“No matter how science may now define the objectivity of nature and the interrelations among its parts, it cannot scientifically conceive it in terms of "final causes." And no matter how constitutive may be the role of the subject as point of observation, measurement, and calculation, this subject cannot play its scientific role as ethical or aesthetic or political agent.” (146-147)I can understand that Marcuse feels that science can sometimes not provide a reality as neutral as many assume. Science and research can be used to refute and affirm the same hypothesis if presented and skewed in the right way; but I do not think that we should go as far as to disregard this type of evidence when politicians attempt to use science to convince voters of a specific view point. I think that we live in an age where information is readily available and when were are presented with a certain statistic or scientific claim we can take to the internet and research it’s validity for ourselves. I think citizens these days have the ability to be as informed as they want to be so I do not think that the scientific evidence that we are provided with is always blindly accepted. I wondering if Marcuse had been writing in this era would he still be so quick to think of science as a tool used to confuse people or that this type of information can be used to inform people and give people the basis on to which they can start their research to form their own opinions.
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"Towards thee I roll,thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee, for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus,I give up the spear!"(Melville,623).The concluding battle between Ahab and the whale is probably the most dramatic scene in the book. This violent game of cat-and-mouse warfare ends in the long-foreshadowed death of Ahab. The whale that Ahab sought for so long became the cause of his death. My question is, how does Melville want us to view Ahab's death? Are we to understand his death the way that Ahab paints it? That is, a death that was destined by fate? Or would it be better to view Ahab's insane quest for the whale as the sole cause of his demise? Was Ahab bound by fate, or did he merely choose to chase after his own destruction?
When I reached the first mention of the Rachel a question hit me: why are there virtually no women in Moby-Dick? The marginalization of female characters in literature is hardly exclusive to Melville, and is fact still practiced on a consistent basis today, but the degree to which women lack impact on the story of Moby-Dick is somewhat startling. Is this conscious choice, or a subconscious, sexist oversight? I understand that there weren't a lot of women hanging around whaling ships in the 1850s (while they were out at sea, that is) but the complete absence of significant female character is actually somewhat troubling (and besides the mention of wives, plus Mrs. Hussey and Aunt Charity I can't think of any female characters whatsoever). So can Moby-Dick really be called the great American novel when it overlooks the sex of over half of the American population?
^as soon I went to post this I noticed that Alison had a similar thought about gender.I'm curious about the role of gender - the masculinity of whaling. This sort of expedition does generally only include males but Ishmael doesn't seem to spend to much time if any - in my reading thus far, lamenting their absence. There is the relationship with Queequeg but that started when he was on land and presumably had the ability to interact with women. Ishmael also doesn't show that other crew members are missing women. Another question I had relating to gender is related to the gender of the whale and the gender of Moby Dick. In all the time that Melville gives to describing the different types and classifications of whales, I'm curious as to the difference between male and female whales and what was known at that time about the difference. Even though Moby is a male's name and the whales thus far, if I remember correctly, are referred to as males, I tend to think of them more as female. But I'm curious to other opinions about gender in this novel in general and that if the absence of women should affect the reading.
While doing some preliminary soft-research on Moby-Dick, I noticed that the publisher of the English edition, Richard Bently, initially released the novel without the epilogue included. Some wonder whether or not the omission of the epilogue may have contributed to the fairly negative reception that Melville received from his contemporaries. Reading the Epilogue over and over, it is hard to imagine it serving any other purpose other than explanatory. It seems as though Melville is straightening out a couple of kinks regarding his narrator’s fate and the fact that we are able to read the story which is so often sworn by said narrator to be true. Although there are certainly other portions of the novel that allude to the fact that Ishmael has survived (The Town-Ho’s Story take place after the novel’s events), the epilogue is certainly the most explicit in this regard. Could such an omission by a publisher be enough to doom the book? Or, put more broadly, what exactly caused the shift in critical reception of Moby-Dick from bathwater in 1850’s to becoming such a portion of the literary canon today that we can use Moby-Dick to better understand Marcuse? I realize that there was a “Melville Revival” around the same time where literary criticism was just starting to really take off in America, why the correlation? I’m not sure if this is an entirely interesting question, and I don’t doubt that we have approached answering questions like it (like 'Why do we like this book?'), but I mean to ask my question in more of an economic/cultural framework (1850’s versus 1920’s-present) than anything actually contained within the novel itself.
I had a similar thought to Jesse's about Ahab's death, about how we, as readers, should interact with it. Is it fate or merely Ahab's self-fulfilling prophecy? But then I had another thought. The battle between the whale and Ahab takes a while, but Ahab's death, his actual death, is accomplished in a single sentence:"Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone" (623). Why has Melville, who has a gift (or perhaps curse) for description written the crux of the novel in so short and so anti-climactic a way? And why does his death seem so ambiguous instead of concrete? The crew does not see him die, but they “knew he was gone”, which is almost more eerie than an actual death scene. What does this short, nondescript death say about Ahab, Melville, and the novel itself?
Perhaps this question is too broad, but this is something I've been wondering throughout reading the last part of the novel...Why does this book have the reputation of "The Great American Novel"? What exactly makes this novel American, other than the fact that the crew and the author was American? Perhaps this is my biased and modern view of the United States, but a book like this, which is so dark, so complex, full of prophecies, superstition, and savages, hardly seems to match the idea I always had of Moby Dick before I read it. Prior to reading this book, I thought Moby Dick would be a story of triumph over the whale, of determination, of conquering your greatest nemesis...Instead, the novel ends in a spectacular display of ruin and destruction, with the entire crew literally being pulled down into a vortex, a product of either fate or Ahab's madness. This novel is not conventional, not a story of a triumph, the narrator, when he is present, is tattooed, engaged in a deeply homosexual relationship with another crew member, and is the sole survivor of the Pequod not due to any form of bravery or valor, but rather chance and luck. This simply was not what I expected. So what is the significance of calling this novel, so heavily latent with dark metaphors and questioning the nature of the world we live in, "The Great American Novel"? And does this idea coincide with Marcuse's idea of the unity of opposites?
My main question for our reading of Moby Dick is why such a unbelievable ending? I understand that Ishmael cannot go down with the ship if he is to write Moby Dick and tell us all of Ahab's determination and insanity, but then why set up the story this way at all? While I like the irony of Ishmael surviving on a coffin, the chances of this random man on board the boat being the sole surviver seems ridiculous to me. I think almost every other character we have met would have more reason to survive, from being in the boats away from the ship just to general rank and skills. The idea of this great tragedy with a great man defeated by his pride and belief in fate is awesome, and I like the idea of a the traditional survivor to carry on the tale, but Ishmael is a random man who shouldn't have even been able to tell us many of the siloquiys and I am still frustrated with the lack of explanation on how he got his information. He is an interesting character with an interesting point of view but he should not know what he does or be the only one on the whole ship that survives. Ishmael's lone survival of the pequod seems to me the last straw in any semblance of beliveability in this crazy book. I know Moby Dick is considered the Great American Novel, but when even the perspective is not clear I do not understand how it reached that status.
What perplexes me most about the reading material this week was Ahab's death. I'm not quite sure about what to make out of HOW he died. "The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting velocity the line ran through the groove; - ran foul. Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone."(623)This is such an abrupt ending, such a freak accident, that I don't know how to grasp the significance of it. Also, I wonder what exactly we should do with the last words of Ahab, "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with the; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chosing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! THUS, I give up the spear!"(623).