You must log in or register to comment.

wednesday wrote

strange attempt to historicise the evils of society. corpses of slaves? sure, but also, you know, the actual still-living slaves and other brutalities being enacted by society right now.


sudo OP wrote

I don't think the quote is trying to say that it's all in the past? I interpret "We're not so civilized that we have conquered the tyranny of our own vanities" to mean that society hasn't moved past exploiting the many in service of the privileged few.


InfAmy wrote

That might be the intent, and I agree that it likely is the intent, but it is poorly worded to give that message.

The wording used refers to a "primitive and brutal past" but then in saying we're not isolated, still puts distance between the present and that past through the verbal separation. The word link suggests a tenuous and small link, rather than outright stating that the world has NOT changed, just the methods.

In the last part the author uses the phrase "on the shoulders of giants" which is a phrase that usually refers to a more distant past than should be used here. The phrase dates back many centuries, and is commonly used to refer to early pioneers of the sciences. Because of this usage the connotations are of a non-recent history. Linking those connotations to "the corpses of slaves" very much historicises that evil.


wednesday wrote

i agree with your analysis, except i'm not sure i would assume this was the intent of the quote.

the way i read it is as an argument for the idea of progress that goes like this:

  • in the past, society did many bad things
  • we have now progressed and do not do those bad things
  • however, it is important that we don't forget the bad things we did

specifically, i think "the tyranny of our own vanities" means that we still suffer from vanity, in that we imagine our progress was built only on good things and try to hide the bad things - a sort of moral vanity where we're unable to recognise our own failings.

if this is not the intent, then i don't understand what's meant by the idea that the world is 'inherited'. this seems to draw a distinction between 'our world' and some other world that came before (or perhaps the same world inhabited by different people). if we're just living in the same old bad world and doing the same bad things, what exactly has been inherited?


InfAmy wrote

You make a good point, the use of "inherited" does indeed point towards the argument for progress you have stated seems more likely to be the intent. I now find myself agreeing that the intent to invoke the separation of past and present seems more likely.

I would also like to add that the message needs to stand on it's own without the intent.
It does not do this
Either the intent was to say it still happens and to recognise it, in which case the actual message does the opposite.
Or the intent was to introduce cognitive distance between us and the horrors humanity as a whole perform, both in the past and the present, in which case the wording suggests it is trying to pretty it up, and make it seem nicer than it is, to make the audience feel good and accept it better. This feels much more insidious.
Given the way the sentences are constructed, and the choice of words used to evoke emotional and historical connotations, I feel it is much less likely to be "unfortunate" that the distance is added, and it seems more obvious that this was indeed intentional.

Thank you for making me think on this further.