In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault says that throughout history, humans have desired nothing more than to exert power over one another. Power is not a tangible thing that can be accumulated but a web of tactics which include and imprison the entire world. He says that power and knowledge are interchangeable, and our increased knowledge has only made our use of power more sophisticated. Modern society claims to have become more tolerant and humane, but in reality, it has shifted its focus from controlling a man’s body to controlling his soul. He cites as an example the penal system which has shifted its focus from punishing a criminal’s actions through physical torture to punishing his beliefs through psychological re-training. Man’s methods have changed, but his manipulative ways have not.
Archive for August 2004
Four Reasons for Foucault to Use Pathos
1. By opening his book with a description of the verdict against Damiens, Foucault shocks his readers with the vast cultural differences between the French penal systems of 1757 and 1975. Since his readers probably consider the 1700’s a “civilized” era not far from our own, the book immediately challenges the reader’s assumptions about justice and humanity and opens his mind to the rest of the argument.
2. Foucault describes the execution itself in painstaking detail. The agony and remorse that Damiens feels make the reader identify with him. The reader has difficulty justifying the public execution when he realizes that he and Damiens are both human beings, and their roles might easily be reversed.
3. Arguing from an emotional standpoint is more effective than arguing from a moral one because moral relativism had become very strong by the 1970’s. Foucault’s readers might deny the existence of God and universal truth, but they cannot deny the existence of physical pain. Therefore, they willingly hear his case.
4. The 1970’s were a time of great social activism. During this decade, environmentalism and feminism received unprecedented sympathy from the general public thanks to their great emotional appeal. Foucault, recognizing the spirit of the times, shrewdly uses the same formula hoping for similar results.
Foucault could have also presented his argument logically or ethically. A logical argument would use statistics and historical records to prove that public executions are not an effective deterrent to crime, and government officials abandoned the practice once they realized this. This case would have appealed to his readers’ minds but would not have been as effective as the pathetic argument. Though some people believe the government should be purely pragmatic, the majority feels elected officials should do what is right and just, and they might see capital punishment as just retribution for a horrible crime. Most people consider state-sponsored death an emotional issue. They might dismiss the statistics as “unscientific” or “biased;” never hearing about the horror of medieval torture methods, people would never consider them. They would distance themselves from a logical claim, but Foucault’s emotional one makes the situation personal and thus affects people deeply. An ethical argument would use both reason and emotions, but they would be the thoughts and feelings of one person: Foucault. He might recount his personal experiences with execution so the reader can identify with him. Like the logical argument, this would be effective to some, but many others would follow William James and say, “To each his own.” In this case, pathos is broader and more immediate than ethos. Foucault’s decision to stress the pathetic mode over the logical and ethical styles is a resounding success.
The Newgate Calendar portrays criminals in a manner similar to the media’s portrayal of George W. Bush. As the calendar notes John Smith “made bad connections” as a guard for lord Cutts, the comic strip Doonesbury recently portrayed George Bush holding a luncheon for his former Yale classmates and paying special attention to the dissolute fraternity brothers with which he drank voluminous amounts of alcohol and implied he has not become any more responsible since (P24, p2.) Jack Ketch and Jonathan Wild both resort to crime after acquiring huge debts through extravagant living; Bush detractors in the media claim that Bush’s modus operandi for the war in Iraq was to divert attention from the large budget deficits caused by his tax cuts (P61, p2; P75, p2.) Bush and Wild are both considered “white-collar criminals” who use their money, social status, and affectations of morality to dupe honest people who have suffered terrorism and theft, respectively (P77, p3; P79, p2; P80, p1). The media accuse both Bush and Wild of manipulating the government for their own gains: Bush in the executive branch and Wild in the legal system (P86-P93; P101, p1.) The similarities prove that the Newgate Calendar is as zealous to indict corrupt aristocrats as today’s media is.
Socrates and Euthyphro spend much of this dialogue debating the nature of piety and its relationship with the gods. They do not reach a conclusion on either. They might have had more success if they had reconsidered the nature of the gods. Since the gods had both divine power and human form, the Greeks could worship them and relate to them. Unfortunately, the gods also had human weakness; thus, they often committed abominable and merciless deeds including murder, deceit, adultery, and wanton destruction. Because the gods were not good, goodness could not proceed from them. Therefore, the Greeks could not explain the origin, existence, or justification for piety.
Fortunately, the religion of another culture addressed this difficulty. The Jews, alone among the people of the earth, believed in an all-loving, all-merciful God who is the source of all goodness and whose relationship with His people is as intimate as that of a husband and a wife. Christianity, which proceeded from Judaism, teaches that this Word was made Flesh through Jesus Christ. Like the Greek gods, Jesus had both human form and divine power, but unlike them, he resisted all temptations towards evil and provided a perfect example for how men should live. Therefore, Christian philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas can proceed into a realm of understanding which Socrates and Euthyphro could not reach. Because there is one God, there can be no disagreements between divine beings over what is right and wrong. Piety is the will of God; it is so inextricably linked with Him that it is a part of Him. Furthermore, the actions of Jesus established a model for all men to follow. Christianity fulfilled the yearnings of the pagan philosophers.
When you are washing a fruit, remember to remove the sticker beforehand. Fruit companies affix them after the crop has been harvested, so the skin under the sticker is as polluted with pesticides as the rest of it. Also, adhesives are harder to cleanly remove when they are wet.
Today, I was looking for a computer because I wanted to know the locations of my classes this semester. I found a hub in the West Campus’s Student Union Building. I was grateful for the ten minutes it afforded me until I turned to leave, and the man at the door charged me $3.28 for the service. That’s what I get for not reading directions. I paid the piper for thirty cents a minute plus tax.
“What good could come from that unnecessary spending?” I thought. I thought of three things: (1) I discovered that all my classes are within five minutes’ walk of my dorm; (2) When the door-guard gave me change, I realized that I needed some quarters for the laundry machine, and I later got some more; (3) I realized there was no reason the state of North Carolina should receive taxes from my usage of the Internet. I’m going to take receipts for all my purchases, and when I get home this summer, I’ll apply for a tax refund. It will be great.
Good can come from any misfortune. For example, I just now realized that I’m missing the information meeting for people who want to play in an extra-curricular music group; however, I got the opportunity to talk to some good friends during this time, and I probably don’t have time to play in the Orchestra this year, anyway. I hope to make use of the practice rooms, though, so I don’t become tone-deaf. All’s well that ends well.
Respect is like a silver dollar. Nothing else combines utility and durability so well; it is more valuable than any other coin (attractiveness, talent) and lasts longer than any dollar bill (fame, fortune.) It is also very rare. It can be easily exchanged for any number of things, but once it’s gone, it’s not easily replaced.
I believe in ghosts. People usually have two objections to their existence: “I’ve never seen one” and “They aren’t scientific at all.” I think that both of these arguments are flawed.
Ghosts’ existence is documented by thousands of people throughout history including some I know very well such as Sarah and my father. These are usually very sane and sensible people, as well, not lunatics. Denying ghosts because I have not seen them would be like denying the country of Turkey because I’ve never been there. I believe the people I trust on everything else; why not this?
People also argue that ghosts are “unrealistic” and use science’s failure to explain them as proof. This explanation, also used to deny the existence of God, angels, demons, miracles, and other supernatural phenomena, is arrogance at best and stupidity at worst. All the knowledge of our scientists is but a drop of water in a vast ocean. Scientists did not understand electromagnetism until the last couple hundred years, but it certainly existed before then. Imagine a caveman trying to understand a personal computer, and you will have an idea of the position of today’s science. It has disproved neither God nor religion nor ghosts but rather has greater revealed God’s glory by showing His infinitely intricate design; mustn’t such an awesome creation have a designer? How can we call ghosts unrealistic when we have such a limited perception of reality?
I believe in the supernatural just as much as I do the natural. If there are lost souls wandering the earth, it is but motivation for me to have peace in my own life so I will not share their fate. When we embrace skepticism with both arms, when we accuse perfectly sane and lucid people of hallucinating simply to protect our particular vision of the world, they are not the ones refusing to see the truth; we are.
“Don’t let them tell you what to think! (Let me tell you what to think.)”
I went college shopping today. One of the things I purchased at Target was a dark blue trash can with the word “ERROR” on it. (Other word choices were “DUMPED” and “TRASHED.”) It had a nice shape and a comfortable volume. It was $2 well spent.Later, we went to Bed Bath & Beyond. (There must have been a shortage of commas at the punctuation factory when the proprietors invented that name.) One of the items I saw there was a $130 “simplehuman™ Rectangular 38-Liter Brushed Stainless Steel Step-On Trash Can.” Here is the product description:
“This brushed stainless steel step-on can has an unusual shape that will make it a great addition to your home. It features an extra wide opening that accommodates bulky items and can fit flush against a wall. It has a platform pedal, which makes for a wider step area and for easier use. The power-assisted pedal makes it easy to open. Hideaway frame lets you change bags quickly and conceals the overhang. Holds 38 liters. 25 1/2″ H x 16″ W. 10-year warranty.”
It also holds refuse.
If the $130 variety does not satisfy you, you will be pleased to know that $180 “Butterfly” style cans are available on Triple B’s website.