Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bumper Sticker

I thought this bumper sticker was great for our class because every day in class we were offered a new perspective on life. One of the most unnerving topics we discussed was epistomology. How do we know what we know?
Bumper Sticker 
It can be argued that computers can simulate the human mind, as our brain is really a computer, but is a computer processing the same as a person thinking? A chess supercomputer can win a chess game by playing out all possible scenarios and computing the probability of loss. This is not possible by even the best human chess players so Artificial intelligence is not intelligent it just works really hard to seem that way as it cannot actually think.

A Philosophical Analysis of Noise

A Philosophical Analysis of Noise
In the film Noise the character David  known as the rectifier has a moral dilemma, based on the fact that he believe car alarms are beyond a nuisances but can also be considered assault and battery on all of people in the neighborhood.  He uses Kant’s categorical imperative which states that all unneeded noise is wrong; wrong in the sense that noise is a type of pollution, the same as air and water pollution.   He uses a Utilitarianism approach saying that a car alarm doesn’t do the most good for the most people. It is also categorically wrong because the noise from a car alarm may help one person from getting their car stolen, but at what cost to others?  According to  “Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness (West).” So using their approach what the rectifier is doing is not only right, but is providing happiness to others so in a utilitarian sense his vigilante destruction of personal property is moral.

The opposite approach is that he is destroying people’s property when they or it, in the sense of the car alarm approach, has not done any physical or lasting harm on the individuals around the car.  This is the type of ethical approach that is commonly adapted by societies.  Physical property damage is held to a higher level than individual happiness.  Categorical imperatives apply to this side of the argument as well.  Many people consider the fact that he breaks the driver side window pops the hood of the car and cuts the batter y cable as wrong as it is causing permanent property damage.  This is against laws as it is breaking and entering and well as vandalism.

The problem with the categorical imperative is that it would still be considered wrong if he were to go about doing this in a less damaging way.  He could get into the car using a slim jim, pop the hood and disconnect the battery cable without doing any permanent damage to the car that the owner would have to repair before being able to use the car again.  So the moral arguments against doing this are now moot.   This is the problem with the categorical imperatives, that it is just an absolute stance.  This is talked about by Postmodern philosophers Feyerabend as he says “The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths (Haselhurst).”  This is consistent with Nietzsche, Kuhn, Popper as they follow that “All truth is limited, approximate, and is constantly evolving” (Haselhurst).

Ego ethics can also be applied to this however it might not be the most relevant as he is doing this for himself but he is also doing his vigilante action as well as the legal action of doing the petition to get rid of the noise for all of New York so his actions even though they may have started as a personal issue with him hating the noise, they have expanded away from this and tried to reduce the noise. 

Ramakrishna concludes ego ethics best by saying that "When the ego dies, all troubles cease (Vedanta Society)." This is why when it quit being a personal attack for the David it became more focused on the overall objective of reducing the noise in the city. 

“The term “morality” can be used either
  1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    1. some other group, such as a religion, or
    2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
  2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons(Gert).”
With any of these definitions it seems that in the movie noise the morality of the rectifier is following the moral code.  This is because the vast amount of people agree with what he is doing, some just having objections to how he is doing it, but they clap whenever he destroys an alarms on a store.  The reason he must resort to the dramatic actions that he does as the rectifier is because when he tries to do it as a law abiding citizen no one will listen to him and all of his cases are dismissed. 

Contemporary Deontology is the philosophy that fits best to the Rectifier. Francis Kamm’s principle of Permissible Harm states “that one may harm in order to save more if and only if the harm is an effect or an aspect of the greater good itself (Ask Define).”  So in David’s mind he is doing this for the greater good of New York, by the principle of permissible harm this is ethical. In his mind running away into the quite country is only removing the problem for himself but all the other people will still be affected and that is categorically wrong in his mind. 

The problem you get into here while defining ethics is between who is the victim.  During the movie David takes this principle and tests it.  He hooks up as many alarms as he can to a truck and drives it up to the front of the mayor’s office where he sets it off causing a major disturbance and but technically  he is not doing anything illegal.  This scene ends when a citizen takes a golf club to his window and then gets arrested. 

David uses this during the court case to cross examine the citizen to show the jury that the citizen’s act was justified and as an act of self defense.  During this court case David who is by all known standards the victim, as his property was damaged and he did no physical harm to the citizen, loses the court case on purpose to establish that noise can be not only considered assault but assault and battery. 

This concludes the movie as it shows that not all legal actions are ethical actions, and not all illegal actions are unethical.  The rectifier, who is just a vigilante like figure with the mission to free the city of New York from its unneeded noise, who may go a little far with the vandalism with which he makes his point, is still following a school of ethics. His school of ethics is just more from contemporary deontology then the ethical guidelines that we have based our legal system on. 

Works Cited

"AskDefine | Define Deontological." Define Deontological. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://deontological.askdefine.com/>.

Gert, Bernard. "The Definition of Morality." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). 2011. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/>.

Haselhurst, Geoff. "PostmodernismOn the End of Postmodernism and the Rise of Realism. Absolute Truth from True Knowledge of Physical Reality. Postmodern Definition and Quotes." Philosophy of Postmodernism: Definition, Postmodern Philosophers Quotes, End of Post Modernism Rise of Realism. 1997. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://www.spaceandmotion.com/Philosophy-Postmodernism.htm>.

Noise. Dir. Henry Bean. Perf. Tim Robbins. Seven Arts Pictures, 2007. Netflix.

Vedanta Society. "What Is Morality?" Vedanta Society of Southern California. 2011. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://www.vedanta.org/wiv/practice/ethics/ethics.html>.

West, Henry R. "Utilitarianism." Utilitarianism. Web. 08 May 2012. <http://www.utilitarianism.com/utilitarianism.html>.

Noise Presentation Abstract 

Eric and Vinny 

In the film Noise the character David  known as the rectifier has a moral dilemma, based on the fact that he believe car alarms are beyond a nuisances but can also be considered assault and battery on all of people in the neighborhood.  The presentation goes over the Utilitarianism view that he is doing the greatest good for the people of New York.  Kant’s categorical imperatives cannot really be applied in this situation for the same reason that Kant believes dogs cannot be considered because they do not have souls.  A contemporary deontological approach is taken by the rectifier, he uses the principle of permissible harm, so that the small amount of damage done is done for the greater good of ridding the city of noise pollution.

Philosophy and Dr. Strangelove

My presentation examines some of the philosophical elements Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, a cold war satire/black comedy released in 1964.  The predominant military thinking at the time essentially boiled down to total annihilation of both the US and USSR if any side was to attack the other.  This strategy and its possible consequences were the intellectual stomping grounds of John von Neumann and Herman Kahn, among many others.  Kahn, author of the book On Thermonuclear War, was a particularly interesting philosopher due to his rather unsettling ability to casually imagine possible states of the world following a nuclear holocaust.  His work offered much of the source material for Kubrick’s doomsday scenario portrayed in this film.  More conventional film philosophy topics, such as approaching an ethical crisis, epistemology, and the pitfalls of technology will also be discussed.


[1].  Dr. Strangelove.  Dir. Stanley Kubrick.  Perf.  Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, and Sterling Hayden.  Columbia Pictures Corporation, 1964.
[2].  Baker, William (ed); Clark, William (ed). The Letters of Wilkie Collins: 1866-1889.  Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. p. 344. ISBN 978-0-312-22344-1.
[3].  Sagan, Scott Douglas. The Limits of Safety. Princeton University Press, 1995. pp. 187–188. ISBN 0-691-02101-5.
[4].  Kahn, Herman.  On Thermonuclear War. Princeton University Press, 1960. ISBN 0-313-20060-2
[5].  Albert Wohlstetter.  The Delicate Balance of Terror.  RAND corporation, 1958.                     http://www.rand.org/about/history/wohlstetter/P1472/P1472.html

Nietzsche and His Process of Questioning

Nietzsche and His Process of Questioning
Adrian Blair
Isaiah Acevedo
Miguel Aguirre
Henry Godman
The philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche were analyzed through the study of The Religious Mood, a chapter in his published book Beyond Good and Evil. Through discussion and analysis, the group was able to portray some of his ideas through film. Examples that were explored are Nietzsche’s ideas that the study of religion and any subject should be done sagaciously, and skeptically. He also believed that in the search of truth, one must push themselves to gain a deeper understanding. Lastly, he believed that one cannot solely depend on the work of the few that research, but rather one must have a broad perspective that welcomes objective thoughts and personal research. Two films, Fight Club and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, were used to illustrate Nietzsche’s ideas.


Fight Club. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter Brad Pitt. 1999.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. "The Religious Mood." Ogg, Oscar.

The Worlds Greatest Thinkers.
New York: Random House, 1947. 491-508.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor Hayden Christensen. 2005.

Other Philosophical Films

1) The Game is an interesting look at epistemology.
2) Primal Fear delves into the ethics of punishing an abused man for killing one of his abusers, and so much more.
3) The Devil's Advocate explores the nature of evil and ethics.

4) Wall E presents views on technology/utopia and ethics. 
5) Se7en goes in depth on the nature of evil.