Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Afterlife as a Psychedelic Freudian Nightmare

This is a trailer for a film called Enter The Void. It's about a young man who becomes a drug dealer and fixates on the afterlife to cope with his parents' death. He is shot by the police, and to him, death is a huge psychedelic trip with imagery ripped from a psychology textbook.

Split Brain and the Bundle Theory

The next chapter of the book talks about personal identity and whether we survive death or not. One theory, the Bundle Theory, states that who we are as people is only dependent on the physical chemistry of our bodies. Once our bodies no longer exist, our identities cease to exist as well. Split brain cases where patients have had their corpus callosums severed are good testimonies for the Bundle Theory because the brain is acting like it has two streams of consciousness while at the same time working as one piece in one person. Here is an interesting video about split brains.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A cynical response to The Invention of Lying

Sisella Bok author of Lying the moral choice in public and private life, defines a lie as “an intentionally deceptive message in the form of a statement”, but is lying always wrong?  This movie relates to that question.  In a world where no one has ever told a lie Mark, a fat loser with a stubby nose, is the first person to ever tell something that is not (there way of comprehending a lie).   While he is at the lowest moment of his life about to close out his bank account he does something unheard of, the banking system is down so he decides to try and withdrawal more money than he has in his account.  Since anything other than telling the truth is unheard of he is successful in his attempt, and thus the first lie has been told.  So in a “perfect world” without lying he is able to do whatever he wants.  This is an interesting concept, and an even more interesting underlying way of thought can be taken from this.  The movie questions Paley’s arguments that cause and effect show there must be a god because we are here living.  This movie argues the opposite causally explanation, where there is no god in a perfect world until what most would consider an evil act creates one.  While trying to comfort his dying mother Mark creates an afterlife which stirs the world into a frenzy of questions about this afterlife, this leads him to create an all powerful man in the sky who is responsible for everything good and bad that happens to people.  He also creates heaven where everyone gets a mansion and any type of ice cream they could think of.  This however has the opposite effect that it is supposed to on many people; they lose any meaning that they had in this life because they will have eternal happiness once they die.  So in a world without fake happiness or respectable avoidance of rudeness people would rather wait for their mansion in the sky then work toward improving their current situation.   Why should someone take care of themselves if that just prolongs the amount of time till they are happy?  This is the opposite philosophy of Antisthenes, where the goal of life, not death, is happiness.

In Time

I would like to suggest this film for discussion during class. I believe In Time has merit to address issues for Social Constructions of Reality, Technology/Utopia, and Epistemology. If you haven't heard of this movie, it is a great movie that changes the social constructs of the world's currency and gives control over a person's natural clock through genetic modification.

What happens after we die

I think Its a Wonderful Life illustrates this pretty well.  The following clip contains the seen:

In this clip I am specifically referring to when God, Joseph and Clarence are talking. This scene would mean that after we die we go up into heaven with God and that we are not just "hanging out" but that we can actually see what is happening on earth and can ask God to intervene.  Also, since Clarence is able to come back looking exactly how he did in life, after we die we will not simply be spirits, but God will be able to restore our bodies to us.  I don't believe that we become angels, but I definitely think we will be able to see what is happening on earth and ask God to intervene. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Theory about evil

As I was watching Return of the Jedi, I had a thought about the nature of evil. In the movie there are three scale levels represented in three different scenes. The most abstract scale is a very theoretical, conceptual notion of the battle of good and evil. Luke Skywalker fights Darth Vader while the Evil Emperor encourages him to grow his anger and hatred so that he is aligned with the dark side. The battle is good vs evil as conceptual ideas. Here is the scene I am thinking about:
--Luke's hate makes him powerful; his refusal to surrender to his emotions align him with "the force"

On a differnt scale level, we see the battle with the Battleship destroyer where technology is emphasized, and pressing a button accurately results in the death of the "bad guys" on the battleship.
"killing" does not seem like a bad thing when seen at a distance and with the belief that those killed were perpetuating evil. The ends seem to justify the means.

The last scene is one I can't find on youtube, but the scene emphasizes the ewok's ground battle. At one point, an ewok's partner dies in the battle on the ground. It is definitely a moment in the film that is meant to stir up emotion. Death up close and personal is much different than the conceptual battle of good and evil and different than the technological battle where the victors never witness the consequences of their actions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Response to the idea that evil is the lack of empathy

The idea that evil is simply the lack of empathy was brought up by a group in class. They used Halloween as an example of this. I have not seen the movie, but from what I know about it, Michael is portrayed as a psychotic murder that escapes from a psychiatric hospital and tracks down women in his home town and kills them.  In addition, he doesn’t care about the effects of his action. I think this also goes for the movie The Strangers that was shown in class.  In this movie the two tormenters even say that the only reason they were doing this is “because you (they) were home.” They don’t care at all about how tormented the James and Kristen, the main characters, were. They were just bored. To further understand what it would mean if the lack of empathy was evil, I looked into where we can see empathy, such as in just humans or is it also shown by animals, and where empathy would have come from, and if the origin of empathy affects what it means for evil to be the lack of empathy. 
I think we can all agree that humans do show empathy, but what about animals. It was brought up in class that animals show empathy. I researched the concept of animals showing empathy a little bit and was able to find an article about this in AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) called Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats1(I was able to get the full article by using the NMT library online journal database). In this article the authors describe an experiment where there is one rat trapped in a cage and another one is free to roam about. The cage door is set so that if the rat really tries, it can pull the cage door open. They found that the free rat would communicate with the trapped rat through holes in the cage and would try to free the rat. After a week or so, the rats learned how to open the cage and free the caged rat. At this point, one might ask themself where does empathy come from? And what would it mean if it is not solely a human quality?
After determining that both animals and humans can show empathy, I looked into how empathy would have developed in animals and humans. The first concept I considered was Darwin’s theory of Evolution. In our book, Problems from Philosophy2, it states that Darwin Essentially said
“there will be a ‘struggle for existence’ to determine which individuals live and which die. What determines the outcome of this struggle? What determines which individuals live and which die? There are two possibilities: It could be the result of random causes, or it could be related to the differences between individuals.”
It then goes on and eventually says that an organism might have a certain trait or characteristic that is beneficial to their survival, and therefore, that animal will outlive other organisms or even species that do not have this beneficial trait/characteristic, barring some sort of random incident. Following this argument, empathy must be a beneficial trait that will help an organism to survive, but does it really help an organism survive? First let us think of this trap as something the rat fell into out in nature, instead of simply a cage in a laboratory. Then, Empathy made a rat stay behind and risk falling into the trap themselves, for they could not know for sure how that rat became trapped or if it was something that could happen to them to. It would have been safer for the rat to simply get as far away from there as possible and leave the other rat in the trap. Assume that the trap was one were there was a chance of the empathetic rate being trapped while attempting to help the other one. We know from human experiences that empathy can put you in dangerous. An example of this in a movie would be Ladder 49. Morrison, the fireman in the movie, cared about other people and tried to save them, but it is dangerous to go in and save those people. From an evolution stand point, it would be smarter to not go in. It would force humans to learn to be careful with fire or at least know quick ways out of a fire. Instead Morrison, and fireman in general, have empathy and run in to help. Going back to the rat example, over millions of years, the rats that were empathetic and helped out their fellow mice would eventually die off.  This would leave only apathetic rats. For this reason, empathy coming from evolution seems unlikely
Since evolution is the unlikely starter of empathy, intelligent design is the next explanation for empathy. The idea of intelligent design is that there is a God who is guiding the evolution process2. If [i]this God is a loving and all good God, it would stand to reason that the God must be empathetic.  For if love is the opposite of evil, and the absence empathy is evil, than love must also be empathy.  An all good God will also want his creations to be good, and therefore he would make sure that empathy existed in his creations. Furthermore, this means that evil is the lack of God, who is love and therefore empathy, and that good is the presence of God. This concept would mean that for us to do good, and not evil, we must be like God ourselves and what separates us from the animals, is that we have the choice, also known as free will, to not be empathetic and instead go against God.
In conclusion, a lack of empathy, as shown in The Strangers, Halloween, and many other slasher movies, is evil.  In addition, since empathy is not a trait that will increase our likelihood to survive, it is not a result of evolution, but instead is a source of intelligent design.  As a result, evil is the lack of God.

1 Rachels, James, and Stuart Rachels. Problems from Philosophy. New York: McGraw Hill, 2012. Print.
2 Mason, Peggy, Jean Decety, and Inbal B. Bartal. "Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats." Science 334 (2011):                      1427-430. Print.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Welcome to our Official 2012 Blog

Please feel free to continue class discussion, post ideas, post clips, and share your philosophical thoughts. Looking forward to your ideas and contributions.