THE WORLD’S WORST UTILITARIAN FOOD FOR THOUGHT

HANG AROUND WITH philosophers long enough and you’ll realize that philosophers think about some strange things.

I was going to say strange shit but I’m not sure about the parental settings on my blog.

Now, you can drop acid and open the doors of perception but as much as I enjoy “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, I ain’t ever seen anyone tripping on LSD think up something as far out as transcendental idealism or logical positivism.

Philosophers think up this kind of stuff sober.

There’s a little thing that some philosophers do called ethics.

These ethics-practicing philosophers (or ethicists, if you prefer) sometimes engage in a game of “what if?”

An ethical “what if?” is pretty much about thinking up the most f’ed up situation one can think of (with moral implications, of course) and then asking, now, what would you do?

Folks on the outside call those kind of what ifs hypothetical situations.

If you’re a philosopher, you call those f’ed up situations a thought experiment.

If you don’t know already, thought experiments, as defined philosophically:

Thought experiments are devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things…
The primary philosophical challenge of thought experiments is simple: How can we learn about reality (if we can at all), just by thinking?

In ethics, thought experiments allow us to test ethical theories and by examining the principles or consequences of an act, we can determine whether an act is morally right or wrong.

Hypothetical situations like thought experiments allow us to be prepared for when a similar situation (or moral dilemma) confronts us in the real world.

There are many famous thought experiments:

The Trolley Problem

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Brain in Vat

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The Chinese Room

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The Ticking Time Bomb

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The Experience Machine

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Schrodinger’s Cat

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The Drowning Man

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Funny thing about that drowning man thought experiment…

For those who are unfamiliar with the scenario, The Drowning Man goes as follows:

You’re walking along (alone) by a lake when you see a man in the lake flailing his arms and yelling for help. It is clear that the man is drowning. Do you jump in the lake to save the man?

At first glance the answer is obvious: jump in the lake and save the man.

Most of us would jump into the lake to save the drowning man without hesitation.

But because this is a question cooked up by philosophers, it ain’t that easy.

A philosopher might throw in another “what if” like, what if getting to the lake requires you to cross a patch of grass and there’s a sign that says “Stay Off The Grass” or what if you can’t swim?

or, what if you’re in Germany in 1920 and the drowning man is ADOLF HITLER????

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UNFORTUNATELY HITLER APPEARS IN TOO MANY THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS

The goal of the “what ifs” in The Drowning Man thought experiment (and any variable in any thought experiment) is to put a moral obstacle in front of you.

Most people would step on the grass to save a drowning man. But what if the sign read TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT? What if the sign read DO NOT STEP ON GRASS BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNMENT?

Would you risk your own life to do save a drowning man?

Would you violate a rule or a law (and what kind of rule or law would you violate?) to save a drowning man?

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THINK BEFORE YOU STEP. WHAT ARE THE MORAL RAMIFICATIONS OF TREADING ON THE LAWN?

For a deontologist, this question is more complicated than you think.

Thinking about The Drowning Man Scenario also kinda makes us ask another, less pleasant question of ethics: Are there some people not worth saving?

Is a drowning Adolf Hitler worth saving?

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FOR MANY PEOPLE THIS IS A PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE ANSWER TO THE DROWNING HITLER SCENARIO

If you’re a deontologist, this question is more complicated than you think.

Asking if there are some people not worth saving can get us to asking and even more unpleasant question, are there some people not worth allowing to live?

“Allowing to live” as in letting someone live in the first place.

For instance, would you kill baby Hitler?

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JUST A REMINDER, THIS IS WHO YOU WOULD KILL

Before we all answer a resounding “yes”, let’s figure out why the question is more complicated than we think.

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APPARENTLY THE READERS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES DON’T THINK THE QUESTION IS COMPLICATED AT ALL

Most of us would agree that Adolf Hitler was one of the worst, if not THE worst human being that ever lived. Its arguable that the world would be a better place if he hadn’t been born.

… Or at least the world would be a better place if Hitler was prevented from joining the National Socialist Party and becoming chancellor of Germany.

Although we aren’t capable of actual time travel, a thought experiment allows us to imagine what if we could? If we could travel back in time to April 20, 1889, what would we do?

More importantly, what would be the morally right thing to do?**

Let’s look at the question of killing baby Hitler from the perspective of the two leading ethical schools of thought: Deontological ethics and the consequentialist ethical theory, utilitarianism.

Deontological ethics is defined as:

…the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on rules. (Wikipedia)

Deontologists act from Duty.

It is our duty to respect the (moral) law.

Immanuel Kant writes

…to have genuine moral worth, an action must be done from duty… An action done from duty does not have as its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim where by it is determined.
Duty is the necessity to do an action from respect of law.

That means, damn the consequences, obey the law.

Let’s say a deontologist has a (moral) law, THOU SHALL NOT KILL.

*Maybe we should refine the rule: Thou Shall Not Murder (as defined as “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another”).

The law is to be obeyed – no exceptions.

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If the deontologist believes that a rule is a rule and we must follow the rules, regardless of its consequences, even if his future self deserves it, we can’t exempt baby Hitler.

Because murder is always wrong.

The deontologist is bound by duty to let baby Hitler live.

Since we can’t obtain moral justification for killing the infant Hitler (presuming that is what we are trying to justify), we’ll look to consequentialist ethics (specifically utilitarianism) to tell us what is the morally right thing to do.

Enjoying this thought experiment yet?

For the utilitarian, it’s the consequences that matter.

In Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill writes

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. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.

If utilitarian ethics is based on the increase of pleasure and the decrease of pain, and we know that an individual is or going to be responsible for the destruction of over sixty million lives, we may be morally obligated not just to let an adult Hitler drown but also to kill baby Hitler.

However, there’s a hitch…

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Utilitarianism (and other consequentialist ethical theories) judge and action right or wrong based on its consequences.

At the time that we perform an act, we don’t know the consequences. We only know what we think might happen or what we want or expect to happen.

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REMEMBER, IF YOU DO UTILITARIAN ETHICS YOU CAN END UP SPENDING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE LIKE THIS

Right now, we have the benefit of hindsight; we know what Hitler and the Nazis did. But in 1889, when Hitler was an infant, no one could have foreseen what the newborn infant would do as an adult.

If we traveled back in time we would have to weigh the act of (preemptively) killing a child for something that the child hasn’t yet done against the death and destruction we know adult Hitler did.

It might be easy to walk away from a drowning man, especially if that man is responsible for the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, but even those who could walk away from a drowning Hitler in the lake may find it hard, if not impossible to purposefully kill a child, no matter how evil that child may become.

Another hitch with utilitarianism is that we have to consider possible consequences – multiple consequences. If we had some way to travel back in time or to see the possible futures of baby Adolf Hitler, we may also see future where he could be prevented from becoming the most evil man in history.

We discourage killing children, even children who have engaged in “evil” acts, because we believe those children can be rehabilitated.

If it’s possible to rehabilitate an potentially evil child, is this then, another option that we have for baby Hitler?

And if that’s a viable option (i.e., one that will produce good consequences), we can’t justify killing baby Hitler.

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YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE, HANK

So… what would we do with baby Hitler?

What should we do?

A thought experiment can only ask…

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** Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way defending Hitler or suggesting that we should minimize Hitler’s and the Nazi’s atrocities for the sake of a thought experiment, nor am I suggesting that Hitler’s one life is worth more than sixty million lives world wide, including the nine million lives lost (including six million Jews) in Nazi concentration camps.

SOURCES:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/thought-experiment/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 2nd Edition. Trans. Lewis White Beck. 1997 [1785]. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 15-16.

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005 [1861]. NY: Barnes & Noble Books. 8.

DARYL KILLED GLENN, I THINK… MAYBE.

WELL FOLKS. IT’S OCTOBER and for those of us at The Mindless Philosopher being October means only one thing: the return of The Walking Dead.

In case it’s not (painfully) obvious from our previous posts, The Walking Dead is our favorite TV show.

Yep. TMP are philosophers. And our favorite television show isn’t Seinfeld.

Although you can argue that The Walking Dead isn’t really about anything, either.

Any fan of AMC’s highly-rated zombie somewhat soap opera knows that being a fan of The Walking Dead means that one’s favorite character can die at any moment. Season six saw the show kill off a few red shirts (Carter, David, Sturgess), say sayonara to a handful of characters we cared about (Denise, Deanna, Jessie, and Nicholas?), and pulled the fake-out with at least two characters. The season six finale “cliffhangered” the audience, teasing the death (via a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat named Lucille) of a major character.

The season six finale pleased some and angered many.

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And for the last six months, The Walking Dead fans, angry or otherwise, have been concerned with just one thing: WHO DID NEGAN KILL?

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And at THIS point I guess I should say SPOILER ALERT.

AND SO, last Sunday, The Walking Dead aired its season seven premiere episode.

After six months of waiting, we finally got to see who Negan killed.

True to form, the season seven premier pleased some. Angered many.

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I think from now on, I’m going to tell anyone who pisses me off to suck my nuts.

Hopefully not after I’ve been stuck on the noggin by a barbed wire-covered bat.

Now, being a fan of both The Walking Dead and philosophy, I got feels, not only because of the brutality of the act, but also because I was watching the episode through philosophy-tinted glasses.

If I wasn’t in the habit of underestimating the philosophical acumen of the writers of the show, I would have guessed that I was watching a thought experiment being played out on my TV screen.
To wit: an ethical thought experiment.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched the episode yet, there are SPOILERS AHEAD.

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So… as we end season six, we see Rick Grimes and ten members of his group (whaddya know, almost all major characters!) on their knees and at the mercy of the new bad guy – the barbed wire-infused bat-wielding, leather jacket-wearing, an F-bomb every-other-word saying (but not on basic cable), Negan.

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OF COURSE IT HAD TO BE A GOOD-LOOKING PSYCHOPATH.

 

Rick and his crew have, to quote Rick from an alternate take from the season five finale, “fucked with the wrong people”, and Negan is aiming to exact some payback on the people responsible for the deaths of a number of his men.

Negan says he’s going to beat to death one of Rick’s crew with his bat, Lucille.

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NEGAN TELLS RICK, “YOU KILLED MY PEOPLE, A WHOLE DAMN LOT OF THEM. MORE THAN I’M COMFORTABLE WITH. AND FOR THAT, FOR THAT YOU’RE GONNA PAY. SO NOW… I’M GONNA BEAT THE HOLY HELL OUTTA ONE OF YOU.”

Any interference, Negan tells the group, will not be tolerated (he does, however allow them to breathe, blink, and cry). Negan tells Rick and his group, “I will shut that shit down, no exceptions.”

Long story short, Negan plays a game of “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe”, eventually landing on Abraham as “it” and proceeds to bludgeon Abe with Lucille, exclaiming how the ginger-haired former military man took the first blow “like a champ”.

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Reminder: tell anyone who pisses me off the suck my nuts.

Now, it’s right around this time when a simple cudgeling becomes an even more complicated moral dilemma.

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Fan favorite (and possibly un-killable) Daryl Dixon decides to ignore Negan’s non-interference admonition and attacks Negan.

Negan, having already been previously interrupted by Glenn (he allowed Glenn’s interference due to the emotional weight of the situation), makes good on his warning and shuts that shit down, killing another member of Rick’s group with the barbed wired-sleeved Lucille: Glenn.

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Ok, we all know Negan carried out the physical deed. And in any court of law Negan would undoubtedly be sent to prison for double murder.

But any philosopher would tell you that legal guilt and moral culpability aren’t always the same thing.

You see, there may be more than one person to blame in all of this.

I think we can agree that Abraham’s death is 100% morally on Negan.

Negan announced his intention to kill someone and he did it.

Well, unless you reason that it was done as some kind of an eye for an eye, retributive justice thing, which opens up a whole other can of what is justice worms.

But there was more than one person killed AFTER Negan had exacted his revenge.

So who is morally responsible for Glenn’s death?

It was Negan’s initial intention to do one and done. Getting even with Rick and his group required the death of just one person – after all, the point of killing one person (in a particularly gruesome manner) is meant to break the group, not necessarily to commit mass murder. Rick and his group had been previously informed about Negan’s one-kill tactic: introduce himself to a new group, kill one person in the group, and demand half of what the group produces. Assuming there’s no problem of induction, Rick and his group had no reason to assume that Negan would deviate from his established method of operation.

Negan killed Abraham and was done, but Daryl, driven by anger and stuff that only Daryl fully understands (probably something that also has to do with Daryl not bathing), sucker punches Negan and THAT act is in direct violation of Negan‘s rules of conduct for Rick and his group. As Negan specifically states that shit will be shut down, no exceptions.

And that is precisely what Daryl does. Shit.

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If you link the chain of events, it’s not so implausible to assume that Glenn’s death is a direct result of Daryl’s actions. Negan kills Glenn because Daryl violates the rules.

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TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, GLENN IS THE ONE GUY WHO, UNTIL A HANDFUL OF EPISODES AGO, HADN’T KILLED ANY LIVING PERSON. DARYL IS POSSIBLY PARTIALLY OR FULLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF THE LEAST MORALLY GUILTY CHARACTER IN THE SERIES… UNLESS YOU BELIEVE IN GUILT BY ASSOCIATION.

 

Negan’s moral culpability is undeniable. But can we say that Daryl bears some or all moral blame for Glenn‘s death?

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Well, it depends on who you ask.

If we assume that Daryl is motivated by a moral principle that says that one’s greatest moral obligation is to produce the greatest good for the greatest number, then we might say that Daryl is, at least in part, morally blameworthy for Glenn’s death.

How does that happen, you say?
Why , it’s just a matter of calculating the numbers.

Negan initially kills Abraham. It is obvious that Rick’s group (not to mention Abraham himself) is negatively affected by the brutal death. The group is collectively traumatized, in particular, Abraham’s ex-girlfriend Rosita and his almost-but-not-quite new girlfriend Sasha.

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Can we take a moment to talk about Sasha? This woman has nothing but bad luck in relationships on this show. First, Sasha begins a romantic relationship with Bob, but Bob is bitten by a zombie, kidnapped and has his leg eaten by a group of cannibals, and eventually dies from his wound (wounds?). Just when Sasha has recovered enough from PTSD to function somewhat normally in a romantic relationship, her blossoming relationship with Abraham is cut short by Negan and Lucille.

 

If killing one person inflicts a great amount of pain, then we can assume that killing two people inflicts more pain than killing just one. In this situation, we aren’t just calculating the pain felt by the group immediately following Glenn’s death, but also calculating the negative long-term consequences of Glenn’s death. Glenn’s wife, Maggie, is pregnant. We have to consider the fact that Glenn and Maggie’s child will be raised without a father.

That’s bad.

We should not forget that utilitarian-based ethics requites that Daryl also figure into our calculation.

We can assume the Daryl feels (at least somewhat) responsible for Glenn’s death. After all, Negan killed Glenn in response to Daryl’s actions.

And really, what was Daryl’s intended outcome, anyway? What did he hope to accomplish by attacking Negan? Negan had already killed Abraham. There was nothing Daryl could do to stop that. As Negan warned beforehand, the only outcome from a disruption would be the infliction of more pain on Rick’s group, which did, in fact, happen.

And if we’re assigning moral culpability based on consequences, according to this ethical position, Daryl Dixon is morally responsible for Glenn’s death.

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KIND OF MAKES YOU WISH DWIGHT KILLED DARYL, DOESN’T IT?

You see, when we assign moral blame according to consequences, it doesn’t matter what our intentions are. We can mean well, just like Daryl did when he lunged after Negan. But if our actions result in people getting hurt or killed, we’re morally culpable for what happens.

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We might consider the possibility that Daryl may have been motivated by the prisoner’s dilemma. Not knowing exactly Negan what intended to do, he has no reason to assume that Negan won’t kill others and therefore is motivated to attack Negan before Negan kills any more people.

Ok. Maybe Daryl isn’t thinking about consequences at all. Maybe he’s operating from a sense of duty to his group.

We know that Rick and his group think of each other as family. Families often have binding moral obligations to each other. Daryl sees that his the lives of his family have been threatened and he feels that it is his duty to protect them – as Negan says, no exceptions.

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We can assume that Daryl’s duty-bound obligation isn’t merely a suggestion or rule of thumb, but is a maxim that must be obeyed at all times by all members of the family. We can even put Daryl’s obligation in maxim form: In any situation wherein one’s family is in danger, one must act to protect them- no exceptions.

It is clear that Negan is a threat to the lives of Daryl’s family. Negan has already ruthlessly murdered one member of Rock’s group is still threatening to inflict harm on the remaining members. When one is morally obligated to protect others, one must fulfill one’s duty – even if others are hurt.

When one is bound by duty to others, consequences (even if someone is murdered by an axe-wielding maniac) do not matter.

If Daryl was motivated by a morally binding maxim, he was following a moral principle that he could not refuse to follow based on what might happen. In the end, Glenn’s death is an unfortunate consequence of Daryl’s actions.

So then, morally speaking, Daryl is in the moral clear.

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IT’S OK, FOLKS. WE DON’T HAVE TO HATE DARYL. WE CAN GO BACK TO OUR IRRATIONAL DARYL DIXON FANDOM.

So… to answer the question, who is morally responsible for Glenn’s death, the answer… well… we can clearly point to Negan. It is Negan who beats two men to death with Lucille. And it is Negan who decides to kill Glenn as a punishment for Daryl’s actions. However, we can’t neglect the role Daryl’s outburst plays in Glenn’s death. It’s not unreasonable to assume that Glenn may have lived if Daryl had just stayed on his ass like Negan has told him to.

Ultimately, the moral blame lies with someone I haven’t mentioned until now:

RICK GRIMES.

Dig this: Rick not only accepts the task of ridding the world of Negan and his men, he does so without any real reason for doing so.

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DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR THIS GUY. THIS IS ALL HIS FAULT.

Rick volunteers his people to fight someone else’s fight (Negan is initially the Hilltop’s problem) and arrogantly assumes that he and his group can quickly dispatch Negan and his crew without consequence.

Because they’ve done it before, Rick says.

Rick should have read up on Hume.

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Rick’s fatal flaw is that he is too arrogant to realize that his actions are not only morally suspect, but are bound to reap a bunch of bad consequences.

Rick, based on what he hears of Negan from the people at the Hilltop,  immediately concludes that violence is the only feasible solution to the (someone else’s) Negan problem and refuses to consider other alternatives including negotiation or less violent means of dealing with Negan.

… and not for lack of Morgan trying to persuade Rick over to his “all life is precious” philosophy.

 

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REMEMBER WHEN MORGAN WAS ALL ABOUT THIS STUFF?

Rick’s group, as Negan observes, killed more of Negan’s people than Negan’s people had killed Rick’s group (Carol and Maggie were taken hostage but not killed). Rick directs his group to commit mass murder on Negan’s group (while many of them were asleep).Negan’s people are shot, incinerated, and stabbed in the head by Rick’s group (ok, Carol setting those dudes on fire may have been justified). It wouldn’t be irrational to assume that Negan was protecting his people from Rick’s group.

As the primary authority figure in his group, Rick knew that his people would follow his lead – unfortunately without question.
Rick may believe his actions are correct. They’re not.

Rick Grimes is the embodiment of bad motivations with bad consequences.

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WHY BOTHER WITH THE EENY MEENY MINY MOE STUFF? JUST LUCILLE ALL OF ‘EM.

 

When you really get down to it, Rick killed Glenn and Abraham.

 

And I have one thing to say to Rick Grimes about this:
SUCK MY NUTS.

 

STRANDED

IT’S BEEN SOME time since the first half season of season two of Fear the Walking Dead ended.

I’ve had some time to sit back and think about what I saw.

For starters, I think the show is getting better.

It’s not great, but it’s better.

And secondly, I’ve noticed that some of the characters on the show are like walking philosophy.

The show should be called Fear the Philosophical Dead.

No. not really. It shouldn’t.

Although some characters are philosophically interesting,

Some, mind you, not all.

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NOPE. NOT INTERESTING ON ANY LEVEL

After watching Fear the Walking Dead for a season and a half, I think the most philosophically intriguing character on the show is the wealthy, debonair, and most importantly, mysterious captain of the Abigail, Victor Strand.

I gotta admit, when Strand was introduced, I was prepared to see the character die after a few episodes. You know, because, well, people like Strand have a habit of not fairing too well in the world of The Walking Dead.

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It seemed that Victor Strand was destined to become another victim of the being-a-black-guy-in-The-Walking-Dead thing, but he was an interesting character – by far more interesting than the characters we were supposed to be most concerned about.

The reason why I think Victor Strand is so interesting is because so many of the show’s philosophical dilemmas have to do with what Strand either does or says. Victor Strand is a one man philosophical conundrum generator.

I’ve spent a season and a half of Fear the Walking Dead trying to figure out exactly where Victor Strand stands philosophically. Is Strand a Randian ethical egoist? Is he a moral nihilist? An incredibly consistent utilitarian? An all of the above?

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More than a dozen episodes into the series and I still can’t figure it out.

When we’re introduced to Victor Strand in the season one episode “Cobalt”, we see Strand is one of many detainees imprisoned by the government.

We’re never told exactly why.

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We witness Strand goading a mentally fragile man to the point of a mental breakdown. And we learn that Strand is a man who is willing to exchange goods for favors from the National Guardsmen who are guarding the detainee camp.

Strand is introduced as a man who is cool, calculating, and not encumbered by empathy for others. Strand initially displays all the traits of a classic Ayn Rand protagonist. Strand is concerned with one thing: his own interests. Rand writes:

… he must work for his rational self interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.

We can imagine a dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged next to Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun Tsu’s Art of War on Strand’s bookshelf.

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MY BOOKSHELF, AS SEEN ON BUZZFEED

However, Strand quickly realizes that fellow detainee (and main character) Nick Clark is useful -insofar as Nick can serve as a means to Strand’s ends -namely, escaping from the detainment camp.

Using others to further your ends is not a very Randian thing to do.

Ayn Rand also writes:

Man -every man- is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself…

Although Victor Strand isn’t a very good Randian, he still abides by Rand’s principle of pursuing one’s happiness as one’s supreme moral principle. Strand does not allow the misfortunes of others interfere with his main task: surviving.

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Here are a few things that Strand says concerning his interests versus the needs of others:

 

[To Madison after she informs Strand that she sees some people at sea who need to be rescued]: I filled my mercy quota. Seven people saved to date.

Rules for Strand’s yacht, the Abigail: Please, let me explain the rules of the boat. Rule number one, it’s my boat. Rule number two, it’s my boat. And if there remains any confusion about rules one and two, I offer rule number three, it’s my goddamn boat. If I weren’t for me, you’d all be burned. You’re welcome.

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THE RULES FOR THE ABIGAIL ARE LIKE THE RULES OF FIGHT CLUB. IN THE END NO ONE PAID ATTENTION TO THEM

[Strand’s response after fellow survivors insist that the Abigail take on more passengers]: If I stop the boat, it’ll be to drop folks off, not take them on.

 

[Strand’s response when Madison insists that the Abigail take on an orphaned child]:
Children are the definition of dead weight.

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PICTURED: DEAD WEIGHT

Strand on the real danger in an undead apocalypse: You know what the real danger is on the ocean? People.

When other survivors hitch a lifeboat containing a young woman and her mortally wounded companion to the Abigail, Strand cuts them loose, reasoning that the survivors can’t risk their lives to save people who may be dangerous -especially a dying boy (who will become a zombie when he dies).

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SERIOUSLY, I WOULD HAVE CUT THEM LOOSE, TOO

Everything Strand says strikes of Ayn Rand’s clearly  (at least Any Rand influenced) ethics. Strand clearly puts no man ahead of himself.

This is why Victor Strand is a fan favorite.

And yet, Strand has considered the interests of others, and even put his life on the line to save the lives of people in his group.

Strand not only helps Nick to escape the detainee camp, he also agrees to house Nick’s family and another family (the Salazar family) in his home and on the Abigail.

Although Strand lays down the rules for admission on the Abigail, we know he isn’t just looking after himself. Strand could easily pull up anchor and abandon the group when they leave the Abigail to explore dry land.

Yet he does not.

Strand risks his life to help Nick escape from the detainee camp and in the season two midseason finale, Strand, after he’s expelled from a temporary sanctuary, risks his life to save Nick’s mother Madison.

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ONE OF THOSE GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WANT FIRST KIND OF CONVERSATIONS

Wait a minute. Does this mean that Strand is a secret utilitarian? Is he masquerading as a Randian while clandestinely pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number?

Perhaps.

But could is it possible that Strand has given up on all ethics? Is it possible that Strand believes that in a world without civilization all things are permitted? Strand tells Nick that the only way to survive in a mad world is to embrace the madness. Is Strand preaching moral nihilism?

In Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche writes:

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

Is Strand telling Nick not just to stare into the abyss but to leap headlong into it? Is Strand telling Nick to become a monster? Is Stand saying that all of the characters should become monsters?

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NICK, STARING INTO THE ABYSS

 

It’s worth noting that the first episode of season two is titled “Monster”. In the season two midseason finale, Nick Clark covers himself in zombie guts (a means of camouflage) and refuses to join his mother and Strand to safety. Nick chooses to join the horde of zombies that has overrun their sanctuary. Nick is last seen walking among the dead, one of the monsters.

Fear the Walking Dead is not a great show. Sometimes it’s not even a good TV show. But what the show lacks in quality it more than makes up for in philosophical interestingness. Victor Strand is just one of the philosophically compelling characters on the series. In a TV world dominated by reality TV it’s refreshing to find a TV show with characters that have us thinking about them and discussing a series days (sometimes months) after an episode has aired.

One can only hope that Fear the Walking Dead continues to be one of the most philosophical TV shows on television.

I’ve got my fingers crossed.

That years from now, when we talk about Fear the Walking Dead, we think of the show as more like Better Call Saul than like Joanie Loves Chachi.

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I’VE GOT MY FINGERS SO CROSSED

FERRIS BUELLER, YOU’RE MY HERO (Updated. Or something)

THERE’S A WELL-KNOWN saying that goes “you’re only as old as you feel”. Well, sometimes even when you feel quite youthful, something happens that makes you feel old.

Like when you remember one of your favorite movies when you were a kid was released 30 years ago.

Or when the person who wrote and directed a movie you loved as a kid dies.

On August 6, 2009, film writer-director and Generation X icon John Hughes died.

Heart attack.

There’s something really unnerving when the idols of one’s youth start popping off from the same diseases, ailments, and blocked arteries that killed your grandparents. The death of John Hughes only reminded me of how old I’m getting; that my chances of dying young and leaving a good looking corpse is quickly slipping away.

FILM 'INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE' BY  NEIL JORDAN

UNLESS MY NAME IS LESTAT, THAT AIN’T EVER GONNA HAPPEN

I was thinking about how much (way back in the 1980s) John Hughes’ movies were, as they say in the modern vernacular, the shit. Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Pretty in Pink were the cinematic soundtrack of my youth. Honestly, who can hear Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” without defiantly thrusting your fist in the air like Judd Nelson? (Alright, no one ever does).

don't you forget about me

NEVER DID THIS ONCE

New York School of the Performing Arts kids like Doris Finsecker and Ralph Garci might have experienced self discovery while smoking weed and doing the time warp to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but for the suburbia-adjacent kids like me, we saw our so-called lives played out in the teen angst drama of Some Kind of Wonderful.**

black acting school

TEN BONUS POINTS IF YOU KNOW WHERE BLACK ACTING SCHOOL CAME FROM

 

Not too long ago, partly because a) I had nothing better to do, b) I wanted to honor the memory of John Hughes, and c) I was desperately engaged in a vain attempt to capture my lost youth; I decided to watch a John Hughes movie. After some serious contemplation – and because it was the easiest John Hughes movie to grab off of my DVD shelf – I spent an afternoon watching John Hughes’ teen comedy magnum opus 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

ferris bueller poster

Nearly every one of John Hughes’ movies is quotable but Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was the one where we learned the eternally quotable “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.

I’m not entirely sure if Ferris Bueller is actually the first person to say it, but I do remember that hearing that line was the first time I’d ever been floored by anyone, let alone a character in a movie, speaking philosophically.

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Imagine this: you’re an eleven year old kid, home alone on a Wednesday afternoon, watching cable TV, probably HBO.

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UNLESS YOU WERE HOME ALONE WATCHING THIS. YOU KNOW DAMN WELL WHAT THIS IS

Ferris Bueller is dressed in a bathrobe and is actively breaking the fourth wall just to speak directly to you, the eleven year old kid sitting at home alone watching HBO.

ferris-buellers-day-off-faking-out-parents

Nowadays, looking back, Ferris Bueller’s wisdom seems a bit trite (were we really supposed to learn the value of carpe dieming from a character who is still in high school?), but back then, just like Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller was my hero.

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My, how things have changed.
I thought when I sat down to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so many years after I had initially seen it as a kid, that I would re-experience the same sense of philosophical enlightenment that I had felt all those years ago when I was a lonely latchkey kid looking for someone to look up to.

Because one‘s parents are never the first choice.

Maybe it’s because I’m looking at Ferris Bueller’s Day Off through cynical adult eyes, but while I sat, watching the shenanigans of Ferris Bueller and Co., it suddenly hit me; I realized what a horrible person Ferris Bueller is.

Wait – my revelation didn’t stop there. I realized that almost every John Hughes character was an unforgivable jerk in some major way.

kevin mccallister

YES. I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU, KEVIN MCCALLISTER

Collectively speaking, most of John Hughes’ characters are self- indulgent assholes.
assholes everywhereI

 

Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples for you:

  • Farmer Ted (Sixteen Candles) is a date-rapist (he has sex with Jake Ryan’s drunken, passed out girfriend, with Jake’s encouragement no less. Watch the movie. It’s true).
  • Andie (Pretty in Pink) was kind of a bitch who not only wanted way out of her league (for even considering that she should go to the prom with high school hottie Blane Mc Donnagh), but Andie in no way deserved Duckie.
  • There is not one redeeming character in The Breakfast Club (we’re supposed to like Andy, this time played by Emilio Estevez, even though he committed a possible sexual assault/battery on a classmate by taping the guy‘s buttcheeks together).
  • And the Griswold family (National Lampoon’s Vacation) are just plain racists.

 

Watch the hubcap stealing scene if you don’t believe me.

St Louis 4

BLACK MAN HOLDING BASKETBALL DISTRACTS CLUELESS WHITE GUY WHILE OTHER BLACK GUYS STEAL HUBCAPS? CHECK!

Now that I’m thinking about it, If characters like Ferris Bueller were supposed to be a portrait of the American teenager (if you live in a world where amazingly enough, everybody is white, upper middle class, and the only minorities you encounter come straight out of Black Acting School), I think in retrospect, that John Hughes’ American teenager was about as true to life as the fictional hamlet of Shermer, Illinois.

jay and silent bob

I know that I am treading on thin ice, here. For those of a certain age, the movies of John Hughes are like GOSPEL and Hughes’ characters are so freaking cool that they can do no wrong. But after several viewings of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I really began to think that of all John Hughes’ characters. Perhaps with the exception of Kevin McCallister, who possessed more knowledge about planting booby traps and countermeasures against home invaders than a seasoned Navy Seal, Ferris Bueller is Hughes’ most selfish character.
Really. The entire movie is about how Ferris Bueller spends an entire day scheming, exploiting, and outright lying to people to get what he wants. The fact that all the “sportos, motor heads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads,” all adore Ferris, and think he’s a “righteous dude”, doesn’t mitigate the fact that Ferris is an
egoistical asshole.

Not convinced?

The proof is in the viewing: As the movie opens, we see Ferris (Matthew Broderick) faking that he’s sick. Of course we know that Ferris isn’t sick, but Ferris’ very concerned and clueless parents have no idea their is lying to them. They believe that there actually is something physically wrong with their son. After all, why else would their son be bent over moaning and wailing with sweaty palms if he wasn’t dreadfully ill?

Ferris_Bueller_Parents

OF COURSE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT THESE OTHERWISE INTELLIGENT LOOKING PEOPLE ARE THAT STUPID

Tom and Katie Bueller believe Ferris is sick, and Ferris is glad that they do. Ferris is so glad that he’s duped his parents into believing that he is deathly ill that he doesn’t feel even the slightest tinge of guilt for deceiving his parents. In fact, Ferris Bueller doesn’t spend one moment of the movie regretting the fact that he weaves a web of deception around not only his own parents but around practically everyone he knows.

ferris bueller smiling

I AM JACK’S COMPLETE LACK OF EMPATHY

Ferris doesn’t care when his (supposedly) BFF Cameron Frye tells Ferris that he’s (actually) sick and can’t accompany Ferris on his adventure. SFW, Ferris says. Instead of offering Cameron a decongestant or well wishes, Ferris tells his best friend that if he doesn’t get out of bed and hang out, that Cameron will have to find a new best friend.

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Ferris not only decides that he’s going to coerce others to join his plan, he also decides to “borrow” Cameron’s father’s prized sports car for the day’s activities. Ferris could not care less when Cameron tells him that his (likely physically abusive) father will kill him if his prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California gets “so much as a scratch on it.” Ferris ignores his (supposedly best) friend and steals the car anyway – even if the consequence of discovery means almost certain death for his best friend.

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YES, CAMERON. YOU CERTAINLY WILL BE

Unlike a good person, Ferris has no problem lying to his parents or to his principal, Mr. Rooney, or falsifying his school records. Nor does Ferris have any compunction over pulling his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson, out of class.

By faking her grandmother’s death, no less.

Ferris gleefully mouths off to a snooty restaurant maitre d’ to prove his moral superiority to the guy and assumes the identity of someone he is not to humiliate the maitre d’ in front of the restaurant‘s patrons.

ferris bueller restaurant

 

Ferris doesn’t hesitate to commandeer a Von Steuben Day Parade float not only to garner more attention for FERRIS but also to publicly humiliate Cameron in front of the gathered crowd by declaring that his best friend is a grump who didn‘t think he would “see anything good today”.

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NOT ONLY DOES FERRIS DRESS DOWN HIS “BEST” FRIEND IN PUBLIC, HE SPECULATES ON CAMERON’S (LACK OF) SEXUAL EXPERIENCES , TALKS SHIT ABOUT THE STATE OF CAMERON’S HOME LIFE, AND COMPARES HIS FRIEND’S RECTUM TO THE GEOLOGIC DIAMOND-MAKING PROCESS. SOME BEST FRIEND, EH?

 

Ferris Bueller doesn’t care if everyone else has to go to school or to work “on a day like this”. Oh no! Ferris’ day off is all about the fact that Ferris can’t be bothered by responsibility. That’s what other people do. After all, with all that hard work being idolized by everyone at school, Ferris Bueller needs a day off!

ferris bueller day off

By the way, if you really pay attention to the movie, you’ll notice that he only time Ferris shows any sort of remorse for what he’s done is when he feigns an apology so he can further exploit other people.
Now, either Ferris Bueller either is suffering from some sort of sociopathy, which is a matter best handled by mental health professionals, but since I am a philosopher, and consequently, am in no way interested or qualified to render a psychiatric diagnosis, my philosophical diagnosis is that Ferris Bueller is nothing more than a standard ethical egoist.

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Ethical egoism is the ethical theory that holds an act is right if (and only if) an act produces happiness for a particular agent — you. Everyone ought to look after, as a follower of the goddess of egoism, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) would tell you, his own rational self interest. The philosopher Gregory Kavka (1947-1994) explained that an egoist (in particular a Rule Egoist) acts according to the following principle:

 

Each agent should attempt always to follow that set if general
rules of conduct whose acceptance (and sincere attempt to
follow) by him on all occasions would produce the best
(expected) outcomes by him.

In short, egoist ethics is the inverse of utilitarian-esque “Vulcan logic”. Instead of believing that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, the egoist believes the needs of the one, the agent, outweigh the needs of the many.

But enough Star Trek.

 

kirk2

The ethical egoist’s reasoning is this: because we are unable to know anyone else’s needs or motivations and because we are restricted to seeing the world from only our own particular point of view, we only are morally obligated to act in a manner that benefits us. Egoism poster-girl, Ayn Rand, wrote, “This is why objectivist ethics is a morality of rational self-interest – or of rational selfishness.” In a way, Ferris Bueller is not unlike Rand’s description of Howard Roark, the protagonist of Rand’s novel The Fountainhead (1943). In her description of Roark, Ayn Rand writes:

 

He is not even militant or defiant about his utter selfishness… He
has a quiet, irrevocable calm of an iron conviction. No
dramatics, no hysteria, no sensitiveness about it —
because there are no doubts… A quick, sharp mind,
courageousness and not afraid to be hurt… He will be himself
at any cost — the only thing he really wants of life. And,
deep inside if him, he knows that he has the ability to
win the fight to be himself.

 

So apparently not only is Ferris Bueller an ethical egoist, more specifically, he’s a Randian objectivist.

 

**Objectivism is most closely associated with the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Rand describes the objectivist ethic, based on rational self interest, as “The proper standard of ethics is: man’s survival qua man – i.e., that which is required for his survival as a rational being … Man – every man – is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself, he must work for his rational self interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose in life”. In short, a Randian objectivist’s primary moral objective is to act only in a manner that is most beneficial to him, which is exactly what an ethical egoist does.**

 

According to Rand the egoist is concerned about others in so far as his concern for others contributes to his own happiness. Sure, an egoist might give to charity, but he is not motivated by any sense of altruism. The egoist is motivated by a personal want (a good reputation and public accolades, for example) than by a want to selflessly give to people less fortunate than he is. So when Ferris tells Cameron that his day off really was for Cameron’s benefit, we know that Ferris is full of shit.

 

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PREACH, PRINCIPAL ROONEY

We know that Cameron’s good day was a only fortunate consequence to Ferris’ egoism. Ferris is so focused on his own day off that if either his best friend Cameron or his girlfriend Sloane has a good day it is an unintentional consequence of Ferris‘ selfishness. In truth, the day is all about as the water tower says, saving Ferris.

tower

As mere movie watchers unaware of the deeper philosophical significance of Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off, we only see Ferris as a go-getter, a mercurial rogue who lives life on his own terms. Ferris knows what he wants and doesn’t let obstacles get in his way. Ferris Bueller is the guy we, and Cameron Frye, always wanted to be.

I don’t know if John Hughes had Howard Roark, Ayn Rand, or ethical egoism in mind when he wrote and directed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’m assuming that he did not. John Hughes may or may not have had Rand in mind, but philosophically speaking, Ferris is imbued with what Rand describes as the three fundamental values of man: reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Ferris Bueller is, as Ayn Rand’s ethics describes, a man who lives for his own sake.

As a man who lives for his own sake, a guy like a snooty maitre d’ or a power hungry Principal Rooney isn’t going to get into Ferris’ way. An egoist (like Ferris) does not allow anyone else’s needs trump his own needs and/or wants. That means if Ferris Bueller wants to have his way, Ferris gets his way; everyone else’s needs simply do not come first.

As we watch the film, we come to understand what Cameron Frye must have realized about Ferris – being with Ferris Bueller is easy if you understand this one thing: Ferris comes first.

This explains why Cameron’s father’s car goes from looking like this:

ferrari 1

To looking like this by the end of the movie:

ferrari 2

** It’s worth noting here that an individual who lives for one’s own sake might be interpreted be described by others as acting selfishly. To perceive an egoist’s actions as selfish is not a misinterpretation of an ethical egoist’s guiding moral philosophy. According to Ayn Rand, an ethics of selfishness isn’t a bad thing (in fact, Rand considers selfishness a virtue). An ethical egoist’s selfishness isn’t a moral or psychological defect. Unlike most people who are concerned with soul (and bank account) draining activities and ideals like altruism or a sense of selflessness in dealing with their fellow humans, an egoist knows what he wants and knows exactly what he needs to do to get it (serving others selflessly often interferes with our ability to serve our own interests). Ferris Bueller would inform you that his actions were not due to a lack of morals or because he is an asshole. Ferris would tell you that he is, in fact, quite a moral individual. The situation simply is this: he chooses to not be encumbered by fulfilling the interests of others. **

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off costar Ben Stein described Ferris as having an “inner mobility” and an “inner sense of freedom and self-confidence”, and John Hughes said that Ferris Bueller isn’t “labored with all the difficulties that everyone else is”. Given Ferris’ behavior during his day off, we’re safe to assume that the achievement of his own happiness is Ferris’ greatest purpose in life.

Straight outta Rand.

 

** This is why we not only like but want to be like Ferris Bueller and why all the sportos, motor heads, geeks, sluts, and dweebies adore him. The unfortunate reality for most of us is that although we want to be Ferris Bueller, we all know that deep down we all really are like Cameron Frye trapped in lives as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Of quiet desperation”. We need people like Ferris to show us that life is worth living. This is exactly what Ferris does for Cameron. This leads us to a question: since the day ended pretty well for everyone, what’s the harm in what Ferris did? What’s the harm of being selfish and using other people to get what you want if everyone has fun? **

Well, Ferris Bueller’s universally fun-filled day off aside, there’s a tremendous problem with ethical egoism. Namely, the problem with ethical egoism is the fact that egoism tends to be self defeating.

self-defeating

BECOMING AN ETHICAL EGOIST MAKES AS MUCH SENSE AS A CAT MAKING FRIENDS WITH MICE

Listen: the only way a person can really ever be a successful egoist is if a person remains closeted about it. The late Australian philosopher, Brian Medlin (1927-2004), says ethical egoism doesn’t work because people don’t want to live in a world where people only live for themselves. Medlin says:

 

What is he when he urges upon his audience that they should
observe his own interests and those alone? Is he not acting
contrary to the egoist principle? It cannot be to his
advantage to convince them, for seizing always their own
advantage they will impair his. Surely is he does believes
what he says, he should try to persuade them otherwise.

If everybody is an ethical egoist, says Medlin, our selfish pursuit of our own pleasure will inevitably conflict with someone else’s selfish pursuits. Although an ethical egoist can be quite comfortable calling himself an egoist, he is likely to be uncomfortable with other people knowing that he is an egotist. For example, Ferris couldn’t very well ring up Cameron and say, “hey, Cam. I’ve decided, being the ethical egoist that I am, to take the day off. And as an egoist, I’m going to spend the entire day pleasing me, and I’m going to exploit you, Sloane, and anyone else who I need to use along the way. Wanna come along? By the way, bring your dad’s car”.

This would not work. Cameron has his own selfish interests he may want to pursue, including not being exploited by his best friend.

cameron frye

KNOWING CAMERON, FERRIS SAYING EXACTLY THAT PROBABLY WOULD WORK. HE’D FALL FOR IT HOOK, LINE, AND SINKER

Obviously Ferris’ want to exploit Cameron and Cameron’s want to not be exploited by Ferris conflict. An egoist as smart as Ferris Bueller knows that he cannot and should not prance around waving his ethical egoism in everyone’s faces. And Ferris, like many egoists, is far too clever to let other people in on his game. Ferris says that he’s doing it all for Cameron, but really, Cameron’s happiness is a happy accident. An egoist knows that the key to getting what you want does not mean that someone always gets harmed, but it does mean that nobody else knows you’re an ethical egoist.

ferris bueller's day off meek quote

Alright. Rebuttal time, you say. Ethical egoism naysayers like Brian Medlin and Jesus Christ are only partially right.

The egoism-is-self-defeating-argument may be a problem if an egoist is indeed strictly in it for himself. Doing so would indeed be self-defeating. However, being an egoist does not mean that you always have to seek your own happiness to the exclusion of the happiness of others. Ethical egoists often discover that pursuing the greatest good for the greatest number of people actually increases the egoist’s happiness as well.

jesus was wrong

PRETTY SURE AYN RAND WORE THIS T-SHIRT, TOO

Ben Stein claims that Ferris helps Cameron to “liberate” himself. So when Ferris “borrows” Cameron’s father’s car, ignores Cameron’s illness, and talks to the camera about his friend’s non-existent sex life, it’s really to help Cameron to break free from his fear. When Ferris stands completely still and does nothing to stop Cameron while Cameron kicks the holy hell out his father’s car, it’s not because Ferris is looking after his own ass and wants to wipe his hands clean of the whole ordeal, it is because Ferris is being a great friend helping Cameron to gain independence from his father. When Ferris humiliates the maitre d’ at Chez Quis, it’s not because Ferris gets his rocks off humiliating people in public, it’s to put a snarky butthole in his place. When Ferris lip sync’s The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” on the Von Steuben Day Parade float, it’s not to be the center of attention, he’s doing it to show Cameron something good that day.

The fact that Ferris’ happiness was Ferris’ main motivation for taking the day off didn’t necessarily mean that other people had to get hurt. It’s possible that everyone can think you’re a righteous dude and they can get what they want, too.

And because no one admits that we’re all in it for ourselves, everyone is happy.

Especially Ferris.

ferrisbueller smirk

WHO AM I KIDDING, THIS GUY IS A TOTAL SOCIOPATH

In the end, my two cents worth says that Ferris Bueller indeed is a Randian egoist.
I will, however, concede that Medlin and the other haters tend to act as if being an egoist means that you’re required to go all Marquis de Sade in how you treat others. We know that’s not so.
The trick is that you simply don’t go waiving your egoist banner everywhere. If you have to tell people that you’re a Kantian, so be it. Just as long as everyone (especially you) is happy. If you are successful, you can get exactly what you want while everyone else thinks you’re a righteous dude. All it takes is a little bit of obfuscation. And because no one ever admits that we’re all in it for ourselves, everyone is happy.

Maybe except for Cameron.

Anyone else get the feeling that Cameron didn’t show up the next day at school?

Or the next…

… or the next?

 

 

 

 

** I have once again made reference to an original version of a film (and not its sequel). For those who are unfamiliar with the original film, the characters “Doris Finsecker” and “Ralph Garci” are characters from the film Fame, originally released in 1980.

*** For those who don’t know, SFW means “so fucking what?”

 
*THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ANOTHER FORM IN THE BOOK MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER: HOW PHILOSOPHY TAUGHT ME EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT POPULAR CULTURE AND ON THE (now defunct) BLOGGER BLOG “THE KANTIAN EGOIST” (POSTED AUGUST 25, 2009).

 

SOURCES:

Gregory Kavka. “A Reconciliation Project”. Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings. 2007. Ed. Louis J. Poijman. pp. 358-9.

Ayn Rand quote: from “Introduction” from The Virtue of Selfishness:
http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/self-interest.html

Ayn Rand quotes on the principles of objectivism are from Ayn Rand Institute website: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_essentials.

Leonard Peikoff. “Afterword”. 1992. In The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand. [orig. published 1943]. NY: Signet. p. 698.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 1986. Writ. & Dir. John Hughes.

“Who Is Ferris Bueller?” copyright 2006. Paramount Home Video.

Brian Medlin. “Ultimate Principles and Ethical Egoism” [orig. published 1957]: http://www.2fiu.edu/~Medlin’sUltimatePrinciplesandEthicalEgoism.html.

Why I’m Not A Socialist (Although I’m Totally Down With the 99 Percent)

IF YOU WATCH ENOUGH Fox News you’ll learn the world generally is made up of two kinds of people: God-loving Americans and Communists.

For those who don’t know the demographics, “God-loving Americans” consists of the 300 million or so citizens of the United States of America.

Minus the 11 million undocumented immigrants.

 

And Democrats.

 

democrats hate america

 

This means, of course, that the everyone else in the world is a communist.

Communists don’t love God.

Americans love God.

If you’re a God-loving American, by definition that means you’re a capitalist.

Bet you didn’t know God is a capitalist, too.

Indeed He is.

 

god bless capitalism

 

This means God is an American.

If He wasn’t, God’s only-begotten son JESUS CHRIST wouldn’t look like this:

 

jesus loves american... flags

WHEN JESUS COMES BACK HE WILL DEFEAT SATAN – AND DEMOCRATS

 

As much as Americans love God, God loves America.

That’s why America is the greatest country that ever was.

Communists can’t love America.

And just to prove how much God loves Americans, he rewards those who love him most (i.e. Americans) with boundless prosperity. That’s why American money looks like this:

in god we trust

 

Americans tend to be funny people.

The greatest comedians are all American.

That’s because God must have a heck of a sense of humor.

Even though Americans love him so, not all Americans have been blessed with prosperity and abundance. Some Americans don’t have a lot of money.

Some are positively broke.

Some joke, huh?

Still, even if you don’t have money, there’s no reason to lose faith.
Why else would we say we’re “One nation under God”?

pledge-allegiance

We know that the Almighty loves each and every American as much as he loves the private accumulation of capital, but you’re probably asking how can a God that loves Americans so much allow for any of the people that He loves to go without his blessings of prosperity?

How can God allow capitalism if capitalism is the root of so much poverty, homelessness, class tension, exploitation, and war around the world?

At least that’s what some people say it does.

First, I assume if you’re questioning God’s love of capitalism that you’re either a communist, a college student or a Democrat.

Either way, you’re probably wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt right now.

 

Che-Guevara-parody

 

Well, communist, that’s because most people don’t appreciate capitalism because they have no idea what capitalism is.

Most folks think that capitalism is all about making money.

 

capitalism-duck

 
Sure, it’s about that, but there’s more to capitalism than that.

Capitalism isn’t just about money, it’s about morality. Capitalism is a moral theory.
Capitalism isn’t meant to only enrich individuals, but to benefit society as a whole.

Although capitalism’s roots are in the feudal system, it was the 18th century Scottish moral philosopher, Adam Smith’s (1723-1790), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), that is considered the “Bible of Capitalism”.

Smith believed that people are motivated by self-love and that the primary motivation for capitalism is self-interest, private property, and to be compensated in the market.

Smith writes

 

Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command … it is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of society, which he has in view.

 

According to Smith, we enter into exchanges with other people because we are working to our own benefit.

enjoy capitalism

 

Now, at first glance, this seems all rather selfish. A society that encourages people to only fulfill their own needs won’t endure for long.
That perception is absolutely correct.

But for Smith, there’s an ultimate benefit to pursuing one’s own self-interest – being kind of selfish is actually beneficial to society as a whole.

giphy

 

Smith maintains that while we pursue our own interests, by extension we also ensure the well being of others.

Some of this has to do with the nature of the market itself.

We should keep in mind that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher. The goal of our ethics is to do what is good – in particular – to act in a way that is ethically best for society.

People, according to Smith, not only vote at the ballot, they also vote with their wallets. This is how the free market works. A business owner who has a reputation for treating his employees and/or customers poorly or produces a substandard product/service is subject to the will of the market. He may find that people don’t want to do business with a bad businessman. The businessman must realize that he bears some degree of responsibility to the pubic (his business practices must be consistent with the common good) if he wants to make money.

A good businessman must keep in mind that he is bound to operate his business subject to public demand.

Smith also maintains that capitalism encourages innovation. Innovation is based on competition and competition is the catalyst of improvement. In competing with other businesses, entrepreneurs (motivated by self-interest) create new, unique, and better products.
Individuals, like businesses, are motivated by self-interest and that we also possess the want to improve ourselves.

you

 

Milton Friedman maintains that liberty not only guarantees wealth, but that freedom is protected by capitalism. That’s because government, by nature, is coercive and hinders personal freedom. Capitalists (and capitalism) can counteract the actions of government because the free market reflects the true will of the people.

 

*The drive to improve ourselves is materially-oriented. When you add natural liberty to the drive for self-improvement you get capitalism. The outcomes are reason-based. Smith keeps in line with Enlightenment philosophers like Immanuel Kant who maintained that we are driven by reason. Our decisions are rational. This is why Smith discourages monopolies. Monopolies eliminate competition. It’s not rational for one business to dominate the market.

Because Smith believes people make rational decisions, he believes that government regulation should be minimal. The market will function as if guided by an “invisible hand”.

i see the invisible hand

 

Smith says about the Invisible Hand

By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it.

That is, Smith believes when we make money for ourselves, our interactions in the marketplace (as consumers, producers, and investors) benefits other people and society as a whole.

Just in case you didn’t know, the invisible hand is a moral concept.

Adam Smith also wrote

… improvement of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency to society? The answer seems at first sight abundantly plain. Servants, laborers, and workers make up the far greater part of every aspect of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances for the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

 

So far, capitalism sounds like a great gig, right?

billy

 

There’s a big problem with capitalism, tho.

There’s a pretty good chance that not everyone will profit equally. Not everyone will make money, Smith says. Despite the opportunity for individuals to make a F-ton of money, there will still be poor people.

f ton of money

THIS IS WHAT AN F TON OF MONEY LOOKS LIKE

 

Despite all the material fun stuff that capitalism promises, not everyone is on the capitalism bandwagon.

scaled_full_0f13a1aabb491eb3dbf2

 

Call them Socialists, Marxists, Communists, Godless America haters or folks who feel the Bern.

Some people would rather be Red than dead.

You know what that is, right?

bernie-sanders-socialism-scare-gif

 

The most famous treatise on socialism, The Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), maintains that capitalism determines people’s way of life (how people produce, distribute, and use goods). Life in a capitalist society alienates people, oppresses and dehumanizes people, and destroys social bonds. Workers and slaves to machines and slaves to the capitalist and the state that supports him.

This happens because everything is about making money.

According to Marx, even the rich are dehumanized by capitalism.

piece of paper

 

Fans of the theories of 19th century German philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883) tend to believe:

  • Poverty and exploitation are products of capitalism (private property in particular).
    Private property leads to class division and economic inequality.
    Justice requires and end to private property.
    To abolish private ownership of capital and replace it with social (public) ownership.
    Collective ownership by the workers/public.
    Workers should choose how corporations are to be managed.
    Capital is not productive, labor is productive.
    Capitalism breeds unhealthy rivalry.
    Capitalism oppresses women.
    Markets are inherently unstable.
    Capitalism fails to provide social services.
    In a capitalist system, profits trump everything.
    Marx advocated fair wages and public education.

Now, socialism doesn’t seem so scary, does it?

Marx (and Engels) wrote:

 

…that kid of property which exploits wage labour, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labour for fresh exploitation. … when, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses all its class character.

 

truncated theory

 

Marx states that the class struggle resulting from the capitalist system will eventually lead to the proletariat abolishing the capitalist system and replacing it with collective (worker-owned) means of production – Communism.

Under communism, Marx explains, the workers will have a workers paradise.

 

workers_paradise_1920s_big

 

It’s understandable that people aren’t fans of capitalism and why they’d feel that socialism is the answer.* As an American, and a lover of dollars in my wallet, I can respect the right for others to hold different political views than I do.

As wrong as those people may be.

I’ll admit, capitalism can be pretty messed up to some people.

laughs in socialist
But, before we jump on the to-each-according-to-his-need-and-ability horse-drawn cart, we might consider how or why capitalism is so messed up.

There’s a real possibility that we’ve been doing capitalism wrong.

 

capitalism wrong

Yes, it’s possible for Americans to do something wrong.

joke

 

Here’s the thing: Americans are capitalists at heart, but our current brand of capitalism may not be the same kind of capitalism that Adam Smith wrote about.

And that might have a little something to do with this woman right here.

 

Ayn_Rand12

MODERN-DAY AMERICAN CAPITALISM HAS MORE TO DO WITH THE WRITER/PHILOSOPHER/HATER OF MOOCHERS, AYN RAND, THAN IT HAS TO DO WITH ADAM SMITH

 

The Russian born, American philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982), is not only known for her novels/philosophical treatises The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem, she also almost single-handedly influenced modern American capitalism.
If anyone you know declares that they are “going Galt”, blame it on Ayn Rand.

gone galt

 

Rand is most famous for her philosophy of Objectivism, grounded in the moral principle of the “Virtue of Selfishness”. According to Rand, selfishness was acting according to one’s rational self interest. Rand states that altruism (emphasized in deontological ethical theories such as Kantian and Christian ethics) is harmful to individuals and society, and leads to immorality, injustice, and double standards.

 

Rand writes

The purpose of morality is to define man’s proper values and interests, that concern with his own interests is the essence of moral existence, and that man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions… the Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his actions and that man must act for his own rational self-interest.

According to Rand, if you earn it, it’s yours. You are under NO moral obligation to share with or do for others.

That’s because acting with the interests in mind forces us to ignore our own…

 

rational-self-interest

 
Like Adam Smith, Rand’s moral philosophy is also applicable to economics.

645280137_1719643

 

However, Randian economics holds that any attempt to regulate the economy or to influence what we do with what is ours is an infringement on an individual’s liberty and rational self-interest. If you do not do well financially, that is your problem.

No safety net. No invisible hand.

You shouldn’t expect that others will bear the responsibility of maintaining your well being.

No help for you, moocher.

 

invisible hand

NOPE.

 

Rand’s influence on American politics and economics is far-reaching.

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, was a student of Ayn Rand.

 

greenspan and rand

PICTURED: ALAN GREENSPAN, AYN RAND, AND PRESIDENT GERALD FORD

It’s said that Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were fans of Rand’s philosophy.

As are Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who forces, whoops, recommends that his staffers watch the film adaptation of The Fountainhead.

Former Congressman Bob Barr is a fan of Ayn Rand.

Other members of Congress who follow Rand’s objectivist philosophy include Representative Steve King (R-IA), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and Paul’s father, former Representative Rand Paul of Texas.

 

a joke

 

Former 2012 Vice-Presidential candidate and current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI), stated that he handed out copies of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to his congressional staffers as Christmas presents.

 

Paul Ryan said of Rand

You know, it doesn’t surprise me that sales of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have surged lately with the Obama Administration coming in, because it’s that kind of thinking, that kind of writing, that is sorely needed right now. And I think a lot of people would observe that we are living in an Ayn Rand novel right now, metaphorically speaking… The attack on democratic capitalism, on individualism, and freedom America is an attack on the moral foundation of America, and Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this, to me, is what matters most, it’s not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big, or the health care plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason. It is the moral [aspect] of what’s occurring right now and how it offends the morality of individuals working [by] their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack. And it’s that which Ayn Rand would be commenting on, and we need that kind of comment more and more than ever.

… Although to be fair, Ryan later said that he rejected Rand’s atheism.

 

ryan-rand-hey-girl

 

To be honest, Randian capitalism-influenced economic policies work.

People make money.

And when pursuing one’s own interests, one is usually happy.

Because they have money.

3btee

 

However…

catch

 

Rand’s rational self-interest rejects Smith’s (capitalist) ethic that when we do for ourselves, we are actually acting in the interests of the common good.

And as 9 out of 10 philosophers will tell you, when we don’t act in the interests of the common good, society doesn’t fair too well.

The tenth philosopher is Ayn Rand.

She thinks giving the finger to society is ok.

 

greed
Ok, the Capitalist-Socialist divide has been going on for quite some time. Despite the fact that both theories have had the chance to prove which one is correct, all we’ve really done is proved that – well, that nobody has really gotten either theory right.
After all, both theories are over a century old. It’s a little difficult to ring up Adam Smith and ask him how capitalism is really supposed to work.

 

confused-business-man-scratching-his-head-while-reading-a-book-Stock-Photo

NOW, HOW DOES THIS CAPITALISM THING WORK AGAIN?

 

Besides, I have a feeling that Adam Smith spend all of his time on the phone taking selfies.

 

selfie

I HAVE A HORRIBLE FEELING THAT A LOT OF ADAM SMITH’S SELFIES WOULD LOOK LIKE THIS

 

The way things are, we’ve been made to think that there are only two economic theories to choose from. However, Capitalism is not without flaws.

But neither is Socialism.

‘Cause as much as I want universal health care, having a bunch of cash really isn’t that bad of an idea.

 

 

 

 

*I realize that throughout this post I have been using the terms Socialism, Communism, and Marxism interchangeably. And yes, I am aware of the differences between the three ideologies.
SOURCES:
Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements of Man and His Institutions By the Great Thinkers In Western History. 1977. Eds. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. NY: R.R. Bowker Company. p. 803.

Adam Smith. “Benefits of the Profit Motive”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 747.

Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. 1988 [1848]. NY: Signet Classic p. 67, 70.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardsalsman/2012/08/21/mitt-romney-paul-ryan-and-ayn-rand-now-thats-the-ticket/#59c883357810

http://www.e-reading.club/bookreader.php/137212/Rand_-_The_Virtue_of_Selfishness.pdf

Who Knew the Zombie Apocalypse Would Be This… Boring?

WHEN AMC ANNOUNCED that they were going to produce a companion series to their ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead to air in late summer, 2015, I was more than excited. I was in a state of absolute squee.

Fans of The Walking Dead speculated about the companion series’ title, characters, and plot – Where would the show take place? Would the two series be connected? Would fans be treated to twice the amount of Daryl Dixon?

daryl's got a bow

After months of internet rumors and fan speculation, AMC revealed that the companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, would air (in the U.S.), starting in August of 2015.

The only hope The Walking Dead fans held dear was the hope that Fear the Walking Dead be as good as (hopefully better than) the original series.

Well…….

Ok, I know that The Walking Dead isn’t the greatest show on television.

To be completely honest, the show is more entertaining than it is good.

say TWD sucks again

However, being the incurable zombie junkie that I am, I was a fan of Fear the Walking Dead before a single episode had ever aired.

But then, something happened.

I watched the show.

Some folks have complained about inexplicably stupid things that the characters do or about the show’s lack of zombies or even griped about the slow as shit and boring as fuck pace of Fear the Walking Dead.

rick's coma

To be fair to those who are disappointed, these are perfectly justifiable complaints about the show.

And there are some people who just plain don’t like the show.

I’m not one of those people.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I’m actually enjoying Fear the Walking Dead.

Perhaps even more than I like the original series.

Am i the only one who likes fear the walking dead

Yes

However, enjoying Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t mean that I have nothing to complain about.

I do.

More than a few things.


Watching the show, I noticed that there was something bothering me. Something was nagging at my inner philosopher. There just aren’t any good people on the show. I mean, no morally good people.

Wait a minute – I realize that not everyone is familiar with or has watched Fear the Walking Dead. Allow me to take a moment to briefly describe the show’s plot:

Fear the Walking Dead, a companion series to The Walking Dead, follows the lives of high school guidance counselor, Madison Clark and her children, above average teenage daughter, Alicia, and heroin addicted son, Nick her boyfriend and high school English teacher, Travis Manawa, Travis’ ex-wife, Liza Ortiz, their son Chris, and the Salazar family, headed by Daniel, a barber immigrated from El Salvador, and Daniel’s wife, Griselda, and daughter, Ofelia, as they struggle to survive a zombie outbreak in East Los Angeles.

WITH ALL OF THESE COMPELLING CHARACTERS AND NEW LOCATION, WHO KNEW THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WOULD BE THIS… BORING?

WITH ALL OF THESE COMPELLING CHARACTERS AND NEW LOCATION, WHO KNEW THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WOULD BE THIS… BORING?

As I said before, my problem with the show really has nothing to do with the series’ slow pace or lack of zombies. My problem is purely philosophical.

In a show where the audience is expected to root for the characters to survive, the show’s writers have made it difficult for the audience to conjure up an appropriate amount to like for any character to be morally worthy of being rooted for.

In The Walking Dead, there are morally good characters (e.g. Beth, Amy, Sophia, Dale and T Dog). The audience sees that they are good people and we root for them to make it through the zombie apocalypse alive. The audience feels a loss when they die.

That’s because we are upset when bad things happen to good characters.

sophia

The Walking Dead also has definitively morally bad characters (Shane, Dave and Tony, The Governor, Randall, Gareth, Joe, and so on).

These characters are clearly morally corrupted people and their actions reflect their moral aptitude: Shane attempts to kill Rick, The Governor kills his own people, and Gareth is a cannibal. These characters are bad people and we, the audience, are not expected to sympathize with these characters or to condone the bad things that they do.

walkingdeadgovernormeme42

We see that Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors are faced with doing either good or morally bad acts, and we see the characters struggle with the consequences of what they do. Rick showing mercy to Andrew the inmate ultimately results in the death of his wife Lori. Rick, in turn, becomes less willing to extend good will and mercy to others. We see what happens when Rick’s new ethic is taken to the extreme with Gareth and the survivors at Terminus, who live by the motto “You’re either the butcher or the cattle”.

Despite the fact that morally ambiguous characters (everyone else) in The Walking Dead often shift their moral position, they still remain sympathetic and relatable to the audience.

carl's ambigiuty
On Fear the Walking Dead, when we are introduced to the character Travis Manawa, we see that Travis is a good man.

How do we know that Travis is good? He’s a schoolteacher.

Likewise, Travis’ girlfriend, Madison Clark, is a good woman.

Because she’s a high school guidance counselor.

…and no one not good would ever do that.

Madison is such a good person that, when a student tells her that the dead are coming back to life and attacking the living, she insists that the government would inform the public if there was a real threat to the public.

We’re also introduced to Madison’s heroin-addicted son, Nick, who is so deep in his addiction that he can’t tell if he actually witnessed his undead girlfriend eating another person or if he ingested some bad junk.


Does anyone even call heroin “junk” anymore?

Although Nick is a drug addict (a trait usually associated with bad people), we’re assured he’s a good kid who has misfortune of having a very bad habit.


The characters of Fear the Walking Dead are supposed to be good people. And for the first couple of episodes I believed that they are.
I don’t feel that way anymore.

Ok. I know. The Walking Dead is, at it’s core, a morality play. The show has characters that are either morally good or morally bad people. We like Rick Grimes because he is a GOOD man. We dislike Gareth, Joe and the Claimers, and Randall because they are BAD people.

That is what makes the show enjoyable.

The problem with Fear the Waling Dead is that it’s completely devoid of morally good people.

Well, maybe except for Tobias.

You see, the problem with this show is that watching it I got a big case of the feels – the moral feels. I’m feeling all sorts of stuff that I shouldn’t feel about a TV show filled with characters I’m supposed to identify with, like, the entire show seems to be comprised of characters you’d least want to be around (you) if society is overrun with flesh-eating hordes of the undead and civilization goes to hell in a hand basket.

Morally speaking, Fear the Walking Dead is a study in –

Wait a minute, you say. You say you’ve seen the show and you see nothing morally wrong about what any of the characters do. The world has fallen apart and the characters are simply doing what they need to do to survive. Moral ambiguity, even the capacity to do what is morally wrong, is a necessity in The Walking Dead universe. And, that would be a reasonable thing to think if not for the fact that the walking dead hadn’t already told us that

Lori Grimes on doing the wrong thing:

If the overriding ethical principle in The Walking Dead is that humanity must retain it’s morality, even when the world ends, then it is reasonable to assume that the moral message would hold in the Fear the Walking Dead as well.

Six episodes into the series’ run, and I’ve already developed a level of disdain for characters that the average viewer takes at least three seasons to develop.

… and this on show supposedly full of morally good people.


One character who has quickly emerged as a fan favorite is Daniel Salazar.

salazar

Daniel (played by Ruben Blades), is a barbershop owner who gives Travis, his son, and ex-wife shelter during a riot. When we meet Daniel and his family, Daniel initially refuses to provide shelter to Travis and his family. Daniel lets them in only after his wife, Griselda, insists that he open his doors to people in need.

The fact that Daniel is a fan favorite is kind of troubling.

Daniel Salazar tortures a man to get information about “Cobalt”, a military plan to exterminate all beings, dead and living, in Los Angeles, and unleashes a horde of zombies upon a military outpost (and unsuspecting neighbors) just to rescue two people – one of whom was already dead.

R.I.P. Griselda  (spoiler alert)

R.I.P. Griselda Salazar
(spoiler alert)

The seemingly fan-approved actions of Daniel Salazar makes me morally uncomfortable.

Really morally uncomfortable.

I mean, really. Is Fear the Walking Dead telling me that torture is a good thing?

INSTEAD OF RIPPING THE GUY’S SKIN OFF COULDN’T DANIEL HAVE JUST ASKED NICELY OR SOMETHING?

INSTEAD OF RIPPING THE GUY’S SKIN OFF COULDN’T DANIEL HAVE JUST ASKED NICELY OR SOMETHING?

Now, that can’t be right. Even the CIA admits that torture doesn’t work (see: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/torture-it-didnt-work-then-it-doesnt-work-now-9923288.html). The philosophical problem with engaging in acts like torture, as that old utilitarian chestnut of intended outcomes tells us, is that inflicting pain as a means of obtaining accurate information sometimes doesn’t yield correct information, and that means we don’t get the right outcome we want.

The next morning the city is not under attack. So, was the soldier Daniel Salazar tortured lying about “Cobalt” ? Did the soldier give Daniel inaccurate information? Sure, we can say that Daniel and his cohorts may have prevented the military from enacting “Cobalt”.

But at what cost?

Did they truly know that “Cobalt” was going to happen?

If the CIA report is correct, and the tortured soldier lied or provided Daniel Salazar with inaccurate information about “Cobalt”, Daniel Salazar unleashed a horde of flesh eating zombies on his defenseless neighbors – for no good reason.

Daniel Salazar’s actions can’t be morally justified.

Can it?

After watching the six episode inaugural season of Fear the Walking Dead, it seems that the moral message of the show is this: if you’re a good person you won’t live long.

the good people die

To survive in the Fear the Walking Dead universe you have to abandon your morality, something that characters like Daniel Salazar do all too easily. Daniel articulates the series’ moral philosophy with the subtlety of a crossbow bolt to the cranium when he states that good people die.

COME ON, WE ALL KNOW TOBIAS IS DEAD… OR UNDEAD

COME ON, WE ALL KNOW TOBIAS IS DEAD… OR UNDEAD

In one scene, when a soldier challenges Travis to shoot a zombie trapped in a doughnut shop (Oops, walker. No, skinbag. Wait, her name is Kimberly),Travis is unable to shoot the zombie. He later lets the soldier that Daniel is tortured free (of course to disastrous results). Travis is incapable (unwilling) to shoot a zombified neighbor. Daniel is so disappointed by Travis’ good guy-ism that it leads Daniel to observe that Travis Manawa is

Daniel Reaction Weak
I made a short list of a few more things that I found morally troublesome about Fear the Walking Dead:

  • Ofelia Salazar seduces a young National Guardsman (who later is tortured by her father, Daniel) for the purpose of obtaining drugs for her mother’s injured foot.
  • Madison Clark’s indifference to Daniel torturing the soldier.
  • Speaking of indifference – the characters’ indifference to unleashing thousands of the undead on their neighbors (Ofelia states that she doesn’t care about the neighbors because they didn’t help her when she needed help).

Keep in mind that the neighbors are good people – the kind of good people that Daniel Salazar says are going to die.

  • And speaking of other good people – Nick Clark’s newly acquired friend, Victor Strand, refuses to help others escape from holding cells when Daniel Salazar unleashes zombies on the military outpost/detention camp.
YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THIS GUY, RIGHT?

YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THIS GUY, RIGHT?

Speaking of Nick Clark…

  • Madison’s son, Nick, a heroin addict, steals a morphine drip from a dying neighbor.

In case you missed it, Nick totally stuck a dying man’s morphine drip into his foot so that he can get high.

morphine foot

Stealing is wrong, especially stealing from a dying man.

Remember, these are the actions of characters we’re supposed to like.

If you think about it, the “bad” guys (the military) really aren’t that bad.

The military doesn’t seem to be abusing or taking advantage of anyone. They’ve swept and cleared certain areas of the city and erected defensive perimeters around safe zones. They locked thousands of zombies in a sports arena, keeping the undead away from people. They’ve provided food, medical assistance, and electricity so people in the safe zones can maintain a sense of normalcy while the military risks their lives to sweep the undead from Los Angeles.

THERE GO THOSE HORRIBLE MILITARY DUDES, RISKING THEIR LIVES TRYING TO KILL ZOMBIES

THERE GO THOSE HORRIBLE MILITARY DUDES, RISKING THEIR LIVES TRYING TO KILL ZOMBIES

At worst, they’ve got a bit of an attitude.

Maybe it’s because they’re a little fatigued from non-stop patrols and worrying about their families.

 SURE, THIS GUY IS AN A-HOLE BUT DOES THAT JUSTIFY UNLEASHING A HORDE OF THE UNDEAD ON HIS SOLDIERS?

SURE, THIS GUY IS AN A-HOLE BUT DOES THAT JUSTIFY UNLEASHING A HORDE OF THE UNDEAD ON HIS SOLDIERS?

They’re rude but that’s no (morally justifiable) reason to massacre them.

Likewise, Dr. Exner wasn’t an evil doctor who snatched Nick away from his family. She was a good doctor who actually attempted to treat people and put them down humanely to prevent them from turning and infecting others after they died.

Did she deserve to have a mass of flesh eaters turned on her? Probably not.

THERE ARE FATES WORSE THAN SOMEONE SHOOTING YOU IN THE HEAD WITH ONE OF THOSE COMPRESSED AIR GUN THINGIES  THEY USE TO KILL COWS. WELL, UNLESS YOU’RE IN “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”

THERE ARE FATES WORSE THAN SOMEONE SHOOTING YOU IN THE HEAD WITH ONE OF THOSE COMPRESSED AIR GUN THINGIES THEY USE TO KILL COWS. WELL, UNLESS YOU’RE IN “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”

Alright. I know all of this sounds like nitpicking. It very much is. Am I mischaracterizing some characters for the sake of a blog post? Most likely. I know that Travis, Madison, their families and the Salazar family aren’t all bad and the military isn’t all good.

It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that there are legitimate ethical reasons for why all of the characters do what they do.

I can’t think of any that would justify Daniel Salazar’s actions, but you can try to convince me that there are a few morally justifiable reasons.

Despite my moral qualms, I like the show. It’s got zombies and there’s blood and guts and stuff. I’ll keep watching even if I find the characters morally reprehensible. A TV show doesn’t have to have morally sympathetic characters to be philosophical. Even a morally bankrupt character is philosophically intriguing, if only to point out how many times the character violates the Categorical Imperative or how a character’s actions prove that utilitarianism is the worst ethical theory ever.

In the end, I guess I’ll just have to keep in mind that if I awake from a drug-induced stupor to find the world overrun by the undead, when Daniel Salazar shows up, I’ll probably end up sprinting into the blades of a helicopter.

Don’t Go Alone in the Dark To the House On the Left By the Cemetery On the Edge of the Park

IF YOU SPEND enough time watching movies, you’re bound to find a movie or two that, after the movie is over, leaves you wondering “What in the hell is wrong with the people who made this movie?
One of those movies is The Last House on the Left.

Originally released in 1972 and re-made in 2009, The Last House On the Left is a loosely-based exploitation ripoff adaptation of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 film The Virgin Spring.

Based on an a Swedish folktale, The Virgin Spring depicts a father’s revenge against the men who rape and murder his young daughter.

virgin spring 2
One of the United Kingdom’s infamous “video nasties”, The Last House on the Left, along with Reggero Deodato’s rape-revenge flick, House on the Edge of the Park, the rape-revenge themed I Spit on Your Grave (not to be mistaken with I Eat Your Skin, I Eat Your Corpse, or I Hate Your Guts, which, for those who are curious about that film’s plot, is about a trio of racists who terrorize a black family), and the rape-vigilante revenge themed Death Wish, Wes Craven’s The Last House On the Left was among the early 1970’s cinematic progenitors of grindhouse exploitation flicks and reprehensible cinema.

last house poster

Whereas many exploitation films are completely devoid of significance beyond a few boobie shots and gratuitous violence, The Last House On the Left is unique in that the film not only succeeds as one of 70’s cinema’s finest examples of an exploitation flick done well, the film is also philosophically intriguing in its probing on the nature of violence and the ethics of revenge.

WHAT WOULD 1970’S CINEMA BE WITHOUT GRATUITOUS SEX AND EXCESSIVE VIOLENCE?

WHAT WOULD 1970’S CINEMA BE WITHOUT GRATUITOUS SEX AND EXCESSIVE VIOLENCE?

In Bergman’s The Virgin Spring and in Craven’s The Last House On the Left a naïve young maiden and her traveling companion encounter a trio of criminals who rape and murder the young woman (and in The Last House On the Left the young woman’s traveling companion).

virgin spring1

krug and mari

The trio arrive at the home of the maiden, where they are given shelter by the young woman’s parents. When the parents of the young woman discover that their daughter has been murdered by their trio, the parents take revenge against their murderous guests.

In The Last House On the Left, the young maiden is 17 year-old Mari Collingwood. Mari and her (older and worldly) friend Phyllis, are headed to a rock concert by the aptly named Bloodlust when Phyllis suggests that the pair score some marijuana before heading to the show.

mari phyllis and junior

The women are lured with the promise of drugs to the lair of escaped murderer Krug Stillo (played by the late David Hess) and his cohorts, Krug’s girlfriend Sadie and Weasel, and Krug’s heroin addicted son, Junior. Krug and his group immediately begin to brutalize the pair, eventually kidnapping the young women and driving them to the woods, where Krug, Sadie, and Weasel humiliate and abuse the young women sexually. Krug forces Phyllis to urinate on herself and carves his name into Mari’s chest. Phyllis, who manages to escape, is tracked down and is stabbed and disemboweled. Mari is raped by Krug and shot.
krug and mari 2

The killers eventually make their way to a home in the woods that (coincidentally) is the home of the Collingwood family. Mari’s parents, unaware that their unexpected guests are their daughter’s killers, offer Krug and company food and shelter for the night.

last house dinner scene

It’s not long before the murderous trio discover that the middle-aged couple who offered them food and shelter are Mari Collingwood’s parents. Junior, unable to bear guilt and severe heroin withdrawal, expresses his apprehensions about the murders and the possibility of being found out.

Unfortunately for Krug and his crew, Junior expresses his apprehensions a little too loudly.

Mari’s parents overhear the heated exchange between Junior and Krug’s crew. The couple, devastated by the news of their daughter’s death, devise a plan to exact revenge against Krug and his accomplices. The Collingwoods kill Krug, Sadie, and Weasel (he is dispatched by Mari’s mother, who bites off his penis).

KRUG’S DEATH MAY BE THE FIRST DEATH BY CHAINSAW IN CINEMATIC HISTORY

KRUG’S DEATH MAY BE THE FIRST DEATH BY CHAINSAW IN CINEMATIC HISTORY

In a final act of brutality, Krug, arguably a prime contender for worst father of the year, persuades his son to commit suicide.

junior suicide

The film ends as Mari’s parents, having exacted their revenge against Krug and his crew, embrace each other; shattered by the depths of brutality to which they have plunged.

Mari's parents

Our gut reaction to the brutal murder of Mari and Phyllis may be to side with the parents. It’s more than reasonable to think that any person would want to exact revenge on those who do harm to the people that we love.

We may all agree that Krug and his band of criminals deserve to be punished for what they’ve done. But the notion of punishing someone for a crime isn’t as simple as it may seem. There are important questions we must ask before doling any punishment.

Namely, how much punishment is enough – and, more importantly, who does the punishing?

WEASEL DREAMED THAT HIS PUNISHMENT WOULD GO SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IN REALITY, IT WENT A BIT DIFFERENTLY

WEASEL DREAMED THAT HIS PUNISHMENT WOULD GO SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IN REALITY, IT WENT A BIT DIFFERENTLY

Now, if you’re thinking Kant has an theory on this you’re absolutely correct.

Or you’ve read Kant.

CAUTION: KANTIAN PHILOSOPHY AHEAD

Kant tells us that people should be held accountable for what they do and when necessary, the appropriate punishments be given. According to Kant, philosophically correct punishment necessarily requires that: 1) people be punished for the fact that they have committed a crime, and 2) punishments must be proportional to the crime – small punishments for small crimes and big punishments for big crimes.

But then, we already know that.

Of course we believe that people should be punished for committing a crime. And we also believe that heinous crimes deserve stiff (and swift) punishment. But what kind of punishment are we talking about? Do some people who commit a particular kind crime have a particular kind of punishment coming to them?

A punishment like, say, death?

Sure, we sympathize with Mari Collingwood’s parents, but is demanding an eye for an eye the philosophically correct thing to do?

krug's death

Opponents of the death penalty often claim that death as a method of punishment isn’t justice but an act of revenge. Sir Francis Bacon wrote that revenge is a “kind of wild justice” that puts man “even with his enemy” and has more to do with rage than justice.

gandhi quote

On the other hand, supporters of the death penalty argue that justice has nothing to do with revenge or retaliation and to execute someone for a crime such as murder is not an act of vengeance; it is merely returning a harm for a harm. The death penalty is just retribution.

IF WE BELIEVE THAT THE DEATH PENALTY IS MORALLY IMPERMISSIBLE, IS IT OKAY TO BITE OFF A MAN’S PENIS INSTEAD? JUST SAYIN'

IF WE BELIEVE THAT THE DEATH PENALTY IS MORALLY IMPERMISSIBLE, IS IT OKAY TO BITE OFF A MAN’S PENIS INSTEAD?
JUST SAYIN’

Ok, semantics alert: I realize that the words “revenge” and “retribution” are synonyms.
However, when we speak of getting “revenge”, we’re usually referring to the image of a vigilante, the lone gunman who exacts revenge without regard for the legality of their actions. We think of characters like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Jodie Foster in The Brave One, Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, Alex and Ricky’s “victims” in House On the Edge of the Park, or in movies like The Crow, Kill Bill vol. 1 and Vol.2, and so on.

and so on

In the eyes of many people

GET IT? I’M TALKING ABOUT AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND I WROTE “IN THE EYES OF MANY PEOPLE?”

GET IT? I’M TALKING ABOUT AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND I WROTE “IN THE EYES OF MANY PEOPLE?”

The death penalty isn’t revenge.

It’s justice.

And according to Kant, justice is all about retribution.

KANT’S REACTION TO PEOPLE WHO THINK THE DEATH PENALTY IS MORALLY IMPERMISSIBLE

KANT’S REACTION TO PEOPLE WHO THINK THE DEATH PENALTY IS MORALLY IMPERMISSIBLE

Immanuel Kant tells us that justice should be retributive, that is, if you commit a crime, you get what’s coming to you; what you deserve. Kant’s system of justice is a lot like the maxim of the Roman legal system that for each person the constant and perpetual will to render to each what is his due.

However, Kant also states that punishment must be proportional to the crime committed – if a person commits a minor offense, the punishment ought to be minor and if a person commits a major offense, the punishment ought to fit a major offense. Krug and his comrades kidnapped, terrorized, raped, and murdered two people. According to Kant, it is reasonable, if not morally permissible, to put murderers like Krug Stillo to death.*

Kant states:

But whoever has committed murder, must die. There is, in this case, no judicial substitute or surrogate, that can be given or taken for the satisfaction of justice. There is no likeness or proposition between life, however painful, and death, and therefore there is no equality between the crime of murder and the retaliation of it but what is judicially accomplished by the execution of the criminal…

Kant adds:

A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral.

ACCORDING TO KANT, SLICING A MAN LIMB FROM LIMB WITH A CHAINSAW MAY BE A PERFECTLY REASONABLE METHOD OF ADMINISTERING THE DEATH PENALTY

ACCORDING TO KANT, SLICING A MAN LIMB FROM LIMB WITH A CHAINSAW MAY BE A PERFECTLY REASONABLE METHOD OF ADMINISTERING THE DEATH PENALTY

We can make a compelling moral argument that Kant would not have objected to putting Krug and his fellow murderers to death. However, doing so is not without problems.


Mari Collingwood’s parents messed up.

Although the brutality of Mari’s and Phyllis’ deaths is matched by the brutality with which their murderers are killed, we can still argue that the Collingwood’s revenge retribution is not justice.

Mari’s parents should have allowed the authorities deal with Krug and his gang. We create laws to deal with those who commit violent acts against others. The courts decide what is the proper punishment for a particular crime and impose the death penalty if the criminal is deemed worthy of death. Mari’s parents didn’t just kill Krug and his gang, they devised a plan to inflict pain and suffering on the trio before killing them. Kant stipulates that the criminal’s death “must be kept free from all maltreatment”. It’s not irrational to believe that rigging a doorknob to electrocute whoever grabs it or killing a man with a chainsaw or biting off a man’s penis constitutes “maltreatment”.

Mari’s parents were also guilty of violating the First Formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. (it’s much too time consuming to go into Kant’s Categorical Imperative here but check out this Wikipedia article on the Categorical Imperative: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative)

kant's c.i. 2

So… by the end of The Last House On the Left, although Mari Collingwood’s parents have their pound of flesh. They’ve killed the people who killed their daughter. But what do they get in return? Does their retribution bring them justice? The answer may be no, it doesn’t.

Mari’s and Phyllis’ killers are dead. But so are Mari and Phyllis. They’ve had their revenge but it is a hollow victory. Executing the murderers doesn’t change what’s already been done. It is only the Collingwoods who are changed by what they’ve done. Their daughter is dead. Their lives are ruined.

And their acts of brutality have only turned them into the same kind of beasts that killed their daughter.
* there’s an obvious glitch in the matrix, if you will, namely, that it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the wrong person may be put to death for a crime that they did not commit. And that is (obviously) morally impermissible – according to any moral theory.

Sources:

http://acad.depauw.edu/~jeremyanderson/old/120s05/120z_kant.html