OBLIGATORY CHRISTMAS POST

I’VE SAID IT BEFORE but it’s always worth repeating: I AM NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS.

Oh sure, if you want to give me a Christmas present, I’ll take it I’ll eat the hell out of some Christmas cookies.

Just don’t expect that I’ll join you in singing Christmas carols or play any part in a secret Santa.

And I don’t say no Merry Christmas to the greeters at Walmart.

Here’s some war on Christmas for ya, Bill O’Reilly.

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Like Hall and Oates said, I don’t go for that.

My favorite Christmas movie still is Christmas Evil.

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I CAN NEVER GET ENOUGH OF THIS MOVIE

Now, people who spend the holiday season filling themselves up with the Christmas spirit might call someone with my disposition a “Grinch” or a “Scrooge”.

If that’s what you call someone who don’t do Christmas, so be it. A Grinch I am.

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…EXCEPT MY HEART ISN’T TWO SIZES TOO SMALL. QUITE THE OPPOSITE, ACTUALLY.

I.

DO.

NOT.

HAVE.

THE.

CHRISTMAS.

SRIRIT.

If you’re not quite sure if you have the Christmas spirit, the Christmas spirit (according to Answers.com) means:

To have the “Christmas spirit” means to get involved and excited about the atmosphere of holiday traditions and gift giving.

The Christmas spirit, specifically the giving part, is what got me thinking all philosophically about the season of Ho Ho Ho this year.

I’ll admit that I’m a Grinch.
But in no way am I a Scrooge.

20 film adaptations, numerous made-for-TV, stage, radio, and print versions of Charles Dickens’ 1843 Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol (aka, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas) tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge, as the modern connotation suggests, is a man unaffected by the Christmas spirit.

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Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas.

And like his namesake, Scrooge McDuck, the only thing that Ebenezer Scrooge loves is money. Says Ebenezer Scrooge,

“Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man’s pockets.”

Fortunately for Scrooge, his love of money has made him a very rich man.

Unfortunately, an unmitigated love of money is a sin.

Since God don’t like sin, to save the doomed soul of Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge is visited, on Christmas Eve, by three ghosts: the ghost of his late business partner Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Wait – that’s four ghosts.

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The spirits’ message to Scrooge: if he doesn’t relinquish his greedy ways, he’s doomed to an eternity of torment, haunted by a life wasted; devoted to nothing more than making money – the same fate that has befallen his old partner, Jacob Marley.

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JACOB MARLEY IS CONDEMNED TO SPEND AN ETERNITY LIKE THIS… 

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in response to the treatment of the poor of late 1800s London.

In short, if you were poor you were screwed.

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DON’T LET THE COBBLESTONE STREETS FOOL YOU. IT’S DIRTY AND DREARY DOWN THERE

In Stave One of A Christmas Carol, a conversation between Scrooge and a couple of charity collectors goes like this:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

It’s not entirely surprising, then, that Scrooge, when one of the collectors tells him that the poor would rather die than suffer in prison or the workhouse, says:

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

A fan of Ayn Rand before there was Ayn Rand.

The four spirits (after tormenting the guy all night) persuade Scrooge to give up his greedy ways. However, unlike the factory owners and landlords who were more than willing to allow their workers and tenants languish is poverty and squalor, Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge experiences a change of heart and Scrooge is redeemed.

Changed – for the better.

Scrooge is imbued with the Christmas spirit.

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Dickens wrote:

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

Because that’s the way that morality tales work.
It doesn’t matter whether Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a Christian allegory, or a simple tale of bad guy gone good The moral takeaway, no matter what you believe in, is the belief that we are here, not just to enrich ourselves, but to do good for others.

There are a few famous philosophers who also wrote something a little along those lines…

John Stuart Mill, inventor of utilitarianism, wrote:

“The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant wrote:

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.”

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote:

“What you would avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others.”

From the Upanishads:

“Let no man to do another that which would be repugnant to himself; this is the sum of righteousness. A man obtains the proper rule by regarding another’s case as like his own.”

In his new-found redemption, Ebenezer Scrooge is struck by the desire to do good to others. No longer consumed by the love of money, Ebenezer Scrooge vows to works for the good of everyone: the family of his long-exploited employee, Bob Cratchit, his nephew − oh god, what was his nephew’s name?
Fred. His name was Fred, right?

Dickens writes,

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”

In the end, I suppose a genuine Christmas hater like myself could learn to enjoy Christmas − if not merely for the pleasure of eating a diabetic coma-inducing number of sugar sprinkled sugar cookies, but for the opportunity to learn a philosophical lesson (in this case, do good for other people or else) from a Christmas movie that doesn’t involve a deranged killer Santa or a terrorist take-over of the Nakatomi Plaza.

By the way, Die Hard – totally a Christmas movie.

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I mean, would I rather have my philosophical lesson of the day reading Kant’s Groundwork or watching the 18th film adaptation of A Christmas Carol?
I’ll tell you right now, I’d rather watch the movie.

I’ll even wear an ugly Christmas sweater while doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.answers.com/Q/What_does_it_mean_to_have_the_christmas_spirit?#slide=1

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

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/xmas/scrooge.html

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol#Stave_5:_The_End_of_It

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WILL THE REAL PHILOSOPHER PLEASE STAND UP?

WORLD PHILOSOPHY DAY was on November 16th.

UNESCO designated the third Thursday of every November to be a day the world celebrates the… well, I’ll just let UNESCO explain it −

By celebrating World Philosophy Day each year, on the third Thursday of November, UNESCO underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.

Did you know that?
Nah, me neither.
Who really pays attention to philosophy these days, anyway?
Really. Who?
Nobody does.
At least that’s what you’d think if you watch t.v

I can tell you, I watched television all day on November 16th, and there was not one mention of UNESCO World Philosophy Day 2017.

I can tell you what they did talk about on the t.v., though – Louis CK.
For those of you out there who have no clue who Louis CK is, he’s a comedian.

Louis CK has – had a t.v. show.

He had a couple, as a matter of fact.

The reason, if you don’t know, why Louis CK has been in the news has to do with this:

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That’s why Louis CK doesn’t have his t.v. show anymore.

I was − still am − a fan of Louis CK’s work. Show me any of Louis CK’s HBO stand-up specials, and I’ll laugh like I wasn’t aware that the jokes aren’t eerily too similar to the behavior Louis CK is accused of doing to women in real life.
Yeah, Louis CK is… problematic.

I watch a lot of comedy. Not just the highbrow stuff, either. I’ll laugh at the Three Stooges or an Adam Sandler flick like I don’t got no more than two functioning brain cells in my head.

 

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EXCEPT FOR “THAT’S MY BOY!” THAT MOVIE WAS BEYOND AWFUL

 

I initially became a fan of Louis CK, not just because his comedy is funny or because his comedy is smart and witty, but because despite the now-creepy comedy routine Louis CK’s jokes are philosophical.

That is, Louis CK’s jokes make you think – make you think.

The overwhelming presence of dick jokes in modern comedy might lead one to think that comedy can’t be philosophical, but comedy is no stranger to philosophy.

The ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics all wrote about comedy.

In Poetics Aristotle categorizes comedy as either farce, romantic comedy or satire. Aristotle says comedy, along with tragedy, epic poetry, and lyric poetry, make up the original four genres of literature.
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates criticizes laughter-inducing comedy, stating that laughter causes men to become irrational and to lose self-control. Laughter, according to Socrates, is to be avoided, because, says Socrates,

“for ordinarily when one abandons himself to violent laughter, his condition provokes a violent reaction.”

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained.”

The story goes that no one ever saw Epictetus laugh.

Nobody.

 

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MAYBE EPICETUS WATCHD “THAT’S MY BOY!”?

 

The Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote The Clouds, a satirical comedy about Athenian intellectuals and (specifically) the philosopher Socrates.

A scene from Aristophanes’ The Clouds:

DISCIPLE:
I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of Socrates’ contrivances?
STREPSIADES:
What is it? Pray tell me.
DISCIPLE:
Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
STREPSIADES:
And what did he say about the gnat?
DISCIPLE:
He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in passing through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force towards the breech; then after this slender channel, it encountered the rump, which was distended like a trumpet, and there it resounded sonorously.
STREPSIADES:
So the arse of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid arsevation! Thrice happy Socrates! It would not be difficult to succeed in a law-suit, knowing so much about a gnat’s guts!

That’s a joke about Socrates.

It’s supposed to be funny.

Hobbes, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Kant also wrote about comedy.

I’ll tell you nothing is less funny than reading Kant analyzing a joke.

“For if we admit that with all our thoughts is harmonically combined a movement in the organs of the body, we will easily comprehend how to this sudden transposition of the mind, now to one now to another standpoint in order to contemplate its object, may correspond an alternating tension and relaxation of the elastic portions of our intestines which communicates itself to the diaphragm (like that which ticklish people feel). In connection with this the lungs expel the air at rapidly succeeding intervals, and thus bring about a movement beneficial to health; which alone, and not what precedes it in the mind, is the proper cause of the gratification in a thought that at bottom represents nothing.”

Did that make you think of something funny?

And, as anyone will tell you, Ayn Rand is nothing short of pure comedy.

COMEDIC GOLD.

 

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THAT LOOK ON YOUR FACE WHEN YOU’RE HALFWAY THROUGH ATLAS SHRUGGED AND YOU REALIZE YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER HUNDRED PAGES OF THIS SHIT TO GO

 

Just as philosophers have tried their hands at comedy, comedians also dabble in philosophy.

Proving that comedy is more than just the standard fart and poop jokes, comedians have mined philosophical topics like existentialism, nihilism, and the absurd for comedic effect since mankind discovered that philosophy can be funny.

There really is nothing funnier than a good metaphysics joke.

 

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OK. IT’S PROBABLY NOT AS FUNNY WHEN YOU READ IT

 

Comedians use humor to observe and examine the human condition, something that philosophy is sorely lacking.

Wittgenstein was brilliant, but he wasn’t funny.

Philosophy is at the center of the plot of the modern comedy classic, Groundhog Day, and in the films of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen*. Many fans of philosophy enjoy the philosophy- drenched comedic genius of Monty Python (FYI: some of the troupe’s most popular sketches are based in philosophy). Television shows like Seinfeld and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm often feature philosophical themes. In stand-up comedy, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Lewis Black, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Mitch Hedberg, and Ricky Gervais (who actually studied philosophy) entertain audiences with jokes that not only make people laugh, but also make people think.

Prospect Magazine named Russell Brand the world’s fourth most influential thinker in 2015.
Yes. That Russell Brand.
Don’t laugh.
Well, unless he’s telling a joke.
Then you can laugh.

Bill Maher’s stand-up often includes philosophical observations on religion and politics.
Comedians like John Oliver and Jon Stewart fill the role of public intellectuals.

Folks like the Sartre used to do that.

 

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I MEAN, EXISTENTILISM IS KINDA FUNNY

 

This is the reason why Chris Rock says that comedians are the last philosophers.

If that’s true, then Louis CK is the Diogenes of comedy.

That would also make Ayn Rand the Carlos Mencia of philosophy.

 

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I’M NOT GOING TO MENTION THIS GUY’S NAME… I WON’T

 

The Greek philosopher Socrates caused a stir in ancient Athens. He challenged the social order and angered the people. Socrates was the gadfly. Comedians are the modern gadflies.
When Politically Incorrect host, Bill Maher, less than a week after the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S., stated:

“We have been cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly…Staying I the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Maher did not merely challenge the perception of the terrorists responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, Maher questioned the notion of courage.

Courage, if you didn’t know, is an Aristotelian virtue.

Bill Maher also lost his late night t.v. show for what he said.

The late comedian Lenny Bruce rattled the chains of 1960’s conventional American society. Bruce’s comedy involved frank and open jokes about politics, religion, and sex − and like Socrates, Lenny Bruce was no stranger to accusations of vulgarity. Bruce was eventually charged with, tried, and convicted of obscenity.

…which is kind of like Socrates being tried for corrupting the youth of Athens.

In the end, both Socrates and Lenny Bruce paid with their lives.

But this is the thing: If philosophy was restricted to observations of people and the human condition, what Chris Rock said would be true. Comedians observe, often keenly so, but there’s no ontology; no ethics. Carlin’s Brain Droppings has bits of wisdom but it’s no Nichomachean Ethics.

And really, comedians shouldn’t be the new philosophers. Philosophers should be the new philosophers.

Why look to comedians for wisdom when there are plenty of folks out there who are doing philosophy who actually studied philosophy?

Unless that comedian is Chris Hardwick. He has a philosophy degree.

From UCLA, no less.

 

Chris Hardwick - Talking Dead _ Season 5 - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

PHILOSOPHY DEGREE + STAND-UP COMEDY = SWEET “THE WALKING DEAD” AFTERSHOW GIG…RIGHT?…….RIGHT?

 

Slavoj Žižek, Noam Chomsky, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Daniel Dennett, Martha Nussbaum, Cornel West, Judith Butler, David Chalmers, Michael Sandel, Peter Singer, Christine Korsgaard, Alvin Plantinga, and Saul Kripke are just a few of the philosophers – living − right now − doing philosophy.

And it ain’t all navel gazing gobbeldygook, neither.

Sure, they may not be a funny as Louis CK…
…although it’s pretty hard not to laugh every time Žižek rubs his nose

And if you think philosophers are above sex scandals, forget it.

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But if you’re contemplating the meaning of life, you might want to check out what Schopenhauer had to say about it.

At least check it out before you watch the Monty Python flick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*There are many philosophical comedies – The films of the Coen brothers are good for philosophical movie watching. Heck, check out any Peter Sellers comedy.

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/clouds.html
https://en.unesco.org/events/world-philosophy-day
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/

 

The Utilitarian Calculus Will Shut That Shit Down, NO EXCEPTIONS

WELL… IT’S FALL and if autumn means one thing, it means the return of my favorite hate to love/love to hate TV show, The Walking Dead.
I’ve been watching this show, basic cable television’s highest rated zombie-infused soap opera, since the first episode aired in October 2009.

It’s only now that I’m really beginning to question if I should have devoted so much time to this t.v. show.

Now, before you start going on about how if I don’t like the show, I should just stop watching, for starters, I’ve been telling myself that for the past three seasons. Second, I would stop watching The Walking Dead if they would stop putting so much philosophy in it.

It’s the worst best philosophical show on t.v.
Best because the show combines my two favorite things: philosophy and zombies.

Worst because of this guy

 

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UGH.

 

That’s right. I’m no fan of Negan.

The more I watch Negan, the more I kinda miss the Governor.

 

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GOTTA ADMIRE A GUY WHO CAN USE THE SIGHT OF HIS GUN WITH AN EYE THAT ISN’T THERE

 

Rick Grimes’ current nemesis , the mononymously named Negan, first appeared in the season six finale episode “Last Day On Earth”. Armed with his barbed wire-wrapped Louisville Slugger Lucile, Negan declares himself the ultimate badass, bludgeons not one, but two of Rick Grimes’ group (Abraham and Glenn), humiliates Rick in front of his people, and nearly forces Rick to cut off the arm of his son Carl.

Negan does all of this and he still becomes a fan favorite.

Seriously, just Google Negan cosplay.

Up until season eight Negan was just a deranged, leather coat wearing, inexplicably leaning back, monologuing, constant dick joke telling, bat wielding psychopath. But, in the season eight episode 5 episode “The Big Scary U”, The Walking Dead shows us is that Negan isn’t just a guy with a ridiculously wide, bright-toothed grin in a leather jacket who’ll bash your brains in, he’s actually got a philosophy.

Dare I say the man’s got ethics.

Being that this is The Walking Dead, one guess what system of ethics Negan uses.

You guessed it: Negan is a utilitarian.
The big scary U is utilitarianism.

 

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THAT U IS BIG… AND KINDA SCARY

 

Well, actually in the show it’s the unknown.

However, ethically speaking, the big scary u guiding damn-near every dumb decision ever made by any character on The Walking Dead seems grounded in the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.

I say seems grounded.

Because most of the time they get it wrong.

 

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LOOK CLOSELY: RICK IS JUST CAME UP WITH ANOTHER DUMB IDEA

 

Well, before I get into how they get utilitarianism wrong on The Walking Dead, it’s probably a good idea to explain what utilitarianism is.

Utilitarianism, the consequentialist ethical theory which stats that an act is judged morally right or wrong depending on the consequences (of that action). Although consequentialist ethics have been around since humans have had ethics, the origin of utilitarianism s credited to the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748 –1832).
Bentham’s consequentialist ethical theory (hedonism) is grounded on the principle of utility.
Bentham states:

By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words to promote or to oppose that happiness.

For Bentham, maximizing pleasure is the goal of any action. The maximization of pleasure is the highest good.

 

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HEDONISTIC PLEASURE: MAXIMIZED

Although Bentham is credited with inventing modern utilitarianism, the British economist and philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) is the philosopher most associated with utilitarianism.

 

I guess if you don’t include Peter Singer.
Or Henry Sidgwick.

…or G.E. Moore.

Mill rejects Bentham’s hedonistic calculus (Mill states that pleasure alone cannot be the standard by which we judge the morality of an act). According to Mill, an act is morally right if the act maximizes the happiness of the community.

Mill defines happiness as well being.

The primary principle of Mill’s utilitarianism is the Greatest Happiness Principle.
And that, according to Mill, is:

The creed which accepts as the foundations of morals “utility” or the “greatest happiness principle” holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

We’ve seen plenty of (sometimes opposing) ethical systems on The Walking Dead.

The deontological ethics of Dale Horvath.

Hershel Greene’s biblically based morality.

The egoist tendencies of the Governor.

The Hobbesian nightmare of Terminus.

Daryl Dixon’s ethics of loyalty.

The moral grab bag that is Rick Grimes…

 

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SERIOUSLY, WHERE ARE THIS GUY’S ETHICS?????

 

So, when you see a man beat a man to death with a baseball bat, one may be inclined to ask, “exactly how does he justify doing this?”

Luckily the fifth episode of season eight tells us exactly that.

Negan’s justification is Utilitarian.

 

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THERE’S SOMETHING NOT RIGHT ABOUT HAVING TEETH THAT BRIGHT THREE YEARS INTO A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

 

Negan explains to Father Gabriel that he hasn’t “killed anyone who didn’t need it”.
In an exchange with the recently deposed leader of the Hilltop (and all-around weaselly guy) Gregory

Apparently, no one has a last name in a zombie apocalypse.

Negan explains to Gregory that he is not guilty of committing brutal murder. On the contrary, Negan says, his seemingly evil actions are not only justified but necessary.
Their conversation goes like this:

Gregory: Listen, I mean it when I say it – Negan, I don’t like killing people any more than you do.
Negan: I like killing people… I say it’s about killing the right people. So you kill the right people at the right time, everything falls into place. Everybody’s happy. Well, some people more than others. But you kill one, then you can be saving hundreds more – and THAT is what we are all about. We save people.

The right people.
The right time.
Everybody’s happy.
We save people.
Saving hundreds.

Furthermore, when Father Gabriel suggests that Negan’s workers are being forced to work against their will, Negan tells Gabriel (or “Gabey”, as Negan calls him) that his worker class is “an economy”. Negan says no one is a slave no one goes hungry.
No one goes hungry.

 

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AN INEXHAUSTIBLE SUPPLY OF PICKLES: THE PERKS OF TURNING COAT AND SELLING OUT YOUR FRIENDS TO NEGAN

 

If we evaluate Negan’s explanations to Gregory and Father Gabriel, according to Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle, a Sanctuary full of happy, safe people with full bellies make a damn good argument in favor of Negan’s justification for killing a few people.

Even if those people are Abraham and Glenn.
And Denise
And Olivia
And Spencer
And Benjamin
And Sasha…

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

The Walking Dead. “The Big Scary U”. Story by Scott M. Gimple, David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang. Teleplay by David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang. Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis. Original airdate: November 19, 2017.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/