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.

Love, Fear, Aristotle, and Yoda

       In life, is it best to be ruled by fear or love?  Because of the negativity associated with fear, one would typically answer, love. As so eloquently stated by Rip Torn in Defending Your Life “Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything. “ (Defending Your Life - Big Brain) However, love can be just as overpowering.   As seen in Troy, prince Paris is consumed by his love for Helen, the queen of Sparta, and steals her away. This causes Menelaus, King of Sparta, to seek revenge and wage war on Troy, which results in the death of thousands (Synopsis for Troy).  Overwhelming fear or love clouds judgment and leads to poor decisions.  
       Life usually isn’t as simple as defining a person or their actions into a category of only love or only fear. As seen in Donnie Darko, Donnie is troubled by this and tries to explain to his teacher that life isn’t as simple as love and fear.  The teacher on the other hand, explains that love and fear are the two most basic of human emotions, and therefore any situation can be broken down in this manner (Fear vs. Love). It would seem that Donnie has a view similar of the Aristotelian notion of the golden mean.  The golden mean is a way of life in which one finds, and attempts to live within, the mean between deficit and abundance (Murdarasi)The problem in applying the golden mean to real-life situations, comes from the question, where does the mean lie? It is closer to deficit or abundance?  In this case, fear represents deficit in that fear is often associated with negativity, and love represents abundance.
       Looking at more dynamic characters, such as Harry Potter and his rival, Voldemort we see that they both build their personal identity within the bounds the golden mean.   These are important characters to compare because they have similar backgrounds. Both are half bloods who were orphaned at a young age and who grew up in unloving homes. However, their personal ideals are very different. Harry has ideals closer to the side of love.  Time after time, Harry loves his friends and protects his friends. While he is terrified of Volemort, he doesn’t let that fear overpower him in his mission.  Voldemort’s ideals lie closer to the fear border. He loved his newfound home at Hogwarts, but feared leaving that home but death beyond anything, which hardened his heart. He has love, but it is false, loving only things that protect him from death and not embracing anyone.  Voledmort is similar to the Anakin Skywalker character in Star Wars. In Episode III he has a loving wife, but falls down the path of the dark side when he lets his fear take over. As Yoda predicted, fear led to anger, anger led to hate, and hate led to suffering (Lucas).
       In conclusion, to succeed, one must find their identity on the golden mean closer to that of the loving side, but not to the point of complete infatuation. Looking at the philosophical views of film, it is important to find your own personal identity based on the golden mean. However, life isn’t static.  It’s always possible to redefine the boundaries to which your golden mean is based, and to steer your identity to what you believe the mean is.

Works Cited

Defending Your Life - Big Brain. Feb 2008. May 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BF897aNyxSs >.
Fear vs. Love. Sep 2006. 5 May 2012 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q38N9QvsdzU >.
Murdarasi, Karen. Aristotle's Golden Mean. June 2008. 6 May 2012 <http://karenmurdarasi.suite101.com/aristotles-golden-mean-a56759 >.
Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Dir. George Lucas. 2005.
Synopsis for Troy. Feb 2012. 5 May 2012 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332452/synopsis>.

Monday, May 7, 2012

films that include philosophical themes worth exploring

1) Donnie Darko for epistemology. It is about a troubled teenager who is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident.

2) The Black Swan for personal identity and  essence of evil. It is about a ballet dancer who wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.

Abstract: What is an Ethical Superhero? by Travis Cannady and Zach Taylor

It can easily be said that superheroes in today’s movies do good for society. People with extra ordinary abilities fighting evil is good that can’t be argued with, but the ethics behind the actions taken by these heroes can be. The ethics of the major superheroes in movies today was evaluated against the philosophy of Kantianism and utilitarianism. Through this study it was be determined what code of ethics these superheroes uphold, whether it is Kant’s categorical imperative or the utilitarian view of the greatest good for the greatest number. This was done by narrowing the superheroes to the movies of the last decade and sticking with only the major heroes of the Marvel and DC universe, excluding the X-men, Hulk, and Fantastic 4. Basing the information on what the movie displays of the hero (no comic book or TV show knowledge), their actions were determined to be either utilitarian or Kantian. It was revealed through this study that the only true Kantian superhero was Superman. While Batman practices the same philosophy, when pushed to complete desperation in The Dark Knight, he commits actions he even considers unethical. Spiderman also practices Kantianism until Spiderman 3 when he is consumed by the black spidey suit and attempts to kill. The study shows that Ironman, Captain America, and Thor are all utilitarian because they all have killed.

Movies worth exploring

A couple movies worth exploring philosophically would be Finding Nemo and The Fugitive.  Finding Nemo delves into how personal identity changes when people, or fish, are put into new or difficult situations. The Fugitive would be interesting to watch for the changing in ethics in the main character. Originally, he's a doctor but is accused of killing his wife. He escapes from prison to solve the mystery of who actually killed her and to clear his name. However, along the way he makes some questionable decisions. Are they worth it? Do the ends justify the means? It would make for an  interesting look.

Aristotle's Golden Mean bumper sticker

Aristotle's  Golden Mean
The golden mean delves into finding a middle of the road approach to life. However, that middle of the road can be closer to one side or the other, depending on how the user of the mean defines it.

Bumper sticker ideas...

You can't handle the truth!

Think hard, not smart.

Confused? Good.
Frustrated? Excellent.
Enlightened? Drat!

Determinism, Libertarianism, Compatibilism, and a… Minority Report Abstract

Jeff Fenchel, James Hopper, and Brandon Smith

      Minority Report provides a unique perspective on the debate of determinism vs freewill. In the opening scene of Minority Report, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is investigating a murder that has yet to happen. This is made possible by “precogs” human beings who have the ability to see into the future. Because of this ability, John is able to stop the murder before it happens. In addition, the would-be murderer is arrested for the “future crime” of murdering his wife, an even that never actually took place. Obviously the criminal justice system of John’s time views the world in a deterministic fashion because they are willing to convict people on actions they were predicted to carry out. However, the criminal justice systems actions prevent their prediction from occurring, thus undermining the deterministic view of the world upon which the systems laws are based.  You could go as far as to argue that law enforcement is embracing a libertarian concept by taking free action to change the future based on predictions that can no longer occur if they are successful. The concepts of Libertarianism and Determinism are extreme cases of the conflict between free will and fate. A proposed middle ground, Compatibilism, offers a combination of deterministic and libertarian methodologies by categorizing events as the consequence of free will or determinism on a case by case basis.
       In addition to reviewing the three concepts of Determinism, Libertarianism, and Compatibilism we will also attempt to relate these to social interaction. It is our intention that relating these concepts to real world experiences will help illuminate the need to explore these concepts interpersonally and provide a greater understanding of human to human interaction.

Bumper Sticker ideas

I have come up with a few bumper sticker ideas that I think can be applied to a few aspects of our class.

For Deontology: It Kant be done.

Personal Identity: Define Yourself

and finally

For the class as a whole: Everything is a thought experiment.

The Evolution of Bond: Cultural Reflections in Film

Film is one of the many ways the views of our culture are expressed. They depict popular opinions on the roles of men and women, smoking, technology, appearances, and ethics, among other things. The changes through time can easily be seen in the long running James Bond series. Spanning 5o years, it provides a glimpse of society’s changing views over this time period. By comparing the three most well known Bond actors and the differences of how they portray the same character, we can see the evolution of our cultures views. The first six Bond movies starred Sean Connery, who played a cocky, rough, macho Bond. He is considered by many to be the iconic James Bond. The next actor we focused on was Pierce Brosnan, who brought a new level of sophistication and the advancement of technology to the Bond character. This era also introduced female characters as equals to Bond. The newest Bond, as interpreted by Daniel Craig, focuses less on technology and more on destruction. He’s willing to get the job done by any means necessary, in many ways bringing the character full circle. By examining Bond through multiple eras, we are given a clear picture of how we, as a culture has adapted and changed over time.

Tangled Ethics Abstract

Veronica Saeger

Joaquin Roibal

Megan Breiner

Tangled Ethics Abstract

The existence of evil is one of philosophy’s toughest dilemmas. Throughout history, philosophers have been confounded with the massive scope of what is right and wrong, and how it applies to human action. The definition of evil has connections to ethics, religion, and morality; it is such a broad topic that it is necessary to break it down. The way people determine whether an act is evil depends on their ethical code. Almost any action can be justified when viewed in a given ethical context.  

            Utilitarianism, founded by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, is a school of philosophy that believes ethics should be based on numbers. It attempts to remove perspective by taking an objective stance to maximize benefits for the most people. An opposing viewpoint was proposed by Immanuel Kant. Kant’s deontological approach to ethics, also known as the categorical imperative, removes circumstance by looking at the action itself.  Because these two ethical theories have different values, the same action can be viewed as moral or immoral depending on which theory is applied.

            In Tangled, Mother Gothel holds Rapunzel against her will in a locked tower claiming that it is for Rapunzel’s own protection. Through a utilitarianism outlook, Mother Gothel is acting appropriately because both she and Rapunzel benefit. Mother Gothel benefits because she has access to Rapunzel’s magic healing hair, and Rapunzel benefits by staying away from harm. From the deontological position, however, holding Rapunzel against her will is an evil act in itself. Therefore Mother Gothel is immoral. These contrary judgments provide an excellent example of the difficulty in defining evil. The definition of evil depends on perspective and personal ethics.