In “Sex and Violence, or Nature and Art,” Camille Paglia claims nature is inherently stronger than society. “Society is an artificial construction, a defense against nature’s power.a system of inherited forms reducing our humiliating passivity to nature.” (Writing in the Disciplines 572) I agree with the majority of Paglia’s opinions, however, I believe that there are points that could have been elaborated on more substantially.
In this essay, Paglia states that man is born evil and it is society’s job to condition him to be a good, moral person. Paglia would disagree with someone who said the reason a person murdered was because he grew up in a bad section of town, or his home life left something to be desired. On the contrary, Paglia claims it is the inner evil, the “nature,” of the person to kill, and it is society’s lack of conditioning that releases this savage response. “Society is not the criminal but the force which keeps crime in check.” (Writing in the Disciplines 574) She claims no matter how much a person sinks into religion, or their society, nature will always have the upper hand.
Paglia believes if man is left to his natural instincts, with no threat of society’s punishment, he will be evil and commit evil deeds. In society, sexual urges can often influence a person’s morality, making him second-guess his values for the sake of sexual pleasure. She also goes on to say, “getting back to nature. would be to give free rein to violence and lust.” (Writing in the Disciplines 573-574) I agree that this scenario is a possible outcome, but Paglia fails to mention that with out society we would have no idea, which deeds were evil and which were not. It is society that has set the limits and told us what is evil. Before men were grouped together in societies, they roamed free with no idea of right and wrong. It wasn’t until man made up his religion with its rules, regulations and laws that he had a conscious idea of evil.
When young boys are abandoned on an uninhabited island without adults, even they are capable of murder. This is the scenario depicted in the British author, William Goldings novel, Lord of the Flies, written and published in 1954 during World War 2. Comparing the characters of Jack, Ralph, Piggy and Simon with Freud’s theory of id, ego and superego, one can prove that man has an underlying ...
But I do agree with Paglia that nature is the stronger force, and no matter how much we try to fool ourselves into believing that society or religion can save us from the torment of nature, we will always be reminded of mother nature’s force. “Civilized man conceals from himself the extent of his subordination to nature. The grandeur of culture, the consolation of religion absorb his attention and win his faith. But let nature shrug, and all is in ruin. Fire, flood, lightning, tornado, hurricane, volcano, earthquake—anywhere at any time.” (Writing in the Disciplines 573) I agree with this statement whole-heartedly. I believe that religion was basically created to put man at ease with his surroundings. All religions are basically a collection of mythical stories designed especially to pacify man’s fear of nature. In Ancient Greece, if there were tremendous storms at sea, that crippled vessels, then it was Poseidon, the sea god that was angry with the people, not just nature having its way with the weather. Without this story and others like it, man would be so afraid of the earth that we would have never been able to evolve out of the primitive stage into a thriving society.
Paglia states that “Society is an artificial construction, a defense against nature’s power.” (Writing in the Disciplines 572) I agree, because without first religion and then society the human species would have become extinct a long time ago. But in her essay, Paglia does not address the fact that religion and society are inevitable structures. There can never be a true “anarchy” because even if all of the world’s governmental societies collapsed, then you would find that smaller “societies” would emerge. People who lived near each other would band together to deal with the conflicts that nature would throw at them, and in those bands of people you would find rules and regulations designed to make everyday life more bearable.
Henry David Thoreau’s life began on July 12, 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts. At a young age he began to show an interest in writing. In 1833, at the age of sixteen, Thoreau was accepted to Harvard University. Although his parents could not afford the cost of tuition, his family offered to help with the funds, and in August he entered Harvard. In 1837 he graduated and applied for a teaching ...
We have proven that the rules of society and the teachings of religion can help pacify nature’s urges. Society has provided us with the concept of right and wrong. Religion has helped to give man confidence to confront nature’s raw power. Sometimes nature wins but society and religion have given us the ability to deal with that too.
Paglia, Camille “Sex and Violence, or Nature and Art.” Writing in the Disciplines. Ed. Alison Reeves. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River, 1996.