Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On Augustine, Kant and Reconciling Virtue and Happiness

Augustine and Kant share many similarities, the main of which are their ethics, their notion of retributive justice (from free will) and their sentiments that an afterlife must exist for either happiness and virtue to reconcile or for life to be meaningful.  Kant in a sense is the defender of faith in the Enlightenment.  While Voltaire and Hume criticize the legitimacy of the Christian God and salvation Kant defends it largely through his division of the phenomenal realm and the Noumenon and with his ludicrous rationalization of ‘ought’ and ‘can’ – we only ‘ought’ to do things can do; we ‘ought’ to be virtuous and happy but this is not possible on Earth so there’s reason to believe in a God that rectifies the two.  Kant is a philosopher who despite being secular in his politics (to my understanding) should be seen as someone who is actively defending faith from the encroachment of secular mentalities.
The most glaring similarity ‘tween Augustine and Kant is in their emphasis on will.  For both of them good and evil are defined by one’s ‘will’ or phenomenological state of being.  For Augustine, a good will and a good life is living in accordance with God’s Law.  This has to do far-more so with state-of-being than whether someone is actually following every dot or semi-colon of the Bible.  It’s essentially a form of submission and renunciation of the Ego that Augustine thinks in part divides the City of God from the City of Man.  For Kant what is only ethical in-and-of-itself (without exception or equivocation) is the good will.  Everything else, intellect, money, power, can be used for ill ends.  This is the example that Mill gives if memory serves to demonstrate that at Kant’s best moments he is a consequentialist.
Any who, they do differ in their conception of evil but it is largely similar.  For Augustine evil is a deficiency that turns away from the good for the sake of turning, or out of pride in rebelling against God, in some sense “becoming” one’s own God.  For Kant evil is simply the lack of the good will – so once again merely a deficiency but one motivated out of self-love (Egoism) rather than the desire to be bad or sinful.  Their similarities are more-alike than their differences, especially if we consider that Augustine would likely say that it is pleasurable for the sinful man to sin, so in some sense he sins out of self-love – only a particular form of self-love that gains psychological pleasure from the bad thing itself (and because it is bad) rather than “coincidentally” doing a misdeed (though once again Kant would claim that where there is no good will morality cannot exist) by getting drunk selfishly and not intentionally doing wrong – though they recognize they are not acting morally through their intentions.
Both Kant and Augustine believe that what they hold to be truths of reason surpass the senses.  This is seen in Kant’s argument for Free Will (it does not exist in the phenomenal realm because we are clearly causal beings, but in the Noumenal realm it must exist because otherwise morality as Kant understands it is impossible or incoherent) and Augustine’s reasoning which contradicts experience.  For Kant I refer to Ben Vilhauer’s essay on Kant’s views on free will:,%20draft%20'ontological%20priority%20and%20incompatibilism%20in%20kant's%20theory%20of%20free%20will'.pdf  I very well written piece (from what I’ve read of it) that is informative as it is succinct. 
Kant and Augustine’s notions of free will play into their notions of punishment.  In City of God when discussing the evil will, Augustine says it is just to punish a man who of his own knowledge and volition does wrong; copying Aristotle’s sentiment from the Ethics.  Kant believes in retributive justice.  Punishment can never be done for the good of the prisoner or for society – it must be because it is “deserved.”  This is where the talk of good will and love ends and where the ugliness of non-consequential ethics rears its head.  Kant defends the death penalty for murderers because of this aspect of equivocal retributive justice.  Tell me, what is the proper punishment for any crime if the consequences are not to be weighed?  If I steal should someone steal from me as just compensation?  How can something even be considered a crime if we don’t look at the consequences of someone’s actions?  How can inflicting suffering on another human being ever be considered noble or if we were to believe in Consequentialist punishment(s) ever encourage him or others to truly walk a righteous path?  Wouldn’t it be that they would commit no crimes not out of goodness but out of fear?  Thus creating a near constant state of psychological pain to prevent from the psychological and physical pains of injustice?  And once again, how can suffering that prevents no suffering ever be justified or implored upon?  Kant in a Libertarian-esque fashion condemns the notion of another human being being condemned not for his own crimes but for the goodness his suffering will bring to himself or others, but what of the notion that we cannot freely choose who we are?  And what of the notion that the good will is simply another aspect to consider in an action’s or chain of actions’ consequences?  It is true that a pure state of being brings about a sense of serenity and ease of mind and conscience, but is this not another consequence that exists within the being who practices good will rather than the results of such a will in its social affect?  I am compelled to go into Kant’s generally Libertarian notion of the State but I may criticize that specifically later and I already wandered away from what I meant to focus on.
Both Kant and Augustine believe that the ends of morality will not or cannot be realized on this Earth.  For Augustine it is the City of God, a representation of a society where all act out of love (i.e. good will and consideration for the other rather than the self) rather than Egoism; and Kant’s “Kingdom of Ends” where all are treated as Ends in Themselves and assumingly out of good will – otherwise morality in this perfect kingdom would not exist.  Both Kant and Augustine criticize the Epicureans and Stoics (the Greeks generally speaking) for believing that the ends of morality are to be sought on this Earth and that virtue is sufficient for happiness.
Kant in the phenomenal realm of existence is a pessimist.  He believes that much of what is virtuous contradicts what we want or what will make us happy.  Augustine mentions the horrors of life in “The Supreme Good Not in this Life” and correctly criticizes the Stoics for both saying that all that is perceived to be bad in life is not truly bad but a product of a bad perception, and the consolation of the opportunity of suicide for those unable to accept life’s horrors and indignities.  However, saying that life is very bad is not proof a better one in the hereafter.  And once again, for I went over much of the same in my Tolstoy paper, even if there were an afterlife this would not ground our meaning or purpose in that eternal life.  Asides from it being never ending and devoid of pain what would separate a man who finds meaning in Heaven with one who instead sees his purpose and temporary meaning to be on Earth?  Does the existence of pain forever condemn the notion of pleasure or absence of suffering is Man’s proper priority in existence?  Whether it be focused on himself or with higher ethical weight when on others?  Does our temptation towards vice forever remove the concept of virtue and its insignificance?  Could it not be that our aim is to be good and helpful on this Earth despite (in fact, in some regards because­­) the fact that all roads end in death?  How is the fact of death destructive to the validity of Negative Utilitarianism (preached by the Epicureans and I would argue Cynics) which says that that which is good is merely that which is devoid of pain? 
Augustine quotes the Apostle Paul saying:  For we are saved by hope:  now hope which is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”  Hope for what?  A world with no pain that lasts forever?  I would claim the no pain is a good, yes, but a lack of pain can be found in the absence of life as well.  Why is eternal salvation fundamentally grounded in meaning when this world for Augustine is grounded in sinful matter?  He ends this portion of City of God by saying, “And this happiness these philosophers refuse to believe in, because they do not see it, and attempt to fabricate for themselves a happiness in this life, based upon a virtue which is as deceitful as it is proud.”  Aren’t you the one who believes in free will Augustine?  So you believe in humility but wouldn’t you hold that it’s your choice (with God’s help) that you are good while a Hard Determinist like myself would hold that I had no choice in doing good or ill?  Now both the Epicureans and Stoics believed in free will, though it takes part far-more in the Stoic philosophy than the Epicurean to my knowledge.  Also fabricate for themselves a happiness in this life?  This is very telling.  Just as Tolstoy could not be happy without faith in “the absolute” it seems Augustine (or Kierkegaard, though Kierkegaard was miserable even after he deluded himself with God) believes a life without God is one where happiness is an illusion or based on sinful pleasures of pride and lust.  This seems very irrational to me.  I would be tempted to ask Augustine what they spend the majority of their hours in luxury and enjoyment doing.  I would then ask why an Atheist (particularly an Atheist with Epicurean sentiments) is in deceit and pride for when a Christian is not?
Kant believes that only God can reconcile Virtue and Happiness.  I’m not well-read in Kant but here is a video where Kant’s notions of virtue and happiness are delved into:  The same questions apply to Kant.  Even if doing the right thing is contrary to selfish happiness, can’t we be happy because we did the right thing – helping another being in not being in pain?  Also I would like to make the Cynics’ point that the pleasures that are contrary to a virtuous life were not to be followed anyway because they were largely based in our Egos, caused more pain than pleasure and deteriorate virtue rather than enhance it.  The Ego is to be removed not out of divine demand but because of the consequences of living an altruistic ascetic life for both the Man who practices these virtues and others who are the focus of the moral man. 
Kant and Augustine should be commended in-part for their focus on “the will” but criticized for their inability to accept the true ethical ends of the good will (or egoless will) as the end of pain in others and absolution of guilt from our past, for as pre-determined beings we realize that we, like others, cannot help but act as we do but should act ethically.  Instead Augustine grounds an ethical end in Salvation (a type of eternal Hedonism seemingly) and Kant the same and adds Libertarian constraints (including retributive punishments) on this Earth.  Very interesting that two philosophers who believed that nothing good can come ‘cept from a good will held that Man must (or at-least should) believe that he will be rewarded for his good works on this Earth; instead of being a good person to, y’know, just be a good person.  But I guess that’s just not good enough.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Eep Opp Orrk Ah-ah Means I Love You - Jet Screamer

Hey guys.  I know I've been making a lot of small pointless update (shouldn't that just be the name of this blog?) posts lately but good stuff is on the way.  I want to be productive during break, but I also will be enjoying myself more at-first and I have to prepare to go to my four-year school.

I just saw some episodes of Blind Date.  Really it just showed me how desperate people are to satisfy their Egos.  Lust is a factor as well (seemingly more for men than women) but I would actually say the Ego plays a more definitive role and actually more for women - at-least from what I've observed on the show and in life.  Certainly not all women, but there is a kind that is very concerned with what others think and feel (perhaps why women are less likely to be atheists are involved in radical politics) and define themselves based on exterior traits (e.g. social status, beauty, being wanted, etc) rather than interior traits (e.g. kindness, intelligence, modesty, etc).  I don't think saying this is sexist (I hold many men are like this too, but partly due-to nature and in-part nurture I do think women express this quality more-so than men, or perhaps its simply more apparent) but I know some do.  But oh well, all anyone can do is be who they are and be honest in their sentiments and if some people see it as something it's not then that's just the way things go.  Once again, though I'm a Consequentialist I see the importance in intention and mental state-of-being when it comes to a lot of things.  I'm a Socialist and a huge Progressive for example, but I recognize that if someone is in a certain type of phenomenological state, until someone wants to change or better themselves all the money or social reform in the world isn't going to help him.  Now I don't blame him for being who he is, but I recognize the functioning of the mechanism and that in some cases legislation or social reform won't fundamentally fix a person's problems - their problems are psychological, or things that someone like Freud or Augustine would see though they may - certainly Auggie - diagnose the problem wrong and give the wrong prescription.

Any who, enjoy your New Year.  I hope to improve myself more in it.  I'll probably have something to show you guys soon after.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Quick Note on Why Conservatives Suck

They say they're such ardent lovers of freedom but many believe strongly in social pressures to have people conform to their narrow and small-minded perspectives.  And the elderly require coddling like children.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Quick Note on Love and Compassion

Merry Christmas everyone!  I sincerely hope you all enjoyed yours.  Reflecting on today and the year I had I think I've come to further appreciate the simple but invaluable presence of kindness and the motive to treat people gently, with their own well-being at-heart rather than your own.  Though I'm still a Consequentialist, I do see the value in Augustine and Kant's pont of view about "the will."  It's essentially Schopenhauer's view as well, though he rejects free will and believes it has nothing (or little fundamentally) to do with reason (and I would assume rather a person's temperament) when Kant and Augustine are big worshippers of reason telling us right from wrong - at-least to my reasoning.  I think though I was always a Consequentialist I was more open to that part of Kant and Augustine when I was younger, and now I'm more open to Schopenhauer's and Hume's perspective on it.  Really want to do some research and start exploring this, but it'll probably be a few days before I do.

Take care everyone.  Don't be pricks to each other.  Also I made a mistake that my future biographers should know (har-har).  Turns out my Mom's side of the family just doesn't like wine and my grandfather being a past alcoholic has nothing to do with it.  My bad.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Celebrate However the Fuck You Want to Celebratemas Everyone!

Merry Believe-what-we-tell-you-or-suffer-forevermas Eve everyone!  I hope you all are having a tolerable time with those who you are forced to associate with around this time of year due-to tradition, social pressure, genetic similarities and past physical proximity (i.e. family).  Didn't drink anything yet; partially because my Mom's side of the family has a recovering alcoholic (of several decades) so alcohol isn't served typically at family functions.  Another example of one person's misery wishing to be extended to everyone.  I'll probably have a few glasses of wine at my Grandparents, especially if any of them decide to give me shit for being an Atheist.

I actually read a little bit of Augustine (I always misspell that fuckers name the first try) today.  Basically his stuff about his notion of evil being pride, willfulness and refusal to obey God.  Was thinking about writing a rebuttal of it but honestly I've already dismissed the whole free will thing before (numerous times, kind of a thing of mine) and it wouldn't be very long.  But I am planning on writing a lengthy analysis of Kant, and today I realized that Kant in some ways is just a secular Augustine (nope, that's not how you spell it either).  Both believe that ethics has to do with intent or will rather than results or actual actions taking place.  For Auggie its all about whether your will is in relation to what the Sky Father wants and in relation to "Nature" loosely speaking; for Kant morality comes solely from the good will - once again intentions or state of mind is everything.  Even as a Consequentialist I think they make points that are worth respecting (in that motives do matter) and most of what I want to write about Kant is a critique of his more Libertarian sided Deontology and how it reinforces the status-quo and keeps people suffering.  Also his solution to war could be seen as a pre-cursor to the Bush Doctrine.  Will (maybe) write a better worded account of this later before I post the finished product - assuming its something I finish.  I also wanted to write something examining the sims and diffs of Hume, Kant and Schopenhauer.  Maybe I'll quickly go into that in the paper because they're all pretty status-quo in my opinion.  Don't know who is the most though.  I dislike Kant's ethics the most whichever it is.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Another Arbitrary Mark of Success in the Belt! Yah...

Wazzup bitches?  I just wanted to (gloat) tell you all that I graduated!  That's right.  I'm now a twenty-two year old with an associates degree.  Whoop-dee-fuckin'-doo right?  Well fuck you.  I passed and I'm happy.  Don't ruin this for me.  You with all your harsh criticism.  You may not say it but I know.  I know.  With that silent but telling glare of yours.  You think that everything I do just doesn't cut isn't that it?  I was never able to appease you was I?  Well despite what you think I don't live to please you.  Yeah, that's right.  And you know what?  You, and your... your bullshit is why she (or he, whatever) left you.  You just couldn't be happy with another person's success.  Always willing to put your little daggers, your little commentary in other person's life-notes (life-notes?) you egotistical fuck.  I hate you.  I think about brutally killing you and savagely raping your corpse.  Yeah I went there.  But you know what?  You drove me there against my will and made me pay for the gas while you were at it.  You fuck.  And how 'bout you chip in on the tab every now and again?  Money means something to other people too you know.

And if you're going to stand outside my window at night, could you please not have your dog piss on my lawn?  It's barking makes it a little hard to talk to Charlie Chaplin dressed as Hitler and Hitler dressed as Charlie Chaplin (for some reason, I think he's trying to show Chaplin how it feels when someone else steals their schtick).

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Mad Marx: Superstructures, Ideology and Necessity

Mad Max is a film that in a subtle but noticeable way examines the relations in society using an apocalyptic fantasy.  It’s a film that I would argue depicts quite well some of the main elements of Marxist philosophy.  Particularly his views on human culture and action.
Early on in the film we see the film’s main antagonist (Immortan Joe) has an effective monopoly of water (and likely other resources) in the area which he both uses to control the area and to create the basis of the religion worshipping him to further secure his power.  We don’t know how he got to the position he is in, but it seems more-likely that he attained his material position and some social status first before a religion was made in his name rather than the other way around – and this is exactly how Marx would predict it.  For Marx, the superstructure of society (e.g. culture, religion, politics, family etc) is subordinate or determined by the base or substructure of society, namely the material resources, how those resources are used and who controls them.  The cultural life of people is largely a by-product of the more blunt facts of their material existence (The German Ideology p.6[1]).
Though the world Max lives in is not a Capitalist society, it shares a few traits of Capitalism, namely massive inequities in wealth being perpetuated through private ownership which is maintained via force.  In Immortan Joe’s world his power is maintained through the War Boys and the geography of the region – where he lives is very high up, and the only easy way to ascend is to be risen up by Immortan Joe.  In our modern Capitalist society, the massive inequities in wealth are perpetuated in many ways, but most directly through the “property rights” of the wealthy being maintained by the government which maintains their authority through force.  The analysis of base and superstructure not only can be used in analyzing the power relations of Mad Max’s world but of the particulars of their religion.
Some may find it odd that steering wheels and automobiles take on a religious significance in Max’s world.  Keep in mind that often what a society deems “sacred” is what they depend upon or use as sustenance.  In the Old Testament references are made to crops, fertility and other things that though Judaism and Christianity still exist are not nearly as emphasized today.  In Eastern faiths cattle take on a sacred dimension through (it has been argued) supplying the Indian people with much.  This perception conforms quite neatly with Marx’s theory of culture.
In an apocalyptic world where most of the organic resources that humanity had some reliance on in the past vanishes, seemingly never to return, the resources that Man has to rely on is little more than machinery and their own labor .  The war rigs that they drive to attain the weaponry and guzzle-lean are necessary to sustain their existence as well as the power of Immortan Joe (Ibid p. 6[2]).  For Marx religion is merely a by-product of the arrangements of Man’s material and social existence, and is used largely to maintain power relations.  This is seen in Christianity telling slaves to obey their masters, wives to obey their husbands, and in a religion being made where Immortan Joe is the holy patriarch. 
The religion clearly does nothing materially for the War Boys, yet many if not most of them seem to believe it.  This has to do largely with them not knowing any other alternative (most people believe the religion they are told regardless of which) but also to do with a psychological or existential reprieve from their plight.  Studies show the poorest and most uneducated nations are by-en-large the most religious.  This is theorized to be in part because where human misery abounds people will latch on to anything which promises some hope or comfort in a fundamentally cruel and unjust world, despite the irrationality and cruelty of the religion itself.  This is reflected in Marx’s statement that religion is the opium of the masses.  It both maintains socially and momentarily alleviates psychologically the people’s suffering.
Also both Immortan Joe and the Capitalist Class benefit from the passage of time and use Ideology to serve them.  Anything it seems can seem normal or right to people if it is the life they know.  Also this reflects a large part of Marx’s theory on Superstructure – namely Ideology.  For Marx the predominant values and beliefs of the people of any time will be that which support the ruling class.  In contemporary America there is a history of economic relations that distill a belief in property rights and the profit motive mixed with other Classical Liberal values, and a judicial system that reflects the interests of the ruling class (Ibid p. 32[3]).  In the world of Mad Max it is the religion of Immortan Joe which justifies his property rights on seemingly some form of divine warrant.  However just because the ideology of society is that of the ruling group does not guarantee that all or even most will undoubtedly suspend their doubts of the ideologies merits.  This is seen in the girls, Immortan Joe’s breeders, not believing in his divinity or his claim of ownership of them or their children.  Without their belief in the Ideology of their society they cannot function within it.  Lack of belief can be dangerous for both the ruler and the ruled.  It is a threat to the power of the upper-class if too many people become disenfranchised with the Ideology in a way that would prevent them from participating or even revolt; however, lack of belief in societies ideology can be dangerous for the individual for it makes it difficult if not for some impossible to passively consent or participate in what they see as unjust or invalid.  This is seen in the girls risking their lives of relative comfort to flee Immortan Joe, even though they have no guarantee they will escape him or even that if they do they will achieve a life of comfort and autonomy in “the Green Place.”
Another element of the film that expresses a Marxist tinge is the notions of necessity.  In at-least a narrow way all apocalypse movies could be argued to portray the notion of necessity through want.  But material necessity is more than simply just needs.  It is the acknowledgement that as material beings we require certain things to survive and will act however seems proper or most-likely to achieve our ends of survival – though the parameters of necessity grow as the most basic needs of the human race are met.  That is to say, people in dire circumstances cannot be judged as “sinners” or immoral for acting as they do but are largely speaking by-products of the situation they find themselves in (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy - Preface[4]).  The poor steal – according to our legal frame.  The rich do not – once again, according to our modern legal and judicial structuring of society (The German Ideology p. 31[5]).  The poor who live in want need (or at-least feel strongly prompted) to steal to survive.  While it is argued by some that the Capitalist class steal from the poor through exploitation among other things, only their theft is accepted by the government and largely speaking by society en-large – once again largely due-to the populous’ acceptance of Capitalist ideology.
Their understanding of necessity is demonstrated when one of the elderly woman is telling one of the women used for breeding about her proficiency as marksmen and the other woman retorts that she thought they were above murder.  The older woman then tells about how things were in the land of plenty where no one was “buggered” – because no one needed to be.  Murder did not exist in the Green Place (assuming she’s speaking of there and not our current society) because poverty and need did not exist.  Of course the argument will be made that some of what we consider morally wrong will always exist, and they’re most-likely correct, but they are in error if they ignore the fact that it would cease to be a systematic or systemic trait of society, just as though some cases of a particular illness may conceivably always pop up as long as humans exist, due-to vaccines and other modern medicines things like polio and small pox are no longer systematic or society-wide problems.
In conclusion, the film’s analysis of culture from an arguably Marxist lens outside of a Capitalist society (but still portraying various elements of it) is well done and thought provoking.  Thusly (and obviously for the action) it deserves remembrance and commemoration for depicting people and philosophical ideas in a way that is as intimate as it is implicit.  Its ending however seems to presume that the beliefs of the War Boys were merely superficial and once its material conditions (Immortan Joe’s power) were eliminated the love of the despot vanishes with it.  This could be seen as a perception of Marx’s analysis of culture that I would posit to be incorrect.  True the superstructure of society is maintained by its base, but that does not mean that religion and culture deeply held in a nation’s collective mind simply vanishes simply when the social relations change.  This can be seen in the pervasiveness of Christianity in the USSR even after the Tsar was overthrown and murdered, and the continuing admiration (in some cases worship) of Josef Stalin even after the de-Stalinization period of the USSR and even after the USSR’s retirement and the raise of Capitalist Russia.  The superstructure is formed by the base but can exist in the people’s lives and imaginations long after it.

Works Cited Page:

Marx, Karl.  The German Ideology.  Moscow:  Progress Publishers, 1968.  PDF Format.

Marx, Karl, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977.  Marxist Internet Archive.

[1] The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which
abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the
material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those
produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way.
[2] The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual
means of subsistence they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be
considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a
definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of
life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with
their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus
depends on the material conditions determining their production.
[3] Whenever, through the development of industry and commerce, new forms of intercourse have been
evolved (e.g. assurance companies, etc.), the law has always been compelled to admit them among the
modes of acquiring property.
[4] In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production.
[5] The first form of property, in the ancient world as in the Middle Ages, is tribal property, determined with
the Romans chiefly by war, with the Germans by the rearing of cattle. In the case of the ancient peoples,
since several tribes live together in one town, the tribal property appears as State property, and the right
of the individual to it as mere "possession which, however, like tribal property as a whole, is confined to
landed property only. Real private property began with the ancients, as with modern nations, with
movable property. -- (Slavery and community) (dominium ex jure Quiritum). In the case of the
nations which grew out of the Middle Ages, tribal property evolved through various stages -- feudal
landed property, corporative movable property, capital invested in manufacture -- to modern capital,
determined by big industry and universal competition, i.e. pure private property, which has cast off all
semblance of a communal institution and has shut out the State from any influence on the development
of property. To this modern private property corresponds the modern State, which, purchased gradually
by the owners of property by means of taxation, has fallen entirely into their hands through the national
debt, and its existence has become wholly dependent on the commercial credit which the owners of
property, the bourgeois, extend to it, as reflected in the rise and fall of State funds on the stock exchange.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Here's Something to get Depressed to. You're Welcome.

In both The Terminator and The Matrix artificially intelligent machines destroy society.  The only major differences being that in The Terminator the Machines wish to exterminate all human beings utterly while in The Matrix the Machine(s) wish to give the humans a false reality to use them as an energy resource.  Both films demonstrate a self-destructive tendency in humans and potentially argue (if these films argue for anything) that the future is largely determined by large-scale trends and tendencies of human nature and progress outside of our control.  Though the film makers did not intend it, both films could also be seen as demonstrating the hubris and Egoism of humans (and potentially all sentient beings) as expressed in the philosophy of Schopenhauer.
Both films show the dangers of intelligence without morality.  In The Terminator Sky Net is clearly an intelligent self-aware computer system that is only concerned with its own preservation, and is willing to inflict any pain or destroy any life that would theoretically be a threat to it.  The Sentinels, the worker-drones in The Matrix, wish to destroy any humans that are unplugged because they too are a threat to the Machines existence.  The Machines wish to exist simply for the sake of existing, and are willing to do anything to do so.  However, the machine intelligence (intelligences?  In the third movie its depicted as a type of hive mind but there are individual programs with their own intelligence and attributes such as The Oracle and The Frenchman) in The Matrix seems to make at-least some consideration for humanity by first attempting to create a Utopian artificial reality for humanity.  Human beings however will not accept this so the artificial intelligence creates one that is more like how humans lived in the past. 
They are willing to inflict potentially endless (whatever amount is needed) amounts of pain (for though the reality may be false the pain is real, also of course there is much pain felt by those in the “real world”) to achieve their (its?) ends though it or Sky Net doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy existing.  Both are strongly compelled to exist simply for the sake of existing.  And human beings could be said to be very much the same way; performing whatever action(s) are deemed necessary (even if destructive in the long-term) for whatever group or ideology the individuals are a part of.  Human beings are placed in the “moral” position in both films because they are defending themselves against a violent enemy, but humans should not be so proud or have illusions of nobility. 
Though compassion and consideration for others is a trait that humans do exercise, they are largely defined by their willingness to survive at any cost, and if the story was changed and the humans first (as it potentially is in The Matrix) struck the machines and the machines retaliated in self-defense most humans would have little moral qualms with slaughtering them for their own benefit.  This is seen historically with the murder of countless Native Americans, who were perceived as violent savages for defending themselves against those who represented “civilized progress.”  We are in effect the Native Americans while Sky Net and the Machine’s intelligence is the new European.  This has to do with Schopenhauer’s perception of justice as largely illusory.  He believes we shout and cry for justice and morality if we are being harmed or our Ego is being infringed upon, but will have no such moral qualms if we are not harmed by an action and if we benefit we will justify doing that which we would consider a great indignity and injustice if perpetrated upon us.
The future is perceived as bleak and humans in the “present” are largely ignorant of the seemingly inevitable future that they all passively take part in.  In The Matrix the humans plugged in ignorantly live a false-life that sustains the intelligence that continues their (the humans plugged in) survival.  Humans in the 1980’s continue to support commercial and government (largely through military efforts/organizations) endeavors for “progress” which inevitably leads to the creation of Sky Net and the murder of billions.  In both films, “evil” is simply the struggle for survival against antagonists and the simplistic notion of evil as a man twisting his handlebar mustache wishing to inflict suffering on others is arguably put in its proper place as na├»ve and simplistic.  Hannah Arendt popularized the concept of the “benign” nature of evil and in a sense I believe that both apocalypses depict the results of said reality. 
In The Matrix it is human beings unwittingly accepting authority (which the Machine is largely a metaphor of) for their own benefit and survival – similar to Arendt’s depiction of average German soldiers as not particularly evil people but people who participated and furthered disastrous ends by passively cooperating.  And in the Terminator its humans collectively taking part in the “enlightenment project” of creating technology for technology’s sake.  Human beings destroy society not through malicious race-hatred or motives conventionally understood as “evil” but simply through largely determined trends of human nature and economy that in both cases proved to be unsustainable – similar to Marx arguing the Capitalist system is unsustainable and based on amoral calculations for the individual benefit of a few.
Both apocalypses depict a future where human beings are destroyed through Egoism – both the Egoism of the machines and the human race.  The world is bleak not through evil intent but simply through the largely inevitable chain of events that beset us.  Human beings continue to survive not because it is morally right but simply because they are compelled – just as those who would destroy them do so not because they are “evil” in the conventional sense but simply because it seems rational and they are compelled.  This is largely true not only in the apocalypse but in modern society and throughout all time.  Life for many is hellish and people construct what meanings are required to continue living – society also constructs those meanings for them to minimize conflict with the status-quo whether that be the religions that are constructed in modern society or the false lives and construction of meaning that The Matrix gives humans that Morpheus tells us they are willing to die to protect. 
The apocalypse then can be perceived as more than simply the deconstruction of society; it is the deconstruction or destruction of the illusion of meaning or purpose.  We believe we live for this or that reason and want to do this or that for such and such.  However when we compare our motives with that with the people of the apocalypse we see a great deal of similarities – the people of Armageddon are simply no longer able to delude themselves that they struggle for any purpose higher than survival and self-gratification.  Their lives are not only physically hellish but shown as something that is psychologically daunting through lacking the illusion of meaning; seen in Kyle Reese being trained not to feel to not come to terms with the physical and emotional hardships of his world without physical or existential luxuries and Baldy from The Matrix who wishes to return to the lie of The Matrix because he cannot cope with the physical and existential hard ships of a seemingly futile struggle against The Machine.  Both bands of rebel fighters wish to defeat the machine intelligence that struggles for their extinction only so they can live in the leisure and comfort that created their own downfall.  Hardship for the characters in the series comes from that which provides material plenty and luxury revolting against them.  Their lives are therefore hellish, but to revolt fundamentally against material plenty and luxury to prevent another Sky Net or Matrix-Machine would require their lives to once again be brutal.  
Seen in the Ancient Greeks being capable of doing philosophy only by having slaves.  If the slaves were taught philosophy they would likely not accept their hardships and revolt, ending the state of leisure for the Athenians and others.  Much of what we call “progress” was made so through the barbarity of the “gentlemen” class savaging the savages.  Apocalyptic futures depict a reality where the moral apathy of those benefiting from international oppression (white Americans) no longer can live in leisure and are either like the black southern slave used as a resource in The Matrix or are in The Terminator deemed an unnecessary threat and are designated for extermination like various people throughout history. 
Though the films have various similarities that I already expressed, the main differences as I said is one involves a false reality while one does not and one the people are enslaved while the other they are exterminated.  This expresses not only an obvious physical difference but an existential difference.  As I alluded to, there is not only physical hardship for those in apocalyptic settings but psychological hardship.  Those who live in the Matrix, those who believe they live in a contemporary society, receive the existential benefits of a false construction of meaning and purpose similar to those who construct an illusion of purpose in “real life.”  This is also like that of those who are enslaved and exterminated. 
Slaves must be given an illusion of purpose and ethics of their master.  This is seen in the Americans giving Christianity to the Africans to make them servile to the harshness of their condition and their master’s rule.  Though they suffered greatly, many of them legitimately came to believe that their hard ship was for some higher purpose that their God put them through.  Such psychological and existential consideration was not given to the Jews of Germany, who were simply placed in the ghettos and then the death camps.  Though they were used momentarily as labor (similarly to the humans in The Terminator) their primary function to those in charge was similarly a lack of existence. 
In conclusion the settings of The Terminator of The Matrix and how they got there express many things.  Human nature, one potential analysis of the true meaning of “progress,” not only the physical but psychological or existential suffering of people unable to benefit from societies consistency and luxury and the sociological differences between minorities or marginal groups classified for labor and those who are designated for annihilation.