Introduction to Literature and the Environment – Lecture 5: What is Nature?



welcome to lecture number five or introduction to literature in the environment we're here at the course website the navigable lecture page which you could return to at any time I'm going to pop this open to full screen and we're here at lecture five and with our timeline here it's interesting to note that we've just moved beyond Greek thinking and this is important because today we're going to be talking about this distinction between the physical and the metaphysical as I suggest it really is intimated at least way back in Mesopotamian literature certainly the judeo-christian tradition also has it alive and well and as we saw with the opening of Genesis it's really inherent in the Hebrew tradition as well insofar as the Hebrew God is a metaphysical God it has interesting consequences for the rest of Western history especially as it merges with Greek thinking so you know we have these two strains of Western thinking judeo-christian coming out of here greco-roman coming out of here the Greek contribution here especially by way of Plato is enormous in that it really sets the stage for a complementary Greek metaphysical thinking to join with Christian and we're going to be talking about the environmental implications of all this in a variety of different registers in some sense then today's lecture is a recap of what we've been doing all along but we're gonna unfold it more full more fully to see how this metaphysical thinking has environmental implications across a range of registers so click here to lecture 5 and the question that we're going to be approaching today is arguably one of the most difficult that you can encounter literary critic named Raymond Williams once famously said and I think rightly that the word nature is one of the two or three most difficult words in the English language with another word like culture being up there and the reason is nature has just so many I mean dozens and dozens of meanings and those meanings change all along the Western history so we're gonna be looking at today is the original sense of nature which we've been exploring by way of Andy Goldsworthy as a way of unfolding Heraclitus and how that actually flip-flop with played out so that the true nature in metaphysical thinking becomes the metaphysical whereas nature as we know it becomes somehow something inferior which may sound ominous and probably is because it has environmental implications the breaking the world up into the physical and the metaphysical of course is dualism it's these dual ideas working side by side with each other and we now have read enough including Heidegger so that we can explore this environmentally Heidegger of course was by way of a quick recap his innovation was to suggest that this thinking which he traces back to Plato is in Socrates is enormous ly influential not just for ideological reasons which is a good bit of what we're going to be talking about but Heidegger says this desire for constant presence even though in the physical realm can never truly be enacted metaphysically it's still there enough that we you know unsatisfied with the endless play of absence and presence that is the world so for example a stream that sometimes streams like a torrent and sometimes dries up completely dissatisfied with that we have actually enacted metaphysical like entities such as a reservoir behind a dam that can put an end to that sort of irritating play of absence and presence and give us just constant presence that's further picked up on by how do your student hannah arendt so the overarching idea here which we're going to talk about is how this dualism existed on a variety of different registers such as place deity time etc and an important theme here and this has really been the case throughout Western thinking is the fact that when the breakdown happens whenever you slip into dualistic thinking privileges you know one for reading a metaphysical deity over physical deities for example something we've seen repeatedly in this course the risk is you risk marginalizing the physical recall the word of course physical comes from the Greek fuses really what you're doing then is marginalizing fuses nature and from an environmental point of view that's that's something of a frightening thought that for example you marginalize deities that are born of the earth and protect the Earth to privilege metaphysical deities that that don't have that sort of connection then of course if we go on a massive scale and arguably the tradition the Western tradition has been so influential that not only has it has it allowed us and and encouraged us to privilege the metaphysical at the cost of marginalizing the earth on a variety of ways we're going to talk about how we imagine deity even human beings as being split between physical and metaphysical but if Heidegger is right then then part of the technological project that we've embarked upon is the desire to privilege the metaphysical and at the cost of allowing nature to unfold in its own way in its own time and recall that Heidegger's example for that was a dam in his case a dam being built on the Rhine River which is also of course a hydroelectric power plant that's being built I believe in the 1940s so something to think about is when we watch the film manufactured landscapes which we will before moving on to the next lecture number six that there's a reference there and interesting discussion of the Three Gorges Dam which is in China and it's absolutely the largest dam and reservoir ever created and probably every wall ever will be on the planet it's so big that it aggregates enough water behind it creates a reservoir large enough that it shifts the mass of the earth ever so little because you know you're holding that water there and new masses on top of the planet of that spot that the earth is perceptibly wobbling a little more than it did before because of that how do you return call this metaphysics because pollution of metaphysics because it is an effort to hold a metaphysical to hold a presence they're constantly present and not allowed the river you know to stream when it wanted to stream or not stream but instead hold it there just the way we want it which has you know interesting environmental consequences as far as the thinking but it's also a complicated issue because you know the three Georgia stem is also the largest hydroelectric power plant ever built by a longshot and I don't know how many you know coal-fired power plants it couldn't replace but quite a few you know and there's no ramp up time for to have other power plants augment it like that there would be with wind or solar because it's constantly a present you're gonna have just as much electricity as you want depending on how much water you're left get to go through the turbines that to generate electricity here so on the one hand environmentally at least in some ways a good thing because this is not generating during its you know actual when it's actually up it's not generating you know carbon to add to our climate change problems the but on the other hand it is sort of disturbing to think about what this implies and of course there are other environmental implications of reservoirs and changing habitats and all that so this is it then we're gonna talk about the physical and the metaphysical together and this is again a recap because you know we've seen that Plato radically altered this and that's important because Plato did affect a deconstruction of what we mean by nature nature before Plato of course was suggestive was change mutability constantly you know things coming into an out of existence Andy Goldsworthy of course celebrates that Plato deconstructed that and suggested the true nature is the metaphysical and we're going to see how that affects everything by looking at the metaphysical and physical divide and we'll do that of course on a variety of different registers and in what we're doing is looking at Roy the legacy of judeo-christian mainly Christian and greco-roman mainly Greek thinking so how that works as far as what you'll see on the screen here I've put a line running right across here that line is meant to divide the metaphysical realm which is here everything above the line will be metaphysical everything below the line will be physical and you'll see we're gonna be walking through this on a variety of different registers so let me just jump into the first to give you an idea so again everything down here physical everything up here metaphysical but recall that you know metaphysical the word is really an amalgam that comes from two greek words meta and Phocis meta for our purposes translates well as Beyond and Phocis of course is nature so this is the realm of metaphors beyond nature up here is what's beyond the physical earth change in nature what resides up there then do you know Christian God heaven tonic ideas it's important to note that this is a realm that is completely inaccessible to embodied humans by way of sense experience you can never physically see this smell it tasted hear it or anything of the sort this has to be accessed and we'll talk about this was Plato's divided line surely through an act of intellectual vision you know the phrase the mind's eye the mind's eye can see this experience it may be certainly imagine it you can't go to heaven while you're embodied in as a human being Plato though you can access the metaphysical realm but clearly this is a realm beyond the earth it's also we'll see in terms of time beyond change for our purposes most importantly beyond nature this is the realm better than nature up above nature down here is the physical sense experience versus you know nature and the Greek sense of process the way we saw with Heraclitus and nd Goldsworthy what's down here plants animals the earth and everything else this physical is down here and everything that's physical right so in early thinking of course one didn't know what to make of the heavens ie what we see at night the Stars the planets and all that hence the phrase the heavens but as this thinking has evolved and and meta science we now know that that everything up in the heavens that we can see through sense experience by way of telescopes is to the physical so it's not just the earth its planets as stars its galaxies it's the whole universe if there's more than one if there there are multiverses they're all physical so those dark matter dark energy all of it this of course there is the question you know where heaven would be where you know looking up at the heavens and there's no heaven there it has to be something completely metaphysical it has to be like another dimension but not even in the sense of you know string theories 11 or 19 dimensions and all it's something completely else it's completely other that's why it's other than the physical it is the metaphysical so shifting over talk about deity so up here you have deities that exist beyond the earth true metaphysical deities I suggested that the in the myth of Gilgamesh that shamash was the Sun God is moving toward a metaphysical deity what I mean by that is you know the the realm of the earth the physical realm he's clearly beyond that he is actually in the phrase we've been using up in the heavens he's separate and apart and far superior and more powerful than deities that that are part of the earth certainly the judeo-christian god jehovah from Genesis is a metaphysical God why I say that is before there ever was anything physical before there was the creation itself he existed he brings the physical into being he creates the physical the physical belongs to him the laws of the physical what happens in the physical all him now there is question how he relates to the physical insofar as and this will be debated for many hundreds of years by theologians is the creation made ex nihilo or ex de haut what I mean by that next knee hello Latin phrase meaning ex from knee hello nothing if it is an ex nihilo creation God created everything physical out of nothing just poof because he's that magical and powerful he could do it or wasn't an ex Deo ex from day Oh God the creation built out of from God himself in other words did God take part of himself and make the creation out of it as environmental implications I think because it would suggest that everything in the physical realm is God is created from God – it doesn't mean that God then doesn't have a separate metaphysical existence she did which predates the physical and as you know in a realm that is metaphysical but it does give deity to the physical world in a certain kind of way this idea idea and we will emerge in the late Renaissance and get picked up from there but even if he is partly physical universe is God as well and God is eminent you know actually in the physical world he is still separate and apart from this metaphysical deity very different than Earth deities so moving below the line here reversed gods that are moored to the earth as they're part of it so we saw classic example would be like home bhava from the myth of Gilgamesh who is a genus Loki he is entirely moored to the earth he is nothing nothing metaphysical about him in fact he's more to a specific locale on the earth in this case the cedar forests as are all you know genus Loki's which are you know genus of place furthermore you have ancient goddess figures and I suggested that the myth of Persephone sort of is echoing this older story and Persephone never Duran hecka d-forming this Trinity that is the goddess the goddess is not in this sense like genus Loki figure and that the goddess is not more to a specific place but nonetheless is an abstraction of the physical insofar as the goddess is this wonderful iconic representation of nature in the sense of giving birth and bringing into existence its fertility its fecundity and it is distinctly feminine because is of course females that that bring in to birth women bring create birth and that's itself you know even now and certainly that a miracle what is that power that can bring things into birth what is that the source of nature itself it is the goddess but even in that abstracted sense this is not a metaphysical deity this is a physical deity this is a deity that resides over in the most abstract sense nature as process so shifting over from deity we go to place next heaven and Plato's realm of ideas or imagined as the ultimate locus amoenus the automat pleasant place there are metaphysical places and as a consequence it sounds somewhat contradictory because there placeless places they exist nowhere in the physical realm they are imagined they are they use the physical realm sometimes as a way of imagining how perfect they are but they're still placeless places an example would be heaven heaven is also often imagined as sort of like Eden but even better than eating then what is Eden imagined as yes is of course a place so imagine the most perfect place on earth environmentally where everything is harmonious and everything and everyone gets along that's Eden abstract that one further and say well this place is so perfect it doesn't even exist on the earth with earth all the Earth's problems then you have heaven if you shift gears and talk about Plato's realm the idea is it's the same thing you know talk about beauty in the world and you see all these wonderful manifestations of beautiful trees and beautiful houses and beautiful whatever but Plato is – an active intellect abstracting that and imagining the most beautiful place a most beautiful thing just as heaven is the most perfect of all places you you only get this through a mental abstraction and we'll again talk about this with Plato's divided line but that's how that works it's it's it's a place 'less place imagine from places but still distinctly imagined it's not being a place at all it's important to note that of course well down here we have all the places that we have you know the place where you live the town the country whatever it's increasingly the case that after the judeo-christian Bible that tradition takes off and Plato's metaphysical philosophy influences a range of other thinkers including Roman ones that the earth and the physical places are going to be seen as inferior if you've imagined that perfect place heaven or if you imagine you know the perfect things beyond Earth that are reside in this perfect place the realm of ideas this place of ideas and all them perfect yeah they're so perfect it's like imagining utopia it's hard to come back to the real world when you come back to it after having imagined a perfect place utopia bout the way as an aside would be a good example the word of course means nowhere because there is there's no place like it and yet it is a place right it is you know the way Thomas Moore and others have subsequently imagined it it is a place that actually exists but only in the mind here coming back to the physical you know after thinking of you heaven or utopia or platonic realm everything here is not so good right I mean look at all the problems in the world today increasingly then the physical world is seeing it that it's seen as a bad thing even if you can imagine a perfect scene you know a perfect scene of in a national park or something of intense beauty you know the argument would be well yes that that might be great but remember the earth is still in a you know bad place in so many many ways and abstract that beauty that you see a this would be played as you know direct argument to you and imagine a place where there was just beauty like that and that's the platonic realm of ideas that's heaven so even great earthly places are still and inferior shadow of the other realms environmentally of course this has problems right because it's suggesting that everything here that even the most perfect place that you can imagine is still inferior in comparison to the metaphysical places shifting over from place we have time it's important to note this because metaphysical realm from the verb beginning with Plato especially as imagined as a realm of eternal life and pure being here things just are always will be as they are perfect immortal and changed this is of course you know one of the appeals of this right if you if you were able to leave your body and live here in heaven in the Christian sense well that's what lies there is immortality nothing ever changes it's eternal life pure being if you're worried about getting old and dying this is obviously a very appealing thing and it also allows things to become very fixed positive reference and this is especially the case with Plato so for example Beauty again you walk through the world and see beautiful trees and beautiful people but you know according to Platonic thinking there has to be something that makes them beautiful that they share one sort of umbrella concept which is a metaphysical and it's beauty particular becomes important with something like justice because from a moral point of view if you want to say that there is absolute justice you have to sort of pollicis that outside of every instance of justice and as Plato would argue in the metaphysical realm so if you do not want to believe that things are culturally relativist that you know something can be just now but now 100 years later from now unjust they can be just in our culture but not just somewhere else that you can do something one point in your life and the unjust and do it later that would be just if you think all that is just you know collapse into relativism then justice becomes as a metaphysical concept enormous ly appealing it creates an absolute unwavering standard that that sets the standard for everything else that exists in the world that too many people will find that very appealing because it doesn't succumb to what is potentially a vicious relativizing of ideas that's one of Plato's great appeals but for that to work of course on the register of time here it has to be unchanged justice cannot change justice does not depend on time or culture Heraclitus is Rome is gig no ma it is by definition change its emergence into being it's coming into being born living passing away it's the endless bringing forth and passing away that's what fuzes is grows streaming stream whatever think of Andy Goldsworthy 'z installations they want to draw attention to the fact that nature in terms of time is all about change it is change I mean it is a temporal category it doesn't you know nature is not due to Heraclitus someplace you go visit again we talked about like a national park but it is changed is it is the fact that life is constantly unfolding and changing that is as Andy Goldsworthy sees it the great beauty of nature that's what makes nature what it is and as Goldsworthy presents it to us it is intensely beautiful to other people you know however you may find that very worrisome because there's nothing to hold on here everything is constantly shifting that's why the metaphysical presents such an appeal because it is a way of getting outside of this constant change it's a movie from time let's talk about human beings human beings are interesting because we're half up they're half down there as I suggested earlier if you believe in a next day of creation or with it an eminent God God is kind of like that right God has metaphysical within God is somehow down here and everything as well well human beings are one of the few other things that have that characteristic maybe the only thing that we have a metaphysical element to us talk about in the moment called the soul or the spirit and a physical hella woman either the body or the flesh that's what makes us different that's fine and then white jr. would call this one of the many reasons you would call Christianity so anthropocentric because it is distinctly just human to do that so for example animals don't have that ability it is of course debated whether something like a dog or a cat has a soul one traditional answer for hundreds of years has been of course know what that means is for in a dualistic point of view that animal is not dualistic they're all down below they have no soul up top so they are all just existing in the physical but then but but human beings however had this added existence which is up here again it's typically called the soul you'll see this in judeo-christian christian thinking mainly and philosophers like descartes will later refer to this following Plato as the mind whether it's the soul or the mind this is in this way of thinking almost always characterized as the best part of the person and in fact maybe even the true human being so you know if you if you if you wonder what you are most people will say well you're not this flesh you're something else in fact there's a great secularization and sort of a post-christian thinking and one of the oyster war movies where Yoda says to think it's Luke Skywalker that you are not this person in fact we are all luminous bodies of light that's who we really are it's not meant to be a Christian thought but it's clearly coming out of this tradition that the true human being is this luminous body of light and you know their untold TV shows and films where you have them you know the body separating from the soul and it's this luminous body of light and you're supposed to when you die walk to the light because you are yourself light in any event the body of course caught up and fuses and change will pass away but the physical the soul is eternal and will last above it the difficulty and danger of this thinking it's not always the case but it is an inherent danger in it is that metaphysical thinkers will privilege the soul at the cost of the body so just that that you know the real human being is the soul the body is not the real human being it's something extra from what we are in the most base way of a simple way of thinking about this as it is sometimes called and Christian thinking the body is a vessel think of a bottle with a cork on it you're the good stuff inside at death the court comes out and you flow up to be with God and you leave the empty vessel behind in that sense you know the essence of what you are and the important thing is not the festival at all so down here of course is the realm of the body to Christians it's the flesh so you have this mind body or spirit flesh dualism those two traditions the greco-roman in judeo-christian will merge like in scholastic thinking and it is often the case that both people coming out of the Christian tradition and those coming out of the philosophical Platonic tradition will see this Rome as inferior in Christian thinking it can be the case again not always that it's believed to be a source of temptation of seeing of sin and evil so you can see this you know the things that we that we enjoy by way of the body things like sex and eating and and pleasure those are perhaps not surprisingly imagined as temptations and as sin so the notion here is that the body the physical is again not just inferior but potentially dangerous something that we should try to separate ourselves from but remember even though we're talking about this just on the register of human beings in the body you know everything down below this line here of course is the physical is fesus is nature so ideologically we're in a way of thinking that separates us from and finds the physical as something problematic that finds nature is problematic and the things that nature offers us you know things like food and pleasure and all more are problematically seen as perhaps you know nothing less than evil so moving from human beings I want to talk a little bit about Plato's divided line just so you know how his thinking is it's giving birth to this so up here is the intelligible realm this is what Plato calls it and ideas here are only known by way every zijn his word in Greek is news to Plato this is the true reality the nature that we sense is illusory but it is interesting to note that for Plato this room is accessible to human beings because of how intelligence works here and heaven is not generally accessible to human beings and Christian thinking you have to die first to get there you don't have to die for Plato Socrates contemplates heaven it contemplates the perfect realm the realm of ideas and actually accesses it he does that by way of reason this is why it's so important we human beings and again this will be debated for thousands of years only human beings have this ability to reason since animals don't have it they cannot contemplate the intelligible realm that's what makes us special reason this ability to think in a certain kind of way is is is is what's prized because it is metaphysical that's why we can do what we do so in terms of Plato's divided line which you encounter with Abernathy reason here is to the intelligible realm in other words reason is what it allows us to to access the intelligible metaphysical realm of ideas is the same as mere opinion is to the sensory realm so down here in the physical realm you can just have opinions of things by way of senses opinion the word is doke so say opinion is not really the best translation but it's just sense perception of the sensory realm that's what we do see your senses allow you to experience a physical realm and you believe that's true reality you look over there and you see you know the landscape when you walk into it and hey that's physical reality you've you've accessed it through the senses you experience it through the senses Plato would argue what you need to do instead is sort of not with your eyes look over at your landscape but with a phrase coming out of this tradition with your mind's eye with the imagination with reason with newest you imagine the realm of the ideas and a day and you walk into it you walk into that realm of perfect ideas and you see true justice and true beauty there so in this approach the in it is surprising the realm of the earth and fuses like Plato's cave is an illusory appearance there's a deception it's an inferior copy to Plato Plato then is really deconstructing reality it's everything that we know is found to be nothing more than an illusion a cheap copy of a far better place so you know this if you've read Plato Abernathy as well that Plato makes this startling claim that we are really when we live through sensory experience when we know things merely by dosa of the sensory of Rome we're like people living in a cave and what we see projected on the wall instead of like a magic lantern are shaped shadows they're probably projected there by politicians and the reason you know and and what we think is we think that those are reality we live in the cave and that's sort of like watching TV in a cave we think that that's reality that's what sense experience is like Plato argues that you need to leave at cave not physically but through you know reason through noose imagine a world beyond it where things really are not these things we get through sense experience but things really are that's a startling deconstruction because what it's suggesting is that everything that we know by way of Sense experience is inferior is a lie it's in Plato actually calls it in the last book of the Republic a cheap copy it's it's not the real thing it's like just that it's like watching something on a screen and thinking that's reality and then opening the door of your room walking out and experiencing real reality that's the real but the fascinating thing in Plato it's not the physical realm he's saying that the physical realm loosest nature is all an illusion that the real realm is up there in the metaphysical realm you can see why this merge is so so well with Christianity and scholastic thinking in the Middle Ages because the same notion is being said that the real realm you know is not here in the physical but it's up with God in the mid of physical realm of heaven so it's Plato then startling when you deconstructs nature what would you see what would we normally say nature as nature is everything that we experience it's the natural world as we say but Plato says no just the opposite true nature is the metaphysical realm it's what's up here not what's down here that's the real idea that's the true nature that we experience so it's it's it's a deconstruction of the most direct kind because it's saying nature is just an illusion and and consequently you know maybe inferior and not to be privileged but what's up there above is the real nature that's the real true and that's the analogy of course so jumping over presence in absence because this is a way that this has been framed traditionally it's been a quest for what Heidegger calls constant presence that which is ever-present temporarily truth Beauty God and so forth in other words like Andy Goldsworthy if you live in a world where things are constantly emerging and passing away and all you can become frustrated by that if you're you know looking for some sort of moral ideal and you're just frustrated by changing ideas of justice throughout the world and Pat over time it's very nice to think that there is something like real truth in doors up here and it's fixed and immutable or beauty or justice or whatever or God and it is the case that philosophers have been arguing that and considering it for a great amount of time here these things up here which are constant presences so we saw in Plato this is idea you know plato's a another version another form of the word in Greek is idea Plato thought that was most valuable in Aristotle it's Lucia it's substance it's the thing of that that's beyond the physical and Descartes subjectivity is the word is almost the same in French but it is the idea that there is somehow a subjective experience that that gives you access to the metaphysical Hegel it's Geist it's absolute spirit its viewers are mocked in Heidegger and then following her – you're pretty directly Derrida is presence but in every case it's this Western propensity for the fixed and immutable – constant presence that's always there you know we could see this – with the reservoir that Heidegger references right that's what you want you want that thing that is always there that is never changing and it's how you go and argue you especially like it when you have but then the downside is lower here is the play of absence and presence this is the endless temporal process of merging of falling away stream reference my Heraclitus is this just such a great an example you know sometimes it's streams it's a stream and then sometimes during a drought it's not there at all then sometimes the floods which is over abundant so this is the wonderful play of absence and presence that is nature in the original sense of fuzes it is things coming into and out of being all the time it is endless flux endless change to this way of thinking there isn't a constant presence but what is present is the present which is the present that will soon be absent I'm making a play on words here but all unfold it down here so what is present in this place spatially what's here right now this rose that it's emerging is the present you know it's not present just in this place but temporarily it's the present you know the president is supposed to the past in the future it's the present then now temporally is that moment which is the present and this is the third sense of the word present as a gift right you know I give you a present for for your birthday and in that sense the rose that beautiful perfect rose that gift of the moment is here right now and it's only here now because it's absent Andy Goldsworthy wants to do this right he in this particular place he talks about he draws attention to the present that the moment of emergence and that's his artwork it is that said it's a gift it is meant to be a gift of the moment it draws attention to the moment but this again is there is no constant present here this place will change the present gives way to the future the present itself is just a present that is a gift of the moment and it changes so this whole process here which is arguing when Andy Goldsworthy is doing it's arguably Heraclitus is referencing this is in fact you know drawing attention to and taking delight in this endless play of absence and presence which is something that metaphysical thinkers have shied away from because the the presence that endures over time has had have an enormous appeal to them and this gets kind of messy down here for their liking we can see this working too with artifacts and this is important because it is a reflection on what human beings do recall that Gilgamesh sought to get immortality by rebuilding the walls Rock in the city if you think of it in these terms Heidegger example again is the the reservoir Heidegger also gives the example of a Greek temple to Heidegger this is the highest Greek ideal Plato of course would have loved this because it tries to be something that endures over time it stands against time it's trying to be like a metaphysical entity as much as humanly possible hence it's made out of incredibly hard material marble that hopefully won't change much over time human artifacts temple cities many artifacts that we build attempt but ultimately failed to resist fusa so great examples Greek temples one the pyramids I mean it's meant to endure for there's just the simplicity of the way that they're there and the way that you know gravity works to hold them in place they're meant to endure for a long time the Sphinx you know the this wonderful statue to King coffered it's the size of it the way it was made as meant to last forever think of state buildings things like the US Capitol it's meant to be it's meant to be saw to endure it's meant to give continuity to the American experience in American government that's why it's set up that way it has to be something that lasts and endures corporations do the same in the World Trade Center I mean that's a massive Twin Towers that sort of moved above the city was meant to endure tombstones of course are the other thing they stand in opposition to the human body that is they're decaying underneath in them they're meant to be an enduring legacy of the person even though nothing of the human being is is enduring at this point anything made by culture that endures is similarly an artifact tools material culture things that exist over time now the problem is of course doesn't necessarily work you've seen pictures of pyramids and the you know the Valley of the Kings you know that they're there all decaying now you generation after they were built to Robert's we're not only breaking into them they're stripping off the outer stone to reuse it again the Sphinx has an amazing sculpture and a huge size but you should know it's falling and decaying now state buildings are of course being kept up as long as the United States wants to imagine itself that way but the World Trade Center this is one of the reasons the tumbling them was such a destroying them was so important ideologically just suggested that the the sort of the domination and the fixed presence of the United States and international in the international economy could be ideologically Topol which is why it was important and of course tombstones are falling everywhere so the idea here is that artifacts are an attempt to preserve something over time and ultimately do it's what keeps the culture alive it's what allows them to exist across people but ultimately all artifacts will fail because they exist in the physical realm this is why true metaphysical entities have always been so appealing because you know if you believe in heaven heaven it's not not going to decay at all like this it's it exists and always is this outside of it I gave us an example in class but this notion of Japan's Jingu shrine which since the seventh century has been rebuilt every 20 years it's meant there represents an alternative to the Greek temple every temples made of marble it's made to last forever this series of temples is to draw its attention to the fact that nature will change everything everything won't decay so these wooden buildings from the moment they're created they're they're decaying and by rebuilding them every 20 years you you draw attention to that process of birth growth and passing away because every 20 years that's what you you you show is the birth of it the growth of it in the passing away but of course anything such as you know food clothing etc that does not endure exist down here on the realm of of artifacts art would be another example and it is the case that the cultures perhaps endure over time through art more than any other artifact so it's somewhat ironic that in the myth of Gilgamesh Gilgamesh wants to to to be immortal and he thinks he will do that part by cutting down the this cedar forest and building up his city and making it so monumental so enduring over time that that you know he will be remembered by way of a city well it's hard to know where his city is exactly anymore it's passed away but the art that came out of it the myth of Gilgamesh the story that we still have today has given Gilgamesh a realm of immortality level of immortality almost 5 thousand years later if he didn't have it we wouldn't know his name we wouldn't be even talking about him anymore but it worked actually and the reason is that arts art is capable holding an image of cross time and in that sense it is representational so if you see our word presence you know present to you the Latin hiding in here it is and arts what they do is they represent the the present that present eeeh that which is present that thing and they do in the case of Gilgamesh sometimes a great deal a great job at that and in really that's what art can do this is traditional art and I'll talk about Andy Goldsworthy kind in a moment that they can hold an image across time and in a way their art is arguably even superior to the most solid of material like stone and all because of the art stays alive then the image stays alive Shakespeare's son at 18 shall I compare thee to a summers day and he says no you won't compare him it's a young man here two summers they are all these things but he says you know so long as men can breathe or eyes can see so long lives this and this gives life today the this here is the poem the sonnets so long as this sonnet lives and this sonnet will give life today what Shakespeare is suggesting of course is that even though he could have started off by comparing this young very beautiful man to a summers day and and made all these comparison you know he's not going to do that because all these things change they're all caught up in the world of fusa of coming into and out of being but the argument here of course is that this enduring artwork can allow the young man to stay alive so Plato series of sonnets to the young man they let us see that this young man is still beautiful even though he's you know he's died centuries ago the idea is you know that you know so long as men can breathe and eyes can see you know so long as this poem lives on it is testament of the fact how beautiful this young man was that's the idea art then is capable of holding off the ravages of time it's capable of going beyond a single generation and and keeping things alive almost I mean not obviously really really in a metaphysical way no more than heidegger's reservoirs but still there are capable of holding off the ravages of time and pulling things out of the generational sequence and and timespan that human beings exists in which goes from just one generation to another another kind of art sort of a counter to this art so instead of any Goldsworthy making that serpentine sculpture in in marble which may have lasted for hundreds even thousands of years he makes it in in ice and that ice is going to melt in a single day and that's what his art is doing is drawing attention to nature as changing rather than to hold it hold it off that art is gesturing it away from itself so in other words we'll see this more with Virgil but you can you can basically see the idea here in that Goldsworthy does not so much want you to see the serpentine ice sculpture there and as he wants you to catch a glimpse of the process of nature as processes flux is changing in and out of being ultimately the the project there is again not you'll be left with a picture of the ice sculpture in your mind but you will have a different way of thinking about things that you will begin to see the beauty of nature folding and unfolding and changing all the time that's the idea behind it we can also talk about language and given that this is a literature course it's a good thing to to do and important Plato's word for language is logos and Plato's argument is and he's fixates own logos and if this is where our culture's ideas exist over time so languages change and even die but they endure far more than human life even dead languages live long today so Plato infused his word for idea a dose with the meaning that lives on in our world or today as idea so if there wasn't something to hold human beings across together across time you know there wouldn't be human culture at all there needs to be something that that is a continuity even if it's just the stories we tell it's what literature and language does but when they're actually you know codified in written language they can endure for quite a while or word idea you know we would say what's an idea it's a mental picture well what is that it's seeing something with the mind's eye that itself is all harkening back to Plato's idea of the word idea he is invest he's invested that word with a range of meanings conceptualized it and that word lives on today almost exactly if you you know you even look at the spelling you may even guess it but in I think I'm remembering past participle form in in Greek is idea it's the very same word and much of the meaning has lasted languages were things last over time it's what holds two people together over time perhaps more than anything else it's the language they share that makes a people of people arguably the least one of the traditional definitions of civilization is that they create literature which is codified language that exists over time or they're solidified language that exists over time over generations is what holds the people together it's the stories they tell but even more basically as the words that they used to tell them it's the way they conceptualize things it's something like this that idea is able to endure for literally thousands of years one of the things that this course is doing is looking at how things change over time and also don't change how ideas like idea continue to live on on today and it's arguably in language where this happens more than anywhere else again it's it's language that was able to give us the myth of Gilgamesh the story that has kept Gilgamesh alive over time its enormous Lee important and in that sense language is is an effort to sort of step outside of the individual generations of a human being and in that sense the way we're breaking the world down here it is more metaphysical and it is a question you know without without language if it's not the cornerstone of what a culture is then what is a culture language more than anything else I think connects it it is true of course that material culture connects people too we don't know about the most you know the very earliest human beings but their language were like but we do know that you know Clovis men human beings you know shared technological understanding of tools the type of tools they made that made them a grouped together but a shared language is often where what keeps the language keeps the people together now even though it exists you know up here in the metaphysical realm also down here is where it lives and it's constantly changing if it is a live culture or culture that's you know a vital and living so this is what poets of course do and and anyone who is pushing language forward we we use language to think in entirely new ways to think things that weren't there before were to invest things that were there before a new way so the great poet let's say John Donne John Donne allows us all to think about sex in a way that we never did before before done the word sex generally reference just your gender so you talk about your sex with a male or female but Johnson actually starts talking about sex as an act the two people do together people afford done never did that then also then talks about the word ecstasy which before him was just this sort of rather obscure religious practice where monks tried to commune with God up here in the metaphysical realm that they actually went up and they're tried to project their souls out of their body to be with God and Dunn says you know that's that's a lot like having sex when you have sex it's like that it sort of like pulling yourself out of the body in something war and he gives he invests our modern word ecstasy with an entirely new meaning which is fascinating because he's trying very definitely and dunsmore to collapse this binary of body and soul and he wants to to sort of merge them together and say that the physical is gateway to the metaphysical but in any event in the process with the word sex and ecstasy he creates something new about them and gives us something entirely new which is lasting today Heidegger argues in an interpretation of a poem by hölderlin the German meta terminal romantic poet then in fact that's what poets do they sort of run out of ahead of the rest of us and keep reinventing language new again and it may be right and in that sense language as both the thing that binds a culture together and it's the place where cultures live so modern technology and this would of course be what we've seen with Heidegger is also according to Heidegger a quest for constant presence the damn it puts an end to the streaming stream Heraclitus display of absence in presence as Andy Goldsworthy draws attention to it fossil fuels and human beings human beings dare burst on ideas work for standing reserve are were to be human resources are all examples of this so how is fossil fuel an example well you know millions of years ago the earth the Sun was streaming down on the planet sometimes a great deal and my sunny day sometimes not at all in the darkness sometimes barely during an overcast day and you know that's the endless play of absence and presence that is solar energy has received on this planet fossil fuels actually took that by way of you know the process of photosynthesis that all plants do and converted that to fossilized solar energy which we now use today we love it because unlike having to deal with the vagaries of the Sun being here and not being here at different times we can use it whenever we like so in that sense fossil fuels seek to be like the Platonic idea and the Christian God in the sense that they attempt to make fusa sindoor over another way of putting it would be to say that they convene the earth's resources and in that sense they are conveniences they pull together the earth's resources and bring them there in a constantly present form it might seem strange to talk about oil or coal as a metaphysical entity because let's face it it's really not I mean it's its physical it's here on the earth but you can see the way human beings have adapted it and brought it into our world it serves a function like that or its imagined like that that's imagined as being this thing that is always here whenever we need it we count on that fact if you know you the electricity is not flowing in your house even for an hour it's it's can be kind of a disturbing thing because we wanted to be constantly present there to heat our house to cool our house to light our house or whatever and of course that all stems back to the the power plant that's burning coal or oil or whatever the the difficulty of course with you know new renewable sustainable energy coming on the scene be its solar or wind is that it's not always constantly present and that creates a real difficulty in practical terms how you know the ramp-up time of coal-fired power plant to deal with the vagaries of wind power as it drops off so alternatives to modern technology of course is Heraclitus is stream which is always streaming sometimes more sometimes less it's an at play of absence and presence absence during a drought while the present during a flood president a convenient way when it's flowing just right for human needs an example of an effort to disrupt modern technology and this fetishization of constant presence would be the slow food movement where we wait on the earth not the other way around what I mean by that is we like the idea of having a constant presence of you know strawberries in our supermarket 365 days a year and you and the day to go get them and weave through technology been able to enact that both by hybridizing strawberries so that they produce more strawberries and everbearing varieties can produce them throughout the year and in many locales or at least three times a year and in very temperate places like California that works well and alternately when it's cold in North America and as it turns out the way the earth sits in our solar system they'd also have in total illness access it also happens that it is you know warm in South America so that through technology we can bring food up from South America to complement our food in the winter what that all means is with food fruit and vegetables you can have pretty much a constant supply of many many things all year long that's an engineering of constant presence the slow food movement this would be earliest 1970s of people like Alice Walters and then were recently I think fairly said with Michael Pollan you're suggesting that maybe no that's you know we don't want to have all our food come to us technologically or average fruit or vegetable travels 1,500 miles to get get to us we don't want that with slow food the idea is you know you accept fruit when it becomes available for one month of the year you take it as a present as a gift as a gift of the present a gift in the now you enjoy it you like it you use it it goes away and you don't have it anymore until they you know next year you accept that you're caught up in the middle of this cycle of change and you let it play out the way it plays out and you as opposed to trying to intervene technologically how do you group according to a student Hannah Arendt is wrong this is not begin in the second half of the 18th century but rather a rent would argue it begins much earlier and you can see that of course with ancient technology so agriculture such as steward grain seeks constant presence ancient temples cities and enduring have always sought constant presence yes technologically we're trying to enact it in a way we never had before but this is always once would have been about I mean because the Great Temple look at the pyramids they're all tempting to make enduring the artifacts Arendt argues that any culture to be human and she says this is the defining characteristic in fact of human beings is that we attempt to create things that endure over time in the process we create cultures whether it's our language our artwork or other artifacts that pull together we create a culture that adores over individual time agriculture is a great example of course because it literally allows civilizations the great major civilizations and they're quite a few of them that have occurred throughout history to come into being how does that work well you know human beings if you're caught up in the cycles of nature the way slow food adherents would suggest we would it should be you know there are problems right I mean it's nice to say you'll eat whatever is available when it's available but sometimes there's no nothing's available during droughts or during the winter and you know human beings died because of it because that absence of food meant the absence of life constant presence means constantly present life to steward grains which people in the Mediterranean of course started doing thousands of years ago by storing seeds allowed grain to be kept food to be kept for not only months but two or three years there occurs granary is in Egypt thousands of years old that were designed just for this they make food constantly present that was an enormous boon to culture because it you know and it took us out of the cycles of nature Arendt says you know that's what human beings do we've always done that that's what brought our great civilizations into being then it is constant presence it's a desire for you know metaphysical presences things that don't that that don't need to change even the Bible is sort of talks to that in the sense that for the fall people live you know eating whatever was available when it was available but then agriculture which is the labor that Adam is entrusted with punished with because of the fall brings about culture it's it's that it brings about a constant presence so I read argues that cultures turn your agricultural cultures that don't through their artifacts or art or language or whatever endure there they're not even human beings according to Arendt and you rather disturbingly call some animal labor ins the laboring animal doesn't create any any work at all so even though we have this picture of you know ancient you know locus amoenus we didn't eat in the Golden Age or whatever the golden rays living at a perfect time where the earth didn't it provided for everything Arendt suggests that it is the fall from that I mean to from the Golden Age into the Iron Age from post from Eden to the post lab Sarah an age on earth that allowed us to become human that that's what we do so it is interesting to think about though that this is a conspicuous feature of human culture and civilization but it doesn't necessarily mean that we as a people have to have to buy into that in its entirety so just because we've always preferred constant presences that doesn't mean that we can't adopt something like slow food and accept the fact that it is going to change it doesn't mean that we can't allow maybe the vagaries that would come with sustainable energy the fact that maybe we would have more energy sometimes and other we can't use that as well it's just a way of thinking about it and at the end of the day it all comes down to this this metaphysical physical dualistic thinking that we've seen repeated again and again this is this is I'm tempted to say everywhere and even that would sound sort of metaphysical but it exists in all these different registers and it even impacts us today and the way we think of art the way we think of language the way we think of technology and the decisions that we make regarding in okay so that is the end of lecture number five Thanks

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