While philosophers, like Plato, describe human identity by the possession of a divine soul, Marc Chagall’s painting I and the Village emphasizes how human identity is defined the ability to think about, to conceptualize, nature and the material realm. While nonhuman animals can only react to signs, or to stimuli that provoke linear, cause-and-effect sequences, human animals have the ability to create symbols, representational meanings imbued into natural abstractions. Through the manipulation of symbols, humans are able to create complex languages, such as mathematics, philosophy and science, influencing the evolution of knowledge. Though knowledge, humans learn how to rule over, and manipulate, nature and other nonhuman animals. However, while human identity is defined by the ability to think about and conceptualize reality, Chagall emphasizes that despite divine portrayals of human animals or the ability to create symbols, human animal are nonetheless neither deities nor gods. Chagall warns humans of the flaws of anthropocentric idealism, that both human and nonhuman animals are a part of nature, no greater or lesser than any of the other parts.
What differentiates human from nonhuman anim...
... middle of paper ...
...an animals. Chagall uses this biased perception of nature to criticize how people’s obliviousness to their own awareness is no longer capable of thinking about. Rather, they are merely reacting to the social norms and ideologies presented to them, neglecting the physical realm and centralizing around metaphorical abstractions meant to describe reality. Pliny also criticizes the lack of self-awareness, writing how
“[Human animals] are supposed to have notion, too, of the differences of religion; and when about to cross the sea, they cannot be prevailed upon to go on board the ship, until their [gods] has promised upon oath that they shall return home again.”
In other words, humanity’s distortion of reality through religion represents the devolution of rigorous intellectual thinking and self-identity, deliberating human animals from the qualities of human identity.
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