The novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a portrayal of the experiences of a young German soldier, Paul, during World War I. In this essay, the philosophy of Petrarch and humanism will be used to evaluate the ethics of Paul. Petrarch was an Italian scholar, poet, and humanist who lived in the 14th century and believed in the importance of self-awareness and self-improvement. Petrach also heavily believed in resisting desire for a more simple life and pure virtues. His ideas can be applied to Paul’s experiences to understand the moral implications of his actions and beliefs.
One of the key aspects of Petrarch’s philosophy was the idea of restraining one’s desires. He believed that it was important to limit one’s desires and strive for inner peace. Paul’s dependence on cigarettes as a coping mechanism highlights his inability to control his desires. As Petrarch said, “A short cut to riches is to subtract from our desires.” (De remediis utriusque fortunae, Petrarch) This quote emphasizes the importance of controlling one’s desires to achieve happiness. In contrast, Paul’s reliance on cigarettes demonstrates his inability to control his cravings, and how addiction may control his life. This lack of self-control may indicate a deeper issue of his desire for distraction from the horrors of war. Most of his desires were caused by fear and desperation. The notion of restraint, as advocated by Petrarch, could have helped Paul manage his addiction. Managing this addiction would have exhibited Petrach’s idea of self-improvement.
Petrarch also believed in the importance of self-awareness and reflection. He valued the understanding of one’s thoughts and actions, and how they affect one’s surroundings. In the novel, Paul comes to realize the significance of his brotherhood with his comrades as a result of their shared experiences. As he states, “…like a canopy under whose shelter we feel drawn together.” (Remarque, 51) This quote emphasizes the importance of the brotherhood forged among soldiers at war. Paul’s realization of this bond is an example of self-awareness, and Petrarch would have considered it an important step towards spiritual growth. Petrarch believed that true virtue came from a combination of self-improvement and service to others.
Furthermore, Petrarch believed that virtues were important to achieve a good life. However, he acknowledged the rarity of beauty and virtue coming together. Paul’s admiration and love for Katczinsky could be seen as an example of beauty and virtue coming together. Katczinsky was a wise, experienced soldier who acted as a mentor to Paul. He imparted his wisdom and gave him guidance, and Paul’s admiration for him showed that he valued his virtues. However, the tragedy of war eventually led to the loss of Katczinsky, and with him, the beauty and virtue that Paul had come to admire. In conclusion, by examining Paul’s experiences through the lens of Petrarch’s philosophy, we can gain a deeper understanding of the themes of self-examination, personal growth, humility, and virtue. While Paul’s experiences are unique to his own time and place, the lessons he learns about self-improvement and service to others are timeless and universal. Although some of Paul’s experiences may not follow Petrach’s ideas, they demonstrate the moral complexity of war. Through the lens of Petrarch’s philosophy, we can see how these themes connect to broader ideas about the human condition and the pursuit of a meaningful life.
Well actually, I didn’t write that. It was all Chat GPT. Got you! Probably not actually. Although it is a lot easier using Chat GPT, it is pretty obvious when someone uses it. No matter how advanced AI will become, I don’t think it will be able to replicate more ‘human-like’ essays or responses.