I finally read “Emma” and was completely taken by it. But I have to say it is quite a surprise. I watched a movie adaptation of it (starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) many years ago, liked it very much, and I thought I pretty much know what it is about. But when I actually started reading it, I gradually realized there is a lot more to the book than just the story itself.
I decide to write my thoughts about Emma because it provides excellent opportunities for thought exercises related to issues about love and reason, and (I believe) love and reason are the most important things in the world. In fact, I think Emma is at least one of the most important books in world (if not the most important book!)
I have to say I am a little hesitating to write about it piece by piece because there are many interpretations about the story and I feel that almost every conclusion one can draw would invite counter arguments (as it should, and this is at least one of reasons I am so fascinated by this book). So if I just write about my thought on one side, and don’t follow through quickly enough, I might not be able to fully express myself, or worse, mislead people. But I am eager to write about my thoughts, as it seems that my thoughts inspired by Emma might be very useful at current time, and I fear it might take too long for me to organize them thoroughly. So, if anyone would be reading my posts (that I hope would follow), please keep in mind my thoughts are not definitive and conclusive on most points, there might be more to follow.
More importantly, as I have mentioned in “Barefoot Philosopher”, philosophical thinking should be more about the process of thinking than about reaching particular ideas (basically, those ideas are used to set up rules and values that are called “morals”). [By the way, I should mention in “Barefoot Philosopher”, I have emphasized the importance of “Truth, Beauty and Goodness” (which is basically what Humanism supposedly is about), but at end of the post, I have at least implicitly replaced them with Love and Reason. I should point out here I believe “Truth, Beauty and Goodness” as the basic principle of Humanism has its flaws. I will explain it later. In fact, one can see from what I am saying in this post some of my reasoning. I will try to explain fully in detail later.]
My vision of an “ideal society” is when people are setting their own rules and values (they are going so anyway) based on the common principles of love and reason (but at least most people are not doing so now. The importance of Emma rests mostly on this point, as it could be used to lead people to do so.) One of the biggest problems with the world now is rules and values are often arbitrarily set by culture that is often unreasonable and impractical for individual needs (mostly conflict with people’s self-interests) while no real motivations are given. This causes people to circumvent the rules and ignore the values set by the society and develop their own rules and values. This undercurrent subculture is basically what dictates “reality”, which could be quite ugly. To solve this problem, we got to know what causes the problem, and find a way to target the real cause.
I like to mention one thing here. I read an article on The Atlantic “On Teaching, but Not Loving, Jane Austen”, basically questioned the importance of Jane Austen. To summarize (if I understood the author of the article correctly), the author thinks her works did not cover many important things in life. I have to disagree. As I have said, I believe love and reason are the most important things in life. Comparing to them, other rules or values are secondary, hence less important. For example, rules and values in ethics and politics have to be derived using the principles of love and reason, and the fact that many of them are not (and are over emphasized in cultures) is basically the fundamental problem in the world.
I do think many people’s enthusiasms about Jane Austen’s works are based on wrong reasons. This makes me think my writing would be useful.
September 5, 2017