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Existentialism in Grendel

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1 Existentialism in Grendel

2 if the world really is meaningless, how should I live?”
John Gardner: “Hopefully all readers will enjoy [Grendel] and recognize the central question, namely: if the world really is meaningless, how should I live?”

3 Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) Existentialism French philosopher
“Father of Existentialism” Brought international attention to existentialism in the 20th Century Scandalous public lecture, “Existentialism is a Humanism,” in Paris on October 28th, 1945 Existentialism Philosophical movement that thrives after WWII Profound loss and despair of war spurs a search for meaning

4 Major Principles of existentialism
The individual and the individual’s experience as the basis for understanding the nature of human existence Each individual creates his or her own meaning Deterministic and seemingly meaningless universe Society is unnatural, rules and traditions are arbitrary, and worldly desire is futile Emphasis on personal responsibility and free will Using personal choice based on experience, outlook, and beliefs Human life is in no way complete and fully satisfying, but it nonetheless has meaning Existentialism is the search and journey for true self and true personal meaning in life. Importance of the Absurd No meaning in the world, except the meaning we give to it; world as amoral and unfair EXISTENCE (Individual) precedes ESSENCE (Unnatural identity determined by society)

5 if the world really is meaningless, how should I live?”
John Gardner: “Hopefully all readers will enjoy [Grendel] and recognize the central question, namely: if the world really is meaningless, how should I live?” Progression of philosophies within chapters offer many different answers to this central question

6 Orphism "Orphism is an esoteric, private religion of ancient Greece, named after the legendary musician Orpheus. According to Orphism, the soul, a divine spark of Dionysus, is bound to the body (soma) as to a tomb (sema). Mankind is in a state of forgetfulness of its true, spiritual nature. The soul is immortal, but descends into the realm of generation, being bound to the "hard and deeply-grievous circle" of incarnations, until it is released through a series of purifications and rites, regaining its true nature as a divine being." (http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet) Key tenets: reincarnation, body as the prison for the soul, and importance of self-denial

7 Solipsism Theory that only the self exists or can be proved to exist
Craig J. Stromme, in his essay "The Twelve Chapters of Grendel" writes "[Grendel] leaves the cave of ignorance and enters the world of sunlight for the first time (an obvious reference to Plato's parable of the cave)." After describing how Grendel reacts and what he says when he leaves the cave and when he returns, Stromme concludes, "Grendel clearly begins his life in the world as a solipsist."

8 Sophism Sophists- educators in Ancient Greece
Primary objective was persuasive public speaking Plato portrays them as uninterested in real truth and motivated by money Modern definition- one who uses clever but misleading reasoning Emphasis on rhetoric over virtue

9 nihilism The belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can really be known or communicated. associated with extreme pessimism associated with skepticism condemns existence. A true nihilist would: Believe in nothing Have no loyalties Claim no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.

10 Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher, 19th Century “God is dead”
The absolutist morality that had reigned for centuries, is dead Nihilism will destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions It will jumpstart the greatest crisis in human history

11 Ethical egoism Moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest Contrasts with ethical altruism, but does not disregard possibility of serving others Self interest may be incidentally beneficial to, detrimental to, or neutral in its effect on others

12 Skepticism Chaos vs. Order
Skeptic: one who doubts everything with moral fervor Stromme: Before his realization, Grendel had possessed no real sense of himself: he accepted the images others had of him (his mother's image of him as "son," the villagers' image of him as "monster," and Shaper's image of him as "devil") for his self-image. Thus, Grendel is reborn but reborn into scepticism. He accepts that beings other than himself exist, but he has postulated them all as enemies. Grendel is a sceptic, one who doubts everything with moral fervor, and has decided that his new role is to be the destroyer of all the hypocritical orders men have created. Grendel feels that all orders blind men to the truth: "So much for heroism. So much for the harvest-virgin. So much, also, for the alternative visions of blind old poets and dragons" (78).

13 “The first seven chapters have transformed Grendel from a frightened solipsistic child into an angry sceptical monster. The village has evolved from a small collection of huts into a city-state. Everything necessary for Beowulf s arrival has been given to us, but Beowulf does not arrive for four more chapters. The plot has been developed; the next four chapters develop philosophical ideas Gardner is interested in. Gardner says that "at about Chapter 8 there is a section in which you arc no longer advancing in terms ofthe momentum toward the end it's just the wheels spinning. That is not novelistic form; it's lyrical form.”[7] Gardner stretches Grendel to elucidate certain ideas about philosophy and the growth of society, not to add convolutions to the traditional plot. These chapters should reveal just how different Grendel is from a more traditional novel, for its underlying purpose is to explore philosophies, not character.” –Craig Stromme

14 Machiavellianism Niccolo Machiavelli ( )- Italian political philosopher A healthy state is unified, orderly and balanced A leader must use any means necessary—including force, deception, and cruelty—to preserve this order and balance The Prince- his most famous book, which describes the methods by which a strong ruler might gain and keep power The view that politics is amoral and that any means, however unscrupulous, can justifiably be used in achieving political power

15 Process Philosophy Alfred North Whitehead ( )- English mathematician and philosopher Metaphysics- branch of philosophy concerned with basic causes and the nature of things Ultimate questions: Does every event have a cause? What is really real? Emphasizes the elements of becoming, change, and novelty in experienced reality and opposes the traditional Western philosophical stress on being, permanence, and uniformity Natural existence consists in and is best understood in terms of processes rather than things -- of modes of change rather than fixed stabilities.

16 Empiricism Theory that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience
Emphasis on observation and experimentation pinoza and Leibniz&IsSearch=Y&parentSeriesID=


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