Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Childhood... Confused

Mulan (of, well, Mulan) sings "when will my reflection show who I am inside?"  She only feels she has found her identity once she begins dressing as a man.

Mulan is a metaphor for transgender people.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bioshock Infinite

I just beat the most recent Bioshock and I enjoyed it.  I didn't enjoy it quite as much as when I played through the first for the first time.  I didn't like that when you die you lose money and restart with enemies partially healed so I just played through most of the game without dying.  (coughs and looks at knuckles which somehow signifies showing off.)

I also didn't like that none of your choices mattered unlike the other Bioshocks, but they were going with a Hard Determinist angle so I guess having your choices changing the ending would've effected that.

Good game.  Wanted to play it for a few years now.  Might try Fallout.  We'll see.

On Reason and Desire


Rawls Original Position’s main flaw is it assumes what is right, what we should do, is what an agent wills for themselves if they could be any hypothetical being with any given traits within that society.  Like Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it assumes that the will of the rational agent is a valid tool of determining normativity without conclusively arguing it.  It is true that if I consider wronging someone for my own advantage and then consider the universal law, “one can harm others if it gives personal advantage to one’s self” then the situation could arise where I become harmed for someone else’s gain.  An agent who is both self-interested and invested in the idea of ethical universality will then be tempted away from exploitative acts for they would not like to be exploited. 
However, that moral laws can be known to be constructed from the wills of rational agents is completely a figment of the human intellect.  Also, although Kant criticizes “empirical morality” it is in a sense empirical in that my feelings towards being treated one way or another is visceral rather than purely rational.  It creates a feeling inside of me, of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and I will that I be treated in a way that creates a feeling I wish rather than one I not.  I wish that my autonomy is respected as oppose to not, and although it is conclusive that the Categorical Imperative would have me then respect the autonomy of others what is not conclusive is that my own wishes have anything at all to do with what ought to be.  Kant sets out to salvage ethics from the whims of Utilitarians and Divine Command Theorists but is left with nothing but human whims outside of rejecting actions for being impossible if they were universalized.
Since it is the case that the fundamental nature of imperfect duties, ones that are not necessary but preferable are ones that involve the agents will and not their reason, then animals which can will should be included despite the fact they cannot reason the C.I. themselves.  For if being a being that can reason the CI is a requirement, then it not only is something that the mentally challenged would fail, but it would require the CI to be based on purely rational grounds, rather than subjective and empirical grounds.  Kant acknowledges it is a product of the human imagination, what should instead perhaps be called will, that desires happiness.  Since all of our selfish desires are in effect to attain happiness, as Aristotle and the Utilitarians acknowledge, it seems that the large majority of our individual wishes for us, that which we would universalize through the CI, would be based on this will for happiness rather than on pure reason.

The reasoning part of the mind cannot desire anything, it can only either follow true or false premises to valid or invalid conclusions, or it can infer the probability of something occurring through witnessing like events with comparable variables happening before.  It is the reasoning part of the mind which believes the rocket will or will not reach its target when it is launched.  It is the sensual and desiring part of my mind that desires that it will kill or spare certain names, that lives will be saved or not be saved, that the Earth should continue spinning on its axis or crash into the sun.  Kant could very well be right in saying that, “if you should be treated with respect, then you should treat others with respect.”  What he cannot ground in reason is the divide between the feeling I have of wanting to be treated with respect and claiming that I ought to be.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Quickly on a Blog Post

This blog post refuting Kantian ethics is intereting (http://peasoup.typepad.com/peasoup/2010/01/the-deepest-error-in-kants-ethics.html).  The author wants to defend "natural things" and sees flaws in Kantian Ethics that I concur with - however there are flaws in his own reasoning as well.  Or rather, there are if he's using the term "goods" to refer to things that are normative.  A thing can have value in a purely descriptive way without being normative.  However the word like "good" and "virtue" has intrinsic normative weight in our minds.

In the end he confirms my suspicion of Kant's morals being largely Augustinian.  However Kant is far more Libertarian than Augustine.  This is one reason why I want to write on Kant.  Because although Christianity is superficially in our culture, it is really Neo-Liberalism that is the mentality of American Culture.  With some Christianity Puritanism thrown in.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

On Hypocrisy and Moral Fallibilism


Regardless of what ethical intuitions and beliefs a person has, one of the surest ways to sour a person in their eyes is to reveal their hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is something that is repulsive to anyone who cares about integrity because it is that one thing that by definition breaks from having ethical integrity.  A man can boldly declare that he is an agent of Satan, and it is his ethical duty to torture as many puppies as possible.  And another can be a huckster for God, collecting millions of dollars from the gullible and credulous, condemning homosexuality, and then later be charged with possessing child pornography of underage boys.  Though the former is more harmful to agents capable of feeling pain, he also possesses more integrity than the man who gets rich selling “branded religion” and doesn’t believe in his product.
Now it should be noted that there is a difference between hypocrisy and moral weakness.  All religions create harsh rules of conduct for people to live by.  There is a difference between legitimately attempting to live according to a code and failing, and never trying and yet espousing it as “gospel truth” or condemning others when they stray from this allegedly self-evident and necessary path.   Everyone hates a hypocrite and yet everyone has been a hypocrite in one aspect of another.  Schopenhauer speaks of the trait of people despising when their autonomy or dignity is violated, and yet when we have the option to disregard others and treat them with the same apathy its done instinctually.  This deals with the Egoism that is at the heart of a great deal of our nature.
If we cannot deduce any ethical knowledge, can we still salvage the concept of hypocrisy?  In one way yes, in another no.  We cannot strictly because we cannot outright dismiss Ethical Egoism.  Egoism does away with hypocrisy because it’s the normative stance that proclaims, “anything that furthers my will.”  If I can steal a hundred dollars from someone, and then convict someone who commits the same ill against me then one charge me with hypocrisy, but if the ought of life is, “anything that furthers my will” then Egoism surpasses treating others as you would like to be treated.  One could claim that Egoism claims a “universal Egoism” where all human beings should promote either their own self-interest or their own desires.  And then one could attempt to argue that there can still be a sort of hypocrisy that is wrong, where one pursues their own interest but argues against others doing the same.  However, if “anything that furthers my will,” is the true law of a man’s heart, then to convince others of different ethical systems or of moral compulsions is more reasonable than to tell people they shouldn’t help you and should only think of themselves.  This is why con men get into religion, not because religion is itself a con, but because morality can always be exploited by Egoists to benefit themselves.

Hypocrisy can still be argued against if we assume that ethics may be dependent on context but is not dependent on agent.  Though we cannot ground in reason that we ought not be hypocrites it seems reasonable to find it unattractive because we find ethical integrity and fortitude attractive.  We cannot establish that we ought to, either find it attractive or have what we find attractive, but what we can say is that integrity is both desirable for the sake of our species and for its own sake.  We are hard-wired to dislike hypocrisy, and the concept of hypocrisy is a necessary concept if we are to pursue an ethic that is dependent on the quality of the character, the rule or the consequences all of which hold that an any particular agent is subject to the law of the general.

On NC-17 and Censorship


It is my contention that the review board should give ratings only to provide information to parents and the general viewing public, not to censor which is its consequence with the existence of the NC-17 rating.  If we want the limits of what people can experience in a cinema or in their homes to be only what is sought after, then the current censorship, not by the government, but by the mentality of all being “ad-friendly” and inoffensive must be done away with.
Though I cannot demonstrate that the Libertarian premises are the correct ones, it is obvious to all that if we are to value human choice over the potential welfare of the public then we must welcome all art and expression, even what is offensive to us.
The argument of protecting children is non-effective, because this is what the ‘R’ rating should be.  While the ‘R’ rating is supposed to be a stern warning to prevent children from seeing the film, the NC-17 rating is a stern warning to movie makers that their art will not make money or be widely distributed, not from lack of audience but lack of acceptance in movie theaters.  Legally a parent can take a child to an ‘R’ rated film which should be done away with both to protect the child from what is supposedly so harmful but also to protect the movie-going public from the invalid argument that we should have a NC-17 rating to protect children from what they should not see.
The rating ‘R’ is in itself usually undesirable even in many horror movies because it means less profits for the movie studio.  And this is partly unavoidable as long as humans continue making movies with the incentive of making money, and we continue to deem it unsavory or undesirable that a child see an ‘R’ rated film.  It is a reasonable sacrifice we make for the sake of children.  But to prevent art to be seen by any eyes in an ineffective attempt to protect children is what is inexcusable and is what the NC-17 causes. 

The documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated is an excellent documentary to watch if you’re interested in this topic.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

On Kant and Woody Allen


In James Lawler’s Does Morality Have to be Blind?  He gives a Kantian analysis of one of Woody Allen’s most noteworthy films, Crimes and Misdemeanors.  He contrasts, as Kant does, between the causal world of descriptive claims with the “moral world” of normativity which Kant makes incorrect assumptions of what follows if ethics to exist. 
Though Allen’s film is brilliant, it in a sense is superficial.  It explores whether or not the world is just, not whether justice “exists” or can be known.  I put exists in quotations to emphasize the distinction between whether the world conforms (or can conform) with what is right and “what is right?” independent of whether it is achievable which is purely descriptive.  The film presumes murder is wrong, the question is whether this “justice” will be achieved through having the righteous be rewarded and wicked and egotistical suffer in one form or another.  It is not a film which truly examines the question of ought but an insightful character study that shows how humans with differing qualities respond in comparable or desperate situations. 
This is ultimately what art is intended for, descriptive accounts, and because Allen achieves this while failing to give an ethical argument is why he is rightfully regarded as a great artist.  One could argue there is a contradiction in my reasoning that I claim that art ought to be purely descriptive and Allen succeeds in creating quality art in this regard.  But this is not my argument.  I do not argue what art should be, only what art is.  Artists have attempted to create ethical arguments in their work but it is either secondary to the depiction of characters or it becomes the main aspect of the work, is looked at as moral proselytizing, and therefore fails to be “good art.”  I do not make the argument that people should make good art; I only make a purely descriptive account of what good art is removing all normativity from the word “good.”
Returning to a Kantian analysis of Allen’s film, both the film and the philosopher make premises of morality which are not grounded.  Throughout the majority of Allen’s more cerebral movies there is the implicit or explicit premise that without God life is without foundation.  This is something that most ethicists would disagree with but Kant would be sympathetic to it.  Though a “God-free” version of Kantian Ethics is indeed possible in his Critique of Practical Reason Kant certainly gives both arguments for why ethics require premises that are sympathetic to Christianity and that one can make an ethical argument for God (for belief in God, rather than knowledge of His existence) when all other arguments in the past made by Descartes, Leibnitz and the rest fail.
Lawler describes three premises that Kant makes for the “possibility of ethics” straightforwardly (Woody Allen and Philosophy p. 45-46)[1].  All of them fail to be necessary requirements for normativity or ought-ness to be valid regardless of whether said reasoning is true, that is to say, such is actually the case.  It is true that humans have ethical intuitions of what is ethical and not, or rather what is required for something to be consistent with their intuitions or not, but this have nothing to do with the logic of determining normativity.  Though it very well could be the case that one must be free in the Libertarian or Non-determinist sense, we do not have this knowledge.  That is, there is nothing we know of that makes it necessary for the Non-determinist interpretation of free will and ethics to be the only valid one.  If, for example, Utilitarianism of any variety is the case, then the freedom of the agent is insignificant and a causal, unthinking machine building a utopia based on programming is just as ethical as a Man who does so with compassion for all mankind beating in his breast (though both are equally ethical under this interpretation, only the latter is moral or has moral intentions – as I’ve described in my essay Morality and Ethics).
The second postulate I was surprised Kant argued for, or argued for in the way Lawler argues.  Lawler argues that Kant states one must have faith that if one does the “right thing” even if it seems impossible that it will succeed God will intervene and aid the just by having his aims reach their desired and ethical conclusion.  But this is clearly not the case.  For not only does injustice exist, but more importantly to the argument just actions are thwarted or do not bear their intended fruit.  It follows from this that either an omnipotent God is not working at all times to make these men and women successful, He is working at all times but is not omnipotent, or the version of justice that God operates under is so inconsistent it is arbitrary and based on His whims. 
If one would argue that all good men and women are rewarded in the Kingdom of God despite their efforts not bearing fruit on Earth both in terms of reaping desired results and in creating happiness for them this would be the more reasonable answer which I recall Kant also claims.  It is not only more reasonable because it is not contradicted by the cases of goodness thwarted on Earth, but it reflects the notion that what is right has nothing to do with whether said attempts to attain this “rightness” are successful or not. 
The error here lies in Kant’s assumption that for something to be ethical it must be possible.  That is one reason why he thinks he should assume we have Libertarian free will.  He believes we require it for ethical judgments and due to his metaphysical skepticism he believes it is possible.  But what if the first was true but not the second?  What if he was corrected that Libertarian free will was necessary but somehow Man’s causal nature in not only the phenomenal realm of appearances but in the “thing-in-itself” could somehow be demonstrated?  If ethics must be possible, or realizable, to exist then the entire project of normativity would be dead.  But it could very well be the case that one can demonstrate that one can know that an action is right or wrong and yet the realization of the conditions of said action is impossible.
The third postulate Lawler does not argue for or cite with clarity Kant’s position behind.  He mentions that the person is more than, “just a thing,” but this in no way necessitates a belief in the immortal soul.  One can hold the view that the human person is nothing more than chemicals existing in a temporary state of cellular reproduction and still believe that that life has dignity and should be treated as an end-in-itself.  All three main branches of ethics do not require a belief in an immaterial soul.  It is obvious to most now that there is nothing about “atheistic materialism” that necessitates Nihilism nor nothing about the idea of the immortal soul that necessitates respecting every individual life.  For one can have the views of the immortal soul existing for the sake of the Devil, so one should torture or do whatever one can both in this life and the next to please Him.  Though one can argue this is a wicked view, there is nothing contradictory or logically inconsistent in it.
The second and third postulate are fundamentally theological and have nothing to do with normative claims.  The first commits a more understandable error of believing that an agent must be free to do something or to refrain from action to be judged and punished or reward for his deed.  Believing that ought-ness needs to be grounded in possibility of realization but as I’ve previously argued this isn’t necessarily the case.  The Greeks were not interested much in this question and on the whole spoke of the sentiment that virtue is praiseworthy and vice contemptable regardless of whether or not one was “free” to be sick or well.  One does not act, free or otherwise, to be beautiful and yet the Greeks praised beauty as a virtue along with other wisdom, temperance, courage and the rest. 
Compatibilism to my knowledge has yet to be thoroughly refuted (though as a skeptic I neither assent nor dissent to its existence) and there are branches of ethics that are valid, regardless of whether their premises are true, without reference to the freedom and concern for others autonomy that Kant emphasizes and believes is crucial.



[1] One is that, contrary to the deterministic assumptions of science, human beings are fundamentally free… the second postulate is the postulate of God.  “By moral faith,” Kant writes, “I mean the unconditioned trust in divine aid, in achieving all the good that, even with our most sincere efforts, lies beyond our power”… The third postulate of morality is the postulate of immortality.