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HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - Marcel Proust, Unconscious Mind, Scientific Revolution

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Kenneth Bartlett

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Feb. 28th, 2011
Reactions to Rationalism
Elements that began to criticize and challenge the aspects of European society
Rationalist model became institutionalized in schools, etc
Forms the basis of our thought, human reason supreme
Many people tried to break out of the structure of the Enlightenment mode,
looked for other kinds of inspiration, Cartesian model
Middle class didnt accept that all of the problems of the world would simply go
away through the application of science
Belief that there was a challenge driven by individuals with terrible experiences
that drove them to question the belief of progress
Frenchmen felt this in particular, especially in the Franco-Prussian War, left
them wondering how rational people could do this
After having subscribed to the idea of progress, many thoughtful Frenchmen
began to feel betrayed by rationalism
Anti-rationalists called Les Deracines
Bad solutions manifested in social and political movements of extreme
nationalism, anti-Semitism, authoritarianism solutions to a world that no
longer made much sense
Role of the rational middle weakened, either went with them or not
Belief in rationalism & Napoleon as a Utopian leader began to decline
Growing interest in the irrational
Explanation of irrational side of the basic element of human nature undertaken
by writers, artists, & philosophers looked for a vocabulary to explain, that
which was not linear
Spielvogel p. 732-34:
Before 1914 most Europeans continued to believe in the values & ideals that had
become generated by Scientific Revolution & the Enlightenment
Ability of humans to improve themselves & achieve a better society seemed to be
demonstrated by rising standard of living, urban improvements, & mass
Near end of the 19th century dramatic transformation in realm of ideas & culture
challenged many of these assumptions new view of the physical universe,
appeal to the irrational, alternative views of human nature, radically innovative
forms of literary & artistic expression shattered old beliefs & opened the way to
a modern consciousness

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Science one of the chief pillars supporting the optimistic & rationalistic view of
the world that many Westerners shared in the 19th century many believed
application of already known scientific laws would give humanity a complete
understanding of the physical world & an accurate picture of reality, new physics
dramatically altered this picture
Sigmund Freud
Constructor in the unconscious, architect of the unconscious self, interpretation
of dreams illustrated that the human mind contained an irrational element
Follow instinctual behaviour, we have in us an animal personality
Didnt accept Pavlovs theories, saw human behaviour as produced by the
unconscious mind more powerful than the conscious mind, humans motivated
by the most basic urges (power, self-preservation, & sex the need to reproduce)
Human beings inner life was a battleground of 3 contending forces: the id
(lustful drives & desires, crude appetites & impulses), ego (seat of reason, the
coordinator of inner life), & superego (locus of conscience, represents the
inhibitions & moral values that society in general & parents in particular
imposed on people)
Abhorrent behaviour subconscious at work
Built on the irrational aspects of the human condition
Freud & Pavlov continuators of Darwin, sought a rational explanation to
irrational behaviour
Ivan Pavlov
Animals could be programmed in a particular way, & we too can be trained in
such a way
You can program a person to respond physiologically through psychological
Physiological psychological: human behaviour a series of physical responses
Marcel Proust
Motive for action resided beyond the reach of the intellect, ultimately what
matters is what you feel
Appearances were one thing, but reality was another
Appearances skewed reality because perception was insufficient
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