CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, September 27th -- Roger B. Blumberg

Culture and Humanity

Culture is the suggestion, from certain best thoughts, that a man has a range of affinities through which he can modulate the violence of any master-tones that have a droning preponderance in his scale, and succor him against himself. Culture redresses this imbalance, puts him among equals and superiors, revives the delicious sense of sympathy, and warns him of the dangers of solitude and repulsion.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Culture" (1860)

After some comments about the excellent set of Robopet responses, we'll move to a discussion of features of the 1860s that should (arguably) be kept in mind when reading Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy. Then we'll move to an analysis of what Arnold means by "culture" and what we mean by it today -- and we might explore the different associations we have with the words/ phrases: "Culture"; "a culture"; "pop culture"; "high culture"; "cultured"; "multiculturalism".

Culture and Anarchy: "Introduction"

We'll begin with the "Introduction" of Culture and Anarchy and try to "understand every word." What does this require? Among other things, we'll have to ask:

Sweetness and Light

"Only it must be real thought and real beauty; real sweetness and real light. Plenty of people will try to give the masses, as they call them, an intellectual food prepared and adapted in the way they think proper for the actual condition of the masses. The ordinary popular literature is an example of this way of working on the masses. Plenty of people will try to indoctrinate the masses with the set of ideas and judgments constituting the creed of their own profession or party. Our religious and political organisations give an example of this way of working on the masses. I condemn neither way; but culture works differently. It does not try to teach down to the level of inferior classes; it does not try to win them for this or that sect of its own, with ready-made judgments and watchwords. [48/49] It seeks to do away with classes; to make all live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light, and use ideas, as it uses them itself, freely, -- to be nourished and not bound by them"
from Culture and Anarchy, "Sweetness and Light"

We'll begin by trying to summarize this chapter, and then try to answer and analyze some of the questions that such a summary inspires. We should also pay attention to the assumptions made by Arnold that were not made by Moravec, and visa versa.

"Doing as One Likes"

We'll finish the session today with a discussion of this chapter, led by Christina.

For Next Time:: Read chapters IV, V and the Conclusion to Culture and Anarchy. For Sunday, and with a partner, write a short dramatic imagined dialogue between Moravec and Arnold on some subject/issue/question/point of mutual interest. Post your dialogues to WebCT.

Note:We will not have class on Tuesday, but there will be a lunch with Michael Chorost on Wednesday, and you should finish reading his book Rebuilt by that time.

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