Unit 1 Post
In this post, we ask you to read a short passage that you choose really carefully, and then to consider what larger questions the passage raises. You can choose any short passage (about 100 words or fewer) from any of the readings so far (Brooks, Morrison, Spivak, Maalouf, Locke, Declaration of Independence, Diderot). Your passage should be one you did not initially understand. Something difficult. In one substantial paragraph, write about your struggle with that selected passage and what understanding you eventually attained about how the passage supports a bigger point your author is trying to make. For example, you might start with, “when I first read this passage” and explain what you thought it meant, or that you were initially baffled. Explain what you did to try to figure it out. (Look up words? Go back to other texts? check your notes on class this week? Talk to a your fellow Humesters? – we love this last teachnique!) Then in a sentence or two state the resulting claim: “this passage means x,” “this passage does y,” “this passage matters for p because q,” etc. And finally, connect your passage to a question from our discussions this week or at Sapere Aude.
Morrison Passage “Moral Inhabitants”
Quote: “Our past is bleak. Our future dim. But I am not reasonable. A reasonable man adjusts to his environment. An unreasonable man does not. All progress, therefore, depends on the unreasonable man. I prefer not to adjust to my environment. I refuse the prison of “I” and choose the open spaces of “we.”
I chose Morrison’s passage on refusing to accept the current societal climate because I was intrigued by her use of “unreasonable,” usually a word with a negative connotation, to represent her admirable refusal to be complacent. When I first read this passage, I was confused as to whether Morrison was contradicting herself, by asserting that, “the past is bleak” and “our future dim,” followed by the minimizing statement that she is “not reasonable.” I was also unsure of what she meant by the last sentence; whether she was advocating for unity amongst mankind, or discouraging people from becoming too entrapped in their own beliefs.
Upon further reading, I realized that by “unreasonable,” Morrison means someone who is always questioning the justice of a situation, instead of accepting the current state as the reality. I think that by emphasizing the term “unreasonable,” she is also encouraging her readers to be uncomfortable with their situation, because comfort breeds complacency. Morrison’s argument to stay uncomfortable also relates to her statement that she is rejecting the prison of “I” and is instead choosing “we,” which implies that by being comfortable, one is also being selfish because they are no longer concerned with the future of the group. Morrison’s point is that even if one becomes cynical and accepts the bleak reality of the world, it is their duty to not give up and continue to fight for justice, if not for themselves then for others.
I found Morrison’s use of “unreason” as opposed to “reason” interesting, as other texts we’ve read, particularly Kant’s work, define reason as one’s ability to question, and value reason above all else as what differentiates mankind from other animals. I believe that Morrison chose to reiterate acting “unreasonably” in this passage to emphasize the discomfort and active resistance required to oppose the realities accepted by society as a whole. Morrison’s passage suggests a solution for the question of how to dismantle oppressive and discriminatory beliefs by advocating for active protest and resistance as a means for positive change. The last sentence, encouraging the reader to choose the “open spaces of we” implies that one should advocate for the good of humanity as a whole, rather than in their own interest, which echoes the thoughtfully inclusive themes of John Locke’s “common good”.