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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

For part 1, click here

We left off talking about my former autism website, Forming Horizons, and about a more traditional understanding of the word horizons as denoting limits rather than limitlessness. (more…)

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Okay…as I said I would be throwing autism into the mix along with everything else I like to talk about, I should probably make an effort to explain how it will “fit.”

To that end, here is part 1: (more…)

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Well Disney-Pixar managed a modern-day classic with 2003’s Finding Nemo.  Normally I would say: “Quit while you’re ahead” (that’s why I’m apprehensive, to say the least, about the proposed sequel to Frozen).

But co-writer/director Andrew Stanton appears to have put the last 13 years to good use in further honing his talent.  Finding Dory retains much of Nemo‘s charm, while taking the story in some humorous and surprising new directions. (more…)

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TrueDetectiveDVDCover

NOTE: This is the third in a series of commentaries on HBO’s True Detective, season one; for the other two, click here.

You may skip the first post if you wish.  I would, however, read the second (the one focused on Marty Hart), only because I am following a pattern set by the series itself: Marty (Woody Harrelson) is the initial primary focus, and next it will shift to his partner, Rustin “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey); this current post will function as a transition of sorts.

So here goes… (more…)

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I really have been trying not to over-rely on Youtube videos recently.  But in his commentary on Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Bishop Robert Barron offers a beautifully succinct presentation of the cardinal human virtues.

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French-born anthropologist, philosopher, historian, literary critic, and social scientist René Girard, arguably one of the pivotal figures in Christianity during the last half-century, passed away yesterday at age 91.

Some of my more faithful readers may remember me referencing Girard in my commentary on Frozen.  One of his major contributions was his exploration of Christianity in light of the ages-old scapegoat mechanism, which he discusses in the following video.  It’s just a few minutes long, and is worth a look:

NOTE: This video was posted by a Youtube user who is from all available evidence a devout Catholic of good conscience.  Hence, I am assuming fair use here.  But if anyone knows or suspects otherwise, please let me know, and I will promptly delete this post.

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animal rightsLinks to previous posts:

Part 1
Part 2

Please read these if you haven’t already.  This post won’t make much sense otherwise.

We have amply covered the privilege given to autonomy in the world today, as well as its extension from humanity to the animal kingdom and the accompanying exclusion of human beings in utero.  We might also add usefulness as a core modern value, as the prioritization of autonomy will compel us to look for what is useful to that end (both generally and in each instance).

If we are serious about this worldview, it follows that we must do what we can to ensure the autonomy of each and every creature.

Herein lies the problem: It’s impossible.

There are far too many variables, too many uncertainties, too many “moving pieces” for every creature’s autonomy to be able to flourish without restraint.

In fact, this “ethos,” in its various forms and degrees, is what pits one vs. another — both on the individual and collective levels.  The privilege of autonomy, rather than being progressive, takes us back to the old law of “survival of the fittest,” and in this case the “fittest” are those able to exercise what we understand as autonomy (however widely its degrees vary).

One might argue: “Yes, but the kind of ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality you’re worried about belongs to a more primitive state of mind.  Our model is based on reason and science.”

fighter aircraftThat’s fine, except that the danger in question is not something to which the modern worldview is immune.  It simply works its way into the newer framework in subtler ways, and is perhaps the more dangerous for it (consider, for example, ancient warfare where enemies in arms and pillagers alike would face their opponents and victims, versus a modern warfare that is less bloody, but which allows for the decimation of entire populations without knowing the targets as anything other than coordinates on a grid).

Let’s be clear: We all agree on the importance of preserving and protecting the proper dignity of each creature.  But contrary to what some claim, we cannot rely upon arguments about what is “conducive to progress” (and not to be redundant, but I will remind the reader that our society sees the growth of autonomy as an indispensable feature of progress) to ensure that this happens.  In his book Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud opined that the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) is actually counter-evolutionary, as the good of one’s neighbor will often detract from the (immediate) good of oneself.

If it’s dignity we want, we must appeal to a system of values.  And of this I make three basic observations:

  1. When we do this, we go well beyond questions of autonomy and its attendant bedfellow, usefulness.  If you don’t get how this could be the case, consider the Freud allusion above.
  2. A system of values places strictures on our urge to do whatever we please, whether according to the whims of pleasure or some higher motive.
  3. Finally, it affords us certain basic rights that have no connection whatsoever with the “usefulness” or “autonomy” or our existence.  It confers on every human being the privilege and responsibility of personhood, as well as conferring on animals the dignity proper to them.

Ok — in the fourth and final post, we will bring these reflections back full-circle to the topics we looked at in part one.  Thanks for reading.

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Acknowledgements

  1. “Shanghai-monkey” by F3rn4nd0 – File:Shanghai man with monkey.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shanghai-monkey.jpg#/media/File:Shanghai-monkey.jpg
  2. “Northrop P-61 green airborne”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Northrop_P-61_green_airborne.jpg#/media/File:Northrop_P-61_green_airborne.jpg

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