Culture - Based On Sweetness And Light” By Matthew Arnold Essay

Culture Based On Sweetness And Light By Matthew Arnold Term paper

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Many different people have interpreted culture, which has an impact directly on every living human in the world today, and no one has been able to obtain a final, absolute answer. Two of the premier theorists in the field of psychology, Karl Marx and Matthew Arnold, have attempted in this endeavor and have had diverse opinions on this topic. Although both men defined “culture” in different ways, a blend or a “middle route” of the two enables us as readers to grasp a greater knowledge of the meaning of culture. The essay “Sweetness and Light”, written by Matthew Arnold, blindly overemphasized the significance of the pursuit of perfection and downright disregarded the reality of our material being. Having seemingly lived in a closet his entire life, Arnold talked about an ideal world that I believe would work except for the fact that we are human beings, and we tend to make mistakes (Arnold 98-113). The human race is greedy, coveting to acquire more and more material objects to our already huge collection. Although I wish this method would work in today’s contemporary times, the notion of culture as “sweetness and light” will never be able to properly function in this material-oriented world. Fortunately, not everyone is exactly equal otherwise our world would not be able to be as advanced as we are today. Everyone has his or her own role in society ;this world does not solely depend on the upper class. Mr. Arnold on the other hand seemed to favor the elite class of society and he ignored the masses. Did he truly believe that the “intelligent, rightly-guided” aristocracy could guide the masses? The wealthy would probably be driven by their power and money, consequently ignoring the topics important to the oppressed poor. Another argument that Arnold pointed out was the belief that life is determined by consciousness, when in actuality it is the other way around (Arnold 102). Culture is the pursuit of excellence, built upon past experiences and ideologies that we will never be able to accomplish because they cannot be applicable in our society today. The phenomenon known as culture is determined by the financial standings of the time period because that is what directly affects the actions of the people. Mr. Arnold went to the extreme and blatantly said that materialistic pursuits actually hurt the culture of a country. Although he admitted that culture needed materialism, he said that it came with a necessary evil (Arnold 107). An example to disprove these previous statements would be the invention of the computer. Many would state that things such as pornography hurt the education value of the unit, but it has been the number one research tool for companies, students, and others worldwide. Although I agree with some of Matthew Arnold’s logic, he seems to believe we live in a utopian society when we actually live in a money-driven reality. A tendency that is seen in the modern world, which could be derived from both Marx’s and Arnold’s points of views, is the impact of financial being on culture. For example, in the poorer countries people tend to reach for religion and thus become more conservative because they are not entrenched in a materialistic world. On the other hand, in a prosperous country such as the United States, people tend to be more liberal because they are living by standards of money, not religion. Although I do like the idea of having a culture where we strive to love knowledge, it is not something feasible. Marx revolutionized philosophical thinking when he proclaimed that the material welfare of a person was the base for his intellectual undertakings. Opposite to Arnold’s thinking, Marx believed that culture, thought of as “sweetness and light”, could be a derivative of his material endeavors. Basically, Karl Marx believed that a person’s material life was the base function, whereupon everything else was dependent from. This is evidenced from the following quote: "The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises" (Marx 65). Karl Marx supported the ideal world where the community as a whole was united, and it was based on a community above individual infrastructure. Whereas Matthew Arnold argued that all people should be uniform with in the society, the German philosopher (Marx) would reply that there must be a division of people to satisfy the needs of society. A point of controversy between Arnold and Marx was their views on society and on the social hierarchy. On one extreme, Arnold believed that everything in this world is dependent on heaven. Marx, on the contrary postulated that our very material being created our own reality, and that the actions directly went from our existence to “heaven.” Thus, it was this very belief of Marx’s that convinced him that this kept the ruling class in power (Marx 65-68). A belief of Marx’s that I completely do not agree with was his supposed “hate” against religion. Religion is a basic foundation of culture, one that people abide by everyday throughout their lives. In most countries, at one point of their history or another, have had time periods where their lives were wholly dependent on their religion. Though many bloody wars and battles have been fought over money, the same can be said for religion as the Crusades was one of the greatest wars ever. Evidently, the opposing views of Marx and Arnold blend so well together to compromise a decent idea of what culture really is. As one preaches conservatism and perfection, the other rants on how important materialism affects our everyday thinking. Both viewpoints have their strong points and their weaknesses, and they both have come to help define an ambiguous word such as culture.

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