespeare may or may not have been—albeit, while fascinating, bears little on the body of the work we associate with the Shakespearean entity. Consequently, the qualitative and biographical trifles can be discarded as irrelevant as they remain unknowable. It may be more expedient to conceptualize Shakespeare as an idea with anthropomorphic properties that may (or may not) resemble our own, in the place of the pervading notion of a dead white man born on Avon. It is for this reason that I associate Shakespeare with a cohesive body of work found in the Folios rather than a specific person. The world, as we see, may never know.

The Lady in the Scottish Play: Vaulting Ambition: Lady Macbeth a Source of Power

Despite not being the hero (or heroine), Lady Macbeth is the most compelling and dynamic character in William Shakespeare’s tragic drama, Macbeth. At different times during the play, Lady Macbeth is the driving force behind Macbeth’s ascension to the throne. When Macbeth is weak, the Lady is strong and uncompromising. Where Macbeth lacks ambition, the Lady wields ambition with prowess and mastery. Where Macbeth is given to inaction due to his moral hang-ups, it is Lady Macbeth who emerges as a powerful impetus: using her words to spur Macbeth to action. 
Macbeth, upon hearing the prophecy from the three Weird Sisters, does not immediately decide to act on the information. When Macbeth meets the witches returning from battle, they prophesize to Macbeth of the past, present, and future. Macbeth, the sisters reveal, is Thane of Glamis. Moreover, they inform Macbeth that he is soon to become Thane of Cawdor, and eventually, king. Interestingly, while Macbeth finds the prospect of becoming King exciting, alone, he is either unwilling or unable of converting that excitement into ambition. Macbeth’s excitement, in and of itself, does not translate into ambition. Instead Macbeth demands to know the source of the witches’ knowledge:

Stay you imperfect Speakers, tell me more:

By Sinells death, I know I am Thane of Glamis,

But how, of Cawdor? the Thane of Cawdor liues

A prosperous Gentleman: And to be King,

Stands not within the prospect of beleefe,

No more then to be Cawdor. Say from whence

You owe this strange Intelligence, or why

Vpon this blasted Heath you stop our way

With such Prophetique greeting? (Mac.I.III.170-178)

Macbeth does not find the prospect of being King within the prospect of belief. Ultimately, Macbeth takes the predictions with a grain of salt. Engaged in council with the stately Banquo, Macbeth ultimately concludes what will be, will be: “If chance will have me King, why Chance may Crowne me, without my stirre” (Mac.I.III.255-257). Here it is clear that Macbeth is not opposed to becoming king; however, if he is to become king, Macbeth asserts, it will not be from the results of his own actions. 

 The decision to act on the witches predictions is educed from Lady Macbeth. While Macbeth is content in waiting on Fate to bring about his eventual change in fortune, Lady Macbeth springs into action. She cites her husband’s bonds of kinship and loyalty as impediments to his ascension. The driving force behind Macbeth’s decision to assume the throne is caused by his more powerful counterpart, Lady Macbeth. A.C. Bradley in Lecture 10 in “Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth” expertly identifies Lady Macbeth’s importance as a character and as a motivating force for the Lord Macbeth:

She knows her husband’s weakness, how he scruples ‘to catch the nearest way’ to the object he desires; and she sets herself without a trace of doubt or conflict to counteract this weakness. To her there is no separation between will and deed; and, as the deed falls in part to her, she is sure it will be done (Bradley 366-369).

Lady Macbeth serves as a spur to prick the side of Macbeth’s ambition. Subsequently, it is Lady Macbeth that emerges as the driving force behind Macbeth’s actions. 

Further evidence of Lady Macbeth as the driving force behind the plot is elucidated by her response to the witches’ predictions. In contrast to her husband, Lady Macbeth immediately decides to adopt a ruthless course of action to ensure Macbeth will become king. In Lady Macbeth’s mind, the possibility of becoming king is a certainty only if Macbeth takes fate into his own hands. In her decisiveness, Lady Macbeth serves as a foil to her husband. Where Macbeth was hesitant and reserved, the Lady Macbeth is forceful and calculating. Consider Lady Macbeth’s words here:

What thou art promis’d: yet doe I feare thy Nature,

It is too full o’th’ Milke of humane kindnesse,

To catch the neerest way. Thou would’st be great,

Art not without Ambition, but without

The illnesse should attend it. (I.V.362-366)

Lady Macbeth assess the situation with shrewd Machiavellian acumen. In her view, Macbeth lacks the illness needed to realize his ambitions—as he is too full of humanly compassion. Consequently, Lady Macbeth finds it necessary to intervene. She is not encumbered by the reservations associatied  

 It stands to reason that Lady Macbeth 

Lady Macbeth often displays greater appetite for conflict as well as a more intimate familiarity with the political aspects of self-determination than can be said of her spouse. For example, consider Lady’s Macbeth’s machinating advice to her Lord when she instructs him on how to behave in preparing to murder the King:  

Your Face, my Thane, is as a Booke, where men

May reade strange matters, to beguile the time.

Looke like the time, beare welcome in your Eye,

Your Hand, your Tongue: looke like th’innocent flower,

But be the Serpent vnder’t. He that’s comming,

Must be prouided for: and you shall put (I.V.417-422)

Macbeth’s face would betray his treacherous intent to murder the king. Macbeth, as the Lady points out, is not equipped for the task. Subsequently, Lady Macbeth compensates for his ignorance by teaching him art of deception—in deed and speech, appear is innocent and forceful as a flower. 

 Lady Macbeth plays a significant role in the drama’s outcome by serving, in crucial moments, as the spur to her husband’s ambition. As a devoted wife, Lady Macbeth, like no other, nourishes her husband’s capacity for evil at crucial moments in the play. Without Lady’s Macbeth’s counsel, it is doubtful that Lord Macbeth would have ever acted on the information given to him by the witches. J. Shanely in “Macbeth: The Tragedy of Evil” cites Lady Macbeth as the secret source of Macbeth’s will to power:

He had restrained his desire for greatness in the past since he would not do the wrong which was needed to win greatness. The hunger of his ambiti- ous mind had not died, however; it had only been denied satisfaction. Now, when the sense of his own power and his taste of it are high indeed, the old hunger is more than reawakened; it is nourished with hope, as immediate events seem to establish the soundness of the suggestion 

(Shanley 307).

Shanley later asserts that it is Lady Macbeth–when provided with new information from the Weird Sisters of the possibility of kingship—that nourishes Macbeth’s ambition. However, Lady Macbeth’s significance as a character extends beyond mere nourishment, takes active steps to coach, coddle, and instruct Macbeth in his treachery every step along the way. 
Works Cited

Bradley, A. G. “Lecture Ten.” Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, EBook, Project Gutenberg, 2005.

Shakespeare, William, et al. Macbeth. Cambridge UP, 2012.

Shaneley, J. L. “Macbeth: The Tragedy of Evil.” College English, vol. 22, no. 5, 5 Feb. 1961, pp. 305-311, http://www.jstor.org/stable/373470. Accessed 24 Oct. 2017.