Saturday, June 10, 2017

Blog #75 - Examined Life philosophers

Out of the several philosophers that we saw in The Examined Life, which of them seemed: 
1. To have the most appealing outlooks on life; 
2. To have the least appealing (or comprehensible) views of life? 


In summary, here they are in order of appearance in the film: 
1. Cornel West - Harvard and Princeton educated, Dr. West has spent the majority of his studies examining race, gender, and class in American society.  He is considered a "neopragmatist", similar to that of William James' pragmatism (something has value if it works), where language is the primary vehicle for understanding the world and trying to make meaning from it.  He has called himself a "non-Marxist socialist" primarily because he's a religious person and cannot reconcile the fact that Marxism dismisses religion.  He also tends to be suspicious of all forms of authority, because they can lead to tyranny and / or abuse.  One of his latest books is called Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.  

2. Avital Ronell - her parents were Israeli diplomats and she was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  She is a professor of German language in New York and has translated French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his earliest works introduced into America.  She follows a school of philosophy called Deconstructionism where she tries to discover the underlying meanings of words and language.  She feels that " language is a material that cannot not interrupt, suspend, resist, exceed, and otherwise trip up the very message it is charged to deliver," because "words can go AWOL (absent without leave" or in many instances, be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the listener / reader.  In many respects, this problem with language has led her to believe that there are no guiding Truths.  One of her latest books is called Stupidity

3. Peter Singer - an Australian philosopher who has become very popular with his most well known for his strong moral beliefs about animals and eating meat.  He is opposed to animal experimentation as well as eating meat.  He follows in the school of Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham) which tries to maximize the greatest good for the largest number of people.  He also feels very strongly that the wealthy have an obligation to provide help for those in extreme poverty (remember the $200 pair of shoes ruined to save a drowning child).  On his own website, he claims to give 25% of his income to non-profit groups that are devoted to the poor.  His latest book is The Life You Can Save.  

4. Kwame Anthony Appiah - as mentioned in the film, he's the product of a Ghanian father and an English mother, he studied at Cambridge and has taught at some of the top universities in the U.S.  His studies have included examining the intellectual history of African Americans and he also deals with language and semantics - the underlying meanings of words.  In the segment we watched, Appiah talked about our notion of identity in a multicultural world.  He doesn't believe that race should form your identity, but that we should look for universalities between us to do that.  Forbes Magazine named him one of the Top Seven Most Powerful Thinkers in the world - Judith Butler is also on this list as well.  Appiah's latest book is called The Honor Code.  

5. Martha Nussbaum - is a professor at the University of Chicago with an interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy along with concerns over feminism, political philosophy and morality.  From ancient Greek and Roman philosophies, she has explored the idea of neo-Stoicism which acknowledges that things outside of our control have a great influence on us.  She has also tried to draw attention to the political and gender inequality and the lack of opportunities for women.  She's a strong believer in inclusion of other cultures and feels that those who promote Western culture (our culture) at the expense of others is paternalistic.  In the field of moral psychology, she wrote that emotions like shame and disgust are legitimate emotions to use to make legal judgments.  Her latest book is The New Religious Intolerance

6. Michael Hardt - Hardt is a political philosopher from Duke University who was born in 1960.  As he mentioned in the film, he spent time in Latin America during the 1980s learning from the Marxist political movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador.  He has criticized globalization and sees it as a form of American imperialism.  Nations' power to control their own destiny has declined as American (and European) companies have expanded to control various aspects of developing countries' resources.  His major work, written with Antonio Negri, is called Empire.  Globalization has spawned new forms of racism and cultural change, and that the focus of political power has shifted from governments to corporations.  This shift is less democratic because there's very little if any recourse to stop / control these corporations. 

7. Slavoj Zizek - Zizek is a neo-Marxist and has been considered the "hippest philosopher in Europe" by many and also called "the Elvis of philosophy."  He hails from Slovenia and has written many books.  He tends to provoke with his statements, like comparing Julian Assange to Mahatma Gandhi.  He rarely gives straightforward answers to questions: "I like to complicate issues. I hate simple narratives. I suspect them. This is my automatic reaction."  He is also an athiest and has written extensively on movies, violence, and other topics.  He apparently wrote a review of Avatar first w/o having actually seen it first: "I'm a good Hegelian.  If you have a good theory, forget about the reality."  His primary influence is philosopher Jacques Lacan.  One of his latest book is Living in the End Times.  

8. Judith Butler - is currently a professor of rhetoric and literature at the University of Berkeley, California.  One of her primary philosophical keys is gender studies and how sex and gender roles are flexible or shouldn't be as confining as we tend to see them in our society.  Gender identity does not necessarily reflect who are in our "inner core" - meaning, that just because we are men or women does NOT mean that we should be bound by those male and female roles.  Gender is supposed to be a secondary characteristic to who are, not a primary one.  Also, her political philosophy has been influenced by her religion, Judaism, and she believes in a "Judaism that is not associated with state violence," and has said that Israel does not represent all Jews.  As mentioned in the segment on Appiah, Forbes named her one of the top seven thinkers in the world and she has been called "a big-deal academic, ... and oft-cited academic superstar...the most famous feminist philosopher in the United States," "the queer theorist par excellence," and "the most brilliantly eclectic theorist of sexuality in recent years."  Her most popular book has been Gender Trouble.  

This blog will be due by Monday, June 12 by class.  

Also, please read this article for Monday for an enlightening discussion on the ethics of punching a Nazi.  https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2017/jan/31/the-punch-a-nazi-meme-what-are-the-ethics-of-punching-nazis 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blog #74 - Hanna and Genetic Engineering

The subject of genetic engineering / manipulation came up during Hanna, though in an unrealistic sci-fi scenario where the CIA tried making super soldiers through invitro - genetic enhancement.  But while this sounds like sci-fi now, there are a lot of things today that can be done that are NOT science fiction that are pretty close to genetic manipulation.  
1. What happens if you want a boy in your family since your family already three girls?  What could you do to increase the odds?  Picking the sex of your child can be done now w/ invitro fertilization (IVF) once fertilized eggs divided into eight cells, that mass can be tested for sex and then implanted in the mother's womb. 

2. What if you really loved your dog or cat and wanted one exactly like it?  Apparently, a company existed for 2 years called Genetics Savings and Clone and was able to clone a couple of cats.  It shhut down in 2006 for reasons I can't quite fathom (besides my basic revulsion of the idea, other qualms), but here's an NPR link to a radio interview about the company when it opened in 2004 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4176651

  - Here's a more recent story from 2009 about a Korean company that cloned a Labrador Retriever for $155,000.  http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AmazingAnimals/story?id=6762235&page=1

 3. What if your only child died or had was dying from an accident and making a clone to replace the missing or needed parts was the only way to replace or help that child?   This would be a tough one for me to answer b/c I've never ever been in a situation like this, and I don't know how desperate I might get to save my daughter's life.  If making a clone of my daughter to create stem cells could help her, I would be all for it.  Chances are, scientists wouldn't have to go as far as cloning to help her since our body makes stem cells all of the time. 
 - But, South Korean scientists in 2004 were successful in cloning a human embryo using the same person's cells (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1672523&ps=rs).  The idea was to aid the woman's health, not clone her.  Even so, a recent poll in America states that 84% of Americans feel that cloning humans is morally wrong.

 4. Would you be willing to be part of a genetic experiment that not only strengthened your muscles but prevented them from deteriorating with age?  Gene therapy can allow us to repair damaged cells but apparently scientists at the University of Penn have done such a thing with mice in 2004 - called "Mighty Mice."  This kind of therapy could help people with muscular dystrophy or ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  But could it also be abused by athletes and others looking for an edge, especially if they aren't injured?  Gene therapy doesn't usually show up on drug tests since it's supposed to be part of your natural body chemistry, so how do you know who's doping and who's not?  

 5. If you had the chance (and it were possible), would you pick certain traits for your child before he/she was born?   Would you want a child that is more predisposed to music, athletics, math, or would you try to pick the hair and eye color and let fate take care of the rest?  

 6. Is this kind of genetic selection ethical?*  Would it create a separate subspecies of humans like portrayed in the movie Gattaca - those who have been enhanced and those who haven't?  If you haven't been enhanced, you're stuck in a 2nd class citizenry status much like African Americans were before the Civil Rights movement, while those who have been genetically enhanced (those with money, of course) get the best pick of jobs, lives, etc. 

Pick at least three questions (one must include the last one about ethics*) and answer them by tomorrow before class.  Thanks.  300 words minimum. 

Sources:
Gallup Poll on Cloning - http://www.biopoliticaltimes.org/article.php?id=5736
Moral Obligation to be part of a medical research study - http://www.biopoliticaltimes.org/article.php?id=5909

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blog #73 - Why Doesn't the Batman just kill the Joker?

Having read the article on the ethics of killing the Joker, what do you think?  (We're going to assume that this comic book world that we are inhabiting is real, so don't start going down that road).

It brings up a few good points: 
1. The Joker will continue to kill (but does Batman murder him for future crimes - could be dangerous - or past crimes?  Joker has killed Robin, Commissioner Gordon's wife, and crippled Batgirl, Gordon's stepdaugher).
2. Batman's honor code of not killing is just a way for Batman to feel superior to the men and women of crime whom he is fighting.
3. Is Batman responsible for all of the deaths / mayhem / destruction since Batman first apprehended the Joker?  Is that chaos Batman's to own, or should it be the Joker?

Image result for why doesn't the batman kill the joker


So, questions to answer: 
1. In which of the scenarios of the Trolley Problem do you think best applies to this situation w/ the Batman and Joker (assuming it was the Joker who is the trolley)?
2. Should the Batman kill the Joker?  Why or why not?  And if so, for what crimes - past or to prevent future crimes?
3. Should our superheroes have a no-killing code?  Why or why not?  Does it just lead to more crime?
4. Is the concept of utilitarianism useful in real life?  Why or why not?

300 words total.  Due by class on Thursday, June 1.  

Articles to read and consider: 
Why Doesn't the Batman Just Kill the Joker? by Jesse Richards.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/why-doesnt-batman-just-ki_b_3686003.html


Image result for why doesn't the batman kill the joker

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Blog #72 - Invention of Lying

After watching most of The Invention of Lying on Tuesday and Wednesday., we discussed what the true intentions of the movie were: 
  • Was it trying to show us that lying has its good points (little white lies, brutal honesty that numbs us to those in trouble around us, insults that should be better left unsaid)?;
  • Was it a critique of religion as false hope? When Mark was on a TV interview show for a brief second at Anna's house, he looked and sounded like just another televangelist;
  • Or did it show, even if religion may be a false hope (in the movie makers' eyes), that hope is worth believing in b/c it gives the people in this world that their lives weren't for nothing (you're a loser on Earth and now you'll be rotting in the ground - geez, what's the point of life then? Look at Jonah Hill's character and his insistent research into suicide);
  • Did the filmmakers add deliberate philosophical tie-ins with Nietzsche (bending reality to fit to one's will and lying creatively) when he asked "if you could remake life the way you want it, what would you do?"  or Christianity w/ Mark acting as a stand-in for God when he gave Anna the chance to love him on her own accord a few times (much like the Christian scholars have said that God gave mankind free will so that we can love Him on our own accord)? Or when "the man in the sky" is attributed with all of the bad/evil things that happen in life (like natural disasters, disease, accidents, even mankind's free will, etc.) - the classic problem of evil?  Though, I'm not sure what Mark sees in Anna...
So, your job is to think about something, just one single thing, that you would remove from our world in order to create a parallel world like the one in the movie so that this parallel world would somehow be better than our world.


Explain how your new world would be different, and try to be imaginative by thinking of both the positives and negatives. Don't be discouraged if someone has already taken your idea. Build on what they've already written or go off in a different direction or rethink your approach. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

If you missed the videos

We watched three videos in this unit, Kant and Categorical Imperative, Romanticism, and Hegel.

See below.

Kant.


Romanticism


Hegel


Enjoy!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blog #71 - In Time

"For a few immortals to live, many people must die."

Image result for In time movie

We are presented with a future world in the movie, In Time, in which time has become so precious that it has now become currency.  Somehow, our bodies are born (or implanted with a device) that begins ticking when we reach the age of 25 so that those who work get paid in time and have to buy their necessities like food and rent using the currency of time. 

There are also time zones (don't think like what we have -Eastern, Central, etc., but different parts of a larger city), segregated communities that you must pay time to get into.  Just think of gated cities within a much larger city - this is a way to keep the very poor out of (what can only be assumed to be) a middle class or upper class time zone, because the more Will pays as he heads towards the wealthiest part of town, the price continues to go up.  So, in essence, there still is free passage among the city, but only if you can afford it.  But since many can't afford it, the poor are stuck in their slums. 

The movie focuses most of its time on poor characters who are working day-to-day and struggling to survive.  When wages go up, the prices of goods go up, so there's no real way for the poor to get ahead.     And of course, in such a dog-eat-dog world, there are also gangsters who try to steal peoples' time - the Minutemen.  And when the clock runs out on someone, he/she is dead.  Even the timekeepers, the police of this dystopian society, are barely paid decent wages in order to stay alive.  Sadly ironic, the ones that are entrusted with enforcing the system don't get paid enough (sounds familiar).  



The rich, on the other hand, are trapped in a different kind of gilded prison.  With decades, even centuries on their clocks, they continue to look the same as they did when they were 25 even though they might be 107.  The one creepy Freudian thing is when Phillipe Weis introduced his mother, wife and daughter (Sylvia) who all looked very similar.  Sylvia and Will hit it off and that's when Sylvia said that all the wealthy needed to do was stay out of trouble and they could live forever.  Play it safe = live forever.  So, unlike Will who lives by the phrase, "Carpe Diem", Sylvia never took chances until she met Will. 

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to 1. apply at least one philosopher or philosophic concept to any part or parts of this movie that you find apply to this movie.  2. Find a weakness in the movie, whether it be in the plot, concept, etc. and explain why. 

Due Friday, May 12 by the beginning of class.  Minimum of 300 words total.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Blog #70 - Scale of Doubt



O.k., so we talked about how philosopher Rene Descartes had some serious doubts about the world around him.  He had discovered that some of his tried and true scientific wisdom about the solar system just weren't accurate anymore, because of the invention of better telescopes and compiled scientific evidence that didn't back up a geocentric world.  These new discoveries forced Descartes to really re-examine his entire life, all of the things that he took for granted.

He doubted his senses.  He doubted whether or not we could tell the difference between the waking world and the dream world.  He even wondered / worried that an Evil Genius might spent all of its time manipulating Descartes' world so that even MATH is incorrect.  But this is where he eventually pared it all down to his thinking process - someone, namely me, is doubting all this stuff.  That someone must be thinking.  Therefore, if I am thinking, I must exist.  That axiom, I cannot doubt.
Image result for rene descartes

So we get to the root of epistomology - how do we know what we know?  Descartes tackled this through reason.  Locke, Hume, and Berkeley tackle this question through our experiences and senses.  For this blog, you can use either reason or senses or both to answer the question.

A few days ago, we took the Scale of Doubt quiz, and you were asked to say yes, no, or maybe to the 13 following questions:

1. Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and the purpose of human life?

Image result for higher power2. Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?

3. Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?

4. Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above in question 3) could ever be responsive to your thoughts and words?

5. Do you believe this being or force can think or speak?

6. Do you believe this being has a memory or can make plans?

7. Does this force sometimes take a human form?

8. Do you believe that the thinking part or animating force of human being continues to exist after the body has died?

9. Do you believe that any part of a human being survives death, elsewhere or here on earth?

10. Do you believe that feelings about things should be admitted as evidence in establishing reality?

11. Do you believe that love and inner feelings of morality suggest that there is a world beyond biology, social patterns, and accidents --- i.e., a realm of higher meaning (metaphysical world)?

12. Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?

13. If someone were to say, "The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme or reason, and life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered", would you say, "Now that's going a bit too far, that's a bit wrongheaded"?

Image result for nihilism

So, what I would like you to do are two things: 
1. Pick one of the questions above and explain why you answered yes, no, or maybe.  Provide specific details and reasoning.
2. Then, take the same question and argue the OPPOSITE of what you just answered for part 1.  If you answered maybe, then pick a side (yes or no) and go with that.  You don't have to necessarily believe in what you're arguing, just try to do it persuasively.  Also use specific examples / details and reasoning.

Due Friday April 28 by the beginning of class.  
300 words minimum total. 




Friday, April 21, 2017

Problem of Evil Paper, Rubric, and Crash Course


Here is a link to the Problem of Evil paper - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bjVJU8GBQ0Hb4dLt4tCNICA7Fsrfm76GH7uK8e6wTH0/edit?usp=sharing

Here is a link to the rubric for the paper.  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Rv6UQpBcHMrPDm5t1cWVUAUbEJKNud4HOFfJDiP1x6Y/edit?usp=sharing

Here is the episode of Crash Course Philosophy that we watched on Friday.




Paper is due Monday, April 24 by class.

Image result for depictions of evil

Image result for depictions of evil


Image result for depictions of evil 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Blog #69 - Some random thoughts on fate and free will

Last week, before watching the Adjustment Bureau, we talked about varying degrees of fate and free will and their connections to philosophers that we've studied so far.

Determinism - everything that occurs in life happens out of necessity, whether it is God's plan, the laws of nature, or something else's plan.  Or, in other words, every action that we take has something that came before it that triggered that action, whether external (out of our control) or internal (feelings, thoughts, experiences).

Hard Determinism - believes that Determinism is true and that as humans, we have no freedom.  Psychologists B.F. Skinner and Sigmund Freud believed in many respects that Hard Determinism is true and that humans are little machines who are slaves to our upbringing / conditioning (Skinner) or our conscious and unconscious desires (Freud).
  - One of the things that I said that I found problematic with HD is that we really aren't responsible for our actions if HD really is the case, because we have all been fated, if you will, to do the things we are going to do.  I feel that we need to be held responsible for our actions, to a great extent.
 - Another thought (new for this blog and not in notes) is that because we're all physical beings in a physical world, we are subject to physical or natural laws, and we can't change them.  Try to defy gravity.  I've tried it. I almost broke my ankle once when I was ten jumping off of the roof of my grandparents' garage. Image result for broken ankle  (not my ankle).

Soft Determinism - this occurs when there is an intersection of our will and our capacity to do something that we want.  We are free to the extent that we are able to get the things that we want.  If I wanted to date Heidi Klum but didn't have the capacity, then I wasn't really free.  If I had the capacity or ability to ask Heidi Klum out on a date, and I met her (let's say I was hanging out at a taping of Project Runway, non-stalker like), I would be free to ask her out.  But that doesn't mean I have the freedom to actually go out with her, because that would also require her consent.  So, my freedom is very limited in this sense.
Free Will & Determinism
• Universal Determinism: position that states every event that takes place is caused by some condition beforehand even if you are or are not aware of all conditions or events. If you were to repeat the same moment under the...
  - St. Augustine, an early Catholic Church father and once prodigal son, felt that our free will (within God's plan) can lead us to sin if we deviate from His plan.
  - The Hellenist philosophers, the Stoics, believed that we should be happy with what we get, since they believe that to fight the laws of nature is futile.

Indeterminism - Determinism is wrong and there could be a few different options:
  a. In life, there are only random events.
  b. In life, some events are random, some we have choices over.
  c. Some things are uncaused (or we don't know or understand the cause)
  d. Some events are caused by not necessary (I gave the example of heavy smoking causes cancer).

A branch of Indeterminism is called Libertarianism, rejects determinism and states that everyone has free will, and regardless of the circumstances or parameters, you still have a choice.  This is something that Existentialist philosophers, most notably Jean-Paul Sartre, believe in.  We are truly free as long as we have options to choose from - latte, mocha, coffee, frappaccino?

Below is the Crash Course episode on Determinism vs. Free Will. Enjoy.  It may frustrate you.



So, after watching the Crash Course video, The Adjustment Bureau, and reading over some of the thoughts listed above, what are your views on determinism vs. free will?  Are you buying Hank Green's argument about hard determinism?  Is our free will just an illusion?  Or are you o.k. with God's plan (if that's what you believe) or just rolling with the flow (if that's your belief)?  Do you believe in free will despite what Hank is saying?
Please provide some specific examples from either CC, Adjustment Bureau, the thoughts above, and your own life.

Thanks for reading.  Due Thursday, April 20th by the beginning of class.  250 words minimum. 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review for Hellenism, Christianity, Renaissance, and Baroque Test

Review for the Hellenism, Christianity, Renaissance, and Baroque Test - Wednesday, April 19 - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1allQR65am8hNnzFvCZiehgk3qfLaSx5bKsmMobP9LmY/edit?usp=sharing

Crash Course - Anselm and Ontological Argument for God.



Crash Course - Aquinas and the Cosmological Arguments for God



Crash Course - Intelligent Design / Teleological Argument for God


Monday, March 27, 2017

Blog #68 - Which Hellenist philosophy fits you best?

I kept wondering how Hellenistic philosophy applied to today's world as we briefly discussed it on Wednesday.  I didn't have a lot of time to really go in depth with it, so I included summaries, but I still didn't feel like it was enough.  So, I thought, why not dig into this school of thought on the blog?

First, Epicureans - as we explore most philosophy (and most likely religions as well), there seems to be a denial of pleasure or the association that pleasure is at best, a necessary evil. The philosopher, Epicurus, said that the "best sort of life...is one that is free from pain in the body and from disturbance in the mind. That sounds a rather negative credo for a 21st-century devotee of the good life."  There are so many pleasures out there in life that we have been told to stay away from or "wait until you're older."  And, in fact, Epicurus "condemned all forms of over-indulgence, and recommended a simple diet."  But, as you become an adult and temptations increase, where do you draw the line?  Was Epicurus right to withdraw into his garden with friends and live a simple life of pleasure?  How can that work in today's fast-paced, interconnected society?  Do you pull a Henry David Thoreau on everyone and go to live in the woods, simply?  Or is there something in between completing dropping out and total hedonism?

I found an interesting article online about Epicurus and the Pursuit of Happiness: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/epicurus/ 


Stoicism - When I think of this, I mentioned the British palace guards who tourists like to mess with and try to get them to smile.  But stoicism is much more than that, especially when dealing with such an uncertain, violent world.  This particular quote from Marcus Aurelius, one of the last great Roman emperors, could fit perfectly in our time period: 

“I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman…” - Marcus Aurelius



Stoicism doesn't mean standing idly by while crazy stuff happens.  I think, in many ways, it has to do with the ways in which you react (or don't react) to all the sensationalist news, Chicken-Littles, and Boys-Who-Cried-Wolf out there in the media.  If we believed everything we saw and heard about our world that's dangerous, we'd never get our kids immunized for fear of them getting autism, we'd never buy certain brands of products b/c of an email circulating the globe about the product's danger, and we'd certainly never leave the house.  

This article, "The Modern Wimp's Introduction to Stoicism", is rather crude but funny and tries to dispel the notion that being stoic means not flinching when boys get punched in the groin: http://www.primermagazine.com/2010/live/introduction-to-stoicism  

This article talks about how to be stoic with illustrations: http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Stoic

 - However, do we ignore all of the warnings out there about impending doom?  Too many people ignored the oncoming freight train of death that was attached to the subprime mortgage bubble, and you see where that got us in 2008.  Too many people were busy making too much money to listen to the Pollyannas saying, "hold on a minute!"  And sometimes, sifting through the town crier's messages, isn't there just the call for moderation?  If global warming isn't happening exactly as Al Gore said it would, what's wrong with cutting back on our dependence on foreign oil and driving more fuel-efficient cars?  What's wrong with getting involved more with the 3 Rs - recycle, reuse, and reduce?  I don't know who is correct in the global warming debate, nor do I care, but there can't be anything wrong w/ America reducing its carbon footprint.  

Cynics - the ancient Greeks who followed this school of thought often rejcted materialism and strove to live life simply. Cynics today, however, at least the word cynic, generally dismiss peoples' good intentions as having ulterior motives. There is a strain of persistent disbelief and irrational thought that can lie in the cynical outlook today. With the number of politicians and celebrities that have lied to us while embracing the opposite of what they hold dear, while corporations say one thing and do the other, and our government fails to follow through on its promises, it's no wonder Americans didn't become full blown cynics before the Vietnam War and Watergate in the 1960s and 70s.


 - Has cynicism led to an unhealthy belief in conspiracy theories?  When common sense or persistent, reasoned questioing can poke holes in most of the conspiracies almost immediately, why do they still continue to stay alive?  Should we believe in our politicians and leaders and their promises, or just expect them to let us down again? 

Some comments in this paragraph come from: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-cynicism.htm


Skeptics - this school is probably the most easily applicable to today's world because of our almost religious belief in modern science, which practically demands a skeptical viewpoint of the world.  And in many ways, having a healthy skepticism is helpful for a scientist, philosopher, and in general, being an intelligent human being with all the flood of bogus news out there. 

Where skepticism differs from cynics is that with cynics, you've already lost before the battle has begun.  You will not be able to convince your opponent, rhetorical or otherwise, of any good intentions, etc.  If you win, the cynic will probably claim that the game was rigged, and if they win, you weren't a worthy opponent.

I believe that a healthy skepticism in today's life means many things, but I find it hard to explain it w/o resorting to cliches.  "I'll see it when I believe it."   "Proof is in the pudding." 

Craig Damrauer's print from "Modern Art" which
I think sums up the art cynic in all of us.
However, I always leave room for belief if something has been proven correct.  This can extend to just about anything in my life.  I sometimes fear that skeptics have been cast as those who don't believe in anything, and maybe that is where the confusion lies w/ cynicism.  


Your job: Pick one of the four Hellenist schools of thought and explain in 250 words or more how it applies to your life.  If you're having trouble just sticking to one school of thought, or you take issue with something I've said here, then by all means, jump into the fray!

Due by Friday, March 31 by the beginning of class. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blog #67 -Inception - Dreams as Movie Making


Movie - Making.  Inception, as a film, is all a dream (it's been speculated), but it's also an extended metaphor for filmmaker Christopher Nolan.  Like a dream, the movie is a shared dream for the audience and has its own rules and functions along those lines.  Some characters and scenes happen like dreams in which there seems to be no rhyme or reason: Mal comes out of a crowd and stabs Ariadne; the train in the first dream that blasts through downtown where there's no tracks; the elder Fischer's hospital bed in a huge vault inside of a mountain fortress; Cobb squeezing between an amazingly small gap of two buildings.   Mal even makes the case to Cobb at the end that he is in fact still stuck in a dream, with feelings of persecution (the authorities or Cobol's security forces), creeping doubts, and little remembrance of how he got there.   On another thought, the way the dream team works is similar to how a movie is made - they plan the scenes and sets down to the smallest details, always conscious of the audience (the dreamer's projections) and its reaction.  And, the way the movie ends with the cut scene of Cobb's totem and then kicking into the music (Edith Piaf's haunting melody) as the credits roll is kind of like a dream because sometimes we are ripped out of a dream before its ending and we want to know how it ends.  Yet we can't go back.

 -- all of this is controlled by the master manipulator, the director, Christopher Nolan.  Everything in this movie is done for a reason.  In the movie, Cobb is the director, Arthur is the producer who does the research, Ariadne the screenwriter when she acts as the architect, Eames is the actor and Yusuf is the technical guy that makes it all happen.  Saito is the money guy (also a producer) who finances the whole operation and Fischer is the audience who is taken for an exciting adventure by the director, Cobb.  Yet we are also the audience too, since this is a movie/ dream.  Arthur mentions continuously that they cannot mess with the dream too much, otherwise the dreamer knows something is wrong.  The same can be said for movies - when there's too much fakery or interference from the director, we as the audience snap out of the trance that the movie is weaving for us and see the movie for what it is.  We lose ourselves in well-made movies b/c we're not paying attention to the poor acting or screenwriting or plotholes or ridiculous scenes.  We care about the characters and want to see a satisfying resolution.   And so Cobb, as the director, makes an amazing movie / dream, but also brings part of himself into the movie (Mal) which can influence the audience (she shoots Fischer in the 3rd dream).  Most of the jarring scenes in Inception include Mal.  And it's Mal who questions Cobb and raises doubt as to his true purpose. 

 - And since the movie is like a dream, it has planted the idea of itself in the mind of the movie audience as well - is this a movie or was the whole thing a dream?  This is where the movie becomes almost a meta-movie, a movie that is more than just a movie; it is Christopher Nolan dreaming about Cobb. 
 http://www.chud.com/24477/never-wake-up-the-meaning-and-secret-of-inception/

 
Director Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio.

You job: Do you think that Inception was just a movie about dreams, or was Christopher Nolan, the director, trying to say something more with it?  If so, what was he trying to say with the film?

250 words total for your response, due Thursday, January 29 by class.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Blog #66 - Adjustment Bureau questions

While we watched the Adjustment Bureau, I had several questions as did many of you. Here were a few of them:
1. Who was the Chairman? Did Norris and / or Elise see the Chairman during the film or was it earlier in their lifetimes before the film ever began? (Do you buy my idea that it was the guy that said hi to Norris on the street after the second time Norris and Elise meet?)
2. When Harry said to Elise and Norris that the Chairman rewrote the plan, the book showed a blank space ahead for the two of them.  What do you think that meant? 
3. Kids in past classes have asked why there weren't any female adjusters.  I didn't have an answer for them as to that question.  I also criticized the film's Western / Euro - centered bias when it talked about giving mankind free will during the Roman times and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Assess the film in light of these flaws. 
4. Is Harry the Chairman?  Why or why not? 
5. Think about Harry's crisis of conscience when Elise and David broke up for the 3rd time (when he left her at the hospital), and he asked Richardson about the rightness of the plan.  Put yourself in one of the adjusters' shoes and try to make sense of it all when you're only given part of the picture. 
6. Looking at Harry's statement at the end (see below), what do you think is the filmmaker's message? Why?


“Most people live life on the path that we set for them to afraid to explore any other [path]/ Sometimes, someone like you comes along and knocks down the obstacles that we put in your way. People should realize that free will is a gift that you’ll never know how to use until you fight for it. I think that’s the Chairman’s real point. And maybe one day, we won’t write the plan, you will.”

Pick two of these questions and answer them for Tuesday, January 13 before class begins. 
250 word minimum.  Thanks. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blog #65 - Questions about the Source Code

We talked a lot about the film, Source Code, and how it relates to Plato's Allegory of the Cave.  I don't know if it's a perfect fit, but what is?  I think further research is needed for this topic and if you guys can find it pertaining to the film and Plato, that would be great (don't forget to read the illustrated handout for more details). 

The film opens up some questions about fate that I don't think it really answered or that we really touched upon too much.  When Capt. Stevens kept being pulled out of the SC and back into his "capsule," he saw these glimpses - call them deja vu, precognition, whatever - of himself and Christina at Chicago's Millenium Park and the big chrome bean.  These scenes occurred even before he felt like saving anybody on the train or understood his situation - as if he was headed towards that future "alternate universe" no matter happened.  Could it be that every obstacle that Stevens ran into (or literally ran into him - see below!) kept him moving towards that inexorable future? 



What about the morality of using Capt. Stevens as a lab rat for the Source Code?  It's obvious by the end of the movie that he's in a terrible state of physical trauma, and that only his mind is the most complete and functioning part of him.  At points in the film, it appeared that Dr. Rutledge was "torturing" Stevens by sending him back into the memories of Sean Fentress only to be blown up again and again.  We did mention that Capt. Stevens, as a member of the U.S. military, most likely, had signed away his rights to do with his remains as his parents wished.  However, it is hard to imagine a father wishing this for his son.  And by the end of the film, if it has reset and everything starts anew, Capt. Stevens will continue to be used further in the GWOT (global war on terror). 

Lastly, how do you explain the ending?  Goodwin and Rutledge have no knowledge of the previous day's events (if those events even occurred - but they had to have existed somewhere, b/c Stevens sent her the email - it came from somewhere, sometime, right?).  And at the end of the movie, it looked as if the whole day had been reset, Capt. Stevens was alive and in his previous "state of being," in addition to the bomber being caught and the initial train bombing never having occurred. 


Questions to choose from:
1. How could the filmmakers have changed the film to make it more or less like Plato's cave?  Explain your reasoning. 
2.  What role did fate play in this movie?  Why?  Or, did fate play no role at all and why not? 
3.  Did the military cross the line with the use of Capt. Stevens' body and mind for the Source Code?  Why or why not? 
4.  Is the ending a new "movie reality" (for lack of a better term)?  Why or why not?  Is it possible that Stevens' determination somehow merged the alternate universe with the movie's original reality? 
  

Pick one of the following questions and answer it as fully as you can.  Stay in the nuances of the question as long as you can.  Your response should be a minimum of 250 words and is due Thursday, December 18 before class begins. 

Online articles to check out if you have time:
"Here I Am: The Identity Philosophy of SC" - http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/opinions/here-i-am-the-identity-philosophy-of-source-code.php
"Who is Sean Fentress?: A (Completely Serious) Exploration of What Happened After the End of Source Code" - http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/opinions/what-happened-after-the-ending-of-source-code.php