Don’t Look In the Cassone (It’ll Spoil the Ending)

I WOULDN’T SAY THAT I’m a classic film buff. I got nothing against movies filmed in black and white or against sometimes excruciatingly slow-paced films. I enjoy watching TCM (Turner Classic Movies) just as much as anybody else who can’t find anything else good to watch on TV on a Sunday afternoon. Occasionally, I’ll stumble upon a classic film I actually like.

Which is exactly what happened the first time I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope.
If you ask any even slightly serious connoisseur of film, they’ll most likely tell you that British film director, Alfred Hitchcock (1899 -1980), is one of their favorite film directors. That wouldn’t be surprising, considering that Hitchcock directed some of the most influential films in cinema history.

Although Hitchcock is renowned for his psychological thrillers (Psycho, released in 1960 is probably Hitchcock’s best-known psychological film), Rope, released in 1948, is, by far, Hitchcock’s most philosophical film.

In addition to being Hitchcock’s most philosophical film, Rope also includes one of the greatest zingers about philosophy, ever.

Phillip: Rupert only publishes books he likes, usually philosophy.
Janet: Oh. Small print, big words, no sales.

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Rope, based on the British stage play, which was loosely inspired by the 1924 murder of Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, was called, by Hitchcock, a “gimmick”.

Hitchcock attempted to shoot the film as a filmed stage play, not-so-cleverly hiding film cuts by zooming in on the backs of the actors, a technique that was technically impossible in the day.

Although the film isn’t technically great (the film’s flaws are sometimes glaring), in 1948, the year of the film’s release, the homosexual subtext was more of a problem for studio executives than Hitchcock’s technical ambitions. The implied homosexual relationship between the film’s central leads, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, Played by John Dahl and Farley Granger (respectively), had to be removed to avoid violating Hollywood’s Motion Picture Production code.**

…despite the fact that the film’s two male leads, Farley Granger and John Dahl, and the screenwriter, Arthur Laurents, were all “it”, a word that Laurents said the studio used in place of the word “homosexual”.

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If you look past the film’s flaws (especially a dreadfully miscast James Stewart as the murdering duo’s former schoolmaster), Rope isn’t remotely subtle with its philosophy.
The philosophy in Rope is club-you-over-the-head-with-a-frozen-leg-of-lamb level philosophy.

There’s a full-blown discussion of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch during a dinner scene.
Although other films have done philosophy better, Rope is an important philosophical film − if not for the reason that Hitchcock’s underrated masterpiece demonstrates what happens when Nietzsche goes wrong. Or rather, what happens when the wrong people read Nietzsche.

Not to give anything away, but somebody ends up dead.

SPOILER ALERT.

 

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IS 1948 TOO SOON TO GIVE AWAY THE ENDING?

 

It’s not too great an assumption to speculate that the homicidal pair in Rope are the kind of guys, if they lived now, would be the kind of guys who’ll watch Fight Club and fall under the delusion that they must start their own fight club, posting videos of their backyard fights on YouTube.

Totally violating the first rule of Fight Club, by the way.

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And like Fight Club, the main characters of Rope are also examples of what happens when Nietzsche happens to morally ambiguous people.

So who is this Friedrich Nietzsche that the movies like to talk about?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900), was a German philosopher and social critic, most associated with Nihilism. Nihilism, according to Wikipedia
“…is a philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life.

Nietzsche has been accused of advocating for and/or blamed for every bad idea from anti-Semitism to racism to National Socialism.

 

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BLAME IT ALL ON THIS GUY. IT’S ALL HIS FAULT

 

And like those who implicate Nietzsche in the rise of 20th century Nazism, the problem with Brandon and Phillip is that they got Nietzsche all wrong.

The problem with the film’s antagonists, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, is that they fancy themselves Friedrich Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, (often translated as “Superman”, but also translated as “overseer” and “transhuman”).

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They make a pretty big assumption, considering that the concept only briefly appears in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, published in 1883.

That’s where Nietzsche introduces the Ubermensch.

 

In the prologue, Nietzsche writes:
“The Übermensch shall be the meaning of the earth!
I entreat you my brethren, remain true to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of supra-terrestrial hopes! …Behold, I teach you the Übermensch: he is this lightning, he is this madness! …Behold, I am a prophet of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud: but this lightning is called Übermensch.”

I’m warning you all right now that in my effort to achieve some sort of brevity explaining Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, I will almost certainly butcher Nietzsche’s philosophy.

 

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PHILOSOPHICAL MISINTERPRETATION AHEAD

 

According to Nietzsche, modernity corrupts society. The old values that were the foundation of society pre-modernity (namely Christian values), no longer provide a meaning to life. The old values are no longer life affirming. The old, life denying values die. Without life affirming values, society needs a great man to emerge.

You know, to create a new morality and stuff.

Eventually, Nietzsche says, the Ubermensch arises. The Ubermensch is independent in his mind and spirit. He (it’s always a HE) overcomes the old values and creates new, life affirming values instead of following the old meaningless values.

Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan totally believe that this is them.

At this point I might add that the inclusion of the homosexual subtext of the film would have come in handy. Not only would including the homosexual subtext help to explain the murderers’ motivations, but, as Arthur Laurents states, the original stage play suggests that the two killers are romantically involved, and that at least one of the pair had a sexual relationship with the former headmaster.

Now you see why James Stewart was miscast.

 

Namely, as the Ubermensch, Brandon and Phillip believe they alone, like Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, decide morality. They alone decide who lives and who dies. In Brandon’s assessment, superior people like Brandon and Phillip possess the right to kill.
And because they are beyond the conventional rules of society, the pair decide to exercise their ubermenchness by killing their former classmate, David Kentley.

 

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EVEN WITHOUT “IT” BEING OBVIOUS, IT’S OBVIOUS

 

They murder Kentley because they are superior to him.David Kentley, and others like him, in the words of Brandon Shaw, are “inferior beings whose lives are unimportant anyway”.

Brandon says of David Kentley:

“The good Americans usually die on young on the battlefield, don’t they? Well, the Davids of this world merely occupy space, which is why he was the perfect victim for the perfect murder. Of course, he, uh, was a Harvard undergraduate. That might make it justifiable homicide.”

During a conversation at a dinner party, ostensibly thrown to celebrate a piano recital to be performed by Phillip (but also as a sick joke to gloat over getting away with committing the perfect murder), Brandon explains, or rather, justifies, his philosophical superiority and why he possesses the right to murder. Brandon says,

“Good and evil, right and wrong were invented for the ordinary average man, the inferior man, because he needs them”

Mind you, Brandon is explaining his ethic to the father of David Kentley, who is unaware, not only that his son was murdered by Brandon and Phillip, but also unaware of the fact that his son’s killers have hidden the body in a trunk upon which the dinner party, including David Kentley’s father and aunt, is served.

 

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YOU SEE THAT THING RIGHT THERE IN FRONT? THE THING WITH THE CANDLES AND THE FOOD ON IT? THERE’S A DEAD MAN IN THERE.

 

There’s a problem with all this, tho.

And not just because murder, no matter how superior you think you are, is illegal.

The problem is that Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan aren’t Ubermensch material.

 

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THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO PROVE YOUR SUPERIORITY…YOU’LL RUIN A PERFECTLY USEFUL CASSONE

 

In the film, Brandon notes that the best kind of men die on the battlefield, something that neither he nor Phillip has done.

They are not strong men.

Not just not strong physically, but they lack strength emotionally.

Phillip is a weak follower. He follows Brandon’s lead because, by his own admission, Phillip fears Brandon.

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Nietzsche says that the Ubermensch is not driven by resentment of the success of others.

Quite frankly, the Ubermensch doesn’t care.

Brandon and Phillip are resentful of their former classmate. David is attractive and well-liked. He is intelligent, has good parents, and a beautiful fiancé.

A fiancé that Brandon once dated.

 

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BLAME JANET. IT’S NOT REALLY HER FAULT, BUT BLAME HER ANYWAY

 

The murder was driven more by their jealousy of David Kentley and their need for the approval of their former schoolmaster than it represented the Ubermensch assuming his rightful place in society.

The Ubermensch don’t need approval from nobody.

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What Brandon and Phillip fail to realize is that the Will to Power doesn’t mean to force one’s will on others.

When the former headmaster discovers what Brandon and Phillip have done, instead of being pleased by such a magnificent example of the Ubermensch in action, the former schoolmaster tells the pair that they are not superior beings or the masters of life and death; they had no right to murder David Kentley.

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The former schoolmaster is horrified to discover that his former students have used his lessons to justify murder.

The schoolmaster sees firsthand what happens when Nietzsche happens to the wrong people.

He is appalled at what he sees.

…and so would Nietzsche.

 

 

 

 

**If you’ve never heard of the Motion Picture Production Code, the code, also known as the Hays Code, named after stick in the mud and notorious fuddy duddy Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America president, Will H. Hays, was the set of dos and don’ts imposed on motion picture studio productions (for the purposes of preserving morals) released in the United States between the years 1930 to 1968, when the code was replaced by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) ratings system.

 

 

SOURCES:

https://philosophynow.org/issues/93/Nietzsches_Ubermensch_A_Hero_of_Our_Time

Rope. 1948. Screenplay by Arthur Laurents. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Rope Unleashed. 2006. Universal Home Video.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism

 

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The Problem With the Trolley Problem

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. Ding, ding, ding went the bell.
“The Trolley Song”, from Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

 

THE PHILOSOPHER Albert Camus famously said there is one philosophical question.

According to Camus, the one philosophical question is whether one should commit suicide.
I don’t know what Camus did to occupy his spare time, but I doubt that many philosophers think of things so drastically.

 

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Certainly, there has to be one question that isn’t… that question.

For most philosophers, philosophical questions are mostly hypothetical.
So you’d only hypothetically be committing suicide.

Wait – was Camus speaking hypothetically?

Philosophers call their hypothetical questions thought experiments.
However, unlike real professions, philosophers don’t “experiment” in laboratories in white coats with test tubes and Bunsen burners. Philosophers experiment in their minds.
Philosophical thought experiments don’t require any specialized training or talent, other than the capacity to make up stuff.

"I'm not either goofing off! - I'm doing a thought experiment!"
So, what is a thought experiment?

“Thought experiments are devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things. They are used for diverse reasons in a variety of areas, including economics, history, mathematics, philosophy, and the sciences, especially physics (SEP)

In Camus’ world, the ultimate philosophical question may be whether to commit suicide, but in the realm of thought experiments, there is only one philosophical problem: the trolley problem.

Credited to the British philosopher, Philippa Foot (1920 – 2010), the trolley problem is an ethical thought experiment.

 

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PHILIPPA FOOT, INENTOR OF THE TROLLEY PROBLEM.

 

Specifically, a utilitarian thought experiment.

The “experiment” goes as follows:

“The general aim is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: 1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. 2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person

Which one is the ethical choice?

At least this is the experiment according to Wikipedia.

The intention of the experiment is to test how and why we make ethical choices and how our method of choice can present us with additional moral dilemmas.

Although I suspect that a Randian ethical egoist would never consider the trolley problem moral dilemma inducing.

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Unless you’ve been living under the only rock on the internet, even if you don’t know diddly poop about philosophy, you’ve undoubtedly seen the trolley problem.

It’s quite popular.
There are entire websites, Facebook pages, and memes devoted to the trolley problem.

Devoted.

 

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THIS IS A REAL BOOK, BY A REAL PHILOSOPHER, ABOUT THE TROLLEY PROBLEM.

 

Now, if you do live under a rock and you don’t do memes and you’re still convinced that you’ve never seen the trolley problem before, I’ll inform you that trolley problems are everywhere. You may have talked about or mulled over a trolley problem-like scenario without knowing it.

The list of trolley problem-like scenarios includes (but is certainly not limited to):

The Lifeboat
The Drowning Man (for some inexplicable reason, the drowning man is almost always Hitler)
The Fat Man
The Organ Transplant/Donor

…and the trolley problem’s considerably less attractive cousin, the “Sophie’s Choice”.

 

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I CAN’T RECOMMEND WATCHING “SOPHIE’S CHOICE” ENOUGH, BUT WATCH THE MOVIE ONLY IF YOU HAVE SOMEONE AROUND TO CHEER YOU UP AFTERWARD.

 

If you’re a Star Trek fan you’ve undoubtedly seen shades of the trolley problem in Starfleet’s Kobayashi Maru test.
One famous variation of the classic trolley problem presents us with the choice sending the trolley down one track, where (at least) five people, presumably strangers, will be killed by the train or to divert the oncoming trolley down another track, where our own child has chosen (God knows why) to hang out.

Waiting for trolleys, I guess.

 

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SERIOUSLY, WHY IS THAT KID EVEN ON THE TRACKS?????

 
The situation forces us to make the choice between quantity (saving five people) and quality (valuing the life of our child over the lives of others). Is our child worth more than five lives?

Yes, you say?

What if our child is Hitler?

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No matter the situational variation, there is one question at the heart of the trolley problem’s moral dilemma: given two shitty choices, which one would you choose?

The trolley problem requires us to decide who lives and who dies (that’s the ethics part).

AAANNNDD since the trolley problem is a test of utilitarian ethics, our decision to pull the lever (or to not pull the lever) usually has something to do with the principle of utility – that is to say, who is the most valuable?

Or rather, who is the most expendable?

Wait – do I gotta write something about utility, now?

The principle of Utility is…well, the “founder” of utilitarianism (technically hedonism), the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832), says:

“By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves if every action whatsoever according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of a party whose interest is in question…”

In short, according to the Principle of Utility, an action is right if the action produces happiness (for the greatest number of people) and an action is wrong if it causes people pain or unhappiness.

 

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I WONDER IF BENTHAM WOULD SAY IF THE CONSEQUENCE OF HAVING HIS CORPSE ON DISPLAY BRINGS  HAPPINESS… OR UNHAPPINES?

 

Ok… so you might be saying at this point that the trolley problem seems a little bit boring and dumb. How could this “problem” be THE philosophical problem. How is it that philosophers have devote so much time (decades, man. DECADES) to coming up with variations on such an uninteresting and easily answerable supposed moral dilemma.
And honestly, if you said that you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

But there’s a reason why the trolley problem is so popular. There’s a reason, even if you’ve never set foot in a philosophy class, why the trolley problem has invaded internet memes and our favorite TV shows.

It’s because the trolley problem, at its heart, is pretty f’ed up.
Contemplating the various scenarios, deciding who and how many people we place on the tracks, drowning in the lake, or in the lifeboat, allows even the meekest moral philosopher to go full-on Jigsaw, placing (hypothetical) people in increasingly elaborate and horrific ethical games where most of them will end up dead.

 

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OBVIOUSLY A UTILITARIAN

 

The trolley problem allows us to evaluate the way we make decisions that will affect other people. By deciding who lives and who dies in a thought experiment, we can speculate on the long-range consequences of our actions. We must weigh the consequences of ho we choose to save very carefully. Making the same choice of who to save under different circumstances may yield different consequences. Choosing to save the child might save the child who eventually grows up to cure cancer.

…or we might have saved the child who invented World War II.

In the real world, our choices may not be so extreme, but we do make choices that may bring happiness to many and unhappiness to one, or may save one at the expense of many others.
Whether it’s Congress deciding which social program to fund or Shane deciding to shoot Otis in the knee to save Carl

You didn’t think I wouldn’t sneak a The Walking Dead reference in here, did you?

 

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SERIOUSLY, DID OTIS THINK IT WASN’T GOING TO END UP LIKE THIS?

 

 

 

We all, in some way, at some time, decide to pull the lever.

Or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/thought-experiment
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

 

You Picked A Fine Time to Hit Me, Lucille

THE LATE GEORGE A. ROMERO, father of the modern movie zombie, crushed the souls of The Walking Dead fans when he declared his not-fondness for the show, stating that The Walking Dead was nothing more than a soap opera with an occasional zombie in it. The problem with The Walking Dead, according to Romero, is that the show lacks the deeper meaning found in his zombie films.

Although The Walking Dead has certainly met the blood and guts standard, the show is short of substance. At least according to George A. Romero.

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LEGIT ZOMBIES CAN BE DESCRIBED IN METAPHOR. IN THIS CASE (1978’s ‘DAWN OF THE DEAD”) THE METAPHOR IS MINDLESS CONSUMERISM

As much as I love Romero’s films, I disagree with his assessment of The Walking Dead.

Not the soap opera part. The Walking Dead is a soap opera. And that occasional zombie was a season two thing. You know, because AMC canned Frank Darrabont… and the budget got slashed, so they didn’t have as many zombies… and all this stuff…

Oh, wait. Where was I?

was I anywhere?

Anyway, I think that there’s plenty of substance going on in The Walking Dead.

Some of it is kinda obvious.

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THIS KIND OF OBVIOUS

I’ve been writing about philosophy in The Walking Dead for awhile, now. In fact, I think I’ve written about The Walking Dead more than any other thing I’ve decided to analyze from a philosophical point of view. Most of my TWD posts are about how this or that character does this or that that is or isn’t the morally correct thing to do.

Writing about ethics keeps my posts pretty much on the side of Western philosophy.

I’m pretty sure that there’s a lot to write about The Walking Dead from an Eastern philosophical point of view as well.

The series dipped into Eastern philosophy in the season six episode “Here’s Not Here”, and the character Morgan Jones’ morality is grounded in an Eastern point of view.

Honestly, I don’t write about Eastern philosophy because its not my forte.

That’s not gonna stop me from doing it, tho.

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Because I’m a philosopher. And philosophers are qualified to write about everything.

There are many well-known Eastern philosophical texts: the Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Analects, Upanishads, and The Art of War.

Not the Wesley Snipes movie, the book.

This book.

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And never to be confused with The Art of the Deal, written by the current U.S. president, Donald J. Trump.

More specifically, I’m referring to the 5th century text on military strategy and tactics written by the philosopher-general Sun Tzu. The Art of War is considered to be the definitive work on strategy and tactics and although The Art of War was not intended to be general audiences (like Hegel), Sun Tzu’s treatise is read by such diverse readers as U.S. military intelligence, sports coaches, and business leaders.

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THIS GUY PROBABLY THUMBED THROUGH “THE ART OF WAR”

Although The Art of War is requited reading for those who want to conquer the enemy from generals to CEOs to kindergarten teachers with the soul of a Mongol conqueror, it’s obvious that this book does not exist in the fictional world of The Walking Dead.

When it comes to strategy and tactics, the characters in The Walking Dead do too much dumb.

A particular master at the dumb is the current charming and way-too-attractive-to-be-a-real-bad-guy-in-the-real-world, the villain without a full name, Negan, played by Jeffery Dean Morgan.

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NEGAN

Negan may seem like a badass to most but to some he is a mess of a shitstorm level, already-doomed-to-fail, bad decision making.

This would not be the case if Negan had read The Art of War.

You see, in The Art of War Sun Tzu lays out the perfect plan for defeating one’s enemies.

Negan does none of that plan.

Sun Tzu writes that war should not entered into casually. A leader should ask if war is even necessary? Moral aptitude and decisiveness are required (in leadership) for a quick victory.

The aim is victory without war. According to Sun Tzu,

“Weapons are ominous tools to be used only when there is no alternative.”

Skillful generals win by taking advantage of enemies weaknesses, annexing territory and supplies, and disrupting the relationship between a general and his army.

Sun Tzu also writes that wars are to be short with the least amount of loss possible.

Seems like a pretty easy to-do list, right?

Not for Negan.

Negan starts off with violence.

Violence courtesy of Negan’s barbed wire wrapped Louisville Slugger named Lucille.

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Now, Sun Tzu says the goal is to break resistance without fighting. But when your first contact is smashing someone’s head in with a baseball bat and taking their stuff, you’ve thrown out the possibility of avoiding fighting.

In fact, all you’ve done is sown the seeds of anger, resentment, and a festering want for revenge.

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NO MAN BLOWS A SNOT BUBBLE LIKE THAT AND DOESN’T WANT REVENGE ON THE MAN WHO MADE HIM DO IT

It’s clear that Negan is practicing a kind of Roman scorched earth policy; intimidation by overwhelming strength. But it’s obviously not a good tactic. At least it’s a tactic that isn’t guaranteed to always succeed. Negan is not just facing war with Rick’s group at Alexandria, but with two additional settlements, The Kingdom and Hilltop, as well.

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HILLTOP IS LEAD BY A MAN WITH A PET TIGER. A. TIGER. 

Not to mention there’s growing dissension within Negan’s own ranks.

Dissention within Negan’s “army” is attributable to Negan’s leadership style.

Sun Tzu writes,

“A leader leads by example, not by force”

Negan’s compound, The Sanctuary, is ruled by force. Negan is sole dictator, with a cadre of men (or Saviors) who enforce Negan’s absolute rule.

Negan takes the wives of The Sanctuary’s men and persuades/coerces the women to be his “wives”. The men are no longer granted access to their former wives or else face the consequences.

Like a hot iron to the face.

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DWIGHT CAN TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THAT HOT IRON TO THE FACE THING

People in The Sanctuary are not permitted to leave.

Everyone and everything “belongs” to Negan. When asked the question “who are you?”, personal identities are thrown aside, as the proper answer to the question is “I am Negan”.

Failure to answer the question correctly earns you a beat down.

Because Negan leads by force.

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In The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes,

“Treat captives well, and take care of them”

Sun Tzu says when one takes care of the captured enemy, one is “using the conquered foe to augment one’s strength.”

Naturally, Negan screws the pooch on this one when he captures Rick’s greatest warrior, Daryl Dixon.

Daryl is imprisoned, psychologically tortured, mistreated, and malnourished – nothing that would sway his loyalty from Rick and his fellow Alexandrians. Negan wants to “break” Daryl, but had he read Sun Tzu, he might have realized that a better tactic might have been to use honey with Daryl Dixon instead of vinegar.

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I HAVEN’T PLAYED ONE NOTE, BUT YOU’RE ALREADY HEARING “EASY STREET” IN YOUR HEAD. ADMIT IT. YOU ARE, AREN’T YOU?

It’s clear that Negan knew that a little bit of care works, as playing the gracious host is how he wins over captive Alexandrian, Eugene.

Negan also uses the charm offensive in an attempt to win over another captive from Rick’s group, Sasha.

But Sasha swallows poison and kills herself rather than join Negan’s Saviors.

Can’t win ‘em all, eh?

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YOU HAVE REACHED A WHOLE NEW LEVEL OF SUCK-ASS WHEN A WOMAN WOULD RATHER KILL HERSELF AND REANIMATE AS A ZOMBIE THAN TO SPEND ANY TIME WITH YOU

While demonstrating to the King of Wu that his concubines could be trained like the King’s best soldiers, Sun Tzu placed two of the King’s favorite concubines to serve as generals to the others. After giving the women orders, the groups of concubines were commanded to carry out the orders as instructed. The women did not comply.

They giggled.

Sun Tzu informed the King that failure to comply is the commander’s fault. Sun Tzu told the King,

“But when they [orders] have been made clear, and are not carried out in accordance with military law, it is a crime on the part of the officers.”

Sun Tzu then ordered that the King’s favorite concubines be beheaded.

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SUN TZU TRAINING THE CONCUBINE ARMY

This story is apocryphal, but still applies.

If Negan claims that everything as his, including people, then Rick’s group (Rick’s “army”, if you will) also belongs to Negan. Negan’s new acquisitions fail to comply with his orders because their leadership prevents them from doing so – that is, the Alexandrians’ loyalty to Rick is interfering with their obedience to Negan.

Negan allows Rick to remain leader of the Alexandrians, and as a consequence orders are not carried out in accordance with Negan’s law.

Rick Grimes is a bad general.

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THIS IS THE REASON WHY RICK’S GROUP WILL NEVER CARRY OUT NEGAN’S ORDERS. THIS. 

Negan keeps Rick around even though it’s clear that he should have bumped Rick off from the get-go. Unfortunately, Negan is a rabid weasels bag full of TV tropes (including, but not limited to “evil gloating”, or as coined by Roger Ebert, “The talking killer”). Instead of doing what would assure The Savior’s victory, like, I don’t know, killing the leader of a rival group – Negan insists on giving Rick Grimes and the Alexandrians even more reason to seek revenge against The Saviors.

That means that both groups are headed towards “all out war” – something that won’t be resolved quickly.

Exactly what Sun Tzu says shouldn’t happen. Sun Tzu writes,

“What is essential in war is victory, no prolonged operations”

In all fairness, there is one thing that Negan gets right.

Sun Tzu writes,

“Hence the wise general sees to it that his troops feed on the enemy…

Negan’s system of tribute, forcing other settlements to provide food, weapons, and supplies to the Sanctuary, keeps The Saviors well fed and supplied.

So I guess even by Sun Tzu’s standards, Negan is a completely awful leader.

You can’t be an awful leader when you wear a snazzy leather jacket.

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COME ON, YOU GOTTA ADMIT IT. EVEN IF YOU HATE NEGAN THAT JACKET IS FREAKING SWEET

In the end, I can’t be sure if nobody read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in The Walking Dead universe. Before the undead conquered the earth, Negan was a PE coach and probably had plenty of spare time between coaching vigorous ping pong games to read Sun Tzu’s work and fantasize of being the leader of the second most badass group to populate a Washington DC-adjacent post-apocalypse.

Seriously, Negan was a ping pong coach.**

Although I generally consider myself the last person to argue with the inventor of the flesh eating ghoul as a viable movie subgenre, but, despite appearances, you can squeeze a whole hell of a lot of deep stuff out of The Walking Dead.

…even a 5th century Chinese manual of military strategy and tactics.

George Romero might not have realized it, but it’s actually quite easy to take a handful of out of context Sun Tzu quotes and apply it to a basic cable soap opera with an occasional zombie in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** For more on Negan’s adventures as a ping pong coach, check out The Walking Dead multi-part prequel comic Here’s Negan.

SOURCES:
Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Trans. by Samuel B. Griffith. 1963. London: Oxford University Press.

Curious about “the talking killer” trope? Check out: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EvilGloating

My Favorite Philosopher Is… Problematic

THERE ARE A FEW things these days that truly worry me: Crepey skin… Opioid-induced constipation…

Am I entitled to financial compensation if my loved one was exposed to mesothelioma-causing asbestos?

There is one thing I thought I never had to worry about: philosophers.

I was wrong.

Recent sex scandals involving the (formerly) respected philosophers Colin McGinn and John Searle, and the trial of Rutger’s University philosophy professor, Anna Stubblefield, who was convicted of the sexual assault of a 29 year old man with severe cerebral palsy, have made me think twice about the profession I’d once thought as scandal free.

Stubblefield’s conviction was overturned, by the way.

Nonetheless, it’s all kind of a black eye to the profession.

You see, pretty much nobody likes philosophers.

Sure, our moms and pops love us plenty, but when it comes to what society thinks of lovers of wisdom, the love is much to be desired.

“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is far superior”
– Hippolyte Taine (1828 – 1893)

Philosophers got a shout out during the Republican Presidential Debates last year, but not for the reason that anyone would want to brag about.

Former Republican presidential candidate, Florida Representative Marco Rubio, declared that we need more welders and less philosophers.

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WHO’S TO SAY THIS GUYS DOESN’T READ SCHOPENHAUER IN HIS SPARE TIME/

Rubio’s fellow Republican candidate, Ted Cruz, declared that the Federal Reserve was being run by philosopher-kings.
That kinda sounds like a good thing, but Cruz didn’t mean it that way.

“There is, however, nothing wanting to the idleness of a philosopher but a better name, and that meditation, conversation, and reading should be called “work”.
– Jean de La Bruyere (1645 – 1696)

I’m not saying that welders aren’t a necessity. Lord knows that when I think about the folks who built my apartment, I’m glad that some of them picked up welding instead of Socrates.

But I’m also saying that philosophers can be useful, too.

Speaking of useful…

I thought if I went back to read the old philosophers, I’d find guys (and a few gals) who are not only brilliant, but also free of defect.

Uh…

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Sure, there’s some great classic philosophy, but going back to read the old philosophers just proves that those old white guys really were a bunch of old. white. guys.

They call it the Enlightenment but really, some of them folks weren’t very enlightened.

All Most Some of history’s greatest philosophers are sexist (dare we say even hovering near misogyny) and slightly more than casually racist.

Rousseau abandoned his kids.

Hegel fathered an illegitimate son with his landlord and was kind of a dick to the kid.

Descartes tortured animals.

Heidegger was a Nazi.

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NOT TALKING ABOUT METAPHORICAL NAZI, LIKE HEIDEGGER WAS GRAMMAR NAZI, BUT FULL-ON, HITLER SALUTING NAZI

Even my favorite philosopher, the 18th century Scottish philosopher, David Hume, wrote things that could only be described these days as… problematic.

In 1742, Hume wrote:

“I am apt to suspect that the Negroes, and in general all other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complection than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation.”

Hume also said that the Jews of Europe were “noted for fraud”.

But hey, at least Hume was against slavery!

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WHO KNEW HUME AND HEIDEGGER WOULD HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON?

Ok, we can say that we shouldn’t judge others by our modern standards. And sometimes we shouldn’t. But here’s the thing: we can judge. We should judge.

You know, something about moral relativism.

Actually, there were plenty of people who objected to racism and sexism even back then.

I got so bummed out about philosophers that like a damned idiot I thought that turning to fictional philosophers would help.

Nope.

First off, there’s a real lack of philosophers in movies.

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LOOKING FOR A SOMEWHAT-DECENT PORTRAYAL OF A PHILOSOPHER IN A MOVIE OF A TV SHOW

As opposed to philosophy or movies that are philosophical – there’s plenty of that.

A lot of it bad.

…Although Richard Linklater’s Waking Life is a pretty good philosophical movie.

In the real world, we have highly entertaining philosophers like Slavoj Zizek, but in film (in movies that aren’t strictly biographical – there’s been movies about Socrates, Hypatia of Alexandria, Confucius, Descartes, Wittgenstein, and Hannah Arendt, among others or adapted from philosophical works, like Ayn Rand’s 1949 film adaptation of her novel, The Fountainhead), philosophers are depicted as dull, ineffectual, arrogant, and morally bankrupt.

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AYN RAND DIDN’T INVENT PHILOSOPHICAL MORAL BANKRUPTCY. SHE JUST GOT THE MOST POPULAR AT IT

Granted, movie philosophers are smart guys (and it is almost always a guy) but personally, especially morally, the movie philosopher is always royally screwed up.

Wait a minute. That describes a few real philosophers.

Movie philosophers are all thought and no action. All preparation and no H. They’re excellent at navel gazing and pontificating; high on the stink of their capacity for rational thought.

Popular depictions of philosophers (in film) tend to reflect the idea that intellectuals are not to be trusted.

Or at the very least they’re not to be taken seriously.

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Cinematic philosophers add nothing of value to society other than to increase the amount of bullshit and useless opinions.

You’re nodding your head, aren’t you?

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In movies, the goal always is to prove how stupid and wrong philosophy and philosophers are.

And philosophers don’t believe in GOD.

Movie philosophers are often philosophical but not philosophers. Like Yoda.

Yoda is a badass because he’s not a philosopher.

I decided to watch a few movies with philosophers in them to get a look-see at philosophers in film.

… and to affirm my confirmation bias.

“Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always so far as one can see, rather naïve, and probably wrong.
– Richard Feynman (1918 -1988)

In Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part 1, when a “stand-up philosopher” (played by Brooks) gives his occupation, his occupation is corrected to “bullshit artist”.

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In The Life of David Gale, Kevin Spacey plays a philosophy professor put to death for murder.

By the way, he’s not guilty of the crime for which he is executed, mind you. He set himself up to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit to prove that the death penalty is wrong.

That’s a pretty underhanded thing to do.

Because movie philosophers do underhanded things.

Oops. Should I have said SPOILER ALERT?

In Woody Allen’s Irrational Man Joaquin Phoenix plays a philosophy professor (long story short) who attempts to murder a student he was flirted with.

Woody Allen is the king of movies with philosophical themes.

He’s also the king of movies about older men having semi-inappropriate relationships with disturbingly much younger women.

Because philosophers have inappropriate relationships with much younger women, especially if they’re students.

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PHILOSOPHY PROFESSORS AND STING. NOT GONNA EXPLAIN THE REFERENCE

Somehow its always the philosopher who wants to ball his students…

Speaking of balling students…

In the film Leaves of Grass written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, Edward Norton stars as a Brown University philosophy professor, Bill Kincaid. Kincaid goes back to his hometown in Oklahoma to trade places with his hillbilly marijuana-dealing identical twin brother, Brady (also played by Edward Norton), who is mixed up with the local drug kingpin. In no surprise to the audience, Brady is the smarter twin and is also philosophical – but not like an overeducated intellectual Ivy League college philosophy professor kind of way.

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COME ON, WOULD YOU IF EDWARD NORTON WAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR?

The Alfred Hitchcock film Rope (1948) is about a pair Nietzsche fans that demonstrate what happens when you get Nietzsche all wrong and that nihilism isn’t for everybody… or anybody.

…and then there’s my favorite, God’s Not Dead, the Christian cinema classic from 2014 starring Kevin Sorbo as an atheist philosophy professor. Yes, THAT atheist philosophy professor – the one, who, on the first day of class, challenges students to prove that God exists.

Or rather, confirm that God doesn’t exist.

Philosophy professors, like Sorbo’s Professor Jeffery Radisson, delight in breaking the faith of his Christian students.

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IT’S AN ESTABLISHED FACT IN PHILOSOPHY CIRCLES THAT SCREAMING ATHEISM IN A STUDENT’S FACE WILL SCREAM THE GOD RIGHT OUT OT THEM

Because he believes that philosophers know everything.

So far as I know, only Hegel thought that. About himself.

God’s Not Dead relies heavily on the popular (mis)conception that all philosophers are godless, God-hating atheists. Sorbo’s philosophy professor is high on his intellectualism. Proving God does not exist is an exercise in confirming his intellectual arrogance.

Obviously the folks who made God’s Not Dead have never heard of Alvin Plantinga.

Or Richard Swinburne.

Or Peter van Inwagen.

Of course the atheist philosophy professor dies in the end.

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RADISSON IS AFRAID TO DIE BECAUSE HE KNOWS ALL PHILOSOPHERS GO TO HELL

By the way, in my experience, never once in a philosophy class that wasn’t specifically a philosophy of religion class did any professor even mention arguments for or against the existence of God.

All of these depictions of philosophers are around because we think philosophers, not just the old white sexists and racists of the past, and not just the present-day philosophers accused of sexual impropriety, are problematic.

Philosophy is problematic.

That is something worth worrying about.

Not crepey skin-level worry, but worrying nonetheless.

 

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SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN YOU LOOK AT THIS AND NOT BE WORRIED?

 

 

** I’d like to add here that there is at least one awesomely excellent portrayal of a philosopher in popular culture, NYU philosophy degree-havin’, tai chi mastering, rip a man’s throat out with his bare hands-doin’ , bouncer (whoops) cooler, James Dalton, portrayed by the late (always great) Patrick Swayze in Road House.
Road House is a supremely bad movie, but in its awfulness is cinematic gold.
And Dalton’s great piece of philosophical mantra, “Be Nice, Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”.

** I encourage anyone to watch all the films mentioned in this post. If not to see how philosophers are depicted in cinema, some of the movies actually are entertaining to watch.

 

 

For details on the Anna Stubblefield case: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/opinion/who-is-the-victim-in-the-anna-stubblefield-case.html

 

How To Destroy Hegel

IF YOU ASK ANY random group of philosophy fans who their least favorite philosopher is, you won’t have to survey more than two philosophiles before you hear the name of the 19th century German Idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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THIS IS GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL (1770-1831), PERHAPS THE MOST HATED MAN IN PHILOSOPHY

Hegel (if you’ve bothered to read his work at all ‘cause these days a lot of people don‘t) is most famously associated (although some say mistakenly) with the concept of the dialectic. The dialectic goes as follows: one starts with an idea, the thesis, “against which is opposed by” a conflict (the antithesis). The result of the confrontation is called synthesis, which is meant to resolve the conflict.

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DID YOU KNOW THAT THE  DIALECTIC, DESCRIBED AS THESIS/ANTITHESIS/SYNTHESIS NEVER ACTUALLY APPEARS (AS SUCH) IN HEGEL’S WRITINGS? DO YOU CARE?

As one of philosophy’s notoriously (mostly German) incomprehensible philosophers,a list that also includes Nietzsche, Kant, Lacan, and Husserl, Hegel’s philosophy was popular in the late 19th century. During that time, the majority academic philosophers in Great Britain and in the U.S. were Hegelians. Hegel’s writings on modernity, politics, and civil society not only influenced the German Idealists, but also Protestant theologians who attempted to reconcile philosophy and Christianity.

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Hegel’s philosophical masterpiece Phenomenology of the Spirit, written in 1807, was intended to get us to absolute knowledge. Hegel believed that his philosophy was the culmination of previous philosophical thought and attempted to solve all the problems of philosophy through a focus on logic and history.

Hegel says

What I have set out to do is to help bring philosophy closer to the form of science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowing

Now, there are people who like philosophy.

Most people who like philosophy have a favorite philosopher.

Hegel is no one’s favorite philosopher.

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SAID NO ONE, EVER

Personally, Hegel is not one of my favorites.

No German philosopher is.

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Listen: It’s no secret that there’s a lot of Hegel hate out there. Not that it’s completely undeserved.

Someone of it, I think, has to do with the way he looks.

I mean, look at the guy

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THIS IS THE KIND OF FACE YOU CAN GROW TO HATE BY JUST LOOKING AT IT

Ok, that’s kind of ad hominemy. We shouldn’t dislike a philosopher solely based on their looks.

If we did absolutely no one would read Leibniz. Or Heidegger.

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OH, THANK GOD

If you think about it, it’s kind of an accomplishment to be so despised by so many people.

Ayn Rand called Hegel’s philosophy “witchdoctory”.

This is a critique of Hegel coming from a woman about whom Dorothy Parker once said of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

It is not a novel that should be thrown aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Even Schopenhauer called Hegel’s work “stupid and inept”.

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SURE YOU DO, OSCAR WILDE. SURE YOU DO.

Lots of philosophers dislike Hegel, but why do so many other people hate Hegel so much?

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What did Hegel do that was so philosophically horrible?
Maybe people hate Hegel because, as some claim, Hegel the man is as boring as his philosophy.

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Maybe our collective hatred of Hegel has something to do with the fact that Hegel treated his landlady like crap. Or maybe because Hegel fathered an illegitimate son (Ludwig) with his landlady, and that Ludwig not only spent his first ten years in an orphanage, but that Hegel also refused to pay for the boy’s education.

Yeah, Hegel was a shitty person but that’s probably not the reason why people hate him so much.
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Maybe it’s because Hegel dared to argue that Kant’s notion of ding an sich, is contradictory and inconsistent.

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It’s generally held that it is not wise to knock Immanuel Kant, but it’s a good guess that the reason why no one likes Hegel has everything to do with his philosophy. Second to fellow German philosopher Martin Heidegger, Hegel rates high on the “Huh???” chart.

Hegel is notoriously difficult to understand.

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Thus maintaining the German tradition of convoluted writing.
Simply put: the reason why so many people hate Hegel is because most people do not understand Hegel.

Even philosophers.

Hegel claimed on his death bed that only one man could understand him and that that man had misunderstood him.

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And those who do understand Hegel think his work is, well, stupid.

Especially philosophers.
I’m not going to even PRETEND to understand the first thing about anything Hegel wrote.

This fact, however, doesn’t necessarily prohibit us from hating him.

Especially if you’re a philosopher.

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Here’s a short list of what other philosophers say about Hegel:

Bertrand Russell on Hegel in Philosophy and Politics:

Hegel’s philosophy is so odd that one would not have expected him to be able to get some men to accept it, but he did. He set out with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound. It can quite easily be expounded lucidly in words of one syllable, but then its absurdity becomes obvious.

Russell says that Hegel is the most difficult to understand of the great philosophers because almost all of his doctrines are false.

Schopenhauer wrote on “the stupefying influence of Hegel’s sham wisdom” and suggested that no one under forty read Hegel. Schopenhauer not only suggested reading Hegel will ruin one’s brain, he also declared Hegel a pseudo-philosopher whose philosophy paralyzes all mental powers and stifles one’s ability to think.

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Philosopher Glenn Alexander Magee says:

Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom -he believes he has found it. […] By the end of Phenomenology [of Spirit], Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom. Hegel’s claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom.

Roger Scruton calls Hegel’s work

Like a beautiful oasis around a treacherous pool of nonsense, and nowhere beneath the foliage is the ground really firm.

Popper calls Hegel “meaningless verbiage”.

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You spend years trying to understand Hegel, but no one can agree on exactly what’s the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy.

Even Hegel himself proclaimed that no one ever understood him.

And if no one understands you, that means there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation.

This, as everyone knows, is a problem.

Some folks think that the problem with Hegel is that a lot of people misunderstand Hegel’s dialectic. And everyone not agreeing on the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy has resulted in a bunch of Hegel-influenced philosophical ideologies ranging from Continental philosophy to the philosophy of Karl Marx, and the rise of Nazism in Germany.

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YOU CAN BLAME ALL OF THIS ON HEGEL

The real problem with Hegel, according to a bunch of philosophers (and some other people), is that Hegel builds theories so great (great meaning big, not fantastic) that his philosophy collapses under its own weight. Hegel attempt to explain all reality – tries to solve all problems of philosophy – a task Hegel ultimately fails to accomplish. Hegel’s philosophy is so convoluted, complicated, and disconnected from reality, that it lacks any practical usefulness. Hegel is just so many words.

But in the end, he hasn’t really said a thing.

Ok, if no one likes Hegel or his philosophy – especially his philosophy, how is Hegel still so popular? Why or how does anyone still know who he is? Why are philosophy students still assigned Hegel’s work as a part of their required reading?
Seriously, why haven’t we decided to just stop reading Hegel?
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The real real problem with Hegel is that getting rid of the man and his philosophy isn’t as easy as declaring Hegel’s work meaningless verbiage and tossing it out to the rubbish bin of bad philosophical ideas. The reason why we can’t destroy Hegel is this: so much of our culture is Hegelian. Hegel’s philosophy, even though he’s possibly the most hated man in philosophy, is an inextricable part of our culture.

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Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and The Last Man, wrote of Hegel’s lasting influence on philosophy:

For better or worse, much of Hegel’s historicism has become part of our contemporary baggage. The notion that mankind has progresses through a series of primitive stages of consciousness on his path to the present, and that these stages correspond to concrete forms of social organization, such as tribal, slave owning, theocratic, and finally democratic egalitarian societies, has become inseparable form the modern understanding of man. Hegel was the first philosopher to speak the language of modern science, insofar as man for him was the product of his concrete historical and social environment and not, as earlier natural right theorists would have it, a collection of more or less fixed “natural” attributes. The mastery and transformation of man’s natural environment through the application of science and technology was originally not a Marxist concept, but a Hegelian one. Unlike later historicists whose historical relativism degenerated into relativism tout court, however, Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.

In the end, what are we to think about Hegel? I don’t know. Think whatever you want. Read, don’t read. I’m pretty sure there’s little chance that Hegel will take offense at what you think of him or his works.

Or what anyone thinks of what he wrote.

I’ll admit I haven’t met a book by Hegel that i finished, so really, am I in any position to say anything about the most Hated Man in Philosophy? Maybe. Is anybody?

"There you go Professor..."

 

 

Whatever we decide about Hegel, I’m sure that Schopenhauer is looking up at us and enjoying all of this… or not.

 

 

 

SOURCES:


http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/hegel-kimball-234

http://www.evphil.com/blog/hegel-poster-child-for-what-is-wrong-with-philosophy

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel#Quotes_about_Hegel

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/12/what-the-hell-hegel/

The world IS a treat… When you’re on Easy Street

SOMETIMES IT’S DIFFICULT to participate in a fandom.

Fandoms aren’t like normal people who merely watch a TV show.

…. Or read a book. Or go out and see a movie.

Unless the movie is Star Wars.

Star Wars people are NUTS.

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NOT EVERY POPULAR FRANCHISE CAN CLAIM TO HAVE FANS THIS DEDICATED

Normal people can watch an episode of their favorite series, turn off the TV and be done with it. There’s always something else to occupy their time.

Fandoms LIVE their favorite TV shows. Breathe them. They become their favorite TV shows.

The sign of a true fandom fanatic is all about the cosplay.

Cosplay:

“The practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime.

Cosplay.

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THE MOST AWESOME COSPLAY EVER

There are plenty of TV fandoms that inspire the fans to dress up as their favorite characters, but nothing quite captures the dedication to a single character than fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

In particular, fans of this character

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Daryl Dixon.

Now, I’ve written about The Walking Dead in (too many) other blog posts. Thinking about the show and writing about its characters has, for me, become a philosophical past time.

Or obsession…

I’ve written about former Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes and his lack of moral consistency. I’ve also compared the world of The Walking Dead to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. I’ve written a thing or two about utilitarian ethics in a world populated by the undead…

I’ve written more than a couple posts about Daryl Dixon.

Mostly about Daryl and his life’s purpose – meaning of life stuff.

I’ve even jotted off a post about The Walking Dead companion series, Fear the Walking Dead.

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STILL ASKING “WHY ISN’T NICK DEAD YET?”

On a TV show where it’s easy to be distracted by the hodge-podge of the ethics and questionable ethical decision making that is Rick Grimes, it’s easy to overlook other characters worthy of equal moral scrutiny.

I haven’t really focused on Daryl Dixon from a moral point of view.

At least I don’t remember if I have.

And unlike Rick Grimes, who is, I believe, a stellar example of moral inconsistency, Daryl Dixon may be the only morally consistent character on The Walking Dead.

Or should I say that Rick Grimes is morally fluid?

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But that’s another blog post for another day…

Daryl considers his fellow survivors family and does what he can, including risking his own life (he’s been shot, pieced through with an arrow, grazed by a bullet, imprisoned, abused, nearly devoured by zombies on several occasions, made to fight his own brother in a contest to the death, almost beaten to death, nearly cannibalized, robbed of his motorcycle) all in service to his group.

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GUNS DON’T WORK ON DARYL DIXON. HE’S GOT IMPENETRABLE PLOT ARMOR

Daryl Dixon’s principles are clear: hurt a member of his family, you deserve to be hurt in return. If someone injures or threatens members of Daryl’s group (the Governor, Negan, Officer Dawn Lerner, etc. ) look forward to a royal asskickin‘ courtesy of Mr. Dixon.

But what exactly are Daryl Dixon’s principles? Is Daryl Dixon’s morality an eye for an eye? Does Daryl act because its his duty to do so? Is it because it’s the right thing to do? Is it because he wants good outcomes? Does Daryl do what he does because he believes a divinely cosmic force demands that’s the way things have to be?

I actually don’t know.

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DARYL DIDN’T SEEM TOO ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE WHOLE JESUS THING

Namely, Daryl Dixon’s ethics are so difficult to pinpoint because Dixon’s ethics do not conform 100% to any deontological, utilitarian or divinely-inspired ideologies.

…but he is consistent.

Philosophers value consistency.

consistency

Perhaps it’s Daryl Dixon’s complete originality – that he isn’t tied to the source material – allows him (unlike the characters that originated in The Walking Dead graphic novel) to be morally consistent.

We can imagine that Daryl feels it is his moral obligation to defend his family.

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A moral obligation grounded on loyalty.

Daryl Dixon’s primary moral principle is loyalty.

Daryl Dixon loyal almost to a fault.

Daryl puts down Dale after Dale is attacked by a walker – because he is loyal to Dale.

Daryl’s last words to Dale: “Sorry, brother.”

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Daryl’s loyalty to his brother Merle leads him to leave Rick’s group.

Even though Merle Dixon is a short-fused racist who, as Merle later reveals, intended to rob his fellow survivors.

AND… Daryl’s loyalty to Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors leads him right back.

When Officer Dawn Lerner kills Beth Daryl does not hesitate to dish out some retributive justice – out of loyalty to Beth and her father, Hershel Greene.

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WHEN DARYL CRIES, WE CRY

When Claimer Joe threatens to kill Rick, Michonne and Carl, Daryl offers his life in their place.

Because he is loyal to Rick.

When bad guy Negan brutally murders Abraham, Daryl strikes out at Negan.

You get the idea…

Unfortunately, Daryl’s actions gets another member of Daryl’s group killed.

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TOTALLY YOUR FAULT, DARYL

That’s because Daryl’s loyalty as a groundwork of ethics didn’t calculate the possibility of another death.

Although Daryl’s retaliation on Negan demonstrates that Daryl is a so-so utilitarian, Daryl clearly demonstrates that his only moral principle is to protect the group – because he is loyal to them.

That keeps Daryl pretty consistent, morality-wise.

Which is more than I can say for this guy

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But wait, you say. There is no such thing as an ethics of loyalty!

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Loyalty as the basis of ethics is the ethical theory founded by American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916), who advocated the virtue of loyalty.

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Royce wrote that when a person joins a community committed to a shared cause, the cause develops moral significance. Royce calls the morally significant commitment “loyalty”. We can understand an individual’s morality by looking at the plurality of their loyalties.

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So, if we take a look at Daryl Dixon’s loyalties, we will see that his morals are based in his obligation to protect his group; his family. Daryl is committed, like the other members of his community, to the survival of the group – perhaps survival at all costs.

Of course, I have way oversimplified Royce’s theory.

In the end, when we look at the characters of The Walking Dead, it’s quite easy to find what’s morally wrong with the characters. They indeed are a mess of moral inconsistencies, ambiguities, contradictions, and cherry picking. Watching the show, it’s easy to throw up one’s hands and declare the characters all bad.

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Trust me, I’ve done that before.

We’re given former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes as the character who is morally most like us; he’s an ordinary guy thrust into an extraordinary situation; he strives to do good in a world where words like good and evil no longer apply.

It’s easy to dismiss Daryl Dixon as a character merely there for the fangirls and boys. Daryl is the not-at-all-realistic backwoods hillbilly who does nothing more for the show than to glare at people, shoot his crossbow, and leave the audience to ponder when is the last time he showered and what ungodly stank emanates from his nether region.

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I FIGURE THAT STENCH IS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SWASS, DEAD SKUNK…AND AXE BODY SPRAY

But if we’re thinking of the characters of The Walking Dead morally, stanky, backwater Daryl Dixon may be the most moral character on the show.

At least so far as moral consistency goes.

…or according to fangirls.

 

 

 

 

Sources:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/Royce/#Loy

A BRIEF ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF DETERMINISM ON THE WALKING DEAD

I’VE ALWAYS HAD an inkling that there was something odd about the way characters act on The Walking Dead. Sometimes a character’s actions defies common sense. Like something makes them act in a particular or peculiar way.

Those things are usually called writers.

But seriously, characters on The Walking Dead sometimes seem unable to do other than what they do, even if what they don’t do is the logical thing to do – almost as if an unseen force is compelling these characters to act in a specific way.

Characters on this show often have a bad case of the dumb.

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THE REAL TITLE OF THE SHOW

I used to think that the inexplicable choosing of bad choices was the product of bad writing.

I blamed bad writing until I saw The Walking Dead Season 7, episode 16, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

It was then that everything became more clear to me.

mind blown

Characters on The Walking Dead do dumb things because that’s what they’re determined to do.

In the universe of The Walking Dead there is no free will.

There is only determinism.

Determinism:
“Determinism is the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.

The reason why I think the lives of the characters on The Walking Dead are governed by determinism has a little something to do with a speech by Maggie Rhee.

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PICTURED: MAGGIE CONTEMPLATING HER ROLE AS POSSIBLE MORAL CENTER OF THE GROUP. SHE SHOULD WATCH OUT ABOUT THAT

In the aftermath of the brutal bludgeoning murders of Abraham Ford and Glenn Rhee (Maggie’s husband) by the leather jacketed, inexplicably leaning to the side, baseball bat-wielding Negan, Maggie delivers this speech:

The decision was made a long time ago. Before any of us knew each other. We were all strangers who would have passed each other on the street before the world ended. But now we mean everything to each other. Glenn didn’t know you but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you and that started it all. From Atlanta, to my daddy’s farm, to the prison, to here. To this moment now – not as strangers; as family – because Glenn chose to be there for you, that day a long time ago – that was the decision that changed everything. It started with both of you and it just grew, all of this: to sacrifice for each other, to suffer and stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live, to fight for each other. Glenn made that decision, Rick. I was just following his lead.

As poignant as Maggie’s voice-overed speech was, there was something that struck my mind about it, namely, the first line: The decision was made a long time ago.

Maggie’s speech suggests that everything that happened (presumably from the first episode on) was the inevitable outcome from one decision.

A decision that was made a long time ago.

A decision I call determinism.

The French-German philosopher (and hard determinist) Baron d’Holbach (1723-1789) writes of man’s actions:

Man’s life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth, without his ever being able to swerve from it, even for an instant. He is born without his own consent; his organization does in nowise depend upon himself; his ideas come to him involuntarily; his habits are in the power of those who cause him to contact them; he is unceasingly modified by causes, whether visible or concealed, over which he has no control, which necessarily regulate his mode of existence, give the hue to his way of thinking, and determine his manner of acting. He is good or bad, happy or miserable, wise or foolish, reasonable or irrational, without his will being any thing in these various states.

You will say that I feel free. This is an illusion.

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LOOKS EXACTLY THE WAY YOU’D IMAGINE THAT A GUY THAT SAYS YOU HAVE NO FREE WILL WOULD LOOK, DOESN’T HE?

 

The character’s lives are kind of like dominoes: You knock down the first domino, setting off a chain of events, causing each proceeding domino to fall.

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So…

IF Maggie and Baron d’Holbach are correct, Glenn’s actions, and the events in The Walking Dead are the inevitable consequence of a prior series of events.

Glenn had to save Rick.

Rick had to be reunited with his family.

Shane and Lori had to have an affair.

Rick had to kill Shane.

Lori had to die.

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THIS MAY BE THE ONLY GOOD THING ABOUT DETERMINISM

The group had to leave Georgia.

The group had to find Alexandria.

Maggie had to have complications with her pregnancy.

And this had to happen to Glenn.

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Now, Maggie says that Glenn made the choice, but it is plausible that something else made the decision.

That is, something made the choice for Glenn to make a choice.

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IF GLENN’S CHOICE IS NOT THE OUTCOME OF A CAUSAL CHAIN IN THE NATURAL WORLD, THEN…. 

You can call it fate that Glenn found Rick Grimes hiding in a zombie-surrounded tank in Atlanta. But Glenn had to be there just as Rick had to be there.

Because the decision was made a long time ago.

But who made the decision?

God, maybe?

Is it possible that a Divine power has determined the character’s fates?

The show seems to suggest that (the Christian) God exists, or at least the possibility that God exists.

Religious characters exist in The Walking Dead: Hershel Greene, Father Gabriel Stokes. Characters pray. Bible verses and references to Bible verses appear throughout the series. Events in the show have paralleled stories in the Bible (Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac/Rick’s sacrifice of his son’s arm).

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YOU MAY NOT HAVE REALIZED IT, BUT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE THINKING OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS DURING THIS SCENE

 

And a few characters have religious names.

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THERE’S A CHARACTER NAMED JESUS FOR PETE’S SAKE!!!

When Rick’s group encounters a lone doctor, Edwin Jenner, at the CDC, Jenner does not exclude the possibility that the zombie apocalypse may be due to an “act of God”.

If God exists and everything that happens in The Walking Dead is the result of a choice made a long time ago, Maggie Rhee’s view of the world may be fatalistic, events are fated to happen.

There’s a religious doctrine that teaches (us that) all human action is determined: Theological determinism.

Or fatalism, if you prefer.

'Well, You've sent them floods, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, plagues, wars, and hurricanes -- of course they're fatalistic!'

Predestination if you’re a Calvinist.

Theological determinism is a belief professed by St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and the American philosopher, Jonathan Edwards.

Strong theological determinism is the belief that

“everything that happens has been predestined to happen by an omniscient divinity.”

Some believe that the Bible makes the case for theological determinism. Ephesians 1:11 states

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

According to theological determinism, God does not need to follow (natural) causal rules of d’Holbach’s philosophical determinism. Human actions and events are not the necessary result of a series of prior events, but occur according to the totally inescapable capricious will of an omniscient, all-powerful deity.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

Things happen because HE has ordained it so.

A long time ago.

As John Calvin says,

“All events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God

So… does Maggie Rhee’s decisions made a long time ago speech mean that The Walking Dead exists in a determined universe? Of course not. If anything, the abundance of bad choices and poor decision making indicates that Rick Grimes, Maggie Rhee, and their fellow survivors possess an abundance of free will.

After all, what kind of all-knowing deity would make people do so many things that are so… dumb?

It’s probably a safe bet to assume that The Walking Dead, like the real world, is frequently governed by dumb luck, chance, and the occasional stars lining up just right that it only seems like everything works out the way it’s supposed to.

 

…unless they’re compatibilists

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/determinism.html

Baron d’Holbach. System of Nature (1770). http://www.ftarchives.net/holbach/system/a11.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_determinism