I like porn. No, really I do. I know, that as a chick and a philospher, I shouldn’t. And I’m not just saying it because it sounds cool. I like nasty movies. Of people doing it. I could try to make this seem all highbrow and say that I appreciate (i.e. I only watch) “classic” adult cinema, when pornographers were still trying to make “art” films, or that I only watch smut that’s shot on film, or that what I watch isn’t porn at all, but “erotica”. But if I did say all of that I’d be lying. Just short of poop porn, with me, pretty much anything goes. Hey, has anyone else out there noticed that the music in porn flicks sounds alot like the music in exercise videos? weird. Given the ultimate purpose (or telos, if you are so inclined), of the whole dog and pony show (I’m not into that kind either), I’d much rather drop the pretense and admit that I’d watch Deep Inside Ginger Lynn, The Osporns, or Ben Dover’s Booty Duty before picking up the Bertrand Russell companion for a mid-afternoon’s lay about. Some may say that the genre is nothing more than exploitation of the worse degree, but I say — well, first off, yes it is. But secondly, it’s the perfect way to unwind after spending too many hours reading and thinking about Frege. Although I find Girls Gone Wild offensive. again, weird. That said, the pornographic cinema isn’t exactly the genre that lends itself to philosophic inquiry (I hear a resounding that’s not true. I say that porn tends to be the topic of much more philosophic criticism than it does to actual debate. For some strange reason people tend to shy away from the pro-porn position in deep philosophical discussion. Go figure. Or better yet, they say that pornography as a medium is subject to philosophical scrutiny, but the films themselves are not worthy of philosophical examination. This is said only so that those philosophers who watch porn can hide the fact that they enjoy watching two or more of their fellow homo sapiens copulating). But, that claim, porn isn’t philosophic — especially that the movies themselves are not philosophic– is exactly what you would hear from someone who doesn’t watch porn! Nudie movies are a virtual treasure trail of philosophic questions (and answers!). Ask yourself these questions: does a man who is banging his sister and his mother really “have it all”? if you win the lottery, would it change what you consider to be important in life? what would happen if every hot chick suddenly found herself in a “no man’s land”? Despite what may seem to be mere crappy plots to excuse various acts of sexual congress, there are genuine questions about life, sexuality, and morality (among other topics) to be found in adult films. I know when I think Sasha Grey, I think of Randian Objectivism and the possibility that Ms. Grey may in fact be living as a real-life, female embodiment of Rand’s Howard Roark. We all know that pornography, by definition, appeals to the “prurient interests of the viewer and that there is a line of thought that goes, any sick and twisted thing you can think of, somebody’s already done it. And filmed it. And posted it online. Former adult star Sharon Mitchell has noticed this as well. There is no situation that anyone can think of that someone hasn’t done before. It’s kind of like thinking up perversions is like trying to be more original than the Simpsons. You can think of a plot that you think is totally original and has never been done before, just to realize that the Simpsons already did it in season five. Porn is kind of like The Simpsons. If you can think of it and it involves people humping, you’re bound to find that someone has filmed it and is selling it out there, somewhere. Well, the idea of any imaginable situation should sound familiar to philosophers. Philosophers make it their business to think of situations where any number of events or worlds are possible. We call them “thought experiments”. The purpose of the thought experiment, according to the philosopher, is to mimic the methods of scientific experiments to test philosophic theories. Given a set of factors and a given situation, we can see what will happen. However, unlike the scientist, the philosophical thought experiment takes place within the confines of the mind. A famous thought experiment was created by Hillary Putnam called “twin earth”. According to the experiment, we are supposed to imagine that we have been transported to a planet where, instead of calling what we call “water” H2OP, they call it ‘xyz’. The question that we are to ponder is, ” are xyz and H2O the same thing?” ( I swear I will learn how to do subscript on this laptop!). Whether we say that they are or are not the same thing depends on our theory. (There’s alot to go into to answer the question. I will not go into any of that other than to say that our answer is “no”). Thought experiments are like philosophic porn. Not convinced? Think about it this way: porn has it’s own kind of thought experiments (usually found venues like Penthouse Forum, usually starting with the phrase “I never thought this would happen to me…” ) Or better yet, think of this one: extremely horny hot chick pleasures herself near open window, hot chick sees peeping Tom and decides — instead of calling the cops — to invite him in for some unlawful carnal knowledge. For a moment, we don’t know why she does. We may speculate as to why she would invite some dude that’s been whacking it while leering at her through her window into her apartment. We might even say something like, “if I were that shick, I would beat that guy’s ass so hard” — and then procede to explain exactly what moral rules the peeping Tom broke that would merit a beat-down. We can apply pornography to real-life situations. Likewise, philosophers use thought experiments to do the same thing — to create situations where we can apply philosophical theories to see how the theory might be applied (or misapplied) in the real world. Porn and philosophical thought experiments are alike in that each deals with a given situation where there are possibly any number of possible outcomes. In the situation where our hot chick finds a peeping Tom, she may have invited him in, or brought in an even hotter roomate for a threesome, or she may have simply called him a pervert and closed her window. (NOTE: the “rules”, if you will, of porn are not as clear-cut as those in philosophy. if we are dealing with a thought experiment that involves some moral dilemma, our “rules” may be any number of ethical systems– Kantian, utilitarian, egoism, relativism, etc. Oftentimes, our “rules” in pornography are determined by sub-genre — fetish flicks, S&M, German poop flicks, and the like. To determine how we would apply porn plots to real-life events, we use the sub-genre as a guide, or rulebook). The real difference is that pornography deals with fucking of the corporeal variety, whereas with philosophy, the fuck is of a different sort — the mind fuck. But as fanciful as the circumstances of our thought experiments may be, unlike your basic porn plot, philosophic thought experiments have to make sense. We are bound by rules (logic, theories, etc.). If I create a possible world it can’t be a world where people are both alive and dead, or where there exists round squares. Pornography, on the other hand, seems to have no rules whatsoever. For instance, women, despite what the real world may tell you, actually enjoy having sex with any quantity or quality of men. This does not make sense. Between the two, you would think that porn is the more demented medium. Amazingly enough, the more demented is the thought experiment! With your garden variety porn flick, you get a formula guy/girl, some chick-on-chick action, denouement, roll credits. In mainstream (and I do emphasize mainstream) porn usually isn’t violent. But that’s all that thought experiments seem to come down to — excuses to fuck other people up. Violently. If you spend any time reading philosophy, you’d notice that much of it is pretty devoid of sex (although I heard that Bertrand Russell was a bit of a playa). But, thought experiments are littered with all sorts of ending-with-violence scenerios. Philosophers are obsessed with killing people! You know, FBI profilers say that some serial killers use murder to substitute for something else. This isn’t so far-fetched since the roots of philosophy valued reason over the passions. The philosophic life is one where the desires are ruled by the rational mind. We can be reasonable killers, that bis, we can always find some rational excuse for killing someone. Aside from it’s mere biological usage, sex is always a matter of the senses (and therefore a bit difficult to control). I have noticed, however, that in plenty of thought experiments, people seem to get killed. For instance: 1) some fat bastard has managed to get his gianormity wedged in the only exit of a cave that is filling up with xyz (I mean water). Ten people will drown if we do not find a way to move the fat guy from the cave’s entrance. Our only solution (or maybe the best solution, if you’re a utilitarian) is to blast that fat ass dude to kingdom come, thus clearing the hole where the ten can escape from the rising water (why we can’t use the explosives to blast another hole that we can escape through, I don’t know). The point here seems to be it that someone has to die. And that is so, why not the fattest guy in the cave? He’s probably the reason why everybody’s insurance premiums went up, eh? 2) I’m on vacation in some unnnamed South American country. I am visiting a quaint and primative jungle village ( that is miles away from any legitimate authorities). For reasons resembling a 70s exploitation flick, I find myself in a situation wherein some sadistic general demands that I kill some villagers to save myself and the rest of the villagers. Besides this one being a total wtf, I’m thinking that if this were a movie, the general would be played by David Hess ( if you don’t know who he is, and I hope you do, see the original Last House On the Left or House On the Edge of the Park. They’re pretty much the same movie so it really doesn’t matter which one you see, except the acting in Last House On the Left is slighly better. Slightly). 3) some dude has the unfortunate fate of being suspected of murder. the problem is is that he’s innocent. but there is a growing mob outside and they’re reving for blood. if we let the crowd have him, it will settle them down. Do we throw the innocent to the bloddthirsty crowd? If we do, letting him die might actually calm things down. 4) some minority group really pisses off some majority group. it’s not because of anything that they do, it’s because they exist. since the minority is so small and since they’re causing some distress to the larger group (by taking up valuable land, resources, etc.), it would be better if we let the larger group eliminate the smaller group. according to this feel-good scenerio, my utilitarian calculus suggests that killing the minority is not just morally permissible, but morally obligatory. 5) i see some dude drowning. I can: a) save him, or b) let him drown. if i save him, i have just saved Hitler and I will be, in some round-about way, responsible for the deaths of over 50 million of my fellow human beings. if i let him drown, i’m more directly responsible for neglecting my duty to help others in need. which act do I perform? either way, people die, right? Talking about appealing to morbid interests! I can’t think of any thought experiment where someone doesn’t end up dead! Thought experiments ain’t just “to mimic the method of scientific experiments”. It’s philosophical snuff porn!