Sunday, December 28, 2014

On Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; I really have to be out of ideas to write something on them – all right, let’s just get to it then:  I was never a big TMNT fan growing up.  They were more eighties, early nineties, while I was a Pok√©mon, Mario sort of guy.  I had a cassette tape of when they befriended an android (Andy the Android?) and I had a few of the action figures – that’s about it.  But I can understand why it’s a cult phenomenon.  A series full of lively animation, meta-humor and consistency.  The writing however is ungodly awful.  The characters expound to themselves or each other to artificially give the audience information, usually information we could piece together ourselves.  Yes, I know it’s a kid’s show, but there are much smarter kid’s shows out there that don’t treat their audience like slow seven year old chimps.
The meta-humor is great – at-first.  Eventually I get to the point where I’m asking if this guy watched Stardust Memories, Annie Hall or Blazing Saddles before writing every episode.  But, I confess even though they do it a bit often I overall love it and found it a minor thrill that a children’s cartoon (from the eighties no less) would be so blatant and direct with their carefree attitude and having the characters let us know they’re aware (at-least momentarily) that they’re merely players in a fictional creation re-acting the same wild antics each week for our amusement.  There’s a certain intelligence there.  Both in the meta-humor itself and in the mentality it creates.  A kind of vaguely Buddhist, “Hey man, you know nothing really matters” type of acceptance of reality and the silly roles we all play moment-to-moment.  I hold that most of the problems of the world wouldn’t exist if we were all self-aware beings who realized what a farce existence was.  Capitalists wouldn’t feel the urge to exploit, Government men to rule, the religious to preach nonsense, of course such a state of mind is based on material conditions such as leisure, intelligence and psychology, so such an existentialist realization (I went three hundred and fifty words without using the word existential – that’s probably a first) is predicated on other philosophical, political and cultural victories that ultimately would in themselves create the benefits that such a understanding would create in itself.
However, there’s having fun with what you do expressing you don’t take your job too seriously, and poor writing which indicates you don’t give a shit – the first is refreshing and very enlightened, the second is a sign of apathy and a desire to sell toys which contradicts the vibe of the former.  I’ll quickly encapsulate one episode to let the readers know what I’m talking about.  There’s an episode where the turtles need to go to a turtle planet that can turn lead to gold for a fuel source to beat an evil furry hydra.  Okay, why not.  Donatello tells the turtles he wants to be a regular turtle again (or live amongst humanoid turtles) because the humans don’t accept them – even though April in other episodes reports that the turtles saved the day again and I’ve seen virtually no indication that the humans hate or fear them like in Hellboy or X-men.  Shredder spends the entire episode making a giant robot (which is invincible asides from one minor flaw; because apparently he’s never seen Star Wars.  Also Shredder says this as expository towards Krang while April is in the room – twice.  Oh yes, no one shall know the one weakness to your death machine.) and constructing a smaller technodrone – once again bringing Star Wars to mind though the second Death Star was larger than the first if memory serves.  The turtles beat the dragon (surprise!) which turns out to be two greedy turtles who wanted to use the machine to use it for more than just fuel, and the streets and everything else they use it for.  Then why don’t they?  Whose stopping them?  And if there’s some idiotic rule they can’t have gold clothes and jewelry, then how will enslaving the turtles with a giant dragon allow you to wear gold openly?  You’d have to be in the dragon suit to terrorize people, and destroy your civilization in the process.  I would say this is an analogy of what the rich are willing to do to satisfy their lust for money and power, but that would be a stretch.
Donatello realizes that he likes being a humanoid turtle on earth – for some reason.  The plot has virtually no reason why he would come to this realization.  Yeah, the turtles imprisoned him and treated him like shit, but that doesn’t mean the humans magically accept him – when once again besides the fact that they have to wear costumes it never really seems that bad and they never seem to be hated or discriminated.  This is like dumping your girlfriend because she pisses (allegedly) in your mouth, and then your next girlfriend pisses and shits in your mouth, so you say, “hey, maybe piss isn’t that bad.”  They return to earth and it takes them twenty-five seconds (yes twenty-five seconds) to destroy the technodrone they were building up to.  Can you imagine if it took half a minute for Luke to destroy the Death Star?  Or if they built up for three, three hour movies what some bearer of some great burden had to do, and then he destroys it in two min… okay bad example. 
Now, if they had the technodrone destroyed but saved robo-shredder for another episode, this would be tolerable.  Bad writing, but excusable perhaps – but no.  It takes them, I shit you not, fifty five seconds to destroy the giant robot they were building up as well.  I do have more episodes to highlight and deconstruct the hilarious absurdity (or absurd hilarity, take your pick) of, but I think that one episode is enough of an expression of what is more of the same.  I will say however I thought it was a bit supremacist of them to shout “Turtle Power” among their fellow reptiles, especially since it was the dinosaurs who broke into Shredder’s hideout – taking the credit of those who do all the work, you deem to be beneath you and that for without who you wouldn’t exist, what do the turtles make themselves out to be, Capitalists?  Overall, the show is very clever when it comes to jokes and self-aware humor, but shit when it comes to the actual construction of a dramatic plot – which makes me think Kevin Smith wrote it, the constant mentioning of pizza only furthering my case.  Anyone who has seen Chasing Amy or Tusk will know what I’m talking about.  I can even imagine Raphael saying, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”  Not enough dick jokes though. 
Don’t get me wrong, even though in some respects the show is terribly written I enjoy it.  It’s eighties cheese at its finest.  The most addictive theme on the planet and Raph has sarcasm and a self-awareness that alone is worth watching the show for and is matched perhaps only by Marvel’s Deadpool.  A fine example that though a product is produced almost solely to sell toy it can despite the detrimental soul-sucking effects of Capitalism be something of some quality due-to human creativity, wit and probably the boredom that would have consumed these writers if they didn’t decide to just say fuck it, have fun with it, and have one of the turtles (and occasionally other characters) let the audience know they’re aware they’re (like all of us) just silly dancing figures on the dashboard of this gnarly ride we call life.  Kowabunga and stay cool dudes.
Oh and the new movie sucked.  I just thought that needed to be said.  The turtles were a half-way decent series that was never as great as Batman or Spidey and became far-worse than that relatively quickly.  But again, the show’s Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Timon and Pumba essence should be appreciated.  Happy Thirtieth TMNT.

Friday, December 26, 2014

On Black Mirror Season Two Episode Two

Black Mirror is a brilliant anthology of stories produced by BBC.  The first episode is not worth the time in my opinion (is simply a mild and overall ineffective critique of Twitter culture, and nowhere nearly as intelligent in its construction and analysis of society as the other episodes) the second episode is so brilliant I feel slightly embarrassed to say I don’t think I should write anything on it lest I tarnish such a great work.  Art in its finest doesn’t need to be deconstructed and its genius can be understood even to a section of the laymen population – some may be prevented for psychological reasons such as cognitive bias.  I’ll simply say that it’s both one of the greatest pieces of dystopian fiction and television I have seen, and its critique of Capitalism, consumerism and how technology in and of itself is not a guarantee of progress in any meaningful sense is one of the better ones I have viewed or read.
The fifth episode of the series is one that is on the lower spectrum of greatness.  It is a brilliant piece of writing in the sense of creativity of plot construction alone, but its analysis of society is also something that should be digested by the American people and world.  A not-so-distant future where the entertainment, picture capturing craze (conjoined with social media where the pictures are posted) and punishment sicknesses of America have conjoined, people actually have their minds wiped once found guilty to be continually tortured and become the crying dancing monkey for morally self-righteous sadists amusement; taking the stupidity of shows like Cops and Lock Up (at-least that’s what I think it’s called) and taking it to its logical conclusion.
It obviously encapsulates the absurdity and barbarism of the criminal justice system in America.  She is physically and mentally incapable of improving, and they punish her by forcing her to be chased by apathetic watchers, unintentional sick satires of themselves.  Just as those who do commit heinous deeds (let’s not ignore those who are in jail for doing something that isn’t a concern for the Government in any way whatsoever – while the white-collar crime that’s criminal even in a government that bends over backwards to appease the Capitalists is skyrocketing, but that’s another point entirely and one I’ve made before in various essays) are not given treatment or the conditions to improve their tortured souls and warped psyches but instead are turned into objects of societies collective condemnation and sentenced senselessly to long stents of imprisonment where his freedom is annihilated and society as a general ceases to reach any meaningful solution or sense of enlightenment of our collective problems socially and psychologically.  They even have the mentally ill be targets (the man in role theorizes) in this fictitious world just as we further harm the mentally ill in this country whether we recognize their illnesses or not. For her though this is brought to once again its rational end by her being actually incapable of atoning for her crimes (not only in a material sense of improvement and understanding but of merely conscious surrender to authority) by wiping her memory of it and her very identity – just as the prison system does not improve the withered and warped Self but bruises it and forces upon it greater states of decay.
Once we learn this is all a ploy, it may make sense to some that those with phones don’t help her; but the question should still be raised, why are these people not helping but instead passively aiding in some sense the psychological torture of this woman?  They really are the phone-zombies they pretend to be.  This episode shows how it is those who most adamantly demonize others (e.g. priests, religious conservatives, the rich, the government) who are typically those actually to blame of societies faults both materially and psychologically for programming people to believe in punishment rather than opportunity and rehabilitation and judgment and condemnation rather than compassion.

Monday, December 22, 2014

On Paying it Forward

Pay it Forward is a film that is an appeal for Deontology, compassion and is a statement that human beings can bring about meaningful change in their lives without the systematic change that would largely prevent such horrors from happening.  To quickly explain so as to get to the meat of the film, I am speaking of the detriments of commerce, government and religion (as always) and how they either bring detriment to society materially or psychologically or prevent the good (essential or healthy variables) from removing the harsher and savage elements from the human animal.
It also could be seen as a film that briefly explores the concept of despair and psychological motivations attached to visceral and phenomenogical states of being.  The mother drinks assumingly to forget her problems (also out of addiction but we’re exploring the psychological rather than the chemical and physical reasons for addiction and action) and fails to be an ideal mother because of this.  The person who is bereft with pain in a psychological manner, or is in a certain frame of existence is incapable of helping others.  We see this in a sense with Jerry and his heroin addiction.  Once he sees the woman about to commit suicide, he has a shift of being that a Buddhist or phenomenologist could discuss in length and is removed of his pain and (or arguably by) focusing on the pain of others – by asking her to save his life he’s saving hers and arguably his own.  How this shift in perspective happens and what prevents it in others who are witnessing the trials of their fellow sufferers is ultimately a matter of psychology and ignorance.  They cannot empathize with the sufferer, or is removed from the knowledge that the sufferer is far more like him than not, so is unable to realize his pain is both relatable and solvable and therefore cannot remove his own burdens to focus on that of others.  The fellow in Existential Despair is a Universe upon himself, removed from existence, and in the worst possible way save other fundamental lacking in knowledge which can lead to improper action.
It’s also a film that has an internal discussion over the merits of Deontology and Consequentialism – and at first seems to side with the latter. When Jerry seems to be unreliable Trevor crosses his name out.  Trevor still did his good deed(s) to the man, but they did not hold efficacy either for Jerry or for his future efficacy in positively influencing the lives of others.  It is then safe to assume that Trevor does not hold simply performing good deeds for Jerry, his mother or for himself as his end but to genuinely make the world a better place by radically altering the mentality of those around him.  This is seen in the end of the film – how others lose hope and accept what is comfortable and routine even if it is wretched and harmful for the organism and the environment he or she inhabits.  So in other words, motives matter.  Mind set matters, which is something that Kant goes into on length and could be seen as the main difference between Deontologists and Consequentialists.  Of course all sane people must be Consequentialists in some sense, but Deontology (or an interpretation of it) can be seen within the framework of a nuanced Consequentialism, which is what I elaborated on in my On Deontology essay.
There is a scene where the black character is claiming that Pay it Forward was his idea and describes it as “some cosmological Aristotle shit.”  I’m not sure if the writer was explicitly attempting to make a comparison to Aristotle’s philosophy, but regardless I think it can be done.  Namely in his Virtue Ethics and relating them to the compassionate soul I spoke of earlier.  What is healthy for an individual is to have an active and stable mind and body consistently doing something of value to society.  Compassion and other altruistic impulses are not only favorable from a phenomenogical point of view but also referencing the healthy functioning of an individual’s psyche.  The virtuous soul is one that is not self-concerned in a petty way, but is either concerned with others or concerned with his own excellence in a way that will be of use to others.  The virtuous character in its finest has reason to a large degree, not only this but values reason to a large degree.  With this being said it follows that an individual who is virtuous will value justice and strive at-least in polemics to see it implemented.  Taking political action requires a different form of virtue and can be based on compassion but also rage and a litany of other motivators.
Nietzsche can also be seen in the films view on a large amount of relationships between men and women; namely the drunk and the enabler.  Some who have low self-esteem give their power over to others and view their conquering as their own.  You see this is in the vitriol of some Christians when they speak of the will of God being absolute and his might escaping no heretic or sinner.  To submit and serve a deadbeat is self-abnegation in one of its highest forms, because it not only is surrender of will to someone, it is surrender of will to someone who is completely lacking in admirable qualities – surrendering even the notion of serving a noble end to him, making it an act of total surrender and negation of value.  But when the drunk returns groveling, this too is merely a ploy for power.  When the man begs to be forgiven, he is actually begging to be believed and for the woman to either allow herself to be deceived or to give in to what a part of her sub conscious mind may realize is a deception – yet enjoys the surrender of power and wants the cycle to begin once again.  This is only a theory, one that to my knowledge has little to no empirical backing, but I am quite certain that in these types of relations, actual affection for the other person, or rather to see them as an end in themselves and wish them good for their own sake is almost wholly absent in both parties.
This is a minor note, but towards the end of the film there is a scene where Trevor seems to imply that if Eugene doesn’t take his mother back then he couldn’t care about him.  Anyone who has divorced parents and has dealt with the idea that a mother and father had to be together to love the child knows how absurd this is.  The idea of Paying it Forward involves some strain and sacrifice yes, but that doesn’t mean necessarily having to do the thing would require the most psychological difficulty or discomfort.  It could have very well been that the two would not be an ideal match, since they seem to have very little in common; however, the film of course wants their love to be profound and their coupling is assured by the physical laws of Hollywood which are stronger and more incontrovertible than the pull of gravity that emanates from a black hole.
Ultimately the film seems to function intellectually as a critique of Utilitarian Calculus.  For though it appeared that all of Trevor’s initial endeavor’s were futile they did bear fruit; simply not in the way(s) that he intended or could predict exactly.  Though we can predict very broad and general trends, and to this extent Utilitarian Calculus in Deontological lines has efficacy, when it comes to the specifics of our world we are largely ignorant and will forever remain so as long as there are billions of microscopic factors we can never gauge for – at-least not with great precision.  The Universe we embody is and may forever remain to us a largely chaotic and uncertain place, all the more reason to treat those who we cross paths with with tenderness, compassion, acceptance and understanding, both for what they are and who they could be if and when the proper variables of a just society come into play.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On Man of Steel

The Man of Steel is a film where nearly anything anyone would say on it of substance is rather obvious.  Critique of A Brave New World Meritocratic societies, or Plato’s Republic where the Good is placed in higher value than freedom of choice and destiny and is seen in opposition to it similar to The Giver.  It’s a rather simple message, and one that doesn’t reflect any of the serious problems in the world such as Capitalism or religion – but it’s still one worth making.  It’s worth making because though most people (at-least in the Western Liberal tradition) will empathize with this sentiment readily, they don’t possess the intellect to process the sentiment themselves, or if they do only viscerally or sub-consciously. 
It could (with Heroism in-general) seen as a critique of Capitalism however.  In Capitalist society we are told to sell our virtues on the market for whatever the Capitalist will give us for them – or for our vices which our sold and encouraged for his or her profit as well.  And that the more money a person has the more virtuous they are.  Superman, the pinnacle of virtue, however contradicts this message by doing what needs to be done – what he can only do – without asking for financial compensation.  He’s a journalist to make a living, to steal from others (though not the Capitalist in my opinion) would be immoral, and it is in his nature to do things of worth and substance rather than taking the easy course.  Speaking of free-market enterprise, though the Existentialist essence of the film stands alone and is fine, it would be far-better if it would bring in a materialist element saying that without the proper resources (that Capitalism among other systems do not provide or wish to accommodate for) Man cannot achieve his highest heights.  Having the freedom and the structure in terms of Negative Liberty that allows unbridled choice is essential, but so is having the institutions that embrace Positive Liberty and the healthy stimulation and manipulation of our healthiest impulses so people can freely choose in a sense and will be inclined to do great things in the grandest conception of societies.  And by doing so actually bringing promise to the otherwise idealistic notion of every human being being a force for good.
Also Jor-El mentions how Kal-El is the first “natural birth” in centuries.  So what?  The fault in their society had nothing to do with genetic engineering – same with Brave New World save the Epsilon Semi-Morons and others who were designed to be stupid or lacking in virtue.  The fault in their model was the deprivation of choice which genetic engineering does not deprive.  This fault can also be seen in Gattaca which flirts with the same message.  It’s a inspirational story that the main character could defy the odds and do something great, but does doing something against the evidence he couldn’t prove that what could have made him more likely to do it (though he would be an entirely different person – in some ways better, particularly since he had high odds for mental illness and depression)?  Does shooting a bull’s eye without my glasses prove that having glasses be encouraged in society when you need them is wrong?  The genetic discrimination is wrong, yes, but there’s a difference between discriminating against someone and not hiring or favoring someone because they seem unlikely to do what is expected.  It is safe to assume that the main character in Gattaca wouldn’t achieve greatness based on his genes, however he should still have every resource afforded for him to achieve greatness and once there is evidence he can there should be nothing and no one in his way to stop him.  This is real materialism I’m talking about, not, “oh no! Those stupid people who don’t believe in God have made everything a matter of math and formulas, and now people who don’t fit in their perfect Socialist society are being held back by prejudice!”  First off I’ve explained why that notion in the anti-scientific mind is an irrational one, but also, right, because Christian Conservatives (who are the main anti-science and reason crowd) are usually so much against judging others without proper evidence and bigotry.
It recreates the origin of Krypton and allows the comic book reader now grown to realize its absurdity.  In this technocratic empire spanning star systems they don’t at-least examine the evidence given by Jor-El?  In this film it seems like he comes at the last minute and says that they are all doomed, and can only save their genetic material to save their species, but even then they doubt him despite his accolades as a well-respected scientist – if I remember correctly.  There are more flaws in the origin story, or at-least how it is portrayed in this film.  Jor-El claims Kryptonians abandoned their colonies because it exhausted their resources.  But if you alter the atmosphere of a planet couldn’t you use the resources on said planet and potentially alter the make-up of the ground to create vegetation?  Perhaps there are resources that are scarce on the newly habituated worlds, but it would be assumed that there would be some resources of value (otherwise asides from pure exploration there wouldn’t be any point in colonizing Kryptonians there) that they could send to Krypton and have people from their home world send them what they are lacking in.  Also how does artificial population control make the core of planet unstable?
A great thing about Superman however is how it posits virtue coming from material necessity rather than divine providence.  Kal-El’s earth father wants to believe he was put on this planet for a reason, and in a way there was a reason, though causal and not divine.  Reflecting the lack of objective meaning in the Universe, there was no grand purpose to Kal-El’s arrival on earth, just as there is no grand meaning behind any organism’s pursuit for survival – which reflects the moral impulses we have and our virtues.  Some would say that this steals from the notion of virtue and ethics, but I would argue otherwise.  As products of billions of years of evolution, we are the products random occurrence trial and error.  As such, our very existence and our sentience shows what astounding feats can arise from naturalistic processes and the meaning that both our lives can create and our indebted to such processes that exist not to propagate some creator’s message but as a result that only we can assign value to.  Our highest virtue as sentient beings is the capacity for critical thinking, and our greatest ethic is to expand such knowledge and skills across the globe so all may achieve the freedom prosperity and opportunity for greatness that comes from human excellence.  The failure of our society is not the intervention of sin into the commands of the divine, but a failure to apply reason and the fruits of it to social relations.  Religion, Capitalism and Government prevent the action of knowledge and wisdom and also poison the garden of both.
Obviously Superman should use his might and sense of right and wrong to drastically alter our corrupt societies, rather than merely catch bank robbers and one particular greedy and immoral Capitalist when he could be dismantling the entire Capitalist system and create the opportunity for Anarchist communes.  Yes I realize this idea was explored somewhat in Superman:  Red Son but in that story Superman did take away some people’s freedom by effectively lobotomizing them when they differed with what he thought was an ideal society – completely ignoring the main element of Anarchism and Marxism by still having a State that interferes with people’s lives in the most fundamental way, rather than having people manage things themselves in the Anarchist case or have what was the Government be merely the administration of things rather than legislation over men in the Marxist case and to paraphrase him.  But this of course will be the main fault of Gods produced in today’s Liberal and Capitalist society of “don’t help too much, that takes away some people’s freedom to be shot by racist cops and work for minimum wage!”
There is obvious religious symbolism and imagery throughout the film.  The most obvious perhaps being when he is discussing things with the priest and a stain glass panel of Jesus is behind him.  He wonders if he should sacrifice himself to the people he doesn’t yet trust.  He does and suffers for it – if he surrendered without resistance it would have led to the damnation of the human race.  This to me shows the flaw in the very essence of Christianity.  A god sacrificing himself in material form so he himself could forgive the sins of Man which are largely not even proper wrong doings.  This mentality of holding self-abnegation and surrender to a supposed higher intelligence who has shown its malevolence (much like Zod) is one of the main flaws in humanity and one of the greatest forms of suffering (both in the suffering it created and the prosperity it prevented) throughout history.  It is in complete contradiction to Naturalism and Materialism which would hold that Superman should fight Zod (who is threatening mankind) in order to continue the progress of Man rather than allow the humans to sacrifice himself (who is the exemplar of virtue) so the humans might be on Zod’s (God’s) good side.
That’s in essence the end of my essay.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Here however are some petty critiques that I had but were deemed unnecessary in-relation to the more intellectual topics probed:
This is by far the best of the Superman films.  It’s basic in some ways but exceptional in others.  It has its faults, like Clark’s father being killed by a tornado trying to save a dog that Clark could have attempted to save.  Or here’s an idea, fuck the dog and continue raising your alien kid.  Also if Perry thought that Lois was doing the right thing and dropping the story then why is he giving her such a hard time and raised her penance to three weeks? The whole alien translation issue is predictable with Sci-Fi involving aliens and is overall a minor transgression to be forgiven for the sake of the plot and not having some type of ear-worm Hitchhiker’s explanation in every movie; same with all aliens (for the most part) being humanoid.  More minor problems:  How does Krypton’s destruction unlock them from their ice vessels which by the way is not the phantom zone?  It’s like the logic of an ex-prisoner smashing the control panel in a jail to automatically unlock all the cells – I don’t think it works that way.  Also great way of persuading him Zod, yeah, bury him in the skulls of his beloved humans, that’ll swing ‘em over!  Also couldn’t he colonize Mars and force the earthlings for resources that Mars or another planet couldn’t supply?  The tension seems forced, unless he wanted to force the humans into slavery, or to become citizens of the Kryptonian Empire and adopt their ways; that would’ve been interesting.  Oh yeah, and go ahead Sups, tell Zod how you manage to function on earth allowing him to fight you and potentially kill you more easily and likely effectively not killing all life on earth – always eager to help aren’t cha?  And how the fuck is Lois Lane falling?  Large, heavy objects from the ground are being pulled up towards the space ship and Superman needs to struggle against the pull yet this bitch was falling like sack of potatoes.  I was also going to rant about having the Kryptonians be “evil Darwinists” but anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see how ethics is an evolutionary advantage as Anarcho-Communist thinker Kropotkin expounds on.  Also I already elaborated on a connection between virtue, ethics and evolution and how Naturalism trumps divine narration.  And finally props to Sups for doing what no other main stream hero (that I can remember) has done by actually killing the villain to save lives.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On Cultural Democracy, Skepticism, the Mergence of the Pragmatic with the Idealistic and Empiricism

Skepticism Pragmatism and Anarchism

If there is a divide in philosophy of more crucial importance than the materialists and the idealists (though whether it is or not is debatable) it is between dogmatists and those of skeptical mentality.  It is hard to over-value the importance of skepticism in belief, mentality and the general temperament that rigorous skepticism induces.  Skepticism is quite different than Nihilism, which should be obvious be perhaps should be made clear regardless.  It is the understanding that man does not have a direct line to reality.  That we use a synthesis of sense data and reasoning to reach approximations of the truth, to create models of the truth that can be replicated and have use-value, but are not the “truth” in itself.  In this sense Kantian Epistemology incorporates within it a basic understanding or has within it the premise of Skepticism.  I would (and will) argue that not only the Ancient Greek Skeptics (particularly those in the line of Sextus Empiricus who was agnostic even of the proposition that we can attain knowledge; unlike other Skeptics who held it as impossible and therefore made a radically positive assertion contradicting their general premise or claim) but Anarchists and Pragmatists old the mentality of Skepticism and make greater use of it than the Skeptics.
Both Anarchism and Pragmatism are empirical philosophies.  Both Anarchist and Pragmatist philosophers like Dewey (who will be my main representation of Pragmatism in this essay) criticize religions for being superstitious and making unverified, if not unverifiable claims – just as all “dogmatists” do in the mind of the Skeptic.  However, it is the main contribution to Skepticism that is also embraced by Anarchism and Pragmatism that I would like to focus on.  Skeptics claim that driven by curiosity all philosophers (or people to various degrees who have the minds of the philosopher or scientist) wish to know the truth.  However, they accept answers that satiate their curiosity or conform to their own personal wishes or psychology, and spend the rest of their career arguing for their ideas rather than pursuing the truth – this is why they are unscientific and viewed as “dogmatists.”  It is the nature of the curious mind to always be seeking alternative explanations, as well as to go where the evidence and reason lead.  In essence, the Skeptic is someone who encapsulates Aristotle’s definition of wisdom:  it is the mark of an educated man to entertain a thought without accepting it.  In Anarchism we see this in constant skepticism of all authority and holding that each individual has the right to pursue his or her own train of thought and his or her own perception of the good without the need to conform the dictates of Capitalism, Liberalism, religion, Conservatism, Monarchism or any other political ideology that binds men in chains of greed, dogma and state control, suffocating him of his freedom, happiness and very being – but I’ll elaborate on that later.  In Pragmatism we see it in the Epistemology similar to Marx (but without all the grandiose predictions and talk of material necessity) that speaks of how truth needs to be verified and never be token as an absolute.  This can be seen in Dewey’s focus on the temporal and recognizing a distinction between the “academic Empiricism” of Locke and Hume which focus on describing primary and secondary qualities and a form of Empiricism that is scientific and rigorous in its effects of society rather than a passive report of things as they appear to us.  Once again, though we pursue more accurate and descriptive data of reality, we do not consider the data as absolute, simply as superior to simply saying that the world as it appears to us is simply that.
Also Anarchism and Pragmatism share in their perception of values.  Dewey criticizes what I suppose would be considered the Empiricist idea deriving from Hume that facts cannot tell us what to value – they are simply subjective preferences and nothing more.  But in both are precursors and more rich and complex versions of Harris in that all three claim that we can examine reality and using either general descriptions of human beings or of any individual’s particular nature discover the good for that person or for society.  Some person uninformed with Anarchist philosopher for example, could claim “well if everyone is free to pursue their own perception of the good, how can anything be said to be better than anything else?”  This of course is a very simplistic and uninformed opinion.  Anarchists hold the Non-Aggression Principle in the highest regard, but allowing a individual to destroy himself with drugs is not tantamount to saying we cannot claim that drugs are harmful – simply that either (in-accord to Utilitarianism) freedom is of higher utility than a drug free society; or that (following from Deontological ethics of the Anarchist tradition) that all human beings have inviolable rights free from the dictates of God, Government, or Utilitarian Calculus, and that includes injecting poison into a individual’s blood as long as they do it of their own accord.  Values can be shown scientifically as can truths, and should be held to the same degree of skepticism.  In a way Dewey mirrors Nietzsche’s Transvaluation of Values, but instead of viewing all instincts as organic and merely free of moral judgment, Dewey in his views of education and corruption could be said to hold a view that human beings natural impulse of curiosity should at-all-costs be valued and a set of values and actions be set out that promote the best of Man which is understood by examining the results of such impulses or attributes of himself or the results of his values.  Anarchists with their “anti-establishment” mentality also possess a type of Naturalism, but also (in-line with Dewey) understand Positive Liberty and that society must function rationally with Man’s best interests in mind if Man is going to thrive or survive for very long in any way he would wish to or at-all considering the Capitalists’ affect on our environment.
Not only do the Skeptics, (assuming they continue their thinking into values, which can be assumed based on their view that “habit” or societal practices that produce desirable effects should be believed in loosely speaking) Anarchists and Pragmatists share a view in relation to whether or not we can create a preference-free model of values but what it is we should value.  Firstly for all three, there is a value in intelligence, critical thinking and independence from the leading social structures that are hazardous or are not conducive to a free and well-formed self.  The latter two have far-more in common, or at-least the case is so for Dewey and the Anarchists.  Dewey correctly deconstructs Liberalism, and chastises Classical Liberals (or what is essentially Right-wing Libertarians today) for creating a theoretical and legal construct of freedom without the Positive Liberty and Economic freedoms to allow material and actual freedom to come into being; this criticism is at the heart of Anarchism and Marxism.  Both not only possessing a love of Democracy but Democracy as properly understood rather as a talking point by today living in Governments of Imperialist Liberal Democracies (the US and the post 9/11 “nation-building” of bringing Democracy in Iraq being the most ready example) who see it simply as a form of Government rather than as a way of life.  A way of life that emphasizes the synthesis of personal freedom free from tyranny and public restraints and interdependency and the egalitarian communal model epitomized in various social conceptions held within Libertarian Socialism.  Education and raising the young to be not only free but moral and intelligent is of obvious relation which Dewey in his holding significance in and his own significance to the history of education.  Dewey may have been a Democratic Socialist and thought that the Government could primarily focus on Positive Liberties rather than Negative, or rather view the human animal as a caused being to be raised to act on the best of their impulses rather than a sinful creature to be indoctrinated and taught to obey.  Or that in its very essence could fundamentally preserve the freedom of the individual and the working class from the capitalist class but this is only a minor critique considering his lack of authoritarian justifications (present in Bolshevism for example) and such can be the case to a certain degree in the short-term if a government (which is seldom occurring in today’s age) allies itself consistently with the working class and against the businesses that wish to control and exploit them. And with the Skeptics emphasis on relating philosophy to easily observable and pragmatic things such as medicine, and teaching people how to aspire and search for more evidence rather than accepting the current models, they too can be argued to have a more organic empirical model of education and politics divorced from the propagandizing and rationalizing Rationalism of the Church, Government and commerce.  Which after speaking of their politics of how to bring about one’s ideal self brings me to Dewey’s notion of it and its relation to Kierkegaardian Existentialism.
Dewey’s notion of individuality has nothing to do with “Punk Anarchist” notions of being “radically unique” by inserting a safety pin into your nose, or being “radically free” in terms of Sartre’s thinking or even “radically independent” in regards to the absurdity of Capitalist values and demagoguery they use, eschewing the obvious reality Dewey focuses on namely that we are all interdependent beings. Instead, Dewey’s individuality simply has us be well-educated individuals that can healthily act on our individual qualities, typically for the greater good of society.  Which can be seen as Kierkegaardian for its emphasis on the self being formed over time rather than solely innate and for Kierkegaard’s emphasis on a human being deciding the purpose for his or her own life just as Dewey emphasizes the role of the learner and for him or her to take an active rather than passive role in his education to discover his or her true self and the proper course following such discovery.  Pragmatism can also be seen to have commonalities with Existentialism in both viewing knowledge and philosophy as something to be experienced and lived rather than simply discussed academically.
For the view of interdependency I just mentioned and for his political values in general it would be appropriate to say that John Dewey is the Anti-Ayn Rand.  Also they radically differ in-terms of education.  For Rand, education seems simply to be taught what she believes to be true and be taught that man has a direct conduit to reality which she believes she embodies in-relation to her values.  Dewey however has a very hands-on view of education that both a skeptic and Anarchist would love deeply.  Such is shown in part in the following quote:  The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these. Thus the teacher becomes a partner in the learning process, guiding students to independently discover meaning within the subject area. This philosophy has become an increasingly popular idea within present-day teacher preparatory programs.
Returning to their similarity in the realm of ethics, Dewey emphasizes that one cannot act on absolutist inflexible moral sentiments that take no regard for the conditions human beings live in.  This is similar to Anarchists placing moral blame (if they believe in moral blame in the fundamental rather than causal sense; and even someone like myself who does not believe in fundamental moral blame can place a looser form of moral blame on the individual that has nothing to do with him being the “first-cause” of his actions and his supposed free will but instead on the results and motivations of his actions) on the Capitalist creating poverty which create poor human conditions and consequentially nature (though it creates poor nature for other reasons) which consequentially lead to crime rather than primarily blaming the individual who is simply a caused being under the weight of authority (e.g. cops, Government, Capitalist, churches, etc) which are always not only tolerated but excused to the most absurd degrees by Conservatives and other pro-force advocates such as Liberals, Marxists etc.  It follows that just as we cannot have uninvolved and “preachy” interpretations in morals, so we cannot have static institutions that do not involve the average human being in the very core of the development of him or herself and the society they live in, which is another thing Pragmatism, Anarchism and arguably to some extent Skepticism have in common.  The quote I read of Dewey’s highlights it wonderfully.  The teacher is not “in charge” of the student’s education but instead helps facilitate it as a helpful guide or mentor rather than rigid instructor who views the child as a bucket to be filled rather than a sponge to absorb.
And finally on religion:  all are considered to be anti-religious in some fashion or another.  Dewey uses the word “religious” to connote communal or social values, wrongly viewing it primarily as a unifier rather than as a divider (the does the same for God as a moral ideal which he doesn’t believe in except in the most poetic sense), and yet he like Kant places emphasis on the absurdity of superstition and dogmatism in religious belief.  How Skepticism and Anarchism critique religions or various common notions and themes of many religions and faith in general should be transparent to the reader.  In conclusion it is astounding how all three are unified in their depiction of humans as natural learners and observers, that no knowledge is absolute (asides from moral notions for the Anarchist, but even this holds a certain Skepticism in being uncertain that one knows the right path to be the dictator instructing others how to live their lives) and that Democracy should be always highly valued, not as some corrupt system of Government that Marx correctly chastises as the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie (speaking of Representative Democracy) but as a organic culture and way of life lived by young and old alike where all live interpedently, freely and constantly searching for higher heights, both in the realms of knowledge and in our material world where the realms of knowledge efficacy can be seen.