Disillusionment Characterized by Move from Innocence to Experience

Holy Thursday, also called Ascension Thursday, is a time where the church community comes together to take pity on the poor and hold a service for the impoverished children of London’s charity schools. Holy Thursday as depicted in the Song of Innocence seems to be an idealized take on the service portraying the impoverished children of England singing in unison with their “clean innocent faces.” Their song is a “harmonious thunder” and a “mighty wind”. Blake draws upon the same scene and questions its validity in his Songs of Experience. Blake ponders is that “trembling cry a song?” “Can it be a song of joy?” Blake questions the society that would allow it’s children to be subject to such harsh conditions, despite the prima facie angelic scene described in the Song of Innocence.

In a period characterized by high mortality rates often attributed to poor hygiene and low to no understanding of disease, the amount of orphans in England skyrocketed to the point where the state had a difficult time housing and caring for its wards. Factory owners approached government officials and parish leaders with a proposition that in exchange for the orphans labor, the owners would supply the children with housing and nourishment. Grossly unregulated, this simple solution evolved into a system comprised of child laborers working 10-15 hours a day in deplorable conditions, only to have their most basic physiological needs tended to by the factory owners.

Blake in his “Experienced” depiction of Holy Thursday critiques the English society that left its children susceptible to the abuses of industry.

“Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful land,—
Babes reduced to misery,
Fed with cold and usurous hand?”

Blake’s contrasting views of the Church scene portray conditions as they currently are for the children of England and how they ought to be. Would these children have been born into a community protected and nurtured by the idealized Church in his Innocence version, they would likely never have been left vulnerable to the horrors of the factories, which in reality they suffer.

The Evil Men Do

Slavery in America is an important, but shameful time in our nation’s history. In his Independence Day Oration, Frederick Douglass, presents his thoughts on slavery and how it contradicts the foundation of America. Long after the abolishment of slavery, there is still discrimination against African Americans as explained in The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Within Douglass’s oration, it is said that the evil men do goes beyond their generation. The two readings can be connected by this idea, where Douglass explains the current situation of slavery and Coates describes the aftermath, several generations past its abolishment.

Douglass was honored to be speaking at such an event on an important day for Americans, however he was upset by how ironic the situation was. The founding fathers risked death to overthrow the British “home” government because they felt oppressed and unfairly treated. So this day of joyous occasion, the liberation of America, was not enjoyed by everyone. “I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them,” (Douglass). This is where the irony lies. Frederick Douglass accuses America for not being truthful to the foundation upon which it was built. “We fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers,” (Douglass). It is ignorant to celebrate a day considered so great for overcoming oppression while we subject an enormous amount of people to enslavement. Nothing pro slavery is found in the constitution, it is not a constitutionality argument because we know it to be immoral and wrong. There are many things in the constitution however, that are unsympathetic to slavery. Frederick Douglass within his speech states that because America is so young, there is hope that everything could be turned around. Until then, this country is based on a lie and should be ashamed for not sticking to the same values as its founding fathers.

A famous quote used in Douglass’s oration was one that connects well with The Case for Reparations. “The evil men do, lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones,” – William Shakespeare. In this article we see how African Americans were not much better off after the abolishment of slavery. Discrimination and acts of terror were a common sight. Many former slaves became farmers and lived in constant debt to their landowners. Refusing to work meant arrest on sharecrop farms, blacks were punished more harshly for their crimes, and where freed slaves lived were “ecologically distinct” from white neighborhoods. Frederick states in his oration that blacks were left out of the celebration of Independence Day because they were not considered Americans. The same case is seen here. The economic power that modern day America has become is largely due to cheap or free labor from slaves. Even after slavery, blacks were still exploited and discriminated against solely to show disrespect. The article finishes up saying that reparations would equate to “. . . the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences,” (Coates). Even today we have not reached this point.

The recent and current effects slavery still has on our nation supports that the malevolent things we do goes beyond our life time. Hundreds of years after slavery has ended in America, African Americans continue to deal with racism, inequality, and oppression. Coates recognizes that black lives in America are improving, but we still have a long way to go to undo the damage caused by past generations.

Institutional Racism in U.S. Health Care

Institutional racism in our health care system has been a concerning issue for a long time, but little to no progress has been made since 1970s. For instance, there is a significant increase in the amount of closed hospitals in minority communities, there are barriers to insurance and specialized physicians, and a lack of standardized collection of data on race in terms of provider and institutional behavior which makes it more difficult to obtain an accurate description of the discrimination in health care.

There are some discriminatory factors that are very deeply rooted that cause minorities to be at a disadvantage when it comes to health care. Some of these factors include increased probabilities of minorities becoming ill due to unhealthy environmental practices that take place near their communities. For instance, minority communities are more likely to be exposed to toxins like lead or asbestos than predominately white communities. Minority communities are also more likely to be targeted by marketing campaigns of unhealthy products like tobacco and alcohol. Another problem is the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of minority physicians compared to whites. One could make the argument that if there were more minority physicians, there would be better health care in minority communities because these physicians would be more apt to practice in their communities. Ways of combating this are affirmative action policies, but these policies are under political and legal scrutiny.

Coates would argue that this further exemplifies why we need to have a discussion on reparations. The discussion must take place because there are still so many examples of how black  populations in the U.S. are being discriminated against today. Opening the discussion could enable society to recognize and find solutions to these modern instances of discrimination even if an agreement on reparations is not met.

Who is deserving of Liberty?

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to Liberty? – Fredrick Douglass, 1852

The Declaration of Independence adopted on July 4th of 1776, stated that all men are created equal. However, in the eyes of a negro slave living in the South, that statement is far from true. Fredrick Douglass sought to it that people realize the irony and hypocrisy of that statement by shedding a light on slavery. In deliverance of his oration, Douglass began by talking about Independence Day. Douglass uses the term your instead of our when stating “It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom”, somberly implying, that political freedom does not apply to him.  

He goes on to talk about how in this day and age, affirming the equal manhood of blacks should be enough. He states that black people shouldn’t have to prove their manhood when they are “…ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers… “. Does one need to prove any further that they are deserving of the same liberties as everyone else in their country? In the eyes of the Declaration of Independence, the negro race are deserving of the same liberties as everyone else. However, there are some, namely racist white folks, who refuse to acknowledge that. During this time, white people felt as if they were in a position of power to segregate America all on the grounds of skin color.

Everyone, including slaveowners, were able to see the wrongfulness of slavery. Slavery in and of itself is morally and objectively wrong. It is wrong to “…work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters…”. Why should it even be put into question how awful this system is? It is apparent that slavery, racism, and bigotry goes against everything America stands for.

Though slavery was abolished, the repercussions of it still exists today. Ta-Nehisi Coates points out that none of the creators of the Declaration of Independence felt entirely comfortable stating in the document that all men are created equal. They felt hypocritical in writing that in since most of them owned slaves. Coates describes the story of Clyde Ross: as a buyer for a new home, he had faced a significant amount of racism. He bought his house “on contract”, in other words, having all the responsibilities a homeowner, with the disadvantages of a renter, and experiencing the negative effects of both. Ross had to pay a much higher price for his home, compared to the white individual who owned it beforehand. Chicago’s impoverished black neighborhoods are characterized as “ecologically distinct.” instead of “of low economic status,”. There is a major difference in the two statements. 

The argument stands that all men are entitled to liberty, but not all are granted liberty. America proclaims it is the home of the free, but Douglass and Coates would argue that statement is false.


William Ellery Channing, Friend of Thoreau


Born on November 29th, 1818 in Boston, Massachusetts, William Ellery Channing could very well be described as a wandering man. Throughout his life, he attempted to go to school and even live as a family man, but time and time again he found himself unable to settle down. Leaving his family in 1844 to resume his unanchored wandering, Channing first visited New York City, then Europe, and until finally returning to Concord in 1846.

Channing and Thoreau were close friends, and would regularly keep company on walks through the woods, admiring the sights of nature around them. In a letter to Thoreau, it is evident that the two are close. Channing writes:

“My dear Thoreau,

The hand-writing of your letter is so miserable that I am not sure I have made it out. If I have it seems to me you are the same old sixpence you used to be, rather rusty, but a genius piece.”

Channing was also the one to suggest Thoreau live in solitude. Previously, he himself had spent some time living alone in the woods, and in a letter suggesting Thoreau do the same, he wrote “I see nothing for you on this earth but that field which I once christened ‘Briars;’ go out upon that, build yourself a hut, and there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. I see no alternative, no other hope for you.” Thoreau took this advice to heart and so began his stay in Walden, where he wrote on his experiences, creating the famous piece of literature we have today.

Eleven years after the passing of Henry David Thoreau, Channing published his biography Thoreau, the Poet-Naturalist in 1873.


Sigmund Freud on Morality and “Higher Laws”

Morality is a commonly discussed topic in the realm of philosophy, especially for those “outside-the-box” thinkers who seem to have “bizarre” and new beliefs for an individual of their time or era. Sigmund Freud is no exception. Not only controversial in his beliefs, he become well-known for his ideas of the human psyche and human sexual development.

But how does this apply to morality? Like many famous philosophers, they  discuss morality and, more often than not, religion finds its way into the conversation. Sigmund Freud discusses morality in his work, Civilization and Its Discontents

Referring to morality, including a religious aspect, commonly a higher power is thought of as God. This God, to followers, creates the moral standards of which all followers strive to live by. Interestingly, Freud believes a higher power is simply an illusion that is used for a sense of (false) security. In other words, to Freud, there is no almighty, moral God of which all humans should follow to have a sense of morality. Rather, Freud believes that morality is unique to every individual and is shaped by situations that each person experienced, is experiencing, or will experience. 

Referring to page thirty one in Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud further explains this situational aspect of his definition of morality. To him, decisions an individual makes and their actions are based upon their morals, which differ for every person. We must act to satisfy ourselves, not a higher power, to avoid guilty thoughts and feelings. More importantly, a higher power shouldn’t dictate a person’s thoughts or opinion of themselves. You can still be a good or “moral” person even if you don’t satisfy a higher power’s wants and needs from you, according to Freud. 

There’s also another interesting aspect of Freud’s theory is that he further suggests that rather than humans freely deciding for themselves, they don’t have control over moral codes and the more they fight to feel moral the more they feel immoral. Freud finds this “phenomenon” entirely irrational and has no explanation for it. He does try to explain it, however, through references of morality being part of individual development (with a heavy emphasis on human sexual development) as well as influences from evolution(s) of civilization development.

All in all, Freud’s personal explanation of sexual development talks about the ego being the main center of morality. However, he argues that with all humans having an ego, how can there be a higher power? Is it the ego or a higher power that forms or dictates TRUE morality or virtue?


— Analysis done by Group 5 on 12/02/2015 —

Religion and Freud

For today’s blog we’re going to compare Sigmund Freud’s religious views to those of the previous authors we’ve studied in HUM 2.  Freud had an atheistic world view, and said that religion was an expression of underlying psychologic duress.  in Civilization and its Discontents he said “the whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how a large number of people living today, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable, nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard actions.”

Pope Francis’ views are obvious.  He subscribes to the Catholic interpretation of the New Testament and believes in both creation and the greatness of god.

William Blake didn’t discuss god as a sentient entity.  Instead he focussed on the institution of religion, claiming that it could entrap and destroy people. He wrote poem # 50 of his songs of innocence and experience in particular to assault the more violent practices of the church.

The weeping child could not be heard.
The weeping parents wept in vain:
They strip’d him to his little shirt
And bound him in an iron chain
And burn’d him in a holy place
Where many had been burn’d before:
The weeping parents wept in vain
Are such things done on Albions shore.

Marx meanwhile was very anti-religious.  He saw it as a way for the power elites to maintain control over the huddled masses via fear..  He claimed thatReligion is the opium of the people.
“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.” (Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved 19 January 2012.)

Finally, Locke didn’t discuss religion as an entity but frequently referenced god as a divine creator who also gave humanity all of its natural rights.  Locke was clearly religious, but he didn’t specify a faith.  So that God, by commanding to subdue, gave authority so far to appropriate: and the condition of human life, which requires labour and materials to work on, necessarily introduces private possessions. (2nd Treatise number 35)

Psychology in the 19th Century

Group 2

Psychology during the 19th century was based mostly on speculative discussions and philosophical theories as opposed to empirical studies and scientific tests. Freud, a renowned psychologist concerned with mental illness, diverted from popular 19th century thought connecting mental illness with either a supernatural possession or a moral flaw in an individual. He transcribed his data based on extremely in depth personal experiences with his patients which resulted in multiple case studies on mental illness. He found that mental illness did not result from an external influence or possession, but rather from an aberration in the mind of mentally ill individuals. “Mentally ill individuals are not different types of people, but something has gone awry in the makeup of their minds.”


Freud and the Id, Superego and Ego

id – what drives us to gratify our needs, these our are innate instinctual drives for satisfaction in things like food, safety and sex this uses the “pleasure principle” –  this is the need to immediately satisfy this innate instincts but we can’t be immediately gratified as babies so we learn “learned helplessness” – have to rely heavily on people around us and the environment (unconscious)

ego – “conscious-self” – day to day awareness, how we perceive the world, what we experience in everyday life, what controls our innate desires so that we satisfy our needs when its practical, reasonable and socially acceptable – basically the balance between the id and the superego. ego reality principle operates the ego, this is how you parents teach you to reasonably satisfy these needs, when it is done appropriately it leads to well adjusted adults.

superego – provides the moral standards by which ego operates (unconscious), how we wish we could behave and how our societal and emotional expectation reign in these instinctual desires.

These 3 elements of the mind can be understood by the Jockey analogy: ego is the jockey, id is the horse and superego is the track- A good jockey can account for a bad track and a wild horse, essentially meaning that the Id finds balance and compromise between the superego and the ego.


Source: PSYC 260 Textbook




Terminology Used by Freud

Sigmund Freud was a psychologist, theorist, and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.  He proposed many experiments and ideas about development of the human mentally and physically. Freud uses some words in his dialogue that need to be understood to grasp what he is truly trying to convey. The first word is repression, the mind’s effort to keep thoughts and impulses out of the forefront of thought by pushing them into the subconscious. Freud believes that this happens without us being aware of it, why certain thoughts and memories are hidden because they could be hurtful to us mentally. This process is sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful. The next term is sublimation, another defense mechanism that is more adaptive. It is like an outlet for the emotion/impulse that keeps problems from occurring. For example, an aggressive person will pick up sports to let out their frustration in a healthy manner. Neurosis is another term that Freud uses. He defines it to mean manifestations of anxiety that are expressed subconsciously. There can be some outward physical symptoms as well. Now, we just classify neurosis into specific disorders, such as anxiety, OCD, depression, personality disorders, etc. Psychosis is the last of the terms, a severe psychological disorder where the ego is carried away by the id and the person is detached from reality. Disorders like this are known usually in terms of schizophrenia and other extreme cases. These terms are ones that Freud uses and discovered in his research, and it is helpful to know the background when reading his findings.