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Chapter 17 The Baroque
…such stuff as dreams are made on…
Sophie continues to find postcards from Hilde’s father, but she does not know how they
are getting to her. She tells her mother the entire account of Knox and his philosophy
lessons. She and her mother then plan a birthday party for her on Midsummer’s Eve.
When Sophie returns to Knox’s apartment, he teaches her about the 17th century's
Baroque period, the name of which comes from a term describing an irregular pearl. It
was a time characterized by extremes—a life of luxury and a life of spiritual seclusion.
The ephemeral nature of life was a focus, with the motif of the theater often recurring,
particularly in the works of Shakespeare. The main question of the period is "what is real
and what is but a dream?"
Thomas Hobbes presented the idea that only matter exists, thus supporting the philosophy
of materialism. This view of the universe and mankind as machines spread in the
scientific world. All that exists is predetermined, whether by the machine or by God. This
is called determinism, in which there is no free will.
However, there was still a strong strain of spirituality existent. There was also an
acknowledged separation between the spiritual and the material, but the nature and
characteristics of each continued to elude philosophers. The two greatest philosophers of
the day were Descartes and Spinoza.
Baroque: comes from a word that was first used to describe a pearl of irregular shape.
Irregularity was typical of Baroque art, which was much richer in highly contrastive
forms than the plainer more harmonious Renaissance art.
Albert Knag writes to Hilde: Life consists of a long chain of coincidences.
God’s providence
Carpe diem=seize the day
Memento mori=remember that you must die
References to life as theater/dream:
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
Shakespeare As You Like It
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Shakespeare Macbeth
What is life? A madness. An illusion, a shadow, a story, and the greatest good is little
enough, for life is all a dream….
Calderón de la Barca Life Is a Dream
Once I dreamed I was a butterfly, and now I no longer know whether I am Chuang-tzu,
who dreamed I was a butterfly, or whether I am a butterfly dreaming that I am Chuangtzu.
Chuang-tzu The Fish Rejoice
Idealism (what exists is spiritual) vs. Materialism (what exists is concrete material
Thomas Hobbes: all phenomena are particles of matter (even human consciousness)
Mechanistic World View: The world is one big machine (Newton)
La Mettrie: L’homme machine = man, the machine
Laplace: determinism==everything that happens is pre-determined
Leibniz: the difference between the material and the spiritual is that the material can be
divided into smaller parts, the soul cannot be divided at all.