Introduction to Humanities: Philosophical Thought

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2021/03/09
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Analyze the changes in the concept of hero and saint in the emergence of Romanticism (St. Francis and Dante), the agony and ecstasy of Michelangelo, Enlightenment patterns of cultural mutation, and Kierkegaard’s portrayal of Abraham. How do these changes in philosophical thought show development over time?

The emergence of Romanticism in the early 13th century marked a great change in the concept and characteristics of the hero and saint. Saintly troubadours St. Francis of Assisi and, later, Dante Alighieri would pave the way for what would become the third pathway to conversion: Romance (Ambrosio, 15). In the centuries to follow, even more changes would occur in what had been known as the metaphorical “hero” and “saint”. With Michelangelo Buonarroti, the famous Italian artist, Marin Luther, and Soren Kierkegaard, a shift in the philosophy of the latter metaphorical archetypes would forever alter the perception of these two distinct, yet sometimes intertwined ways of life.

Before St. Francis, the pathways to saintly conversion were typically either through Holy Roman Catholicism or Islam. This was a time of arranged marriages and a church based in patriarchy, with the role of the women as minimal as one could imagine (Ambrosio, 15). Francis found his own pathway to conversion while imprisoned. He did such through Romance, specifically by a figure, which he thought to be the “feminine face of God”, named Lady Poverty (Ambrosio, 15). St. Francis would go on to live a “saintly” life, but not that of the typical saint, faith and did love others, but he embodied what is known as Kenosis (self-giving love) (Ambrosio, 15). For Francis, Lady Poverty represented Kenosis. This new found Romanticism brought about the modern conception of individuality, based in romance and love for which one might have an individual attraction, and, therefore, a break from arranged marriages (Ambrosio, 15). In the end, St. Francis voluntarily became poor and developed a close relationship with St. Claire of Assisi. Ultimately, the concept St. Francis was responsible for changing in the metaphorical saint was that romance and love, i.e. individuality, were the most basic and highest form of meaning (Ambrosio, 15).

Dante Alighieri was a close follower of Francis, although he lived almost a century later. Like Francis, Dante found conversion through grace of love in the form of a woman. Dante found his grace in a woman named Beatrice, who paralleled Francis’ Lady Poverty (who in human form would come to be St. Claire). Dante took conversion and Romanticism one step further than Francis in his belief that conversion was a movement towards totality, which forced the lifting of oppression of feminism, an idea well ahead of its time (Ambrosio, 15). What the latter actually meant for Dante was that the female (in his case, Beatrice) was the guide to paradise and God. For both St. Francis and Dante, woman was the “romantic object of complete self-dedication” (Ambrosio, 15). The development here is not only a beginning in the lifting of the oppression of women, but also a new trait of the saint, which had previously been non-existent. This new trait of the saint was a weave with the heroic worldview that took the journey and mystery of life and death as a part of life’s meaning.

With the end of the last paragraph, we move on to Michelangelo Buonarroti, who may be a greater example of the conflict between hero and saint. Michelangelo, who lived in the late 15th to early 16th centuries, found his pathway to conversion through art. Throughout the life of Michelangelo, he created some of the most famous and beautiful works of art that display profound emotion and possibly the state of the man’s psyche at the time of the creation of each. Michelangelo was influenced greatly by two men, Lorenzo de’ Medici’, and Pope Julius II (Ambrosio, 16). Instilled in Michelangelo by the former was a desire to revert back to Greek worldview and medieval traditions (heroic), and by the latter a calling on artists, endowed by God, to glorify God in their works (saintly) (Ambrosio, 16). Torn between the two archetypes (the hero’s desire for self-fulfillment and the saint’s answer to a higher calling), the tension would drive Michelangelo to human greatness, before eventually causing the man great depression and despair. The case of Michelangelo proves to be one of the most exemplar cases of development for both the hero and saint, albeit the intertwining of both archetypes would prove to leave him troubled and hopeless. Michelangelo does, however, show that there can be an existence of both the hero and saint in the same being, and this may be the greatest development for both philosophies up to this time.

Marin Luther came at a time which “marked the end of conversion and saintly dominance, and the beginning of secularism and heroic worldview as the dominant archetype” (Ambrosio, 17). Luther was a contemporary of Michelangelo, although the two men represent completely different aspects of each worldview. Luther challenged Catholicism’s claim to divine scripture, stating that each man should be able to view scripture and believe in God as they see fit. Luther put emphasis on what would become a central issue in the 19th century: that “morality was a central testimony to one’s faith and that the individual alone is responsible for his or her identity as a child of God” (Ambrosio, 17). Luther faced excommunication from the church for his views, but even that would not deter him from continuing in his beliefs. Luther would integrate heroic worldviews into the way of the saint, seemingly more than had ever been done before. At this time in history, there was a victory for empirical method within sciences, as well as the rise of capitalism, liberalism, and the rebirth of the nation-state (Ambrosio, 17). All of these developments reverted back to the ways of the Greco-Roman worldview, and the rise of colonialism would further divide cultural identities (Ambrosio, 17). More developments that minimized the seam between hero and saint were the rebirth of the notion of competition in capitalism, the identity as a citizen recognized by the exercise of rights, and the entering into a social contract of citizenship for the common good of society (Ambrosio, 17). It is evident that the concepts of hero and saint were now closer to being one than ever before. Also, the notion of conversion had proved to be an illusion, or so it seemed (Ambrosio, 17). Luther’s monumental challenge to the church proved to be a development that has had lasting impact to this day.

Moving into the 19th century brings Soren Kierkegaard, who was influenced by Luther’s accomplishments. Kierkegaard, a philosopher, followed Luther’s doctrine of viewing faith by faith alone. Kierkegaard used Abraham of the Holy Bible as his saintly “Knight of Faith”, portraying Abraham as a hero in his 1843 book, Fear and Trembling. Kierkegaard viewed faith as absurd and unnecessary (Ambrosio, 18). He also believed that “faith was the foundation of the human experience of meaning” (Ambrosio, 18). Kierkegaard put great emphasis on separating intellect with faith, as faith represents “the truth lived as inward subjectivity and the human capacity for faith of the absurd” (Ambrosio, 18). In short, faith is a possibility because of its paradoxical absurdity, and something must be absurd in order to have in it faith. These notions of faith were completely new for their time, and were a huge stepping stone of the development in the concept of the saint. It appears that Kierkegaard believed faith to be possible only in relation to the absurd (Ambrosio, 18).

All of the figures mentioned have made significant impact on the archetypes of hero and saint. Whether one made a mark on an individual archetype or helped to blur the discrepancies between the two, each person made a contribution and challenged the existing concepts of their time. Without all of the noted chances taken by these bold men, who can say for sure what the outcome of today’s society, and, more importantly, today’s views of what is acceptable would be? Thanks to the trailblazing of these hero/saint, metaphorical “hybrids”, each person in today’s world does not have to worry about what may have been.

References

  1. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 8, Meaning—A Question and a Commitment.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  2. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 9, Hero and Saint—Mapping the Cultural Genome.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  3. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 10, Meaning—A Question and a Commitment.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  4. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 11, Meaning—A Question and a Commitment.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  5. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 12, Meaning—A Question and a Commitment.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  6. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 13, Meaning—A Question and a Commitment.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  7. Ambrosio, Dr. Francis J. “Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Life: Lecture 14, Meaning—A Question and a Commitment.” Georgetown University. The Teaching Company, 2009. Lecture.
  8. Cahn, S. (2012). Classics of Western Philosophy. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
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