ShSon, Epistemology / Cosmology

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Scholarship / Shakespeare’s Sonnets:
Meta-Oxymoron / Shakespeare – Renaissance Background Basics /

Like most of us my first contact with Shakespeare was through school assignment. Somewhere early in junior high the teacher had us reading Julius Caesar and Macbeth. It wasn’t homework; we read it in class: fumblingly at first, then a little more naturally. A buddy and I soon learned that declaiming Macbeth bombast at each other was more combative fun than running around with toy guns, shouting “Bang! Bang! You’re dead.”

That friendship lessened and no one else picked up the sport with me. I didn’t play bombast by myself, not then, and so Shakespeare faded for me. My next contacts combined cultural oblige and school assignment. Whatever had been assigned in high school and college, I was in graduate school before I’d read all thirty-six of the Folio plays and all of the poems. While still an undergraduate my friends and I would quote half a dozen of the sonnets at each other. But again it was graduate school time before I ever sat down and read first, #1, then #2 … My appreciation of them through that time was principally esthetic. Then, all at once, I saw them epistemologically.

What a wild child might have for a mental model of “reality” we don’t know; but all cultures have cosmologies: the universe is Atlas holding the earth on his shoulders, the crow god spat and there was man … Until recently, say the last six thousand years, all cultures would have had a single cosmology. Even three thousand years ago every Egyptian would have seen the sun in a barge, every Greek in a chariot … Any stranger, unless he’d temporarily left his band to shop your band for a mate, would have been killed before any quarrel about the nature of things could arise. In his own band or tribe he would know better than to nurture dissident opinions.

Ideas and peoples collided, sometimes not altogether-fatally, as a consequence of the domestication of plants and animals. Nomads moved over the land avoiding each other or fighting, advancing, retreating: separately. Farmers settle by their crops. As the farmer population grows and the land degrades, the farmers must expand: or get swallowed themselves. Now some who fail to escape a lost conflict are spared: as slaves, wives, or concubines. Chiefdoms replace tribes, kleptocracies (thank you, Jared Diamond) absorb chiefdoms. For the first time, the world has people arguing whether the god who loves the X people isn’t stronger, better, older, wiser, than the god who loves the Y people. Naturally, when the X people are in the majority, the X god wins.

Gotta stick in a repetition of my point about the concept majority: numbers aren’t the only thing that counts. In a group of a dozen, the guy with the Uzi may have the majority, or the best looking guy, or the smoothest liar … When an English lord came into his majority, watch out.

on Shakespeare’s Sonnets Menu

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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