Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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>.

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