Faerr To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: In this section, he argues that unchecked democracy is bad for the development of culture in any society, because it inevitably ushers in utilitarianism and barbarism. Having insatiable curiosity they have made education an institution of greater worth esteem than prosperity, and by their ingenuity englis labor have mastered means which in turn they have bestowed on the rest of the world. Ariel is beautiful, graceful, and noble, while Caliban is coarse and barbarous, he explains. Art is then a form of learning that finds and enriches the spirit and negates utilitarianism. Views Read Edit View history.
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In a sense, it is like a Platonic dialogue in that it has a setting in which the main personage speaks, but is unlike a dialogue in that there is no give and take. So we may call it a platonical monologue. The nature of the work is contemplative and philosophical.
At that time he saw the achievements of western civilization threatened in his country by the industrialized materialism emanating from the United States. Against the encroaching materialism, and especially the admiration of the young in South America for such dominating materialism, he offers this essay: an attempt to win hearts and minds toward more spiritual, lofty, nobler ideals than those of the cult of utility and material prosperity with no regard for the good, the true and the beautiful.
Prospero, the teacher who speaks to the students, admires none of the cultures of the world as much as that of classical Greece. Classical Greece, he tells us, came as the smile of history.
The ideals which raised ancient Greece to eternal memory in the consciousness of the world he finds represented in the figure of Ariel, from The Tempest. Ariel represents all that is noble: reason and sentiment. For him, disinterested motives are the highest: the disinterested contemplation of beauty, of goodness, of truth; and the pursuit, not of that which is practical, but of that which is characterized by grace and intelligence is that which he wants his students to aspire toward.
He wants them to see and to love and search after the permanent things. His polemic against the United States is considered and informed. While he does not make a list of his reading material, from his quotation and allusion it is evident that no meager study has gone into the formation of this character in general, and his consideration of the dangerous utilitarian materialism emanating from the USA. When he comes to that chapter that brings the accusation, he is careful first to list the strengths of the North Americans, to salute the achievement of the USA.
He finds them a people strong on having discovered and shown to the world the dignity of labor. In the USA, he asserts, they made inactivity opprobrious, and having exalted individual effort, have crowned it with a genius for association with unprecedented success. Having insatiable curiosity they have made education an institution of greater worth esteem than prosperity, and by their ingenuity and labor have mastered means which in turn they have bestowed on the rest of the world.
In the midst of civilization they have venerated the robust pagan virtues of health, deftness and strength. Compelled by their insaciable will to dominace to cultivate the energy of all human activity, they model the chest of the athlete for the heart of free men. The people of the USA present an admirable respect for work and a shrewd ability that ought to be practiced by all true men.
So—he concludes—while I do not love them, I certainly admire. Nevertheless, he has this against the USA: it is a people with no talent for noble leisure leisure can be translated as ocio, which means sloth as well as leisure, hence the adjective which I retain. In other words, while the USA has mastered means, it has neglected ends. It exists like a provisional civilization, like the preliminaries for culture, resting in utility as in some finality.
This results in a disordering of ideals, an inablity to choose because it lacks the sensibility, intelligence and customs to make a proper selection between the best and the worst, being stuck on the concept of quantity exclusively. La idealidad de lo hermoso no apasiona al descendiente de los austeros puritanos.
How true! And how good he is on the Puritans, and on heirs of theirs such as Ben Franklin. The utilitarian searches and inquires, but in order to use, not in order to understand for appreciation, for contemplation. What mitigates the utilitarian impulse is a strong religious tradition. But this tradition emphasizes morality in a way that finds its most common expression, at its highest, in the mediocre morality of Benjamin Franklin, from which it has declined considerably.
It staves off decadence, but at the expense of ideals. It banishes depths of evil by proscribing heights of goodness. They have preached a morality of restraint rather than positive virtue, and the virtue of moderation has withered into sentimental attachment to a palid, diluted wickedness. For the purposes of his essay, his analysis strikes me as sufficiently nuanced.
Were one to write a volume on the characteristics of the North American people excluding Canada and Mexico one would have to traffic in more nuanced understandings, in influential undercurrents, in the tradition of conservative thought which Russell Kirk brought to light.
It is a good book. It is a part of a trilogy which I intend to read and re-read. Let me urge you, if you know Spanish, to find and read. There are many provoking ideas, much of interesting consideration, good advice, broad learning, and a love above all things for that which is beautiful and full of grace. And that is sufficient. Sobre su masa indiferente y oscura, como tierra del surco, algo desciende de lo alto. Share this:.
José Enrique Rodó