Garrison and Thoreau

Group 4

Both William Loyd Garrison and Henry David Thoreau both agreed on the fact that slavery was unjust and a violation of our most basic human rights. However they differed marginally on their ways of opposing.

Most notably Thoreau touched upon slavery in his essay Civil DisobedienceHere he concluded that should a government be unjust we are well within our rights to withhold our obedience. He questions when rebellion is justified, and in the case of him refusing to pay taxes to a government that supported war and slavery, things he found morally abhorrent, he felt justified. His problem with most reformers is the fact that they typically petitioned the government, thus recognizing an authority that it holds over them, and honoring the will of the majority. This is also applied to voting, because it only honored the will of the majority, when it was his view that the individual was the only decider of right and wrong. By simply refusing to pay their quota to the treasury the individual had the ability to not support their government in their decisions, in a clear nonviolent manner.

Similarly Garrison also advocated for nonviolent protests, and stressed passive resistance. He also called for immediate emancipation of all slaves, and said they could assimilate properly. Garrison was viewed as one of the most outspoken radical abolitionists, despite his passive resistance tactics. Whereas Thoreau was viewed as a spokesperson for abolition, he mostly restricted his help to the cause to the local and individual level, while Garrison published 1,820 issues of the Liberator. Garrison was more interested in reaching the majority of people in the farthest reach he could obtain.

The main characteristic difference we can find between the two despite their major similarities is Thoreau’s stress on the individual and resistance to the government. Although Garrison opposed slavery, he wrote as if pleading the government to make changes, where Thoreau was more inclined to just disregard the governments authority until they earned his disobedience. Garrison was moved to devote all of his energy and resources to a tireless crusade for abolition.

Worthless Without Money

The American dream is that we can all create our own fortune, and with equal opportunity. But why are we so preoccupied with the creation of wealth? Is the only measure of happiness and success, the amount of money you have in the bank?

Locke wrote in The Second Treatise of Government that money could be as a medium to exchange for perishable goods that someone may have in excess. He did not put the worth of every object in terms of money, rather the goods themselves were the objects of value, and money something that we simply agreed to be worth something in terms of goods, for ease of trade.

Yet now all goods are appraised in terms of money, thus leading to the growth of many new dilemmas. Because when the worth of anything can be measured by one sole thing, then that thing is the only object that has any true value. This translates to living beings too, society manages to make humans valued at how much currency they can collect.

In Karl Marx’s manuscript The Power of Money he refers to money as “the general confounding and confusing of all things”. An example of this would be that someone of wealth could easily become an artist, easily buying the materials that they need, and then having the connections to put their work out there and be respected. While someone else could have an affinity for art but not have the notoriety or means to be an artist. Therefore we have the opposite for both of these people, they become what they are not.

Many would point out then that plenty of artists have come from nothing. People like JK Rowling and Eminem started out as nobodies and raised themselves to be who they are now. But they are only considered artists because they have money, so now they are people of worth. Had Rowling written Harry Potter and not sold a single copy of it she would not be considered an accomplished artist, but since she grew a huge fortune from that franchise she is considered one of the best. Many famous artists weren’t considered to possess skills of any merit, and their art never earned them a cent during their own lifetime, like Van Gogh. He committed suicide at the age of 37 after only being able to sell two of his paintings. Yet now he is considered one of the most acclaimed artists of history and his paintings are worth a fortune. So when his paintings had no monetary value he was a failure, but when they’re worth a small fortune, he was a success. Yet the art itself never changed.

The point I’m trying to make is that the only value that we place on talent, and success is how much money we can garner. We live in a world where we are worthless without money.

Diderot and Intrinsic Value

group 4

In Rameau’s Nephew Diderot holds a conversation with a rather sordid character. During their conversations Rameau seems to have a very negative view of society. He points out that reputation and credit only have no intrinsic value, only the value that we place on them. This can apply to a lot of things in todays society as well. A good example of this is beauty standards, something that changes drastically throughout the ages and places value on certain looks that have no value on their own.

Rameau seems to contradict himself a lot in this passage. Throughout Diderot’s work he explains how he is jealous of the wealthy and the geniuses, while simultaneously saying that they are bad characters. However he later states that he is a genius and that he deserves to be rich, and so on. He clearly places a higher value on himself than those around him, and it appears to frustrate him to no end. Since no one else sees his value, he does not possess it.

This explains why he lies and cheats in order to survive, all that matters to him is the appearance of looking good. All he truly wants is credit, reputation seems to matter little to him, since most people with a good reputation have little to show for it.

John Locke: Strife between Property and Currency

Humn 221-09 group 4 (Plus Aliza)

Passage 37 of John Lockes Second Treatise of Civil Government talks about the use of currency allowing man to hold more property than he needs, so long as he sells perishable goods in exchange for money, something nonperishable. This notion seems to directly contradict some of the statements previously expounded by Locke.

Previously in paragraph 32 Locke had stated, that so long as enough land was left for someone else to use then man could enclose their own parcel of land. However if every man takes more than his fair share, more than he could possibly use, there is not enough left over for every man to have a piece. Locke was writing this closely around the discovery of America, clearly thinking that there could never be a shortage of land. In this year of 2015 though everything is claimed or owned. So here Lockes ideas come into conflict, because businesses and corporations hold more property than any one entity should ever have and therefore make others unable to hold on to land. Yet they trade the goods they create from these natural resources for money therefore not wasting any decaying material.

Earlier in the same chapter he explained that men should not take more than is needed by their person alone because “Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy”. Companies that own more land and goods than they could possibly use, destroy other businesses and livelihoods, not to mention most of the natural resources they’re abusing. This is because over cultivating of land, and simply trying to reach some natural resources destroys the land around it, or potentially harms our atmosphere and/or water sources. Large companies such as Walt-Mart also negatively affect others, especially in small communities, it can shut down local businesses. Essentially this “destroys” their business, and in effect their livelihoods.

One could also propose that this is why we have intellectual property now. Since we’ve practically ran out of land to simply “claim”, we can now claim the right to certain ideas. Especially with new technologies and the internet, there are constantly new programs, theories, inventions and so on being created. But this also raises an issue because anyone can claim ideas, and get a copyright or trademark for it. A lot of technological advances are based off of preexisting technology and therefore someone is unable to create something unique without offering to pay whoever owns the copyright, or they might not even be able to create it at all. Thus again leading to the issue of someone owning to much of something so that it infringes upon others wellbeing, and creativity in this instance.

It seems strange to me that John Locke so often advocates for the good of the commonwealth, but does not see a problem with gross economic inequality. In my opinion the two should go hand in hand, otherwise the argument for the good of all becomes muddled. To be fair though, Locke couldn’t have had any idea how society would change and grow over the centuries, which makes you wonder what he would say if he saw things now.