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Posted in Misc., PHIL 1130 with tags , on November 27, 2015 by bettystoneman

Neural Correlates of Consciousness and the Global Workspace Model of Consciousness

Posted in BIOL 1010 on March 23, 2012 by bettystoneman

Empirical evidence for the causal or correlational connection between the mind and brain has been elusively sought by many neuroscientists and philosophers for over a hundred years. The question is: How, exactly, do each person’s phenomenal and subjective experiences arise from neuronal firings and physiological processes in the brain? Many neuroscientists have sought to answer this question by trying to find the “neural correlates of consciousness,” meaning, the exact areas of the brain which give rise to conscious experiences. For this research paper, I will go over some current (from earliest to most recent) biological studies and research into the neural correlates of consciousness. Also, I will outline how each study seems to correlate not only with one another, but also with one viable biological theory into the nature of phenomenal and subjective consciousness, namely, the global workspace model of consciousness.

In “Neural Correlates of Consciousness in Humans,” Geraint Rees et al offers an overall review of several research studies into the neural correlates of consciousness, specifically focusing on the sense of vision as the starting point for conscious experience. First, Geraint et al offers two important distinctions regarding consciousness. The first distinction is between the neural correlates of being awake (as opposed to being asleep) versus the neural correlates of being phenomenally aware of one’s experiences (meaning, what it is like for one as an individual to have an experience). The second distinction is between neural activity correlated to a phenomenal experience versus neural activity correlated to underlying, unconscious processes or sensory inputs related to those phenomenal experiences.

These distinctions are important because visual processes can cause activity in the brain on many different levels, however, this activity does not necessarily reflect consciousness in the sense of being phenomenally aware. For example, sleepwalkers can see and subsequently interact with their environments in complex ways, but have no actual conscious, phenomenal awareness of what they are seeing or doing. Additionally, it is important to understand the visual pathway starts at the V1 in the back of the brain and moves through many other areas of the brain. Rees et al describe how damage to the primary visual cortex (V1) results in a condition known as blindsight, where a person can seemingly perceive of objects they report being unable to actually see. Additionally, Rees et al describe how blinking and microsaccades (slight, quick eye movements which occur normally and frequently) both do not interrupt our conscious perceptions, but both register changes in activity in the V1. Blindsight, blinking, and microsaccades, are just a few examples offered by Rees et al which demonstrate how the V1, even though necessary for normal eyesight, is not a neural correlate of consciousness because the V1 can be damaged resulting in one having no visual perception but having some conscious perception of objects or because the V1 can undergo fluctuations in activity without altering phenomenal experience.

Rees et al offers other evidence in support of another area of the visual system, the ventral visual cortex, as playing more of a role in conscious phenomenal experiences. Rees et al note how damage to specific areas of the visual system result in the subject being unable to consciously perceive of the specific type of visual features associated with this area. Rees et al explain specific areas of the visual system are specialized to analyze visual input for specific types of visual stimuli, and activity in these areas is required for one to have consciousness of that specific type of visual stimuli. As examples, Rees et al notes damage to the middle temporal area of the ventral visual cortex leads to one being unable to perceive of movement (a condition known as akinetopsia) or damage to areas in the ventral occipitotemporal cortex leads to one being unable to perceive of colors (a condition known as achromatopsia). In both circumstances, the individual is seeing the stimuli, but not consciously perceiving of it. Further, Rees et al notes neuroimaging studies have shown the ventral visual cortex is active during schizophrenic hallucinations, where the patients are having a phenomenal experience with no corresponding visual stimuli.

Additionally, as subjects are flashed “masked” (or hidden by flashing symbols before and after) and “unmasked” (or unhidden by not flashing symbols after) words within their field of vision, areas of the brain which are connected to an individual thinking about the meaning of a word only show activation when the individual reports consciously perceiving the unmasked word. The area previously activated becomes deactivated when the individual’s phenomenal experience changes by no longer perceiving the masked word, even though the word flashing in their field of vision remains the same. Finally, Rees et al notes how electrophysiological research using epileptic patients with embedded electrodes shows how neurons in the anterior areas of the medial temporal lobe fire in response to a specific type of visual stimuli and, in other neuroimaging studies, these neurons also fire when the individual is asked to imagine the specific type of visual stimuli.

Contrarily, Rees et al also refers to fMRI studies which show how individuals with damage to the V1 area have shown activation in the extrastriate cortex of the ventral visual cortex, in an area specifically related to perceiving facial stimuli, when the facial stimuli is not presented nor initiated. Additionally, Rees et al mentions another study which found activity was still triggered in the extrastriate visual cortex even when individuals were unable to perceive a masked word, meaning, even when individuals were not consciously aware of the word. These studies seem to show activity in the ventral visual cortex which is not related to visually stimulated, conscious perception. However, Rees et al notes regarding the masked word study, while there is activity, it occurs at a much smaller frequency for masked words than for perceived words. Rees et al conclude even though the focused areas of the ventral visual cortex to specific visual types of stimuli is required for conscious, phenomenal experiences of stimuli related to those types, the ventral visual cortex in and of itself may not be sufficient to produce conscious, phenomenal experiences.

Rees et al offer other possible conditions necessary for individual phenomenal consciousness. Rees et al note how neuroimaging studies have shown when an individual is presented with two different images, one displayed in front of one eye while the other is displayed over the other eye, the individual’s attention and perception of the images switches back and forth between the two images. As the individual’s attention switches back and forth, activity is recorded in the individual’s extrastriate cortex, and parietal and frontal cortexes. The activity is similar to the activity observed in other studies as an individual views images such as Rubin’s face/vase figure. Rees et al assert this activity demonstrates a possible causal connection between the frontal and parietal cortexes and an individual’s phenomenal experience in focusing on images or objects competing visually. Additionally, Rees et al note how in other studies activity has been observed in the parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal regions when individuals go from being unaware of something changing in their field of vision and becoming aware of the change within their field of vision. Due to the findings of these studies, Rees et al assert it may be activity in the ventral visual pathway requires in connection additional activity from the parietal and prefrontal regions in order for awareness.

In “The Quest to Find Consciousness,” Gerhard Roth also discusses neural correlates of consciousness by explaining in more depth the neurological processes leading to activity in areas of the brain believed to correlate with consciousness. Researchers have discovered consciousness, according to Roth, requires the associative regions of the cerebral cortex. Roth explains the associative regions of the cerebral cortex are the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal regions.

Roth asserts in the associative regions there exists “millions of nerve cells that are densely interconnected,” in which the “synapses can strengthen or weaken their connections for a short time”. Roth explains the ability of the synapses to strengthen or weaken their connections results in synchronized communication between the nerve cells so that all the nerve cells become focused together on a single experience, like picking out one object from several objects or understanding the meanings of words.

Furthermore, Roth explains, chemical neurotransmitters, such as glutamate or gamma-aminobutyric acid, are “messenger[s]” which signals the nerve cells and synapses to synchronize and modulate the changes in activity. Roth asserts the reticular formations and limbic centers control the release of chemical neurotransmitters. “Neuromodulating,” the controlled release of these neurotransmitters and the subsequent nerve cell and synaptic alternations in activity based on the individual’s circumstances, requires a lot of fuel, specifically oxygen and glucose, according to Roth. In order to accommodate the need for more oxygen and glucose, Roth notes how blood flow to the area increases almost immediately.

Roth explains the reason why the associative cortex allows for consciousness may be because of the vast number of nerve cell connections. When a stimulus is presented to an individual, basic sensory information is processed by the primary and secondary regions of the cortex then sent to the associative regions in the parietal and temporal lobes which then registers activity explains Roth. The specific areas in the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes which carry on higher order processing of various forms of sensory information have “reverse” connections back to the primary and secondary regions says Roth. Additionally, the associative cortex is also connected to the hippocampus (in the medial temporal lobe and is responsible for memory) and the amygdala in the limbic system (also in the medial temporal lobe and is responsible for “emotional memory”) explains Roth. Roth asserts the vast connections between the associative regions of the cerebral cortex and to other areas along with the interactive synchronization between nerve cells and synapses between the associative regions of the cerebral cortex and to other areas such as the thalamus, hippocampus and limbic systems, may be the answer to how consciousness arises from physical processes.

Similar to both Rees et al’s and Roth’s assertions, in “Conscious Awareness of Flicker in Humans Involves Frontal and Parietal Cortex,” David Carmel et al asserts the frontal and parietal areas (which are associative regions of the cerebral cortex) may contribute to conscious awareness of visual stimuli. Carmel et al used an LED flickering at the “critical flicker fusion (CFF) threshold,” meaning at the point where the flickering could just as likely be perceived as either flickering or as a steady stream of light. Carmel et al tested the flickering at the CFF threshold to determine whether subjects viewed the identical flickering of the stimulus as either flickering or a steady stream of light. As the subjects responded, Carmel et al monitored their brain activity using fMRIs in order to determine where the activity occurred based on perceptions of the light flickering versus perceptions of the light being a steady stream.

Carmel et al deduced subjects perceiving of the light as flickering or a steady stream would be a result of activation of the higher cortical regions because the activation of neurons in the “early” visual cortex (see above regarding Rees et al’s research regarding the primary visual cortex) respond to flickering at a much higher rate than the CFF. In other words, Carmel et al reasoned higher cortical regions must be responsible for an individual’s perception of a light appearing to be flashing versus a steady stream because the primary visual cortex can see the flickering of a light source when the flickering is occurring at a much faster rate than the higher cortical regions can consciously perceive of it, which goes along with Rees et al’s findings. Further, Carmel et al hypothesized activity in the frontal and parietal regions would determine if the flickering of the LED would be perceived (meaning, as “conscious awareness”) as either a flicker or a steady stream of light.

Carmel et al’s results of the fMRIs showed more activity in the frontal and parietal cortexes when the subject reported perceiving of the light as a flicker. Carmel et al notes the results showed more activity in the occipital extrastriate cortex when the subjects reported perceiving of the light as a steady stream. Carmel et al’s results seem to corroborate with Rees et al’s research regarding the extrastriate cortex, the frontal and parietal cortexes showing activation in response to the display of two different images in subjects’ visual fields. In both Carmel et al’s and Rees et al’s scenarios, the subjects are consciously trying to determine what they are seeing. According to Carmel et al, their results demonstrate how important the activity in the higher cortical regions is for awareness in certain types of visual events. Furthermore, Carmel et al assert their results show how particularly the frontal and parietal regions may be involved in overall visual awareness.

In “Human Single-Neuron Responses at the Threshold of Conscious Recognition,” R. Quian Quiroga et al also examine neuronal activity. However, their research focuses on activity in the medial temporal lobe, which corresponds with Roth’s findings regarding consciousness requiring the associative areas of the brain and connections to the hippocampus and limbic systems (located in the medial temporal lobe). Quiroga et al explain the process of visual perception starts with the neurons in the primary visual cortex (“early visual areas”), which take in the visual stimuli, and then moves along the ventral visual pathway to neurons in the higher cortical regions which will organize and analyze the information to result in conscious recognition. According to Quiroga et al, the medial temporal lobe is the apex where perception takes place. While the medial temporal lobe, per Quiroga et al, does not directly affect conscious recognition, it plays a role in changing visual perceptions into long term memories. Therefore, according to Quiroga et al, activity in the medial temporal lobe is required to initiate “perception processes” so that the perceived images can be stored as long term memories. In other words, according to Quiroga et al, the medial temporal lobe “signals” other areas of the brain to perceive or recognize a visual stimulus so the stimulus can be committed to long term memory.

Quiroga et al sought to determine the response rate of neurons in the medial temporal lobe when subjects reported conscious recognition of images portraying familiar faces, landmarks and animals. To test the response rate, Quiroga et al flashed the images for successively shorter intervals in order to examine the activity of neurons in the medial temporal lobe. Quiroga et al assert they found activity in the medial temporal lobe was essentially the same for images flashed for durations of 33ms, 66ms, and 132ms. However, Quiroga et al state, images flashed for 264ms triggered a much greater amount of neuronal firings in the medial temporal lobe. According to Quiroga et al, the subjects’ reports of conscious perception of the images matched the activity in the medial temporal lobe. In other words, the activity in the medial temporal lobe increased when subjects reported consciously recognizing the images. Quiroga et al state the activity in the medial temporal lobe started at about 300ms, and in some cases lasted up to 1000ms, after the image was flashed in the subjects’ field of view. Additionally, Quiroga et al note, the neurons fired in an “all-or-none fashion,” meaning, before stimulus presentation there was practically no activity but once a familiar image was presented a great deal of activity occurred. Quiroga et al also state subjects displayed no activity when the image flashed was not familiar to them.

Quiroga et al’s findings regarding the activation of the medial temporal lobe and the continuation of activity even after the image is no longer in the field of sight seem to corroborate Rees et al’s findings regarding the medial temporal lobe showing activity in response to specific types of visual stimuli and this activity occurring even when the individual is asked to simply just imagine the specific type of visual stimuli. For Quiroga et al, these findings seem to indicate the “memory-like” nature of the medial temporal lobe. Ultimately, Quiroga et al assert the medial temporal lobe serves as a “link” between conscious recognition and long term memory because the neurons only become activated in response to recognized images, and because the neurons continue their activation long after the image is no longer visually seen.

At this point, the above mentioned articles have asserted the neural correlates of consciousness seem to exist in several areas of brain, as well as indicate it is not just activity in the brain, but the duration and type of activity in the brain which leads to consciousness. In “Converging Intracranial Markers of Conscious Access,” Raphael Gaillard et al researched overall locations, strengths and durations of neuronal activity. To do this, Gaillard et al briefly flashed masked and unmasked words in epileptic subjects’ (with embedded electrodes) field of view and measured brain activity using an iEEG.

Gaillard et al assert their experimental aim was to test assertions proposed by the global workspace model of consciousness and they begin by explaining the model. Per Gaillard et al, while many areas of the brain work at the same time to process information unconsciously, consciousness arises if and only if very specific conditions convene. First, according to Gaillard et al, activity in the visual cortical regions must occur in response to specific types of stimuli associated with those areas (seemingly corresponding with Rees et al’s, Roth’s, Carmel et al’s and Quiroga et al’s research regarding the ventral visual cortex). Secondly, per Gaillard et al, the activity beginning in the visual cortical regions must occur for a sufficient amount of time, and must be of a sufficient amount of strength, in order to proceed along the cortical pathway to the higher cortical areas of the parietal and prefrontal cortices (again, seemingly corresponding to Rees et al’s, Carmel et al’s and Roth’s findings regarding the roles of the parietal and prefrontal regions). Thirdly, states Gaillard et al, the activity must be amplified throughout several areas of the brain through forward and backward connections, “ignit[ing]” neurons throughout several areas in synchronous “self-sustained reverberation” (seemingly similar to Roth’s assertions regarding forward and backward synaptic connections temporarily strengthening their connections and working together, synchronously). Gaillard et al assert, according to the global workspace model, the experience of phenomenal and subjective consciousness is a result of stimuli being represented on so many different levels of the brain.

Gaillard et al explain their results for masked words showed activity in 43 of the 176 electrodes, primarily in the occipital lobe, and in order of extent, in the temporal lobe, parietal lobe and the frontal lobe. Conversely, for unmasked words, 121 of the 176 electrodes showed activity primarily in the frontal lobe, and in order of extent, in the occipital lobe, temporal lobe and parietal lobe. Per Gaillard et al, while the majority of activation for masked words occurred in just a few areas, activity was more equally distributed among more areas for unmasked words.

Regarding the duration of the activation, Gaillard et al note masked words, as a mean average, resulted in activity lasting approximately 60ms. Conversely, states Gaillard et al, unmasked words, as a mean average, resulted in activity lasting approximately 378ms. However, explains Gaillard et al, the activity from masked words occurred earlier, at 366ms (mean), than unmasked words, at 522ms (mean). Once activity started, however, the activity associated with unmasked word lasted longer and extended to more areas than did the activity for masked words, states Gaillard et al.

Additionally, explains Gaillard et al, while masked words showed gamma band oscillations (which are neuronal patterns of oscillating frequencies ranging from 20-100 Hz) initially peaking at 100-200ms after being presented then dropping off, unmasked words showed a peak and then continued activity for up to 800ms after being presented. Gaillard et al assert masked words showed an initial peak of gamma band activity which then quickly leveled off, while unmasked words showed more oscillations at a greater strength and for a longer period of time. Additionally, Gaillard et al used iERPs to measure the voltage strength and progression of activity. The activity, per Gaillard et al, for masked words showed a slight peak originating in the occipitotemporal areas then declining with almost no observable activity in the other areas. The activity for unmasked words was “stronger and lasted longer,” states Gaillard et al, and started in the posterior (visual cortical) regions with significant activity progressing to other areas. Gaillard et al assert the gamma band activity and the activity observed through the iERPs together are “correlated measures” which show conscious and unconscious brain processes. Gaillard et al’s findings seem to corroborate Quiroga et al’s findings which also showed activity starting at about 300ms and lasting up to 1000ms (specifically in the medial temporal lobe).

Gaillard et al also tested the synchronization of beta wave activity (12-30Hz) by testing to see if, after many observations, areas of the brain showed a “systematic phase relationship.” In other words, they tested to see if the activity in different areas of the brain showed to occur repeatedly together, each time in the same ways. Overall, Gaillard et al assert beta wave activity across all electrodes for unmasked words showed to be synchronous during the time frame of 300-500ms after exposure to the stimulus, meaning the beta waves in one area of the brain appeared to be in synch with the beta waves in other areas of the brain. According to Gaillard et al, masked words resulted in no changes to the synchrony of beta wave activity. Additionally, Gaillard et al tested sets of electrodes, to see if an electrode in one hemisphere of the brain showed beta wave activity in conjunction with an electrode in another hemisphere of the brain. Gaillard et al assert unmasked words showed beta wave activity increased across the sets while masked words actually showed a decrease in beta wave activity. Additionally, Gaillard et al assert they observed a small increase in beta activity in the visual cortex area for masked words, but unmasked words triggered synchronous activity across not only the visual cortex, but many other areas as well. These findings explain Rees et al’s findings regarding the activity triggered by masked words in the ventral visual cortex, in that the activity occurs but only marginally.

Gaillard et al state their final examination entailed the use of a mathematical program to check for Granger Causality. Per Gaillard et al, the beta wave testing and Granger Causality testing were similar because they both checked for correlation. However, as Gaillard et al assert, “it is possible for electrode j to causally influence i without i causally influencing j” and “it is also possible for two signals to exert mutual causal influences on each other.” The Granger Causality test, in other words, was done to determine the probabilities of the activity in different areas of the brain actually having a causal effect on each other, and in which direction (from j to i or from i to j) the causal effect occurred. Gaillard et al explain the program showed a large increase in probability of causation beginning with the posterior regions (i.e. the regions of the ventral visual cortex) and moving toward the occipitofrontal regions. The “evolution” of the causality showed a peak at 146ms when the masked words were presented and another peak at 325ms, which only occurred when the unmasked words were presented. Additionally, unmasked words showed a “causal gain” at 300ms-500ms after presentation, notes Gaillard et al. A probability gain which was not observed in the masked words, which shows a strong causal gain at times of “conscious processing” according to Gaillard et al.

According to Gaillard et al, their results all lend support to the global workspace model of consciousness. Additionally, Gaillard et al’s results seem to share similarities with Rees et al’s, Roth’s, Carmel et al’s and Quiroga et al’s findings. First, Gaillard et al’s results showed activity originating from the ventral visual cortex, an area which, as Rees et al had shown, is responsible for conscious perception of specific types of visual stimuli, including the processing of words. Secondly, Gaillard et al’s results showed the duration and strength of gamma band and beta wave activity was significant up to 300-500ms (in some cases up to 800ms) after the stimuli was no longer present, durations very similar to Quiroga et al’s findings regarding the durations of activity in the medial temporal lobe. The strength and duration of the activity is sufficient for the activity to proceed from the ventral visual cortex to higher order regions like the parietal and prefrontal regions. The parietal and prefrontal regions, per Rees et al and Carmel et al, are activated during conscious recognition and awareness, which requires, per Quiroga et al, activity in the medial temporal lobe. Thirdly, Gaillard et al’s results showed the activity occurred in several areas of the brain synchronously, with a strong probability of causation from posterior areas of the brain to the frontal regions, moving across distant parts of the brain. Per Roth, the associative regions of the parietal, frontal and temporal lobes (due to having a huge number of neurons tightly packed together) have forward and backward connections which facilitate synchronous activities and communications across distant parts of the brain. If these scientists’ findings are true, and if I am correct in correlating the findings, then it seems “consciousness,” from the scientific viewpoint, arises from a complex interaction of sustained synchronous gamma and beta wave events between many areas of the brain.

Works Cited

Carmel, David, Nilli Lavie and Geraint Rees. “Conscious Awareness of Flicker in Humans Involves Frontal and Parietal Cortex.” Current Biology (2006): 907-911.

Gaillard, Raphael, Dehaene Stanislas, Claude Adam, Stephane Clemenceau, Dominique Hasboun, Michel Baulac, Laurent Cohen, Lionel Naccache. “Converging Intracranial Markers of Conscious Access.” PLoS Biology (2009): 0472-0492.

Quiroga, R. Quian, R Mukamel, E.A Isham, R. Malach, I. Fried. “Human Single-Neuron Responses at the Threshold of Conscious Recognition.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2008): 3599-3604.

Rees, Geraint, Gabriel Kreiman and Christof Koch. “Neural Correlates of Consciousness in Humans.” Nature Reviews (2002): 261-270.

Roth, Gerhard. “The Quest to Find Consciousness.” Scientific American Special Edition (2004): 32-39.

Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes

Posted in ART 1020 on October 22, 2011 by bettystoneman

James Voorhies, art historian with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describes Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) as “the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.” Additionally, Voorhies states “Over the course of his long career, Goya moved from jolly and lighthearted to deeply pessimistic and searching in his paintings, drawings, etchings, and frescoes.” For this paper, I will first explore the metamorphosis of Goya’s work through the timeline of his life, as outlined by Voorhies. It seems Goya’s work transformed from more cheerful images, to portraits of aristocracy, to social and political commentary, to darkly existential themes. Next, I will offer my own impressions and feelings of Goya’s work.

Voorhies describes Goya as beginning his artistic study at the age of fourteen with painter Jose Luzan Martinez. In 1763 Goya joined the painter brothers, Francisco and Ramon Bayeu y Subias, at their Madrid painter studio. In 1774, Goya, through the German painter Anton Raphael Mengs, was asked to work for the Royal Tapestry Factory at Santa Barbara. Goya’s career with royalty, states Voorhies, lasted through four ruling monarchies.

Goya’s earlier works, are what Voorhies has described as “lighthearted.” Images such as Goya’s The Blind Guitarist and Las Meninas, are etchings which portray people in more happier situations. Goya completed these etchings as a part of tapestry designs for royal chambers.



Voorhies notes how Goya’s work with the aristocracy increased in the following years and he spent the years between 1785 and 1788 painting many royal families. The Condesa de Altamira and Her Daughter and the portrait Don Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga are two examples of Goya’s work painting the royal families. Voorhies notes how the symbolism of the birds in the portrait of Don Manuel Manrique De Zuniga represents “the innocence of youth.”



At forty years old, Voorhies explains, Goya was given the position of painter to King Charles III and then in 1789 he was promoted to court painter under King Charles the IV. In the same year, the French monarchy fell in the French Revolution. Subsequently, in 1793 France declared war on Spain. Voorhies explains Goya traveled to Cadiz in Andalusia, in the south of Spain, on a commission for work and returned later that year to Madrid after a serious, prorogated illness left him completely deaf.

In 1799, continues Voorhies, Goya completed “eighty allegorical etchings called the Caprichos.” Two of these etchings, Out Hunting for Teeth, and As Far Back As His Grandfather, explains Voorhies are satirical commentaries about Spanish society, in which can be read “staged manifestations of superstitious beliefs, like the imagined power of a hanged man’s teeth” “and such ludicrous spectacles as that of jackasses acting like gentlemen (to imply that the opposite is generally the rule).”



Another of Goya’s etchings over this time is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, in which Voorhies explains, “Goya imagined himself asleep amid his drawing tools, his reason dulled by sleep and bedeviled by creatures that prowl in the dark. The artist’s nightmare reflected his view of Spanish society, which he portrayed as demented, corrupt, and ripe for ridicule.” 


Later in 1799, Voorhies notes, Goya was promoted to first court painter. In 1808, Napoleon invaded Spain and the monarchy of Charles the IV ended. Napoleon’s invasion of Spain triggered opposition from the Spanish citizens which led to mass executions of Spanish citizens. Voorhies notes, while Goya was “repulsed by French atrocities,” he worked as a painter for the French regime. In 1814, Napoleon’s domination over Europe fell and the son of Charles the IV, Ferdinand VII, came into power. Ferdinand VII, explains Voorhies, “revoked the Constitution, reinstated the Inquisition, and declared himself absolute monarch. Not long afterward, he launched a reign of terror.” Goya, explains Voorhies, commemorated the Spanish revolt against the French in The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808. Both paintings are “brutal” depictions, in which, in the first Spanish soldiers fight against French soldiers at a battle in Madrid and the second, in which French solider execute captured Spanish citizens on a hill outside of Madrid, explains Voorhies.


From 1810 to 1820, Voorhies states, Goya continued to produce works of art depicting the atrocities during the Spanish war with France. These works were called The Disasters of War and were only published and made public after Goya’s death. One Can’t Look, states Voorhies, is an etching from the Disasters of War series and graphically depicts people being executed by bayonets.



With Ferdinand VII’s monarchy, Voorhies states, Goya lost his royal commissions and “became isolated from political and intellectual life in Madrid.” During this time, Voorhies explains, Goya produced a series of pieces in his home, Quinta del Sordo (the Deaf Man’s House), in fresco, meaning in watercolor in wet plaster on the walls. These works are today known as the Black Paintings. Voorhies describes these works as “compelling in their sinister and often horrifying scenes with dark, emotional undertones.” Some of these works are, Atropos (The Fates), Two Old Men Eating Soup, Witches’ Sabbath (or The Great He-Goat), and Saturn Devouring His Son.



Goya, according to Voorhies, left Spain “dissatisfied with political developments,” and retired in Bordeaux, France in 1824. Goya lived the last of his life in Bordeaux and in Paris.

To interject my own, limited, impressions and feelings regarding Goya’s work, it does certainly seem like his earlier work was more optimistic. His images portray more simple, cheerful times, perhaps reflective of hope. Quite honestly, I am indifferent regarding his early works. The works, while portraying perhaps a hope and innocence, seem a bit unemotional to me. His earlier works don’t provoke any sort of emotion response in me. As far as his style in his earlier works, it seems a bit more textbook, too similar and conforming to other artists of the time.

However, as he became immersed in the upper echelons of Spanish society, when he became engulfed by aristocracy, it seems like he almost became disillusioned about Spanish society. His works went from portraying a sort of cheerful hope, to a satirical and critical wit. The symbolism in his works during this time portray almost a frustration with society. His works critiquing society and politics are much more original and emotion driven, it seems. In this way, these works are more delightful and interesting than his earlier works, because they have something to actually say and in an engaging, satirical and dark way.

Goya’s works depicting the atrocities of war, it seems, builds upon his already pent up discontentment with politics and society. The graphic pieces showing unarmed citizens being slaughtered, reaching out perhaps begging the soldiers to stop and huddling together are powerful. His pieces regarding the war are dark and disturbing, and emotion provoking.

Goya’s final works, the Black Paintings, are absolutely my favorite. They are disturbing, dark, powerful, original, a bit mysterious and emotion driven. Goya’s style in the Black Paintings is unique to him, much more his own than his style was in his earlier works. His subject matter seems to touch both on the darker sides of the individual in society and alone. Emotionally, his Black Painting seem to reflect perhaps different aspects of life for the individual. Perhaps, the one being consumed, by society, by emotion, by life, by death. Overall, Goya’s Black Paintings feel much more than his other works, particularly, they feel lonely and mournful.

It is undisputable that Goya’s works morphed and evolved as he lived his life. Viewing his works along side knowing the history of his life, one can almost feel what he was feeling. One can feel his metamorphosis, starting with hope and innocence, to frustration, to loneliness and sorrow, all the while understanding the societal and political conditions which influenced his perspectives on life. Overall, I feel Goya’s Black Paintings are the most artistically appealing works by him.

Works Cited

Voorhies, James. “Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) and the Spanish Enlightenment”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

Civil Disobedience as a Participatory Role

Posted in PHIL 2300 on August 1, 2011 by bettystoneman


Civil Disobedience as a Participatory Role

On December 19, 2008, University of Utah student, Tim DeChristopher halted a Bureau of Land Management land auction by placing $1.7 million of fraudulent bids on over 22,000 acres of land in southern Utah (Godfrey, 16). DeChristopher’s actions are indicative of civil disobedience (Godfrey, 18). For this paper I will first begin by providing evidence of DeChristopher’s principles behind his actions. Secondly, I will explore the issue of rights in two rights theories: Immanuel Kant’s deontological theory from the “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals” and John Rawl’s social contract theory in “A Theory of Justice.” Next, I will outline Garrett Hardin’s arguments regarding the commons in “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Then I will offer Iris Marion Young’s argument in favor of participatory justice in “Justice and Hazardous Waste.” Next, I will summarize Henry David Thoreau’s argument in “Civil Disobedience” and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s argument in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” both regarding civil disobedience. Then, I will offer counter arguments against civil disobedience as noted by Peter Suber in the essay “Civil Disobedience.” Next, I will compare the evidence of DeChristopher’s principles to Kant’s, Rawl’s, Hardin’s, Young’s, Thoreau’s, and King’s arguments. I will argue DeChristopher’s actions can be linked to the principle people have a right to be autonomous which leads them to seek a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect their lives and which also leads them, ultimately out of frustration, to turn to acts of civil disobedience in order to fill that participatory role if the system does not adequately allow them a participatory role. Finally, I will modify the arguments against civil disobedience as noted by Suber to argue against my argument then counter those arguments.


Evidence of DeChristopher’s Principles


DeChristopher’s statements provide the best evidence of the principles behind his actions. In a Utah Now interview with Doug Fabrizio, DeChristopher noted a question on the final exam he took the morning before the auction which asked if the only people at an auction bidding on land were the bidders, does the winning bid adequately represent the value of the land (DeChristopher). DeChristopher explained, no, it doesn’t because of the money the taxpayers would lose from not being able to receive recreational enjoyment from the land, the additional money it would cost for added healthcare costs resulting from the pollution, and the additional money it would cost due to the effects of global warming (DeChristopher).


In the Utah Now interview, DeChristopher stated he had done everything he was supposed to do, via the legal channels, to try to make a change (DeChristopher). He stated he petitioned, he protested, he met with his congressperson, and he wrote letters, but, he stated, the system is not set up for people like him to succeed (DeChristopher). DeChristopher also noted in the Utah Now interview due to his experience, something he noticed about American society is there has been a “lack of direct participation” and his experience is encouraging more people to participate (DeChristopher).


In a Democracy Now interview with Amy Goodman, DeChristopher argued the Bush Administration rushed through the auction without doing an adequate environmental impact study or getting public feedback, in order to try to rush the auction through before the Obama Administration came to office because Bush knew the auction would be deemed illegal under any other administration (DeChristopher). In his sentencing hearing, DeChristopher asserted the BLM was in “constant violation” of “Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development” (DeChristopher). In his sentencing hearing, DeChristopher stated a Congressional report found it “common” people were paid by the oil and gas industry to “volunteer for the industry that was suppose to be regulating it” by processing permits and addressing protests (DeChristopher). DeChristopher states “legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government” (DeChristopher).


DeChristopher described the “choice” he was “faced” with, between “disrupting the auction, or being complicit” regarding “this destruction of our land, destruction of our democracy, and the destruction of our climate” and “climate change presents such a serious threat to our future, that it creates a moral imperative that is higher than just following the law as it exists” (Godfrey, 18). For DeChristopher, the consequences of the BLM auction were so destructive that it was more moral to commit civil disobedience and disrupt the auction than to obey the law. At his sentencing, DeChristopher stated “Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code” (DeChristopher). DeChristopher asserted, at his sentencing, he has “great respect for the rule of law” but, “The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law” (DeChristopher). Additionally, at his sentencing, DeChristopher stated “I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system” (DeChristopher). At his sentencing hearing, DeChristopher stated his intention was to “expose” the oil industry and to “shine a light on a corrupt process” (DeChristopher).


Two Rights Theories: Kant and Rawls


All of DeChristopher’s comments imply people have certain rights, which in the case of the BLM auction, were being violated. Kant’s deontological, or duty based, rights theory asserts people have rights which cannot be violated (Drexler). Kant states “The will is conceived as a power of determining oneself to action in accordance with the idea of certain laws. And such a power can be found only in rational beings” (95). Kant is asserting people have reason and will, and can use their reason and will to decide what the right thing to do is, then act on that decision (Drexler). Kant asserts “Rational nature exists as an end in itself” (96). Therefore, the moral “practical imperative” is: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end” (96). For Kant, people have “intrinsic value,” meaning they have value in themselves simply for possessing reason and will (Drexler). People, according to Kant, should not be treated as having merely “instrumental value,” or treated as if their value only depends on what they can do for others (Drexler). For Kant, his practical imperative asserts people should be treated with respect, as an end in themselves with intrinsic value, and never with disrespect as merely a means with instrumental value to an end.


Autonomy, or self-rule, is using one’s reason to decide a will, then act on that decision without anyone else telling one what they should do (Drexler). For Kant, autonomy is necessary for people because it is the only way people (endowed with reason and will) can be people (using their reason and will) (Drexler). People use their reason and will to decide and act on what it is their duty to do by utilizing Kant’s “categorical imperative” (Drexler). The categorical imperative states: “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (89). Kant’s categorical imperative basically asserts, before deciding on committing an action, consider what would happen if everyone would commit the action. If everyone committed the action would it lead to the purpose or concept of the action becoming a contradiction or non existent? For example, Kant gives the concept of borrowing money with a promise to repay, but also with the intention to never repay (90). If everyone were to borrow money with a promise to repay, but never intended to repay, then the whole concept of a promise would fail to exist and it would make it impossible to ever obtain money again by promising to repay (Kant, 90). Kant argues one ought to follow the Principle of Consistency, and the only way immoral acts achieve the desired end is if the act is not universalized (Drexler). Kant argues, immoral acts can only work under the “essence of immorality” in which one makes an exception for one’s self, hold’s one’s self to special standards or treats one’s self as special (Drexler).


Kant argues people have a right to autonomy because they have reason and will. Rawls’ theory, on the other hand, is a social contract theory stemming from Thomas Hobbes’ assertion people in society agree upon the rules of the society and give up some of their freedoms so they can be protected from others in the society (Drexler). Social contract theories assert “The best, most just social, political, and economic arrangements are those that are agreed upon by the members of the society” (Drexler). Rawls argues laws should be designed from behind a “Veil of Ignorance,” which would serve to make the implemented laws objective and impartial (Drexler). The Veil of Ignorance, for Rawls, is putting oneself in a frame of mind in which one is completely ignorant of their position in society, like how much money they have or how healthy they are or what age they are or what ethnicity/race they are (Drexler). For Rawls, by not knowing what one’s position is in the society, this lawmaker will be able to make laws which are more equitable for everyone (Drexler).


Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance contains “two principles of justice” which are the Basic Rights Principle and the Difference Principle (42; Drexler). The Basic Rights Principle is: “Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all” (Rawls, 42). The Difference Principle is: “Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society” (Rawls, 42-43). Rawls’ Basic Rights Principle asserts everyone, being equal, is entitled to the same rights and liberties as everyone else. Rawls’ Difference Principle asserts if someone is given unequal rights and liberties, then these unequal rights and liberties must be attached to offices or positions which are able to be obtained by everyone and these unequal rights and liberties must be to the greatest benefit to the least advantaged people in society (Drexler).


Rawls asserts one way to establish “a list of basic rights and liberties” is to “consider what liberties provide the political and social conditions essential for the adequate development and full exercise of the two moral powers of free and equal persons” (45). First, Rawls states, “the equal political liberties and freedom of thought enable citizens to develop and to exercise these powers in judging the justice of the basic structure of society and its social policies” (45). Secondly, Rawls states, “liberty of conscience and freedom of association enable citizens to develop and exercise their moral powers in forming and revising and in rationally pursuing (individually or, more often, in association with others) their conceptions of the good” (45). Rawls is asserting people have two moral powers. First, the power to judge if social systems are just and second, the power to work to bring about the good in the society. A list of basic rights originates from and enables these two moral powers. Additionally, Rawls asserts there are “primary goods” which “are various social conditions and all-purpose means that are generally necessary to enable citizens adequately to develop and fully exercise their two moral powers, and to pursue their determinate conceptions of the good” (57). Rawls notes one of the five of his primary goods is the “freedom of thought and liberty of conscience” (58). Rawls is asserting primary goods are circumstances which allow individuals to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society. One of these primary goods is, specifically, the combined freedom to think for oneself and the liberty to decide for oneself what is right and wrong.


The Commons: Hardin


For Rawls, primary goods are distributed under his theory based on the two principles of justice (ie Basic Rights Principle and the Difference Principle). The distribution of primary goods, then lends itself to the concept of the commons. How are primary goods (ie circumstances which allow individuals to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society) to be distributed in regards to the commons? The commons is the concept something exists which belongs to “the whole community of humans for their use in common” (Drexler). An underlying principle of the commons is all are permitted to use the commons, up until and unless it causes harm to another (Drexler). Hardin argues the mind set of the individual regarding the use of the commons is focused on their own personal interests. Hardin utilizes a pasture analogy to explain “each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain,” because logically the individual benefits much more by maximizing his gain even though society suffers as a whole (1244). Hardin states each herdsman is concerned with only the “utility” to himself (1244). Hardin asserts “This utility has one negative and one positive component” and by adding another animal to graze on the pasture which the herdsman alone will profit from, the herdsman benefits by a “positive utility of nearly +1” (1244).


However, Hardin asserts, the overgrazing resulting from adding more animals to the pasture is a negative consequence “shared by all the herdsman” so “the negative utility for any particular decision making herdsman is only a fraction of -1” (1244). The situation leads to each herdsman being “locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit-in a world that is limited” (1244). Hardin states “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons” (1244). Hardin states an underlying “principle of morality” is “the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed” and the state of the system now is one in which the global society is over populated with humans (1245). Hardin is asserting people use the commons based off the benefits to them solely. For Hardin, the system perpetuates self interested use of the commons because use of this sort is seen as the most logical and rational thing to do, because everyone else is doing it. By everyone using the commons to maximize the benefit to themselves, society as a whole is destroying and depleting the commons. For Hardin, what may have been moral use of the commons when there was a limited number of humans, is now an immoral use of the commons because there is an over population of humans.


Participatory Justice: Young


So, Hardin seems to be arguing there should not be free use of the commons because there is an overpopulation of people. If there are to be restrictions on the use of the commons, then who should decide on how the commons should be used? Does Rawls’ distributive theory utilizing the two principles of justice behind a Veil of Ignorance adequately resolve how primary goods should be distributed regarding the restrictions on the use of the commons? Young argues, no, Rawls’ theory is inadequate (Drexler). Young’s own theory is reminiscent of Kant’s theory of autonomy (Drexler).


Young argues, distributive theories of justice “conceptualize all questions of justice in terms of the allocation of goods among individuals” and “The distributive orientation precludes considering questions of the justice of decision making structures” (176). Young states it could be argued the distributive theories could be able to be used for distributing “decision making power,” but in order to do so “the theory must conceive power and authority as themselves goods which can be distributed in greater or lesser amounts to various agents” (176). Young argues “Distributively oriented theorizing presupposes a structure of institutional relations…It does not bring the justice of given institutional structures themselves into question” and “The moral value of particular relations of power, institutional positions and organization, however, comprise just those concerns at issue when we raise questions about just decision making procedures” (176-77). Therefore, Young argues, “distributive oriented reasoning cannot treat such questions directly and explicitly, because it must presuppose agents and institutionalized positions among which goods are distributed” (177).


It seems what Young is asserting is distributive theories require a distributor. In order for distributive theories to assign out decision making power and authority, the distributive theory must treat the power and authority as goods, which requires a distributor for those goods. In the case of Rawls’ primary goods, there must exist a distributor to distribute out the primary goods. But, who is the distributor? The distributive theories assume there exists a “neutral” or “objective” distributor to assign out the decision making power and authority, but Young’s concern is over if it is moral and just for this assumed “neutral” or “objective” distributor of the decision making power and authority to act as distributor (Young, 177; Rawls, 59). For Rawls, the two principles of justice from behind the Veil of Ignorance would the be objective tools to use to distribute primary goods (59). But who is the distributor wielding those tools? Young notes in our society the state as been granted the role of distributor because it has been assumed the state is unbiased (178). However, Young argues it has been shown that the state does have its own interests, therefore, it can’t be unbiased (178-79). Young states “If we recognize that all social decision making involves particular interests, and that no position within society can transcend all particular interests, then the issue of who should decide policy issues becomes a paramount issue of justice” (180). For Young, it is impossible for any distributor to not consider their own personal interests.


A better alternative to the distributive theories, argues Young, is one of participatory justice which recognizes the “principle of self-determination” and “Such a principle states that social decisions ought to be made by those most affected by the outcome of the decision, whether in terms of the actions they will have to take or in terms of the effects of the actions on them” (180). Young further states “self-determination as a principle of justice derives from the value of autonomy. Respect for the moral personhood and rationality of individuals is lacking unless they may determine the conditions of their lives and actions” (180). Just like Kant, Young argues autonomy, the ability to self-rule, or, the ability to decide for oneself what is right, then act on that decision, is an inherent right. Furthermore, Young argues, distributive theories (such as Rawls’) are flawed because they require a distributor (a distributor who cannot possibly not consider their own self interests) to assign out decision making power and authority, which affects individuals’ autonomy.


Civil Disobedience: Thoreau and King


Young argues autonomy leads to a concept of participatory justice, where people directly should be able to participate in the decision making processes surrounding the actions which are going to affect them. The problem is, what if people are not allowed a participatory role? Thoreau argues “The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it” (821). For Thoreau, the government is subject to what the people will, but the government is susceptible to corruptions which leads to the implementation of laws which ago against the will of the people. Thoreau argues “It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think is right” (822). Thoreau’s assertion is one has the right to decide for themselves, and then act on, what is moral. Thoreau argues, “Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail” and “Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence” (823). For Thoreau, merely voting for what you think is moral is a form of complacency and if one has determined a law is unjust, then one ought not just vote against it, but instead one ought to act against it. Thoreau argues, what is moral and just, may at times be what is against the law. People are more obligated to do what is moral and just, over what is the law. Therefore, there are times when it is moral and just for people to not follow laws that are immoral or unjust. Also, Thoreau does not see it has anyone’s duty to correct the corruptions of the government, but he does see it as everyone’s duty to decide what is right and fully act on their decision (822; 824).


Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arguments serve to expand on Thoreau’s arguments. King argues there are four steps in non violent movements; “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action” (826). If negotiation fails, according to King, there is “no alternative except to prepare for direct action” (826). King’s assertion is when it has been determined an injustice exists within the law, if negotiation fails to change the law, then one must act outside of the law. Furthermore, King argues, “there are two types of laws: just and unjust…One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’” (827). For King, it is moral to follow just laws and moral to not follow unjust laws because unjust laws are simply not laws.


King provides many explanations of just versus unjust laws. One of which, King asserts, is “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself…A just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself” (828). For King, unjust laws are laws enacted by the more powerful which the more powerful forces the less powerful to follow but the more powerful does not follow itself. Another explanation offer by King is “A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law” (828). For King, people have a right to vote, to have a role, in the processes resulting in the laws which they are going to have to follow.


Counter Arguments to and Responses for Civil Disobedience: Suber


Thoreau and King both argued in favor of civil disobedience. Suber offers many arguments against civil disobedience and then counters those arguments. One of the objections to civil disobedience Suber offers is: “Civil disobedience cannot be justified in a democracy. Unjust laws made by a democratic legislature can be changed by a democratic legislature. The existence of lawful channels of change makes civil disobedience unnecessary” (Suber). The objection asserts the available democratic procedures are adequate to change unjust laws. Suber offers a counterargument from King who asserted if the procedures for change of an unjust law are democratic in theory but are exclusionary in practice, then the procedures cannot be used to change unjust laws (Suber).


Another objection Suber offers is: “What if everybody did it? Civil disobedience fails Kant’s universalizability test” (Suber). The objection asserts if the action of civil disobedience were to be universalized, then the concept of having laws would fail to exist. The objection is asserting the universalization of civil disobedience is similar to Kant’s explanation of the promise to repay a debt but never intending to repay in that a law couldn’t do what a law is intended to do if civil disobedience is universalized. Suber notes there are “descriptive and normative versions” which are both slippery slope arguments leading to anarchy (Suber). In the descriptive version, or version where the usefulness of the consequences of the actions are focused on, Suber notes the objection asserts acts of civil disobedience will be imitated until eventually there is anarchy (Suber). In the normative version, or version where what people ought to do is focused on, Suber notes the objection asserts if civil disobedience is “justified for one group whose moral beliefs” go against a law, then it would be “justified for any group similarly situation” leading to anarchy (Suber).


In response to the descriptive version, Suber notes a response from Thoreau which asserts one has a duty to not “lend one’s weight to an unjust cause” because the consequences are more harmful to follow unjust laws (Suber). Suber notes Rawls’ response to the descriptive version would be acts of civil disobedience can balance out the legal system and push society “closer to its shared vision of justice” since the vast majority of people don’t commit acts of civil disobedience (Suber).


Another of Suber’s responses states “The normative version of the slippery slope argument has little force if the criteria used by activists permit some but not all disobedience” (Suber). Suber explains, “In Kant’s language again, universalizability fails if the maxim of the action is ‘disobey a law whenever you disapprove of it,’ but it can succeed if instead the maxim is, ‘disobey when obedience would cause more harm than disobedience,’ or “disobey when a law is unjust in the following specific ways.…’” (Suber). So, under the viewpoint in Suber’s response, disobeying the unjust law by committing acts of civil disobedience would be moral if it would be more immoral to not commit the acts and disobeying unjust laws by committing acts of civil disobedience should have parameters.


To give examples, regarding the first of the two maxims, Suber notes, for Thoreau, “this inertia and docility in the general population are far larger problems than incipient anarchy” (Suber). For Thoreau, it would be more of a problem for people to be uninvolved and to not have a role in the decisions made for them on their behalf, then it would be if anarchy were to form. Regarding the second of the two maxims, Suber notes King placed parameters around civil disobedience by defining just and unjust laws and making the distinction following just laws is moral and disobeying unjust laws is moral (Suber).


Connections: DeChristopher


Many connections can be made between DeChristopher’s comments and the rights theories of Kant and Rawls. Kant argued people have reason and will which allows them to decide for themselves what the right thing to do is and then act on that decision. DeChristopher mentions facing the decision of whether to disrupt the auction or to obey the law, then acting on disrupting the auction because he decided it was the right thing to do. Kant also argued using one’s reason and will makes one autonomous, and being autonomous makes people “people.” Kant argued reason and will gives people intrinsic value and people should be treated, whether by others or by themselves, as having intrinsic value. For Kant, to treat someone with intrinsic value would be to allow them to use their reason and will, thus, would be to allow them to be autonomous. In DeChristopher’s case, allowing him to be autonomous, to use his reason and will to act towards a higher moral code, would be treating him with intrinsic value, even if by using his reason and will to act toward a higher moral code required an act of civil disobedience. Additionally, DeChristopher himself would not be treating himself with intrinsic value if he did not allow himself to use his own reason and will to act towards a higher moral code. For Kant, using one’s reason and will to be autonomous is moral, and this is what DeChristopher did by his act of civil disobedience. In this sense, Kant’s rights theory justifies acts of civil disobedience as being moral, because civil disobedience allows for autonomy.


The special treatment DeChristopher noted the oil and gas industries receive and the exceptions BLM is making by not following Secretarial Order 3226, would be examples of, what Kant would call, the essence of immorality and not following the Principle of Consistency. Correlating DeChristopher’s comments, the purpose of the order is to assess the impacts on climate change for resource development so as to reduce the impacts of resource development on the climate. The end for the oil and gas industries is resource development. The only way the oil and gas industry can development more resources (in certain areas and by using certain methods), would be by the BLM not following the order or promising to follow the order but intending not to. If not following the order were universalized, then the order could not do what it is intended to do, which is namely, reduce the negative effects on the climate by resource development.


Rawls argues the first principle of justice, the Basic Rights Principle, is everyone is equal and entitled to the same rights. For Rawls, if someone is given more rights than another, according to the second principle of justice, the Difference Principle, it must be because of an office or position which can be held by everyone and it must benefit the least advantaged in society. In the case of DeChristopher, his comments indicate the government and the oil and gas industries were being given more rights than the people and these special rights were not obtainable by everyone nor were these special rights to the benefit of the least advantaged in society. Rawls also argues the distribution of primary goods, based on the two principles of justice, should originate from and enable people’s moral power to judge if a social system is just and to work to bring about the good in the society. DeChristopher noted his intentions were to expose the corruption behind the BLM. If corruption exists which requires exposing, then the people are unaware of how the system works. If people are unaware of how the system works, then they are not being distributed the circumstances which would allow them to judge if the social system is just. In DeChristopher’s case, if the people are not able to obtain knowledge of the environmental consequences of an action, because a study was not conducted as DeChristopher noted, then people are not being distributed the circumstances in which they could work toward the good of the society. If the people are not able to provide comments which will be considered seriously, as implicated by DeChristopher’s statements about the rush through of the auction and the volunteers at the BLM paid by the oil and gas industries, then people are not being distributed the circumstances in which they could work toward the good of the society. DeChristopher’s act of civil disobedience can be justified by Rawls assertion people have the equal basic right to use their freedom of thought and liberty of conscience to judge whether a system is just and act toward the good of the system.


DeChristopher’s comments about the value of the land, about our land, our climate and the threat to our future, demonstrate the principle of the commons. In DeChristopher’s case, the oil and gas industries are the herdsmen Hardin speaks of, benefiting from maximizing the utility of the commons to themselves. Hardin’s tragedy of the commons, for DeChristopher, is the oil and gas industry profiting off of destroying the commons for the whole human race. In DeChristopher’s case, as he noted about Secretarial Order 3226, in alignment with Hardin’s argument, there should be restrictions on the use of the commons put on the oil and gas industries.


DeChristopher’s comments can also be connected to Young’s arguments. Young argues the distributive theories, such as Rawls’, are inadequate to provide justice because distributive theories require a distributor and it is impossible for the distributor to not consider their own self interests. In the case of DeChristopher, the government is the distributor. The distributor has, per DeChristopher’s comments as noted previously in comparison with Rawls’ arguments, distributed special rights to the oil and gas industries. Per DeChristopher’s comments, the people are not being distributed the circumstances which allow individuals to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society. The reason why people are not being distributed equal rights and circumstances to exert their moral powers, according to DeChristopher’s comments about the relationship between the government and the oil and gas industries, is because the government is considering its own self interests in the distribution process. To resolve the problem of the impossibility of the Veil of Ignorance, Young argues for participatory justice where the people participate in the decision making processes regarding actions which affect their lives. If the system is not set up for people like DeChristopher to succeed but is set up for the corporations to succeed, as DeChristopher stated, then the system is not set up for the majority of the population to participate in the decision making processes which affect them. If the people are excluded from the system, as DeChristopher stated, then the system is not accommodating for participatory justice. If, as DeChristopher states, there has been a lack of participation of the people in social issues and due to his experience more people are now seeking to participate, then people are seeking a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect them. DeChristopher notes how he tried writing letters, he tried speaking with his congressperson, he tried petitioning the government, he tried utilizing the legal means for participation in the decision making processes which affect his life, but nothing worked.


Thoreau argued people have the right to decide what is moral and act on that decision. Both Thoreau and King argued people are obligated to do what is moral over what is the law and civil disobedience is moral when injustices in the law requires the law not be obeyed. DeChristopher’s statements regarding having loyalty to a higher moral code where there is a conflict between the higher moral code and law echoes Thoreau’s and King’s arguments. DeChristopher’s comments about the rule of law being dependent upon the government abiding by the law are very similar to King’s assertion an unjust law is one the powerful majority forces on the minority but does not follow itself. DeChristopher’s comments about the system not being conducive for people like him to enact change and his comments about the legal system being designed for the benefit of corporations, both of which together imply the system is not designed for participation from most people, can be correlated with King’s assertion an unjust law is one in which the people have no right to vote on. DeChristopher’s comments about the corruptions of the government which prevent people from enacting change, also echoes Thoreau’s assertions about the perversions of the government preventing people acting through it.


Civil Disobedience as a Participatory Role


DeChristopher’s comments imply people have the right to decide what is moral and act on that decision, even if it is an act of civil disobedience. People having the right to decide and act, or reason and will, toward what is moral is autonomy. DeChristopher’s comments can be linked with the idea of autonomy as posited by Kant. People have the equal basic right to use their, as stated by Rawls, freedom of thought and liberty of conscience to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society. In this way, DeChristopher’s comments are linked with Rawls’ regarding equal basic rights, primary goods, and moral powers. The good of society, according to Hardin, would be to put restrictions on the use of the commons. DeChristopher’s comments supporting Secretarial Order 3226 can be correlated with Hardin on restrictions to the use of the commons. However, the problem, as noted by Young, with Rawls’ theory is the distributor is concerned with their own self interests. DeChristopher’s comments are linked with Young’s regarding the self interested relationship between the government and the oil and gas industries. For Young, justice is people being able to have a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect their lives. The system as it exists now does not allow the majority of people participatory roles in the decision making processes which affect their lives. Many of DeChristopher’s comments focus the lack of participatory roles for people in the current system. Throughout DeChristopher’s comments, one finds frustration with what he sees occurring; frustration with following the legal means to try to make his case but being excluded from the system, frustration with disastrous environmental destruction to the commons, frustration with corporations getting special rights and privileges and frustration with not having a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect his life.


If people are not allowed a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect them, then they are losing their autonomy. The only way for people to maintain their autonomy when the system has excluded them from the decision making processes which affect them, would be to go outside the system, thus to acts of civil disobedience. It seems, along the same lines as argued by Young, it is not possible for people to maintain their autonomy within a distributive system as posited by Rawls. If one relies on a distributor to assign them decision making power and authority, and relies on the distributor to assign to them a certain amount of decision making power and authority, then automatically one is losing at the very least some of their autonomy. The loss of autonomy to a distributor automatically restricts what Rawls termed as moral powers. The loss of autonomy to a distributor automatically restricts people’s circumstances to judge if a social system is just and work toward the good of the society, because people can’t judge with any authority if the distribution system itself, the foundations of society, is just nor can they work toward the good of society through the distribution system. It is the justness and equitability of the distribution system which is called into question in the case of DeChristopher. It is the non-existence of participatory roles for people in distribution systems which causes the frustration leading to acts of civil disobedience. Civil disobedience demonstrates the principle people have a right to be autonomous and need to have a participatory role in the decision making processes which affect them. The current distributive system of the BLM and other government agencies does not adequately accommodate participatory roles. If people have a right to be autonomous and need to have a participatory role in the decision making processes which affects them, but the system excludes them, then civil disobedience becomes necessary to fill a need for a participatory role.


Modified Counter Arguments and Responses


One could argue against my argument along the lines of the objections Suber noted. For example, one could argue civil disobedience is unnecessary because there are many participatory roles people could fill. People could write letters, talk to their congressperson, vote, petition, protest, and probably numerous other activities, to participate in the decision making processes which affect them. However, the response would be, these roles are inadequate. DeChristopher’s comments about how he had tried several other means, but his concerns were not taken seriously via any of these means, demonstrates the inadequateness of the current available participatory roles. Currently the system is very much a Rawlsian distributive system where the government is the distributor. As previously argued, it is impossible for a distributive system to adequately accommodate participatory roles, especially when the problem is the distributor itself.


One could argue the participatory role for people is to vote for those who will then assign decision making power and authority to others. By people voting for representatives, the people are assigning decision making power and authority to the representatives. If the people are assigning decision making power and authority to representatives, whom then assign the power and authority to others, then the distributor is really the people. However, in response, the distributors the people have distributed power and authority to are not distributing information back to the people, so the people can’t, as Rawls stated, judge if the system is just and work toward the good of society. If the ones’ to whom the people have distributed their power and authority make decisions without the people’s consent or without giving the people enough information, then the people are unable to judge if the system is just and work towards the good of society. The distributor is not seeking participation from the people on the issues, and writing letters, petitioning, protesting is not adequate enough to mitigate the self interest of the distributor. So, the people could vote them out right? Sure, but the problem will persist because, as Young asserted, it is impossible for one to not consider their self interest.


Another objection, modified from the objection Suber noted, could be if everyone committed acts of civil disobedience in order to have some sort of participatory role, then it would lead to anarchy. In other words, civil disobedience as a participatory role cannot be universalized without resulting in anarchy. The hypothetical slippery slope argument seems to go like this: If acts of civil disobedience as participatory roles were universalized, then the established laws would be disobeyed by everyone. If the established laws were disobeyed by everyone, then established laws would carry no authoritative or deterrent force. If the established laws carry no authoritative or deterrent force, then everyone would do whatever they wanted to do. If everyone is doing whatever they want to do, then the result is anarchy. Therefore, if acts of civil disobedience as participatory roles were universalized, then the result would be anarchy.


It seems it may be necessary to evaluate some terms here. In the previous slippery slope argument, one is treating anarchy as everyone doing whatever they want and everyone doing whatever they want is chaos. The argument is assuming, and implying, everyone doing whatever they want is destructive. The argument is assuming the vast majority of people in society rely on laws to give them instruction on morality. The argument fails because it assumes people cannot autonomously be moral. The argument fails to recognize acts of civil disobedience have been done because one has autonomously decided their duty lies with a higher moral code. Even if the individual committing the act of civil disobedience has a skewed, perhaps even unethical, moral code, they are still autonomously deciding what is moral regardless of the established laws. The slippery slope, acts of civil disobedience as a participatory role leads to anarchy argument, fails because people don’t rely on the established laws for their moral codes. If people who commit acts of civil disobedience don’t rely on the established laws for their moral codes, then people can be moral without relying on the established laws. Therefore, if acts of civil disobedience as participatory roles were universalized, even if all the established laws were overturned, people could still act morally (ie toward the good of the society). Civil disobedience itself demonstrates people don’t base their morality (at least entirely) on established law. Established law is not required for morality. Therefore, civil disobedience need not lead to anarchy (ie destruction). If people don’t rely on law to establish their morality, then it could be argued civil disobedience is ineffective. Can civil disobedience change what one deems as moral? It can change laws if what is deemed moral is in conflict with the laws. However, what if there is a fundamental difference in what is deemed moral and the prominent view on the morality of the issue is in line with the laws? Despite these questions, if the purpose of civil disobedience is to have a participatory role and the system accommodates a participatory role for people after recognizing and accepting this, then civil disobedience has been effective.




Kant offers a rights theory based on the concept of autonomy, while Rawls offers a rights theory based on a distributive system. Hardin argues restrictions should be placed on the use of the commons. Young argues for participatory justice based on Kant’s theory of autonomy instead of Rawls distributive system. Young’s arguments can be applied to the decision making processes regarding the restrictions on the commons Hardin argues for. Thoreau and King argue acts of civil disobedience are necessary when the higher moral code is in conflict with the law. DeChristopher’s comments regarding his civil disobedience can be linked with Kant’s, Rawls’, Hardin’s, Young’s, Thoreau’s and King’s arguments. The result demonstrates a link to the principle people have a right to be autonomous and demonstrates acts of civil disobedience arise because the current distributive system does not adequately provide an arena for people to participate in the decision making processes which affect their lives. Therefore, acts of civil disobedience are necessary, because they provide people with a participatory role, even when the system has excluded them, in the decision making processes which affect their lives. Ultimately, the system is faced with a choice: Either allow people an adequate arena for participation in the decision making processes which affect their lives, or, keep prosecuting acts of civil disobedience. Perhaps the system should ask itself which option is more just.


Works Cited


DeChristopher, Tim. Interview by Doug Fabrizio. 08 Jan 2009. PBS. TV. 27 Jul 2011. <;.


DeChristopher, Tim. Interview by Amy Goodman. 22 Dec 2008. PBS. TV. 27 Jul 2011. <;.


DeChristopher, Tim. “I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me.”, 27 Jul 2011. Web. 28 Jul 2011. <;.


Drexler, Jane. “Deontology, Part One.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Drexler, Jane. “Deontology, Part Two.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Drexler, Jane. “Deontology, Part Three.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Drexler, Jane. “Global Environmental Justice.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Drexler, Jane. “Justice Theory: Rawls.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Drexler, Jane. “Participatory Justice: Iris Young.” Environmental Ethics 2300. Vimeo, Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Godfrey, Louis. “Crunch Time.” Salt Lake City Weekly. 26.8 (2009): 16; 18. Print.


Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science. 162. (1968): 1244-45. Print.


Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. New York: Harper Torch Books, 1964. 89-90; 95-96. Print.


King, Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Introducing Philosophy: A Text with Integrated Readings. Ed. Robert Solomon. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Publishers, 1993. 826-28. Print.


Rawls, John. Justice as Fairness. Cambridge: Harvard University of Press, 2001. 42-45; 57-59. Print.


Suber, Peter. “Civil Disobedience.” Earlham College, 1999. Web. 1 Aug 2011. <;.


Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” Introducing Philosophy: A Text with Integrated Readings. Ed. Robert Solomon. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Publishers, 1993. 821-824. Print.


Young, Iris Marion. “Justice and Hazardous Waste.” The Applied Turn in Contemporary Philosophy: Bowling Green Studies in Applied Philosophy. Ed. Thomas Attig, et al. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University, 1983. 176-80. Print.

Reflective Writing-Thoreau versus Ford

Posted in HUMA 1100 on July 27, 2011 by bettystoneman

For my paper, “What if Henry David Thoreau and Henry Ford Talked of Simplicity?” I used quite a bit of analytical, synthesis, interpretive, and critical thinking skills. First, I had to analyze each mans’ comments compiled from several different sources. Then, I had to interpret their comments and make deductions about their overall philosophies. Then, I had to combine their various comments into one over arching philosophy for each man. Then, I had to compare and contrast their philosophies. The Intro to Humanities class is not apart of my generals, it is required for my degree. However, all of the skills mentioned above are helpful to build upon in order to be successful in other generals. All the skills mentioned can transfer over to other generals like science which requires analyzing evidence and making deductions based on the evidence. Overall, all classes require some sort of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills seem like the foundation of education-asking questions, examining issues, thinking about the details-all of these skills are required for learning. For me, personally, my paper on Thoreau and Ford was challenging but a lot of fun to write, because of all of the numerous skills required to write it.

HLAC – Lifelong Wellness Application Paper

Posted in HLTH 1240 on July 23, 2011 by bettystoneman

1. What did you learn about “lifelong wellness” from taking this meditation class?
I think what I learned the most about lifelong wellness after taking the Theory and Practice of Meditation course is wellness is lifelong. Mindfulness is not a state of being you reach one day and go, “Okay, reached that goal. Now I can cross it off my list.” One can be mindful in one moment of existence, but not mindful in another. Mindfulness is something to be reached for continually and meditation is a way to reach for mindfulness. I learned meditation is a practice of mind and body control focused on training oneself to be mindful. Through meditation, one can focus on the present moment, let go of attachment, practice non-judgment, and become mentally and physically aware of themselves and the experiences of life.

2. How would you apply this information to your life?
There are many ways I have already begun applying mindfulness and meditation to my life. Even though there are many more aspects of mindfulness, I have specifically focused on four: being in the present moment, letting go of attachment, practicing non-judgment, and becoming mentally and physically aware of the experiences of life. These four concepts of meditation just seem to work in synchronization with each other. I have applied being the present moment to my life by reminding myself, “This is it.” This moment, right now, is life, not the past and not the future, now is it. I have applied letting go of attachment to my life by focusing on being in the present moment and practicing non-judgment. By reminding myself, “This is it,” I am reminding myself this is how it is. In this moment of existence, this experience is how it is and not attaching to preconceived concepts of right and wrong, or attaching to ideas about the past or the future, allows one to not automatically judge the experience in any particular way. One can see the experience for what it really is when not attached to an automatic judgment about it. All of these, being present in the moment, letting go of attachment, and practicing non-judgment, allows one to be fully mentally and physically aware of the experience, or in other words, allows one to be fully aware of life.

3. What is your intention to continue to meditate in your life and why?
My intention to continue to meditate is to try to find time whenever I can to practice mantra, affirmations and lovingkindness. Before sitting down to relax for the evening, after works, school, homework, family, I can sit for a few minutes in meditation and practice lovingkindness. I have a hard time sleeping, so before going to bed I could try to relax my mind by practicing affirmations or lovingkindness. While I am working out, I can practice mantra. Even in the few moments I walk from place to place, I could be quietly meditating as I walk. I intend to focus on mantra, affirmations, and lovingkindness because I think, for me personally, they are the most beneficial. Mantra, it seems for me, draws in and declares an intention for being a certain way. Affirmations, for me, allow me to give myself a break and calm my mind. Lovingkindness, for me, helps me to let go of any frustration and anger.

4. General ideas for improving this course?
I must apologize, because, I am afraid I don’t have any general ideas for improving the course. I think the course was well designed. The discussions on the theories were very insightful and thought provoking. I am afraid I have nothing to offer as far as suggestions for improvement.

What if Henry David Thoreau and Henry Ford Talked of Simplicity?

Posted in HUMA 1100 on July 20, 2011 by bettystoneman

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) and Henry Ford (1863-1947) could be connected in many ways. Both men had strong opinions about capitalism and consumerism. Both men had an reverence for nature. Both men believed in hard work and self reliance. Both men had strong feelings about science and technology. Overarching all of these areas, both men rooted their philosophies in the concept of simplification. Thoreau’s and Ford’s philosophies show the two men’s philosophies were practically opposite despite both being rooted in simplicity. Thoreau and Ford obviously were unable to ever discuss their philosophies with each other, but I’ve wondered what a conversation between them would be like. Therefore, I will attempt to compare and contrast Thoreau’s and Ford’s philosophies through a fictitious dialectic exchange, of which is entirely based on research of their philosophies.

Henry David Thoreau: Good day Mr. Ford. I am delighted to make your acquaintance.

Henry Ford: It is good to meet you as well, Mr. Thoreau. I understand you and I both have viewpoints surrounding the idea of simplicity. In my work as an industrialist, I have been able to build my Model T efficiently and affordably by eliminating “lost motion” and “slack” and making the tasks involved in the production process smaller and simpler (Grandin, 4, 223). The success of my Model T is because of simplicity. “Commonplace simplicity marks the greatness of the Ford. Simple in design-anyone can quickly understand it. Simple in construction-and every part a bulwark of strength. Simple in operation-anyone can operate it. Simple to maintain-anyone can care for it.” ( “My effort is in the direction of simplicity” (Grandin, 4).

HDT: Yes, Mr. Ford. Your efforts in industrialization have indeed simplified the assembly line process. However, does this simplification carry over to life itself? Has simplification in industrialization made human lives more simple or more complicated? Simplification in industrialization, the ability for goods to be produced quickly and cheaply, has given rise to an all encompassing consumerism and materialism in society. Men amass items and furniture like their lives can be measured by how much they own. Their collections of goods only serves to complicate their lives. “When I have met an immigrant tottering under a bundle which contained his all-looking like an enormous well which had grown out of the nape of his neck-I have pitied him, not because that was his all, but because he had all that to carry” (Allen and Almonte, 360). All of these things are merely a trap. “If I have got to drag my trap, I will take care that it be a light one and do not nip me in a vital part. But perchance it would be wisest never to put one’s paw into it” (Allen and Almonte, 360).

HF: Mr. Thoreau, there are indeed items which are merely “trumpery and trinkets” that are made “only to be sold, and bought only to be owned” (Grandin, 40). Items which serve “no real service to the world and are at last mere rubbish as they were at first mere waste” (Grandin, 40). However, items like my Model T, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines are great inventions to ease and simplify man’s existence (Grandin, 40). Great inventions which ease a man’s burdens in life are possible through higher wages. Abundance and simpler living is achievable when workers make enough to be able to afford to buy the quality, life enhancing items they make (Grandin, 40; Wicks, 50). “High wages,” you see, “to create large markets” in which production and consumption are both increased (Grandin, 40). “Our buying class is our working class” and “our working class must become our ‘leisure class’ if our immense production is to be balanced by consumption” (Grandin, 73). Mr. Thoreau, “Where does the money to make wheels go ‘round come from?” (McCarthy, 82). “From the consumer, of course…success in manufacture is based solely upon an ability to serve that consumer to his liking. He may be served by quality or he may be served by price. He is best served by the highest quality a the lowest price” (McCarthy, 82). I seek to simplify man’s life by providing him the highest quality product for the lowest price. At the same time, I seek to pay a man a fair wage for an honest days work, so that he may enjoy a simpler life. Simplicity in economics is giving the consumer the best product for the best price and paying a man a wage in which he can afford to buy those products.

HDT: Compensation, Mr. Ford, for an honest day’s work is certainly required for man’s existence. However, are there not many forms of compensation? Are all forms of compensation equally beneficial to man for man to live fully? It seems, Mr. Ford, “men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal” (Allen and Almonte, 350). In our modern economy, men work to consume and to pay off debt, which essentially places the laborer in servitude to the debtor. Many men “are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes as it were, grasping for breath” while “trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt” (Allen and Almonte, 350). Simplicity in economics would be to eliminate consumerism so that men may be compensated for their hard work with freedom.

HF: Mr. Thoreau, it certainly is not right that “We have dotted lines for this, that and the other thing-all of them taking up income before it is earned” (Grandin, 92). However, the problem does not come from the industrialist, it comes from the capitalist. “The difference between me and a capitalist is that I earn my living honestly. A capitalist loans out his money, collects the interest, and lets the other fellow do the work” (Wik, 19). “Get the gambling aristocrats to work…A capitalist doesn’t work at all. His money works for him” (Wik, 19). My brand of capitalism is one in which capitalism works for the working man, not the aristocrat (Brinkley, 52). My brand of capitalism is one in which working men prosper and overcome hard times through “self-reliance,” “rugged individualism,” tightening “bootstraps,” and “learning by doing” (Grandin, 40, 63; Wik, 21). By 1919, The Ford Motor Company had made over $300,000,000, “entirely upon its own resources” ( Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right when he said “Trust Thyself!” and “Prayers are a disease of the will” (Wik, 22; Grandin, 68). It is a philosophy of simplicity. Work hard and be self-reliant.

HDT: I can agree with you, Mr. Ford, that the abilities to work hard and be self-reliant are indeed noble qualities for a man to have. However, hard working and self-reliant to what end? To live. But, to live what kind of life? “Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them” (Allen and Almonte, 350). It seems, Mr. Ford, that men have “no time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance-which his growth requires-who has so often to use his knowledge?” (Allen and Almonte, 350) For men to live simply and happily, men must realize that “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly” (Allen and Almonte, 350). Take for example, Mr. Ford, the act of providing for oneself through self-reliance and hard work. In your view, it appears, for one to provide for oneself one must labor under industrialization, to earn money to purchase most of the necessities of life. However, “There is some of the same fitness in a man’s building his own house that there is in a bird’s building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwelling with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged?” (Allen and Almonte, 356). In our modern consumer society, we rely on others to construct our homes, to grow our food, to make our clothes. What have we lost due to this lack of self-reliance? “We belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? And what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion of my thinking for myself” (Allen and Almonte, 356-57). Simplicity is indeed in self-reliance and hard work. However, to achieve the best end to self-reliance and hard work one must provide the necessities of life, as much as possible, for oneself. In this way, man can grow and develop the finer parts of his nature, like his creative and intellectual faculties, which broadens his humanity. Man’s reliance on machines to provide for the necessities of life is detrimental to self-reliance. Man’s reliance on machines that turn man into a machine himself is detrimental to humanity.

HF: Mr. Thoreau, I can agree men should grow their own food. I had given fifty-five thousand employees plots of land in which they could cultivate their own vegetable gardens so that they did not have to depend on government relief during the Great Depression (Grandin, 277-78). However, why should man and machine be at odds? Mr. Thoreau, “We cannot eat or wear our machines. If the world were one vast machine shop it would die. When it comes to sustaining life we go to the fields. With one foot in agriculture and the other in industry, America is safe” (Wik, 255). Yes, nature is required for man’s survival, however, nature is not incompatible with science and technology. Together, nature, science and technology can help man prosper. The “Industrious application of inventive genius to the natural resources of the earth is the groundwork of prosperous civilization” (Wik, 247). At Ford Motor Company, we have merged science and technology with natural resources. The machines developed by Ford can do more work in less time for less money than a horse (Wik, 248). Also, “the cow must go” (Grandin, 60). “Why should a farmer spend a lot of time taking care of a bunch of cows. It takes 20 days of actual work to grow and harvest the grain crops on a dairy farm. The rest of the time is spent taking care of animals” (Wik, 250). “It is a simple matter to take the same cereals that the cows eat and make them into a milk that is superior to the natural article and much cleaner,” and “Our laboratories have already” shown that “the concentration of the elements of milk can be manufactured into scientific food by machines” made from soy (Grandin, 60). Our laboratories, through the science of chemurgy, have transformed soy into plastics, paints, glues, cardboards, and fabrics (Grandin, 59; Wik, 251-54). The new uses our scientists have discovered for soy were a simple solution to the agricultural depression in which farmers had an excess of product (Wik, 254). Simplicity is achieved when man with machine, science and technology all work together.

HDT: I must inquire further Mr. Ford, to what end does the merger of man, machine, science and technology achieve? What is the best end for man to achieve? It seems that “with a hundred ‘modern improvements’; there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance” (Allen and Almonte, 358). “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at” (Allen and Almonte, 358). In technology, the machine is robbing man of his connection to nature through hard work. Man and nature are no longer working together. Instead, man and machine are using nature. In science, man is separating himself from nature. Mr. Ford, “the universe is built around us, and we are central still” (Furtak). What I mean by this is, man has many faculties assigned to him, of which are sensory, emotional, and intellectual (Furtak). As such, there exists “no such thing as a pure objective observation. Your observation, to be interesting, i.e. to be significant, must be subjective” (Furtak). To offer a true observation, man must describe his observation in ways in which all the faculties of the human mind are represented (Furtak). “The truest description, and that by which another living man can most readily recognize a flower, is the unmeasured and eloquent one which the sight of it inspires” (Furtak). “The true man of science will know nature better by his finer organization; he will smell, taste, see, hear, feel, better than other men. His will be a deeper and finer experience” (Furtak). I am troubled that the science you speak of “discovers no world for the mind of man with all its faculties to inhabit” (Furtak). The simplistic improvements of science and technology you speak of Mr. Ford, seem to only distance man further from nature. Man is no longer involved with nature, instead man is merely using nature. When man is distanced from nature, man is distanced from himself, because man is of nature. If man is to live fully and simply, man must distance himself from machines and technology which rob him of his connection with nature and ultimately which rob him with his connection to himself.

HF: Mr. Thoreau, by all means, nature is necessary for man’s survival. “I don’t like the city, it pins me in,” Mr. Thoreau. “I want to breath. I want to get out” (Grandin, 41). “It is not right,” you see, “to put a layer of dust [from smokestack pollution] over the surrounding country and spoil its trees and plants” (McCarthy, 80). However, industry and nature do not need to be at odds and Emerson recognized this fact (Grandin, 57). I agree with Emerson in that through the mechanical advancements of industry, the car and the railroads, man can better experience nature (Grandin, 57). Also, as Emerson believed, industry can help man work more efficiently which would give him more time to contemplate and enjoy nature (Grandin, 57). “For most purposes a man with a machine is better than a man without a machine. Unless we better understand the mechanical portion of life, we cannot have the time to enjoy the trees, and the birds, and the flowers, and the green fields” (Grandin, 246). “I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” and “It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s greatest open spaces” (Brinkley, 44). The great naturalist writer, my friend, John Burroughs enjoys the Catskill Mountains by way of the Model T (McCarthy, 80; Wicks, 55). Regarding industry’s obligation to nature and the public, “Picking up and reclaiming the scrap left over after production is a public service,” “but planning so that there will be no scrap is a higher public service” (McCarthy, 56). However, “Conserving our natural resources by withdrawing them from use is not a service to the community,” because “our natural resources are ample for all our present needs” (McCarthy, 81). Waste is unacceptable to me (McCarthy, 77). We can use resources wisely and efficiently, limiting waste as much as possible, which will conserve the resources for future generations, reduce pollution, allow the factory to run more efficiently, and generate more profits (McCarthy, 67). We should take care to conserve resources as much as possible, to protect nature and generate profits. But, the conservation of resources need not mean that we not utilize what nature has given us to use to ensure the prosperity of man.

HDT: Mr. Ford, Emerson wrote that one could find in nature “a sanctity which shames our religions,” and I do agree with Emerson on this point (Furtak). However, Emerson would assert each object in nature is “a symbol of some spiritual fact” (Furtak). Mr. Ford, “Is not Nature, rightly read, that of which she is commonly taken to be the symbol merely?” (Furtak). Mr. Ford, one should “be always on the alert to find God in nature,” and listen for “the language which all things and events speak without metaphor” (Furtak). What I mean is, nature is not a mere symbol of greatness, nature is in itself greatness. Nature has value in itself, its value is not derived from how it can be utilized by man (Furtak). There exists a “much grander significance” in nature “when not referred to man and his needs but viewed absolutely” (Furtak). “Whatever we have perceived to be in the slightest degree beautiful is of infinitely more value to us than what we have only as yet discovered to be useful and to serve our purposes” (Furtak). When I made my home at Walden, I discovered “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself” (Allen and Almonte, 363). Mr. Ford, man is not set apart from nature. Man is of nature. Man must view the world as “nature looking into nature” (Furtak). If man can value nature simply for the value nature possesses intrinsically, then man can value himself simply for the value man possesses intrinsically. Man living in simplicity, in nature, allows man to prosper in ways monetary gain cannot award him.

HF: So, Mr. Thoreau, how should we conclude this discussion?

HDT: It seems, Mr. Ford, we have come to the conclusion that you and I are of the different minds regarding the concept of simplicity.

In conclusion, Thoreau’s ideologies posit simplifying life through less consumerism and materialism. However, Ford’s ideologies posit simplifying life through industrialization and capitalism. Thoreau asserted science and technology could be detrimental to humans and nature, while Ford saw science and technology as being compatible with nature. Thoreau and Ford both asserted humans should be self-reliant and work hard. Thoreau seemed to view humans working hard in connection with nature as being self-reliant. Conversely, Ford seemed to view the machine as enhancing humans’ abilities to work hard and be self-reliant. While both men seemed to have a reverence for nature, which both men also seem to relate to simplification, Thoreau seemed to assert we ought to live within nature while Ford seemed to assert we ought to live by utilizing all nature provides. The incompatibility between Thoreau’s and Ford’s philosophies arises because Thoreau based his viewpoints on simplicity in nature, while Ford based his viewpoints on simplicity in machines. It is to be noted, the quotes are all of Thoreau’s and Ford’s own (or in some cases, Emerson’s), by either spoken or written. It is also to be noted, I have made some interpretive logical deductions in offering Thoreau’s and Ford’s views. My hope is that I have portrayed each mans’ views accurately and respectfully.

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