“It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding.” – from George Berkeley’s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
Reading the philosophers Locke, Hume, and Berkeley I was astounded by the thoughts of how we are, who we are, what we are and if we are here. I felt there was a lot to work with involving the eyes and how things are perceived by us and others. While there was much I could do with eyes for this project I felt there was more than just what our eyes saw. I felt it was really interesting in how Berkeley felt, and others have as well, that houses, mountains, rivers and any other sensible objects have an existence beyond our perceived understanding. I feel that really says something that as a philosopher Berkeley bases much on how something is perceived on how it is seen. I took this photo with the quote above in mind. The river, rocks, grass, leaves, trees and all else are present. All those things exist and are there. While I did see these objects and perceive and understand them to exist if following Berkeley’s thought then they would have existed without me perceiving them. I wanted to capture as much as I could to try and get the sense that each thing present in the photo exists even if we do not see it, such as with a tree falling in the woods. Would the river not exist had I not been there? And then what about the photograph I took of the scene? Would others perceive and see the same scene I saw? Philosophers bring questions such as these into light and this shows us how hard it is to understand the extent of what we can perceive.
What you see in this picture is a dedication to the Earl of Rochester and his poem A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind. Although this picture looks relatively simple in its meaning, I think it highlights many of the arguments Rochester makes about giving into one’s own inner beast or baser senses rather than denying them.
“For Wits are treated just like common whores/First they are enjoyed and then kick’d out of doors/”
These two lines from Rochester’s poem say everything you need to know both about my photosponse and Rochesters philosophy which is: as human beings we must cater to our Intellectual needs but more importantly to our baser animalistic needs as well. A clear example of how I exemplify some of Rochester’s points are (most obviously) the dog’s head that is poking through the top of my bath rob. What I am trying to convey is how Rochester use the argument that as humans we have animalistic needs and wants and to deny these these truths is to deny our own human identity.
“Birds Feed on Birds, Beasts on each other pray/ But savage man alone does man betray/ Prest by necessity, They Kill for Food/Man Undoes Himself to Man/”
The food and cigar in this picture represent Rochester’s argument for indulging in the pleasures of the senses, giving in to one’s own vices and accepting our human selves fully. Finally, I chose to color this picture red to reinforce this sense of the “unnatural”…Why? This is more a comment of how I read Rochester’s poem and how I feel about indulging in the pleasures of life as something sinful or just wrong. Rochester’s does a good job of pointing out the societal vice on refusing vices which begs the question: does Rochester have a point?
After reading Jonathan Swift’s A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed I found myself somewhat disgusted when he described the process Corinna went through when she was getting ready to go to sleep. The whole poem seemed so exaggerated as if Swift was making fun of the time and effort it took for Corinna to become beautiful. Swift made the readers take a closer look at what society viewed as beautiful by exposing the steps it took for a woman to achieve this “beauty”. His descriptions made the whole process seem tedious and foolish because when Corinna wakes up he described her as “A dreadful sight”, so what was all the effort really for if underneath all the makeup she wasn’t truely beautiful? Why do women feel the need to put so much work into their psychical appearance in order for themselves to simply feel presentable to the world?
All of this seemed somewhat foolish to me, so an even better question is: Why do I feel the need to spend so much time maintaining my appearance? Women have fought long and hard to gain equal rights and to have the same amount of power as men, but as a whole we are still expected to appear a certain way, whether it be in the 18th century or the 21st century. As I laughed and turned up my nose at Corinna and her beauty routine, I had to stop and think about my own. Although I do not glue mouse hair to my face for eyebrows, I have used fake eyelashes which isn’t much different considering most of them are made from real human hair and you have to glue them to your eyelids if you want them to stick properly. Corinna also caked her face with plaister which may not be exactly what is involved in my personal beauty routine, but I still cover my face with foundation to “enhance” my natural skin tone. After the foundation coats my face, then comes bronzer because your face should always have a natural ‘sun-kissed’ glow…even in the winter. Corinna and myself don’t seem so different. We both have distorted views on what beauty really is because of societies expectation for women and we have allowed ourselves to feel pressured to look a certain way in order to be presentable to the world.
A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed seemed like a logical piece for me to base my photo assignment around because it is a topic that I can relate to. I get up every day and put makeup on my face just like Corinna did which gives me a more experienced look into the poem and the process it takes to become “beautiful”. My photo is a modern day version of Corinna’s night table. I can image that my bathroom vanity in the morning may look just as foreign and complex to any man today as Corinna’s night table did to Jonathan Swift in the 18th century.
The photo that I have taken is a representation of “Dressing Room Poems” by Jonathan Swift. The poem describes how Celia is a striking woman, and shows the process of what a woman must do in order to be so beautiful. There is such a great expectation of how women should dress and look. There is so much emphasize placed on women looking perfect all the time but men do not realize what is underneath it all. Men are so use to seeing perfection as a front that when they see the real ‘you’ without all the make-up they are repulsed. In the poem Swift uses Strephon to show Celia’s beauty but also reveals Strephon being disgusted with what it takes in order for a woman to make herself beautiful. He describes what he sees as he is exploring her dressing room and what he sees turns him off from women.
Society holds such high standards for what people, especially women should look like, dress like, and act like. As women the process of getting ready is not always easy but it is not a disgusting sight. Whether it takes you tons of make-up or little to make yourself feel or look beautiful, the process should not be viewed as repulsive. By Strephon describing what he sees in the dressing room Swift is showing the reader how women are so vain. Yet he also shows that men cannot see women as human beings.
The reason I chose to show a picture of a garbage can along with all the make-up is because it shows the messiness and disgust Stephon has while looking threw the dressing room. Women are expected to be prim and proper and look their best all the time but it takes a lot of work. There are so many expectations and everyone is always trying to look better then the next person. Just how Stephon is repulsed by what he is seeing in the dressing room, garbage cans are never a pretty sight and always a sight for sore eyes.
In Pope’s essay on man, he spends a decent portion of it mocking the types of things scientists of his era did, essentially claiming that they were trespassing on the domain of God by examining His works. Similarly, in the class’s examining of poems Like Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Ruined Village” we looked at how life was rapidly changing in rural areas of Britain during the 18th century. Both of these led to an examination of how the world has changed in the several centuries between then and now. Most recently, we were discussing what technology actually qualifies as a luxury, and which are necessities. In this vein, I found myself thinking about communication. In the 18’th century, if you wanted to communicate with anybody farther away than the small community you lived in, you would have to write a letter, likely using a feather quill, and wait anywhere from a few days to several months to get a reply, depending on how far away the person you were trying to contact lived. And there was always a possibility of the message never making it there at all. Compare this against today, when you can talk to anybody on earth instantaneously. You can even do this face to face if you have something like Skype. Clearly, we are living in the future. It’s interesting, since this type of advance would not have happened if not for the activities of the scientists (or natural philosophers) of Pope’s time performing all of their observations of the world. And Goldsmith’s concerns about luxury take on a different context with these changes. What once, just two decades ago, would have been the height of luxury (a cell phone), has become a basic requirement to manage in a modern world.
Mary Leapor’s “Essay on Woman,” discusses the pain and sorrow created, in the lives of women in the eighteenth century, by gossip and bullying. She discusses the idea of a woman being more than just someone who was gossiped about, and more than just someone who was used to look at (like a piece of art). One part of the poem reads,
“And Wisdom only serves to make her know/ The keen Sensation of superior Woe. / The Secret Whisper, and the list’ning Ear,/ The scornful Eyebrow, and the hated Sneer;/ The giddy censures of her babbling Kind, / With thousand Ills that grate a gentle Mind…”
These few lines of the poem say, to me, that if a woman was caught reading, or even attempting to educate herself, she was looked at unkindly, and people in the society would talk about her, or glare at her. Much like today when a person does something society doesn’t approve of, society makes that person feel horrible for it. A woman was expected to look pretty, to do the domestic work of the household, and nothing else. She was not praised for her work, or seen as an important part of society. If she was mentioned in a conversation or a poem, I can only assume that her beauty, or non beauty would be the focus of the conversation or poem. Leapor, seems to have written this poem to ask us to look at women differently. She gives us a sympathetic look at how women felt when they were treated inhumanly. She says women felt like “slaves,” to society’s idea of them. She also says that to be a woman with an education was rare, and the opportunity to be an educated woman, faded away with each scowl and scornful look that was sent to any woman who attempted it. She explains the reason why women rarely chose to disobey society’s expectations of them, and why they rarely escaped the cycle of “slavery,” that society forced them into. They were bullied into being the vain, “giddy,” “babbling” kind that they were.
Ok so how does all that connect with my photo?
Well my photo is of me reading from the dictionary, and the photo in the background is of me and my three friends making mean faces. What I was looking to portray here is the connection between the fading picture of the girl reading, and the predominate photo of the women making mean faces at her. The photo displays the idea that the more society treated women unkindly for reading or attempting education, the less likely it was that women would try to educate themselves, because they did not like ” the keen sensation of superior woe.”
“The Lady’s Dressing Room” by Jonathan Swift takes us through the tale of Strephon seeing the inside of his lover Celia’s dressing room, only to be repulsed by how filthy and smelly it is. This poem shows how shocking it is to men to see what women go through to be seen as beautiful. The reality of it is as women, we all like to be seen as beautiful, or ‘having our faces on’. This is a concept that hasn’t died down. Even as I was thinking about what to post, at first I was horrified at the idea of showing a picture of myself not wearing makeup. Clearly I got over it, but the initial fear was still there. Why? I honestly don’t know. It was an instant thought of ‘Oh I’d never do that,’ then shifting to why not?
In total, this process took me two hours to complete. Naturally, I have thick curly hair, so blowdrying and straightening it took about an hour and a half. Then makeup took the other half hour. Two hours to me is a really long time to get ready, and yet I know if I want to look a certain way, that’s what I have to do, and as a woman I can understand Celia’s long process of getting ready. Another thing I wanted to show was the mess in my bathroom in compared to when I first started getting ready, and I could see how Strepthon, or any man would be grossed out walking in seeing it. By this I mean hair everywhere, and makeup all over the sink, clothes all over the bathroom floor (which were all cleaned immediately after). However, I feel like if a woman were to walk in and see that mess, it wouldn’t be as shocking. I feel like when women really try to look their best, like Celia did, they can make quite a mess in the process.
What was shocking to me about this comparison was how things haven’t changed when it comes to women going through so much work to look their best, and how men still think it’s shocking. What made me think this was my boyfriends reaction when he sees the mess I make when I get ready. He’s shocked by how much mess there is, and how long it takes. So as much as we all living in the 21st century like to think that things have changed so much since the 18th century, when it comes to a woman beauty routine, and men’s misunderstanding of it, it hasn’t changed a bit!