UCI A Culture Divided Questionnaire

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University of California Irvine


This is 3 short answer question Each answer is worth 20 points and should be between 50-100 words in length (about a solid paragraph). 

  1. YOU MAKE THE CALL!  In 1989, the board of the Cincinnati Museum of Contemporary Art had to decide whether to proceed with the exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s career work, entitled “The Perfect Moment.”  Unlike the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Cincinnati institution decided to let the show proceed.  You are retroactively appointed to the board.  How will you vote and what considerations do you consider to be most important? 
  2. 2.  Faith has played an important role in the culture wars. Pick either the essay by David TrendPreview the document or the essay by Andrew HartmanPreview the document and explain why that author believes religion has played such an instrumental role in the continuing culture wars. 
  3. 3.  In his chapter “Asking: Questioning Culture and Consumption” from Everyday Culture, David TrendPreview the document lays out distinctions between high culture and low culture, describes an historical process by which art and artists became specialized practitioners distanced from everyday culture and then summarized three theories of art proffered by Stephen Davies—functionalism, proceduralism, and historicism.   Consider the two images below.  Which of Davies’ theories seems most applicable?  Does your answer change or remain the same when the original statue was altered?  Why?  Finally, explain whether the placement of this statue on a public street makes the piece more of an example of high culture or low culture? 

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A CULTURE DIVIDED America's Struggle for Unity DAVID TREND Paradigm Publishers Boulder • London A�tifURE DIVIDED btiltural conformity. Indeed, to some theorists such an obsession with an articulated "common culture" has become synonymous with the integrity of national identity itself In this context then, the form of democracy we now face becomes "radical" in at least two senses of the term. Not only does it imply a fundamental rejection of mono­ lithic party politics in favor of broader models based on identity groupings, but it also suggests the rejection of a set of national accords seen by many to constitute the very glue that holds. the nation together. These two factors make possible the type of new spaces for engagement and new definitions of citizenship that radical democracy implies. In other writings I have sought to delineate the problems pro­ duced by the binary epistemology of Enlightenment humanism across a range of disciplinary fields: photography, film, television, education, music, and new media.18 The roots of this enlightenment model are perhaps nowhere more dearly articulated than in philosopher George W. F. Hegel's phe­ nomenology, which mapped out a basic theory subject/object rela­ tions. Hegel postulated an abstract dyad of the self and other, constructed in the consciousness of individuals. Within this idealized rendering, the subject envisions an external object that it comes to recognize as different from itsel£ This difference produces a dissatis­ faction that prompts the subject to absorb the attributes of the exter­ nal other. He termed this process "sublation."19 According to Hegel, sublation was the motor force of human learning, as the subject is changed through the appropriatipn of new ideas and objects. What is important to remember is that this dialectic was a pure function of metaphysics. Although Hegel's fundamental subject/object dualism was replicated for many decades in western philosophies and institu­ tions, it was not a model of the world--as contemporary feminist, poststructuralist, and postcolonial theories have made dear. Indeed, it is now increasingly evident that it is less productive to view social relations in binary "either/or" terms than in multiple "ands." CHAPTER THREE Belief Faith in What? I N THE 2000s the topic of values reemerged in public discourse as a point of contention between liberals and conservatives, as well as a rallying call for moral absolutists. The values debate has emerged most strongly in debates over "good" and "evil" in people's lives and on the international stage. In the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush ran on a platform of moral platitudes, echoed in his victory speech by imploring Americans to vanquish "evil" from the world and "teach our children values." 1 While President Barack Obama has expressed his values in more nuanced terms, Obama' s appeals for dialogue, tolerance, and responsibility convey a distinct moral pro­ gram. All political agendas implicitly convey definitions of "right" and "wrong," imploring citizens to accept one set of such definitions over others. Framing issues of right and wrong in terms of good and evil intensifies the rhetoric of the discussion, evoking a heightened emotionalism and sometimes the specter of impending threat. Throughout American history the nation's enemies frequently have been portrayed as evil-and such characterizations often have underpinned rationales for military action and war. Franklin Roose­ velt led the United States into World War II for the purpose of fighting a great "evil." Ronald Reagan called America's Cold War enemies "the focus of evil in the world." 2 This rhetoric again went into high gear following the attacks of September 11, 2001, when President Bush labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an "axis of evil." It would be easy to dismiss these remarks as simple political 55 56 A CULTURE DIVIDED posturing, lest we forget that George Bush won the presidency twice and Republicans gained the support of many in other elec­ tions. The language of good and evil resonates powerfully in the minds of voters because such concepts are deeply ingrained in pub­ lic consciousness. Concepts of good and evil are fundamental to Western philoso­ phy, dating to pre-Socratic times. In both Eastern and Western phi­ losophy, these ideas are found at least as early as 500 BCE. The philosophies of Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and the subse­ quent doctrines of Christianity all hinged on a fundamental dualism between the good or "the way" and evil or "falseness." Indeed, orga­ nized religion has functioned as an important institution of moral education throughout history. It has guided civilizations in their pur­ suits of peace as well as war. In some systems, goodness is seen as the natural state of humankind, with evil entering as an aberration. In the biblical account of the creation of humanity, Adam and Eve are initially innocent, existing in a sort of blissful ignorance. A serpent appears who convinces the pair to disobey God and consume fruit from the tree of knowledge, saying, "Eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." 3 Thus Adam and Eve begin their encounters with sin. In some systems, good and evil are transposed with notions of truth and falseness. Socrates is remembered for his belief that certain great truths exist and humanity's task is to understand them. Plato, regarded by many as the most influential figure in Western philosophy, asserted that values such as absolute beauty and goodness exist in "ideal forms" that people can never truly lmow, but they can experience through copies manifest in things seen in the world. Unlike Socrates, who believed in many truths, Plato argued that there exists one basic truth-"the good" -to which people should aspire. Because the world we experience is but a realm of copies of "goodness," these copies render understandings that are always imperfect and can sometimes be evil. Some psychologists argue that concepts of good and evil are hard­ wired into our brains. George Lakoff writes that such values are part of the basic architecture of thinking manifest in early childhood. In Lakoff's view, much of the way we think is organized by "deep frames" or fundamental concepts in the unconscious, which we BELIEF 57 develop through repeated exposure to ideas. Deep frames "structure how you view the world," Lakoff explains.4 They characterize the moral and political principles that are so deep they are part of our very identities. "Deep framing is the conceptual infrastructure of the mind: the foundation, walls, and beams of that edifice."5 The surface thinking that goes with everyday experience, conversation, and media are effective to the extent they fit only within deep frames. Owing to their centrality in human belief systems, concepts of good and evil have functioned as central elements in storytelling throughout history. Ancient myths, prehistoric renderings, early lit­ erature, and religious writings all depend on the simple opposition of good and evil in creating dramatic tension and conveying meaning­ ful narratives. Most fairy tales and children's stories hinge on a simple opposition of good and evil values. Characters encounter evil witches, giants, or monsters. Peter Pan fought Captain Hook, Harry Potter battled Voldemort, and Superman faced dozens of bad guys. It doesn't take much insight to recognize the transparent moralizing in myths and children's stories. Most of these narratives function both to entertain and to instruct. This is because the stories always come from adults who see them as a vehicle for instilling values in children. As Jack Zipes writes, "There never has been a literature conceived by children for children, a literature that belongs to children."6 Zipes points that children, when left to their own devices, often do not cre­ ate stories of menacing bad guys who are overcome by virtuous fig­ ures. Instead they recreate other forms of play in their narratives. Keep in mind that children not only don't write most children's sto­ ries, but they also don't freq uently select and purchase the books, CDs, or videos. The choices come from the well-intentioned adults who make the decisions for children and hence create the cultural realm their children inhabit. The moralizing in children's culture helps create a good versus bad worldview that sets the stage for a binary understanding of the world. But it would be a mistake to attribute this black-and-white worldview to fairy tales alone. Underlying this binary worldview are deeper philosophical structures that undergird human consciousness itself Before the Western enlightenment that emerged at the end of the Middle Ages, the opposition of life and death was manifest in the dualism between God and humankind, between heaven and earth, 58 A CULTURE DIVIDED expressed in human experience in the division of man and woman. Plato wrote of the opposition of the corporeal and the spiritual. In the 1500s Nicolas Copernicus and Francis Bacon drew distinctions between science (fact) and religion (belief ). Two centuries later Rene Descartes formulated his famous mind/body dualism, writing that "the mind is completely distinct from the body: to wit, that matter, whose essence is extension in space, is always divisible, whereas the mind is utterly indivisible."7 Later philosophers parsed the various kinds of realities and images that the mind could formulate, as dis­ tinctions were drawn between perception and imagination, reason and emotion. Dualism could not have grown to such a large concept if it did have a use and importance. From early childhood through adulthood, the concept of opposing ideas, concepts, and values forms the basis of people's ability to see difference, draw distinctions, and engage in critical thought. It underlies legality and illegality, knowledge and ignorance, progress and the lack thereof Many see dualism as the essence of humanity and human thought. But dualism has in fact been the rascal of human consciousness. Its apparent ubiquity and universal applicability have led people and civilizations to believe it is the only way of viewing the world. To many people, knowing the difference between good and bad is the very essence of traditionalism that passes ethical values from genera� tion to generation. Inabilities to make clear, black-and-white distinc­ tions in decision making and assigning value often have been seen as failures in judgment, insight, conviction, even courage. Knowing the difference between right and wrong is viewed by many as an essential element of adult consciousness and civilized society. What this tradi­ tionalist perspective fails to realize is that duality is in fact but one way of viewing the world. It is in many ways an abstraction or even a fiction conceived about existence. T here are many degrees of value that lie between truth and untruth. T here are many shades of moral­ ity and immorality between good and evil, just as there are many kinds of people. Admitting the shades of light and dark that exist between black-and-white distinctions obviously requires a more complex thought process, one that recognizes ambiguity and partial answers to questions. President Bill Clinton was criticized by politi­ cal conservatives for his resistance to dogmatic beliefs, and his presi­ dency even was termed a "gray era" for this reason. BELIEF 59 But in the post-Bush years, shades of gray seem to be making a comeback. Recent elections have shown both Democrats and Repub­ licans stepping over each other in efforts to stake out centrist posi­ tions, keeping voters nearly evenly divided in many races. Media critics have noted the decline of traditional "good" and "bad" charac­ ters in TV and movies, and the rising popularity of "antiheroes." Most frequently cited is the family man and mafia kingpin at the center of the long-running cable series, The Sopranos. Viewers never could decide whether to love or hate Tony, who strangled another mobster while touring colleges with his daughter. Jack Bauer of 24, Don Draper of Mad Men, Patty Hewes of Damages, and Dexter Morgan of Dexter all manifest similar blends of heroism and selfish­ ness, virtue and dishonesty. Joshua Alston wrote that the Bush presi­ dency "primed audiences for antihero worship, that in the midst of a war started with faulty intelligence, suspected terrorists sent to black sites and a domestic eavesdropping program, it's no wonder we would be interested in delving deeply into the true motives underly­ ing the actions of powerful people. " 8 Is this emerging pattern in media preferences evidence of changing public attitudes-perhaps a new moment in American consciousness--or simply another pendu­ lum swing in popular taste? Absolutism and Relativism "Absolutism" is the belief that there are concrete standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context in which they occur. Abso­ lutism is often contrasted with moral "relativism," which asserts that moral truths are contingent upon social or historical circumstances. Absolutists believe that morals are inherent in the laws of the uni­ verse, the nature of humanity, or the will of God. From this perspec­ tive, all actions can be evaluated as either inherently moral or immoral. For example, an unprovoked war might be deemed a moral act by an absolutist. Relativists eschew absolute black-and-white answers to questions. Rather than applying a fixed set of good or bad definitions that always apply in judgments, relativists often argue that new answers to questions must be created for every situation. What is true in one 60 A CULTURE DIVIDED situation might not be true in another. For example, an absolutist view of the family might say that only conventional nuclear families, gender roles, and childrearing practices are universally valid, and that single-parent families, working mothers, or extended family models aren't good. A relativist approach would say that different kinds of families work in different situations. Some people criticize relativist views, especially when it comes to families, as too tolerant. Oppo­ nents to relativism say that such thinking allows important standards to be abandoned and leads people into undisciplined lifestyles. By some accounts, the origination of relativism can be dated to Protago­ ras (481-420 BC), who took issue with popular beliefs of the time that human beings should aspire to godlike ethical perfection. Argu­ ing for a more flexible approach to morality, Protagoras wrote that "man is the measure of all things."9 Nearly eighty years ago, C. S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud famously debated moral absolutism versus relativism. Much of the discussion involved a disagreement over the existence of God and the impor­ tance of science. Lewis, born an Irish Christian and the author of the seven-book Chronicles of Narnia (1949-1954) series, asserted that science could not adequat
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I would let the show proceed. The perfect moment show was considered to present the most
comprehensive pieces of art. I would let it continue because it contained different types o...

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