Thursday, July 30, 2015

Brief Movie Summations # 2

July 26, 2015
VIII         The following are quick movie analyses of films that I’d be very unlikely to take the time to write full essays on – what with my full and busy schedule and all.
Vice:  The first third or so is fairly good, but it quickly descends into bland and uninspired shit that I couldn’t pay attention to even with some effort to do so.  However, it is at-first a mediocre examination of whether a machine has moral worth, for the residents can feel just as much as a human can (they even have organic tissue, much like the Terminators).  Of course the answer is that they we must give them equal moral considerations in stark contrast to the Christian notion of humans having intrinsic worth only because they have a soul or ‘cause God says.  But what is far-more interesting to me is the critique of the Freudian notion of catharsis.  That if something is merel allowed to “get something out of their system” then they’ll be better people – The Purge does something very similar.  In-essence, though Freud was a Materialist, this is a Materialist critique of him, essentially saying that if you do something, that thing molds your nature, or specifically the wiring of your brain because you acted on a certain impulse.  Shitty film, but it does ask a question that I don’t think it or The Purge examines with the proper rigor and seriousness the question deserves.  Should we deny our impulses, act on them, or through proper environment mold them into something creative and healthy (i.e. sublimation)?
Jurassic World:  Is an interesting critique of modern consumerism and Capitalism.  Making an explicit “meta” statement about how we the viewers are no longer satisfied with seeing dinosaurs on the screen.  And how modern consumer existence has us always needing another shot of a larger dose, or always craving something new that’s in-essence the same – mindless entertainment.  Also they highlight that some Capitalists might be light-hearted, compassionate and even Progressive on the surface, but whenever their money is at-risk they put at risk anything (including the lives and quality of life of billions around the globe) to preserve their precious profits.  Seen in the replacement of Hammond who refuses to kill the dinosaur because of all the money the company invested in it.
Six Shooter:  Is a film that highlights what psychological damage belief in God does.  The main character is only in despair because he believed his wife would live on forever in some castle in the sky with a hippie Communist carpenter, but when he suffers a crisis of faith he cannot handle it.  However, if he was raised honestly, away from Christian and other religious filth, and educated instead in the traditions of Cynicism, Stoicism, Epicureanism and some sects of the Eastern philosophies than this would be of no concern to him.
Being there and Buddhism:  It’s strange that there is an explicit Christ analogy at the end, because I find far-more in the film to compare with Buddhism and Taoism.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  A incredibly rich man whose ignorant  of the outside world leaves his kingdom (Chancey was forced essentially; Buddha left of his own volition) and discovers life sucks for others.  Only (main) differences are that the Buddha worked to Enlighten others when it could be argued Chancey is doing so unintentionally (or ingeniously intentionally but I’ll get to that soon) by having them not focus on their troubles and accept things simply as he does.  Also Buddha worked with the suffering and wretched to Enlighten them, while Chancey goes from one Capitalist asshole’s palace to another – one with the last name “Rand” no less.
There’s also a connection with Taoism.  What with “naturalness” simplicity, and “action without acting.”  This is seen in Chancey’s demeanor and the theory that he could secretly be a Taoist-esque genius who speaks as a child and shows others the path through behaving as he does rather than philosophic explanation that would fall on deaf and dumb ears.  By expressing a way of life free from the concerns of death or ideologies of religion or profit he is expressing “The true Tao which cannot be said.”  He also exhibits the simpleness of a Pooh or Homer Simpson, who have been described as quasi-Taosist characters in other essays such as “the Tao of Pooh.”
THX 1138:  Begins as an interesting film, particularly once you know George Lucas made it pre-Star Wars.  But becomes very dull and long-winded (though the film is not long) somewhere between a third and half way in.  It more-or-less is simply a poor man’s combination of Brave New World and 1984 with emphasis on the former.  Frankly I found it sloppy and schizophrenic; uncertain of what exactly it wanted to say or be in-regards to political philosophy.  There are at-least a handful of dystopias that are far-better than this one but this one isn’t terrible – once again, it just doesn’t say anything original and can’t say anything distinct – in merging the “soft authoritarianism” of consumerism with the totalitarianism of prison centers and harsh laws and sentences.
On Lawrence of Arabia:  First, the film really should be two.  I’m fine with long films; I loved Boyhood and Reds is one of my favorite movies, but it seems to have a “natural” dividing point for one to end and the other begin.  Where they cross the dessert and conquer Aquaba (however you spell that).  This is the point where the standard three-part structure of introducing Lawrence, having a conflict and resolving that conflict ends – it screams “movies over!”  And though I didn’t like the rest of the film as much, it’s still wonderful and deserves to be shown – just as a sequel.  In the sequel we see our beloved hero grow fatiqued, not physically, but psychologically or existentially.  He exhibits a type of fear of self, or of independence perhaps, resenting his character, courage and moral fiber yearning the Arabs to be free.  He feels pain through knowing that they deserve freedom but will very-likely not; so he attempts to kill his soul to kill his pain.  May be more to say but haven’t seen film in some time.
On Silence of the Lambs:  We are all lambs.  The ones who will be heard scream (woman kidnapped by BB) the rest of us suffer in silence.  The rest of us are identified as wolves (such as Hannibal Lector) when we are merely lambs that have internalized screams and instead become deformed sheep.  The silent murder of innocence is the story of the world over.  The silent unannounced unidentified slaughter of lambs, lambs that are either murdered or turned into beastly creatures by society. 
The Lambs won’t save themselves because the ones that scream, that’re listened to are never clever enough to know who is slaughtering them and why.  They are listened to by the butcher, so they believe that the butcher would never shear them.  It is the sheep that are turned into something else that learn autonomy – that reclaim what was taken from them through deformity.  They are closer to human than the sheep, but they are monstrous as well. 
As someone who works a conventional job, she is tormented by the problems her profession and a job in a Liberal Democracy allows her to perform.  Lambs screaming – the wrongs committed against them being recognized by society.  But the wrongs done to HL (the ills of fate) are not recognized, so he is silent – and still a lamb.
To get HL who represents a Silent Lamb to cooperate she lies and promises decent living situations and some semblance of decency.  Much like the lies politicians tell to have the Silent Lambs (the working class) participate in their elections.  Wants him to answer questionnaire but really wants BB.  Much like in elections are supposed to diagnose the people’s wills or essence, but really is constructed to help further policies to murder Silent Lambs through murdering their unique essence or by further ostracizing them.
And quickly, how does Buffalo Bill covet these women?  Their beauty?  Their slightly obese.  Sexually?  I thought he wanted to be a woman.  This is something that I suppose is meant to sound intelligent and profound but really isn’t.
On the Outsiders:  A film I really should go into much further analysis into.  But here goes.
A truly wonderful film that analyzes and depicts both the injustices of life through the class system (the Socs being the spoiled rich kids of the Capitalist class and the Greasers being the damned offspring of the proletariat), and shows a “poetic” and philosophic solution through virtue and the appreciation of the finer things in life –the finest being virtue itself.
There’s an obvious Romeo and Juliet element that was executed wonderfully but doesn’t give much to talk about.  Just worth mentioning.
The film also depicts that kindness and empathy are among the greatest forms of virtue a person can have.  Or as Rousseau once said:  Kindness is the greatest form of wisdom.
The Greaser’s may have won the fight but that doesn’t change anything (as one of the Socs pointed out in despair over the injustice of the social and economic system he’s born into that damns Greasers and rewards Socs simply by accident of birth) as the material conditions nor systems that manage the material conditions of humans have not been radically altered.  This was a riot, not a revolutionary act.  And riots (especially apolitical ones) very rarely bear fruit.
Dallas represents the crushed soul of the Egoist.  The person who believes there can be no good things in life, and no virtuous or selfless actions where human beings genuinely are concerned for each other and are effective in their endeavors without ruin falling upon them – such as what happened to Johnny.  He thinks the solution is to “give up” and no longer feel but this is akin to believing the answer to an intellectual question is not to think.  Emotions (including rage and sadness) are natural and healthy reactions to the injustices of life that happen on a daily basis.
Best part of the film however is depicting the Buddhist sentiment of no good thing ever lasts.  All things of value on this Earth are destined to die or be destroyed eons from now.  In a sense, the only reliable thing in this life is virtue, for it is internal and creates all other meaningful or important goods in this life (or most, since I suppose there are some things Man can use which don’t require thought or effort – such as apples) and is the greatest reserve of strength and joy in itself.  It is the “real gold” that we must all continually towards aspire towards embodying, knowing we will never so completely – as no one can.
Stay golden.

No applause, no applause, just send money

I just passed my Math final and rewarded myself by buying Super Mario Bros.  Which I beat in one sitting.  Just now. 

Final score 522,350.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Quick Piece on Real-life Superheroes

I just re-watched a documentary called ‘superheroes in real life.’  What I found the most striking in it is the innate sense of justice and virtue these people had, and how they felt unable to express in it our current bourgeois Capitalist society except to be condemned as a freak.  Many of them explicitly expressed the left-wing and anti-authoritarian views Social Anarchists do.  I thought most of them were bold and courageous people with varying degrees of psychological issues and ego complexes – I’m looking at you Master Legend.  But in general I admired and felt sympathy for these brave and noble souls; these men and women who have some form of greatness of them but are unable to express it in our world of apathy, corruption and profit.  These are people who are legitimately motivated and acting towards making a difference in the world, and being a “force for good” that is perhaps the utmost epitome of what it means to be a “superhero.”  To care and sacrifice for others without desire for any compensation.

Inside-Out, Buddhism and Freud, and Accepting the Imperfection of Life as not only Necessary but for the Best

I just saw Inside Out.  A very good film.  I know I should write a more thorough analysis but what the film really seems to have for substance is two things:
The impermanence of all things and how realizing moments that brought us joy are forever gone brings us sadness – essentially Buddhist in nature.  And that sadness is necessary and healthy because it makes us more deep people capable of higher forms of happiness, both phenomenogically and causally through living better lives (both ourselves and others) through reflection so we live better, more fruitful lives and through wisdom realize that most suffer far-more than us and we have a moral imperative to help them – not just make sure we’re constantly happy.  Another Buddhist notion as well as one in various virtue ethics.
And this meaningful appreciation and value of imperfection would never be possible if the Christians had their way in their fictitious fable and Adam and Eve refused the Tree of Knowledge and Mortality.  That’s one reason why Christians on average are less complex beings and more attracted to simple-minded reason and simple sentimentalism that most perceive as corny and nauseating – and maybe that’s why their music sucks who knows.  Or to reference a well-known philosopher, this psychological shallowness and lack of intellectual depth is perhaps why they’re attracted to the “Slave Morality” of viewing things in-regards to good and evil and evaluating things according to their “code” (e.g. religion, politics, etc) and how it makes them feel rather than its validity either in-regards to a things truth or utility.
In the end sadness and even the horrific pains of this imperfect world is needed because without it we could never need to create the things in this life that would make us more happy, healthy and fulfilled than one could ever be in some simplistic “paradise.”  Paradoxically enough we benefit from living in a Universe apathetic to our concerns with no desire or want of our benefit.  To express a Freudian notion (that to some extent the film does as well), we become who we are by being carved out, by receiving guidance, love and support, but also by receiving the unpleasant and unsatisfactory elements of existence that make us distinctly individual.  By causing us to “become” our nature (though our inner nature is either reduced, enhanced or contorted by social pressures and material variables obviously), to be a person who’ll become another willing member of the status-quo, going to Church, living a bourgeois life and trying to live a life without pain; or someone who rejects the fairy-tales of Capitalism and Christianity, as empirically untrue, immoral and most of all psychologically undesirable (we wouldn’t wish them to be true) and instead realizes the greatest joys for ourselves and for all the human race involve pain, sober-mindedness and sacrifice.  Rather than deluding one’s self into both believing the untrue and remaining in an immature, prepubescent and actually detrimental stage of life remaining forever on Goofball Island – though having the rage and psychological complexes of a Fox News viewer thrown in.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Philosophy is a Blessing of Strength in a World of Weakness

Philosophy is the respite of the disenfranchised. Like all "internal" endeavors, it only requires the outer world to the extent it requires certain material conditions to have the intelligence and resources to work on it.  Philosophy is for those noble souls who have rejected reality.  They still want to explore and discover, let me make that clear.  But philosophy is the intellectualization of reality, not reality itself.  It is studying the world - not being in it.  This however is radically different than the Christian.  The Christian not only escapes reality, but a coherent understanding  and awareness of it.  And of course, most Christians today it could be claimed love Mammon more than their god, but that's another point entirely.

Essentially, philosophy is for those who have embraced either Schopenhauer's Denial of the Will or the Cynic-Stoics rejection of social convention through embracing virtue.  It is for those whose Libido is directed inwards, and care more about the study of things than the implementing of them.  That is where the Philosopher would become either the Social Activist (in-regards to ethics) or the social planner (in regards to implementing the findings of science into society, such as implementing solar panels and the like).

Monday, July 13, 2015

Pointless Post #904328

I wrote this entire paper in one day.  It took me more-than three weeks for my Hume essay.  I actually had more to say in-regards to Cynicism and relating it to other philosophies, but I feel like I couldn't naturally fit it all in one paper.  I already have the unnecessary ending where I encapsulate Cynicism as a whole.  I'm not entirely sure what I want to do next.  Maybe my Mill essay.  Hope you guys enjoy.

Is Cynicism Livable Today and is it a Rational Philosophy at-all?

Cynicism is perhaps the most unrecognized philosophy of all the ancients.  Stoicism, its more mature and systematic counterpart, has systems of logic, cosmology and epistemology for academics to study.  Epicureans are recognized for their Materialism and being a predecessor to Utilitarianism among other things.  The Skeptics for being in-some-sense a precursor Kant in saying that there is a “thing-in-itself” that we have no access to.  And I don’t think I need to state the recognition that Plato and Aristotle have had in academia and the influence they’ve had on Western culture. 
Cynicism it could be argued was more of a life-style than a philosophy and it was against the systemizing and erudition that one typically thinks of as the Philosopher’s bread and butter.  But Nietzsche too, had a certain anti-system aura to him, and Marx and Wittgenstein both were philosophers “against philosophy” in one way or another, and I don’t have to mention the developments and influence the three are recognized for in their respective fields – if not philosophy generally for all three in differing ways.  However unlike the previously (aforementioned) three Cynicism is if nothing else (and really almost nothing else but) a social philosophy that explicitly claims and expresses the sentiment in its examples that virtue is the main (if not only) aim for philosophy proper, and that it must be lived if it is to be exercised and truly “known.”
It is my main intention to explore the questions of whether or not Cynicism is a sound philosophy generally and if it can be lived today.  That is, what is the main focus of Cynicism?  For if it is being homeless and doing everything in public (including masturbating) then it seems that it doesn’t have much use for us in the modern age.  However, if its kernel is something more, then there still could be something within Cynicism for contemporary society to learn from.
Thesis:  Cynicism is only rational and conforming to scientific knowledge if we read it as Virtue Ethics to attain happiness and ignore its most extreme aspects.
Cynicism is a philosophy known for its bohemian ruggedness and living a life they describe as “according to nature” rather than through the dictates of societies laws, values and mores – it is much like Anarchism in this respect.  However, there are portions of Cynical text where it appears as if rejecting pleasure (anti-hedonism) goes from a general advice of not being dependent upon or purposely pursuing pleasure (as the cynics claim most do with their lives) from a type of zeal in rejecting pleasure (The Cynic Philosophers from Diogenes to Julian p.30[1]) and this seems to be rejecting the “nature” the Cynics esteem so highly.  Humans by their nature are attracted to pleasure.  It is intrinsically, well, pleasurable. One can say one should divert one’s innate impulses towards higher actions and aims (Freud’s answer more or less) or that a person of a certain nature will do this of his own volition, but the Cynics commit a rather large fallacy right-off-the-bat  by claiming their virtues are “natural” while societies morality is “artifice” or “artificial.”  While Plato and Aristotle seem to realize that through human nature (the reasoning part) humans create the societies that they do with all their goods and ills and pursue advancement both for leisure (absence of exertion and pain) and for pleasure. 
Now, the Cynics may have a very good point (along the lines of a Thoreau or Augustine) that human beings have the fault (which they refuse to accept is innate but I would agree is partly a product of common culture or environment) of pursuing pleasure and leisure but by doing so in the consumerist way people do particularly in Capitalist society they deprive themselves from higher forms of pleasure and being; therefore though the Cynics make a rather large blunder of simplicity without explanation early on, they do make a point of critiquing human activity (regardless of its source or reason) that both a Virtue Ethicist and Utilitarian can agree with.
Also the cited quotation is simply not accurate with both the findings of modern science and timeless reasoning and experience.  This is perhaps the main blunder of both the Cynics and the   Stoics.  One cannot use their mind to fundamentally alter the nature of an experience to them.  A caress of the skin can no more bring pain than a feather can bring the sensation of a knife or a bullet entering the flesh give the sensation of dog kisses.  There are those with strange and fascinating cases of perceiving sensation radically different from us, but this distinction from the norm is material, that is to say, produced by abnormalities in the brain of one form or another and not a result of Idealist superpowers. 
People do in fact have a seemingly infinite distinction in psychological reactions to things, but this again is not a matter of choice.  The modern Cynic or Stoic might reference data of how the brain can “change itself” and how a person can “choose” to do certain things that will change in typically minute ways their brain composition. What they ignore or fail to recognize is the brain’s state X (which we have no control of) is what is producing the action and genera mentality to make the radical alteration to brain state X-1.  Though a human to the most extreme degree of this sort could be a Buddhist monk who can control his brain waves and survive extremely low temperatures with little clothing we must remember that these marvels are achieved through the material dictates of a person’s brain.  And that a person cannot radically choose to be a Buddhist Monk, Gandhi or Superman.  Those who are any of those three things are such because and only because of their pre-determined nature – assuming Kryptonians conform to physical law and their brains are at-least somewhat similar to our own.
We have found two blunders in one quote, but I feel it necessary to further flesh out the perception Cynics have of virtue to see what it is and what weight it has.  I mentioned the Cynics’ strong disapproval of extravagance, decadence and hedonistic pleasures, yet there are repetitious accounts of Diogenes (known by some as the founder of Cynicism) masturbating in public.  Is he making himself a hypocrite to the tenants of the philosophy he helped create, or is there an explanation for this seeming contradiction?  I would contend there is and that he himself explains it (Ibid p.43[2]).  In this statement we see an acknowledgement of human desire, and that at-times it must be dealt with rather than driven back by sheer willpower.  He is (he would claim) masturbating not for pleasure but to have full control of his mind, freed from lust, to pursue virtue.  But what is virtue for the Cynics? 
Essentially what it is for Socrates, and loosely speaking Plato and Aristotle as well.  For all four claim that virtue is sufficient for and necessary for “happiness.”  And that eudaimonnia exists so that men might be happy; that is, the end goal of virtue to the virtue ethicists is their definition of “happiness” which is closer to the English word “flourishing” then the momentary subjective state-of-being that the word conotates to typically.  Now I used the term “loosely” because while they agree on the main definition virtue as what is necessary for “happiness,” they can and do differ radically on what that “virtue” consists in.  We see for the Cynics that there highest virtue is freedom (ibid. p. xiii[3]) for while they had many listed virtues, none of them asides from freedom would be good in themselves, and it’s clear they practice their other virtues only so they might be free – not homeless for homelessness’ sake.  This is why they reject the conventions of wealth, fame, opinion and the other virtues of Greek and larger bourgeois society. 
Without a certain notion of freedom the entire Cynic philosophy becomes senseless. The notion of freedom they posit is a bohemian lack of attachment (ibid. p. 63[4]).  It is not a political interpretation first and foremost, but simply how one can live “according to nature” and without the burdens of society they deem to be more trouble then they’re worth.  So their fundamental project is very much like Thoreau’s, aiming to free us from the vices of convenience and ownership that chain us to lives of drudgery and passive participation in an economic system that perpetuates the illusion of values (i.e. human worth is established by what a person has or what “rand” he has, not his nature or actions) while fulfills our most crass nature that we’ve been encouraged to stimulate and value over the virtues of intelligence and asceticism that various philosophers of various camps have told us will lead us to the ideal life.
So would Cynicism be livable today?  Well, if we follow the theory that they want to maximize “bohemian freedom,” freedom as defined by the potential to do what you want when you want then overall the answer would be yes.  They would be in favor of technology only to the extent that it enables us to practice our virtue (e.g. movie making technology, printing press, etc) but otherwise would recommend we live a rather frugal existence.  But how frugal is hard to say, for there is evidence that they did not wish everyone to abandon all possessions and live as they (ibid. p. 46[5]) but instead simply transition to a more simplistic social arrangement that maximized freedom (something more in-lines with Stoicism then) and merely wished to show how little a human being could voluntarily do without and still with pride and conviction call himself superior to those who have much and are slaves to their possessions.
This however should be contrasted with Epicurus, another ascetic of Ancient Greece.  For him pleasure (Negative Hedonism – defined as absence of pain as ultimate good) is what is only intrinsically good, so while the Cynics would immediately be against the immorality of American consumer existence (e.g. cars, television, large houses and having more than one needs while others live in want and desperation) the Epicureans in the short-term would be all in favor unless it had the effects of alcohol or rich food (for them being more trouble than it’s worth).  However, in the long-term Epicureans would look at the data and view what the excessive driving of the apathetic and sedentary will pollute the atmosphere (among other practices existing in America due-to either greed and short-sighted selfishness among the upper-class or the stupidity and crass nature of the lower-class) to the extent that it will produce far-more pain (and death) than it will pleasure. 
This is an illustration of why I think as long as we are dealing in the “real world” (not in a Matrix) Virtue Ethics and Utilitarianism are largely synonymous.  However this does not directly regard the thesis of my paper, so I’ll simply close by saying that despite their lack of effective contemplating of human nature and moments of insanity not attached to the main tenants of the philosophy the Cynics purport a school of thought that can both be seen as a individual’s guide to finding happiness against the norms of consumerist society, wisdom showing societies false values supported by unjust hierarchical systems and a general source of brilliant satire in the snide and irreverent tone they are known for and most could benefit from (ibid p. 46[6]).  Also in having “larger” statements of a cosmopolitan, anti-authoritarian tinge (having sentiments much like Bakunin – ibid p. 36[7] & The Basic Bakunin p. ) and even depicting at-least one specific fault with our modern capitalist system (ibid p. 6[8]) that makes it a noteworthy precursor to Social Anarchist thought.

[1] You can derive pleasure from despising pleasure once you have got used to it. Then pleasure becomes as distasteful an experience as being deprived of pleasure is for people who have not acquired self-discipline.
[2] Caught regularly masturbating in public, he would say, ‘if only rubbing the stomach could alleviate hunger pains as easily.’
[3] They promoted ideals other than the traditional virtues, qualities that hardly qualify as virtues at all:  self-sufficiency, freedom, detachment, training aimed at instilling physical and moral toughness or endurance.
[4] …influenced Crates to at last rush off to the centre of the city and publicly renounce all he owned as so much filth and excess baggage, more hindrance than help.  When his actions drew a crowd, he announced in a loud voice, ‘Crates hereby grants Crates his freedom.’  And from then until the day he died he not only lived alone, but remained scantily clad, freed of property – and happy.
[5] He said he modeled himself on conductors of the tragic choruses; they also encouraged the choristers to sing a little sharp, with the result that they ended up singing right on key.
[6] Asked what kind of wine he preferred, ‘Other people’s,’ he said.
[7] He told Xeniades, the person who bought him that he, Diogenes, should be obeyed, even though he was the slave.  After all, doctors and pilots who are slaves are also deferred to in their area of expertise.
[8]You resemble the guest who, in his greed and gluttony, helps himself to everything – and not just what’s easy of access from local land and water… in short, instead of a simple life you choose to fill it with unnecessary complication.  Because all this expensive stuff which is supposedly so conducive to happiness and which you hold so dear costs a lot in terms of pain and aggravation.  Just look at gold, which is so sought after, or silver, or expensive houses, fancy clothes, and all that goes with them.  Then consider at what price they’re acquired in terms of trouble, pain and danger – or rather in terms of blood, death and shattered lives, not just because many people die at sea searching for luxury goods or ruin their health manufacturing them, but because they are the source of so much intrigue and conflict among you, setting friend against friend, child against parent, even wife against husband.