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Lecture 2

SOCI 330 Lecture 2 Persian Letters.docx

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Sociology (Arts)
SOCI 330
John Anthony Hall

Persian Letters  Montesqueu o Lived between 1689 -1755 o Bordeaux - aristocratic family, bureaucratic nobility o Catholic, wife was protestant  Knew about diversity and disasters of peering into peoples behind o 1713 - came into estate - drink his wine o 1716 - he took a job inside the local assembly - president  He witnessed torture, which he hated  He talked about toleration  He wrote lots of essays - on science, social theory (idea of an empire - what he didn't want to see happen again) o 1721 - Persian Letters was published in Holland and smuggled into France, he became famous because of it  This is the world in France after death of Louis 14th  He loved going Salons (run by women)  Sense of position of women o 1728 - gives up position in parliament because his estate produces wine and interested in it  Travels - spends lots of time in rest of Europe - 2 full years in England - he loved England because England won a lot of the wars between France, how is it that England can always beat us? What is it that England has o 1734 - wrote short book on Rome - story of Rome's greatness and collapse - critical though - highly military society, and imperial society - doesn't like this o Works on Spirits of the Laws (1748)  Story (similar to 1984) o Philosophical novel - most of the time the characters are not real - representing positions - make theoretical points - 1 character is real (Usbik) o Story is simple. Persians come to France they look at France and French customs, write letters to each other and write letters home, they're looking at France, we're looking at them - the story is about relativism - are their universal standards that apply everywhere at all time? How should we live? Is there one set of rules that apply to all of us? Montesque's position is a combination of extreme relativism with a touch of universalism . We know one thing about humans for sure - every human can feel fear - your skin creeps if you think someone's about to kill or torture you - fear is a human universal - theory is to diminish fear - in some universe slavery is out because slavery is based on fear. Tons of things we think are natural are not at all cause many countries will do it differently. If you're a 100% relavatism than you can't condemn people who kill each other or torture o Political question - how do we live? What sort of society should one be? Comments about particular countries - rather nice about England - its advanced, prosperous, tolerant. Says negative things about Spain - has inquisition, trys to push truth down people's throat. France is poised between these two particular places o People found it very funny in France at the time  Jokes  Letter 24 - where he makes fun of pope and the king  Letter 28 - love, the theatre, comedy, actresses  Letter 36 - Homer - treated as a god but he makes fun of him  Letter 37 - Death of Louis the 14th - see scorn and jokes - loathing the irresponsible political power
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