Margaret Fuller

group 6

A student of Emerson, Margaret Fuller was one of America’s first major feminist writers, authoring Summer on the Lakes and Women in the 19th Century.  She is well known for her literary criticism and journalism; she contributed to The Dial , a quarterly periodical that related ideas and opinions inherent to New England transcendentalism.  Though Fuller never met Thoreau in person, she was connected to him through shared ideals and Emerson.  The closest the two ever came to meeting was when Thoreau, sent by Emerson, visited the seen of her death.  Thoreau later wrote to Emerson about this visit and we were able to find, at least a piece of, what he wrote here.

In trying to connect Margaret with a section of Walden, we looked at “Reading” paragraph 12 where it says, “It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we become men and women.”  Given the fact that Fuller was clearly educated, even a professor, we believe that she would no doubt support this notion of Thoreau’s.  We thought it was also important that Thoreau was progressive enough to include women in that statement, seeing as how women didn’t often pursue advanced education at that time, let alone education after education, and as Margaret was a feminist, we thought she would have really appreciated that inclusion.

Marx and “Alienation”

Group 6

“Alienation,” according to Marx, relates to the worker’s relationship with the products he creates.  One of Marx’s main ideas is that, through labor, the worker becomes a commodity amongst other commodities, which are really just the physical embodiment of the worker’s own labor.  Marx theorizes that the “worker puts his life into the object;” when he does this, his life belongs to the object rather than himself.  And this is why, “the devaluation of the world of men is in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things.”  When the worker produces these commodities, he puts a little of himself in each product, slowly losing himself, becoming a commodity himself; and, when he does this his labor, as well as himself, become external and independent of him–this is alienation.

Diderot and Reputation

Group 6 — Rameau’s Nephew

“It’s about getting some sort of credit – it has no intrinsic worth; its value comes instead from what people say. They say A good reputation is worth its weight in gold. And yet the person with a good reputation is never the one with the gold, and I have noticed that these days the person with the gold is never without a reputation” (Diderot 33).

This passage pits a good reputation against the attainment of wealth.  HIM argues that a person’s reputation is determined entirely by the public.  There is a good reputation in the sense that you are truly a good person, and there is a “good” reputation in the sense that society holds you in high esteem—but, this “good” reputation is two sided.  While society may respect them for what they have accomplished or done, they are, as HIM determines, “never without a reputation,” meaning, they are not necessarily society’s most honorable citizens.  This is a contention that HIM uses to his advantage:  “And that’s my aim when I boost my credit by resorting to what you call devious tricks and nasty little ruses. I give my lesson, and I give it well – that’s the general rule. I make it look as if I’ve got more lessons to give than there are hours in the day, and that’s the peculiarity” (Diderot 33).  Reputation can be seen as a cause and wealth an effect, because if you have a “good” reputation then more people will want to hire you, thus increasing your wealth.

Rameau’s argument is culminated in HIM’s assertion that, “Rameau has to be who he is: a happy thief in the company of wealthy thieves, and not someone who trumpets his virtue or who is actually virtuous, chewing his crust of bread on his own or with other beggars” (Diderot 40).  HIM doesn’t want to adopt admirable characteristics because he sees it to be too much pointless effort, and is therefore willing to forego a good (character) reputation for a good (successful) reputation.

Because Rameau’s Nephew is essentially just a collection of challenging opinions, this morally challenging stance on reputation befits it perfectly as it supports the abandonment of integrity for money, and what kind of world would that foster?

Rameau’s Infamous Uncle

Group 6 Background info on Rameau’s Nephew

In Rameau’s Nephew, Rameau expresses a lot of hate toward his uncle, which had us wondering–how did the rest of the world feel about Rameau’s uncle?  Was this feeling of hatred a shared one?

It turns out that the world saw Jean-Philippe Rameau first and foremost as a composer and an opera writer, and a great one at that.  Not too much was written about what he was like as a person, however.  We did find that he was withdrawn and a bit of an introvert, which some believed stemmed from a hard work ethic.  In addition to that, we also learned that Rameau was very careful with money; upon his death his possessions consisted of a few pairs of clothes, a pair of shoes, and an old harpsichord in need of repair, despite the fact that he had amassed a small fortune.  Though he apparently didn’t find the need to spend his money on himself, he was known to often lend money to others.  For instance, he took good care of his daughter as well as his sick sister; he even was said to have helped out other musicians from time to time.  This suggests that he was a very generous person–not at all one to be hated.  And, if that doesn’t say enough about his character, over 1,500 people were said to have attended his funeral, which suggests that he wasn’t only highly respected as a musician but that he was also well-liked.


John Locke: Who Shall Be Judge?

Locke asks the following question: what happens when the executive branch and the legislative branch are joined together against the people?  What happens when the executive and legislative branch step outside the realm of their given power and/or go against the well-being of the people?  Locke’s proposed solution, to appeal to heaven, is a surprising one.  Why ask us to turn to religion for help?  Rarely does Locke broach the topic of religion in this chapter, or the Treatise as a whole for that matter.  So, why bring it up now?  It seems unnecessary given the fact that his reasoning is based on the following statement: “between an executive power in being, with such a prerogative, and a legislative that depends upon his will for their convening, there can be no judge on earth.” What about the judicial branch, whose purpose is to literally judge?  Relying on a judicial branch to play mediator and protector of the people’s rights seems a more logical solution to such a problem and one more befitting the overall idea of the Second Treatise of Government.