FL 380: Modern Latin American Prose Fiction: An Archaeology of the "Boom

Gnostics: (prominent between 200-300 AD) For the gnostics, the world was produced from evil matter and thus cannot be a creation of a good God. It is mostly conceived of as an illusion, or an abortion, dominated by Yahweh, the Jewish demiurge. The gnostics deprecate Yahweh's creation and belittle his history. This world is therefore alien to God who is for the Gnostics depth and silence, beyond any name or predicate. The human soul moves between two extremes, Good and Evil, and is capable of transcendent knowledge. Either through rites or by the power of thought it can operate changes in the cosmic process of the universe.

Idealism: These thinkers hold that the basis of the universe is ultimately spiritual, not physically real, as the proponents of Realism or Materialism would assert. Physical objects have no existence apart from a mind which is conscious of them.

Berkeley (1685-1753) in the 18th c. argued that the esse (the ultimate reality) of physical objects was percipi (perception), that is, they are just "ideas". The spirit is the only possible causal agent since it alone is "active". Things endure in the absence of man because they exist in the mind of God. Berkeley can be understood against the materialist philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) for whom the universe is but a mechanical system of bodies in space. It is made of matter, thus possessing qualities such as solidity, shape, extension, movement, stillness, number. These bodies impinge on the sense organs of human beings who possess minds. This external stimulation is the cause of "ideas", which are what the observer is aware of.

For Berkeley this was:
     (a) ridiculous: How can an observer knowing only his/her own ideas even venture to posit the existence of an "external world"?
     (b) detestable: According to Locke, for all we know the external world may be utterly different from our "perception" of it... even non-existent.
     (c) dangerous: Locke's doctrine tends towards materialism, atheism, the subversion of morals and God. If matter is not eternal his system fails... if it is it denies God.

Schopenhauer (1788-1860): He posits three aids to salvation: philosophical knowledge, the contemplation of works of art, and sympathy for others based on the recognition that -although we are all radically different from each other- we are in essence one.