Monday, January 29, 2007
Ok, so like Kara, I found the the questions that Prof. Tantillo points out that Gilgamesh forces us to ask to be quite intriguing. Some of those questions include: what does it mean to be human? Are humans divine? Are humans animals? How do we become civilized? etc. I think it is in human nature to embrace civilization and progress. In the story Gilgamesh, Enkidu originally is "wild" and he eventually becomes "tame" and civilized. He accepts his role as a human and he therefore recognizes his superiority over other critters in the forest (critters that he used to protect and defend when he was wild). As the story continues, Gilgamesh and Enkidu go onto cut down the cedar wood forest and use the wood. Additionally, it was believed that humans must domesticate animals. The belief of superiority is also recognized by Aristotle in the "Concepts of the Natural World" chapter of Pan's Travail. Aristotle believed in a hierarchy, "plants exist for the sake of animals, animals for the sake of man, and that inferior men are natural slaves of the superior. This doctrine supports human use of nature in any way that is conducive to human good..." (p. 60 in case you want to look at it). Of course this is just one view of the ancient Greeks, and there are many who did not agree with Aristotle and the idea of superiority per se, but still anthropocentrism was present even in the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. How could it not be? It is difficult for humans to not view the world with an anthropocentric viewpoint. A side note: the idea of superiority is also touched upon in an excellent book called Ishmael (I thank Meaghan Black, who is also in 232, who recommended it to me). In the book, it is proposed that because many humans believe creation ended with the birth of man, the world was therefore made for man, and because of this, the world belongs to man and he can do whatever he wished with it. It is quite interesting, I highly recommend you read the book if you are interested. Now I know that it seems as though I am rambling and I probably am, but the whole concept on man doing what he/she wishes with the world is something that has been going on for hundreds of years now (as shown in the times of Gilgamesh, and the ancient Greeks and Romans), and I find it to be quite fascinating. So I guess getting back to those questions raised in class--are humans divine? better than animals because of brain capacity and ability to reason? Certainly everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I myself find the whole hierarchy thing to be a bit ridiculous and unnecessary. I am not saying we need to abandon anthropocentrism, I just think it would be good to re-examine it and re-evaluate our current views of what nature is and how to improve the relationships humans have with nature.