Opposing Views

I’ve been reading about the dichotomous philosophical views held by the French in the 19th century. One perspective held the great classical civilizations of Greece and Rome were beyond compare and, therefore, a sound basis upon which to guide one’s life. The views of these Neo-Classicists held to staid ideals of beauty and truth exemplified by the ancients, the message being the past holds the principles by which to live.

The other view extolled the virtues of man’s passions. The spirit of life was seen in the serendipitous nature of human existence. These Romanticists championed the flow and flux living presented to the man truly alive. Living fully in the present was pretty clearly the message here.

Interestingly, these opposing views were manifested in the arts of the time. The Neo-Classicists looked to linear emphasis in the imagery on Greek pottery and to the subdued color they found in the art of the ancients they saw on their pilgrimages to Rome. Their more immediate champion was Nicholas Poussin. The Romanticists relished the baroque twists and turns they saw in the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens. Their preferred palette contained the bright colors they found in the exotic cultures of the Near East.

These op positional views fed off of each other; the first staunchly absolutist and rational the second spirited and life-affirming. The first extolled their virtues against the decadence of the second; the second, their flexibility and pluralism against a rigid didactic ism. A lot of great art was created in 19th century France and I’ll bet a big part of the immense creative output was the result of these tensions.

So, I wonder, if everyone everywhere suddenly witnessed an unmistakable ‘Ultimate Truth’, undeniable in any way, so remarkable that all doubt was erased from every mind, what would be the result? It seems to me, even the idea of peace would be meaningless; without opposition there would be nothing to believe.

I can only hope that sort of truth will never become known.

Elvis in memphis



2 thoughts on “Opposing Views

  1. I don’t know, man. Given the choice between GODLY knowledge and some pretty good French art…. I think I’d have to favor my curiosity over my eyes.

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