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Georg Simmel: Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art

Time Consciousness. Gabriel R. Nietzsche's Death of God and Italian Philosophy. In the triad group there is a possibility of a dyad forming within the triad thereby threatening the remaining individual's independence and causing them to become the subordinate of the group. This seems to be an essential part of society which becomes a structure.

Unfortunately as the group structure becomes increasingly greater the individual becomes separated and grows more alone, isolated and segmented. Simmel's view was somewhat ambiguous with respect to group size. On one hand he believed that the bigger the group the better for the individual. In a larger group it would be harder to exert control on the individual, but on the other hand with a large group there is a possibility of the individual becoming distant and impersonal.

Therefore, in an effort for the individual to cope with the larger group they must become a part of a smaller group such as the family.

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The value of something is determined by the distance from its actor. In "The Stranger" , Simmel discusses how if a person is too close to the actor they are not considered a stranger, but if they are too far they would no longer be a part of a group. The particular distance from a group allows a person to have objective relationships with different group members. The series was conducted alongside the Dresden cities exhibition of Simmel was originally asked to lecture on the role of intellectual or scholarly life in the big city, but he effectively reversed the topic in order to analyze the effects of the big city on the mind of the individual.

As a result, when the lectures were published as essays in a book, to fill the gap, the series editor himself had to supply an essay on the original topic. The Metropolis and Mental Life was not particularly well received during Simmel's lifetime. The organizers of the exhibition over-emphasized its negative comments about city life, because Simmel also pointed out positive transformations.

During the s the essay was influential on the thinking of Robert E. Park and other American sociologists at the University of Chicago who collectively became known as the "Chicago School". It gained wider circulation in the s when it was translated into English and published as part of Kurt Wolff's edited collection, The Sociology of Georg Simmel. It now appears regularly on the reading lists of courses in urban studies and architecture history. In other words, Simmel does not quite say that the big city has an overall negative effect on the mind or the self, even as he suggests that it undergoes permanent changes.

It is perhaps this ambiguity that gave the essay a lasting place in the discourse on the metropolis.

Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art

The deepest problems of modern life flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life. The antagonism represents the most modern form of the conflict which primitive man must carry on with nature for his own bodily existence. The eighteenth century may have called for liberation from all the ties which grew up historically in politics, in religion, in morality and in economics in order to permit the original natural virtue of man, which is equal in everyone, to develop without inhibition; the nineteenth century may have sought to promote, in addition to man's freedom, his individuality which is connected with the division of labor and his achievements which make him unique and indispensable but which at the same time make him so much the more dependent on the complementary activity of others; Nietzsche may have seen the relentless struggle of the individual as the prerequisite for his full development, while socialism found the same thing in the suppression of all competition — but in each of these the same fundamental motive was at work, namely the resistance of the individual to being levelled, swallowed up in the social-technological mechanism.

In this major work, Simmel saw money as a component of life which helped us understand the totality of life. Simmel believed people created value by making objects, then separating themselves from that object and then trying to overcome that distance. He found that things which were too close were not considered valuable and things which were too far for people to get were also not considered valuable. Considered in determining value was the scarcity, time, sacrifice, and difficulties involved in getting the object. For Simmel, city life led to a division of labor and increased financialization.


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As financial transactions increase, some emphasis shifts to what the individual can do, instead of who the individual is. Financial matters in addition to emotions are in play. The Stranger is close to us, insofar as we feel between him and ourselves common features of a national, social, occupational, or generally human, nature. He is far from us, insofar as these common features extend beyond him or us, and connect us only because they connect a great many people. A stranger is far enough away that he is unknown but close enough that it is possible to get to know him.


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In a society there must be a stranger. If everyone is known then there is no person that is able to bring something new to everybody. The stranger bears a certain objectivity that makes him a valuable member to the individual and society. People let down their inhibitions around him and confess openly without any fear. This is because there is a belief that the Stranger is not connected to anyone significant and therefore does not pose a threat to the confessor's life. More generally, Simmel observes that because of their peculiar position in the group, strangers often carry out special tasks that the other members of the group are either incapable or unwilling to carry out.

For example, especially in pre-modern societies, most strangers made a living from trade, which was often viewed as an unpleasant activity by "native" members of those societies. In some societies, they were also employed as arbitrators and judges, because they were expected to treat rival factions in society with an impartial attitude. Objectivity may also be defined as freedom: the objective individual is bound by no commitments which could prejudice his perception, understanding, and evaluation of the given.

He holds a certain objectivity that allows him to be unbiased and decide freely without fear. He is simply able to see, think, and decide without being influenced by the opinion of others. According to Simmel, in small groups, secrets are less needed because everyone seems to be more similar. In larger groups secrets are needed as a result of their heterogeneity. In secret societies, groups are held together by the need to maintain the secret, a condition that also causes tension because the society relies on its sense of secrecy and exclusion [23]. For Simmel, secrecy exists even in relationships as intimate as marriage.

Simmel saw a general thread in the importance of secrets and the strategic use of ignorance: To be social beings who are able to cope successfully with their social environment, people need clearly defined realms of unknowns for themselves. It is possible to buy silence. In his multi-layered essay, published in , Simmel discusses flirtation as a generalized type of social interaction.

According to Simmel, "to define flirtation as simply a 'passion for pleasing' is to confuse the means to an end with the desire for this end. In the behavior of the flirt, the man feels the proximity and interpenetration of the ability and inability to acquire something. This is in essence the "price. In the eyes of Simmel, fashion is a form of social relationship that allows those who wish to conform to the demands of a group to do so.


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It also allows some to be individualistic by deviating from the norm. There are many social roles in fashion and both objective culture and individual culture can have an influence on people. Ritzer wrote,. Simmel argued that not only does following what is in fashion involve dualities so does the effort on the part of some people to be of fashion. Unfashionable people view those who follow a fashion as being imitators and themselves as mavericks, but Simmel argued that the latter are simply engaging in an inverse form of imitation.

This means that those who are trying to be different or "unique," are not, because in trying to be different they become a part of a new group that has labeled themselves different or "unique". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Georg Simmel. Berlin , Kingdom of Prussia. Strassburg , German Empire. Immanuel Kant , Max Weber. Lewis A.

Main article: The Philosophy of Money. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. Berkowitz eds.

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