THE (UN)ETHICS OF TV LAW

IN ALL HONESTY cutting the cord kinda sucks.

When you got cable tv, you inevitably end up with a bunch of channels you don’t watch. And it costs too much money.

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The only good thing about cable tv is good reception.

I don’t have cable tv anymore.

Now I have an antenna.

Watching television with an antenna is almost as bad as cable tv.

That is to say, you still get stuck with a bunch of channels you don’t want to watch.

Only the reception is worse.

….which leads me to why I’ve been watching a lot of Start TV.

For those of you who have no idea what StartTV is (and I suspect there’s more than a few of you who don’t) StartTV is an over-the-air television network specializing in women-centered programming.

I swear I am not making a pitch, here.

Anyway, if you enjoy wasting spending your potentially productive waking hours binge watching old episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Ghost Whisperer, and Touched By An Angel, then Start TV is the network for you!

Seriously, I should be getting paid to plug this network.

I might want to say that spending most of my otherwise productive hours of the day binge watching Start TV is a waste of time, but I can’t say my time is entirely wasted.

After all, Start TV airs reruns of The Good Wife.  Two episodes a night. Seven days a week.

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All I can say, is thank God for procedural dramas.

I’m not going to get into the weeds describing the show (you can check it out for yourselves), but i will say that I like The Good Wife more that I like Law and Order (and Law and Order is EVERYTHING) and after all these years I still hate Jeffrey Grant.

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YOU CAN SERIOUSLY GO FUCK ALL OF YOURSELF FOR WHAT YOU DID, JEFFREY GRANT

 

If offered a jaunt inside Nozick’s experience machine, all I’d say is,

Me.

Will Gardner.

and a plate of nachos.

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SERIOUSLY, BOTH ISN’T AN OPTION???

Although I’m unashamedly a devotee of the Will Gardner Worship Society,

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I KNOW i’M NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO SHIPPED HARD FOR WILL AND DIANE

watching The Good Wife, I can’t help but be reminded of my first tv lawyer crush — my not-as-obsessed-with-as-I-am-with-Will-Gardner-but-kinda-a-lot-for-a-fictional-character crush on New York District Attorney John James “Jack” McCoy of NBC’s long-running legal drama Law and Order.

You just heard the dun-dun didn’t you?

Now, you may ask, why was Jack McCoy my first tv lawyer crush? Go ahead and ask.

I won’t mind.

After all, Jack McCoy doesn’t cut an imposing figure like Perry Mason or have the swagger of a Will Gardner or look as good in a custom-made ensemble like the guys on Suits.

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LOOK AT THOSE DASHING ENSEMBLES

But, what Jack McCoy has — something that Perry Mason, Will Gardner, and the dudes from Suits don’t have… is KANTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

I think Matlock does, tho.

But that’s another story…….

You see, if there’s any trait that ties tv lawyers together, it’s their collective lack of morality. Or rather, their collective lack of good morality.

It’s not unfair to declare that tv lawyers are a ethically deficient bunch.

In a sea full of moral reprobates, Jack McCoy stands out, not just because he’s a (fairly) morally upstanding guy (comparatively), but because McCoy’s morality is (probably) grounded in the Ethics of the most moral of moral philosophers, 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant.

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LOOKS KANTIAN, DOESN’T HE?

Listen: Anybody who knows me knows I claim to be an ethical Kantian. And anybody who knows me knows that i have a soft spot for Kantian characters.

Yeah, i know. Ayn Rand would hate me.

That’s kinda a good thing, tho.

So, lets chat a bit about why Immanuel Kant is so fantastic and how Jack McCoy is the most Kantian(esque) lawyer on tv, shall we?

If you don’t already know (and I don’t blame you if you don’t), Immanuel Kant tells us all ethics is based in duty. Our actions (motivated by duty) are grounded in our obligations to respect the autonomy of other persons and our respect for the (moral) law. According to Kant, our moral duties are universal and absolute (categorical imperatives, if you will), that we are bound to follow, no matter the consequences. Kant says about our moral duty:

an action done from duty has its moral worth, not in the purpose that is to be attained by it, but in the maxim according to which the action is determined.

According to Kant, our actions are morally good if we are acting according to our moral duties — aka following the Categorical Imperative, aka adhering to universal and absolute moral law.

Jack McCoy does this…most of the time.

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If you read your Immanuel Kant (again, I don’t blame you if you haven’t) You’d probably get the feeling that the second formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative sounds a tad like biblical principle of The Golden Rule.

The Second Formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative:

act in such a way that you simply treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end

The Golden Rule states Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

It’s nor surprising that McCoy is (almost) Kantian. Not only was Jack McCoy raised Catholic, he was also educated by the Jesuits!

you see, that’s where the biblical principles come in…..whatever.

Ok…I know what you Law and Order fans are saying. There were plenty of times when Jack McCoy would bend the law, threaten even innocent people. and outright lie to get convictions. McCoy has been found in contempt of court on not one, but several occasions.

To that, I say touche and you are correct, my fellow Law and Order fan.

We can blame that on Jack’s lapsed Catholicism…..

Hey, even Kant says you gotta turn over he innocent guy to the ax murderer.

However, Jack Mc Coy’s actions are motivated by his respect for doing what is right (whoops, I mean what is RIGHT because I’m talking about what is ethically right, here) and his respect for the law.  McCoy’s unrelenting pursuit to convict the guilty — including his own colleagues — earned him the nickname “hang ’em high” McCoy.

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When defense attorney Danielle Melnick passes along information that leads to the deaths of witnesses against her client, McCoy does not hesitate to prosecute Melnick for violating special administrative measures — despite Melnick’s attempt to appeal to her (otherwise) good legal record and her friendship with McCoy. McCoy is not persuaded McCoy to overlook her participation in several murders.

It’s also worth noting that Jack McCoy prosecuted more police officers than any other district attorney while in office.

No one else but a Kantian like Jack McCoy would do that.

tenor

Ok, I know that’s ADA Barba and not a cop.

 

Well, probably Matlock would.

but that’s another story……

 

 

 

 

SOURCES: Immanuel Kant. [1785]. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

 

ON BUNNIES, BAMBI, AND THE ETHICS OF NOT SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL

EVERYBODY’S GOT A story about the movie that traumatized you as a kid.
The movies The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal are sure-fire picks for everybody’s short list.

The Secret of NIMH.

Coraline.

If you want to watch real cinema-induced trauma, watch the movie “The Adventures of Mark Twain”. The movie is rated G, but you’ll soon ask how a movie that disturbing was rated for general audiences.

Traumatic cinema isn’t a new thing. Filmmakers have been making nightmare fuel for tots for decades. By my estimate they’ve been at it since at least 1942.

That was the year Walt Disney Studios released Bambi.

Walt Disney’s Bambi, based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, was Disney’s fifth animated film. The studio’s four previous films, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo, all have their fair share of scary moments.

Kids turning into jackasses, anyone?

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But Bambi tops all that. Bambi has the one thing that scares the living daylights out of children who are aware of human mortality:

The death of parent.

Somebody shoots Bambi’s mom.

 

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SERIOUSLY, WHAT KIND OF SICK S.O.B. PUTS SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN A KIDS MOVIE???

 

Luckily, that’s not what I’m going to talk about.

I’m going to write about a lighter topic: lies.

Or rather, about a particular kind of lie.

In the movie, Thumper, Bambi’s annoyingly adorable bunny friend, when his mother admonishes him for describing the Prince of the Forest’s walk as not “very good”, repeats his father’s bit of moral advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

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Bad grammar aside, Thumper’s father’s ethic (also called the Thumperian principle, Thumper’s rule or Thumper’s law) sounds like the nice thing to do. But a philosopher’s gotta think: is not saying anything at all the morally right thing to do?

First off, Thumper is right. Bambi’s walk was wobbly.

Bambi, a newborn deer, had the typical gait of a newborn deer – not very good.

Thumper merely offered his honest opinion.

Honest.

Spilled the T, as the kids say these days.
…actually, now that I’m thinking about it, Thumper threw some serious shade.

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Honesty usually isn’t considered a bad thing.

We often say honesty is the best policy, and if we consider being honest the same as telling the truth, we should also value honesty as a stone on the path to wisdom.
Remember, philosophers are all about loving wisdom.

If we say honesty is the best policy, we say it knowing that the truth is often difficult to hear.

 

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YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY TALK ABOUT PEOPLE NOT LIKING THE TRUTH WITHOUT INCLUDING THIS… IT’S THE LAW

 

Although we say that the truth hurts; that we’re offering tough love or “constructive criticism”, we praise straight shooters, people who “tell it like it is” and “call it like they see it”.

Of course, we wouldn’t want people to tell the truth all the time. Even Plato recognized the usefulness and necessity of lies.

To the rulers of the state then, if to any, it belongs of right to use falsehood, to deceive either enemies or their own citizens, for the good of the state: and no one else may meddle with this privilege. − Plato

If I’ve learned anything from watching Jim Carrey movies, I’ve learned that not being able to lie can be just as bad as lying. Should we say that those jeans really do make our wife’s ass look fat? Should we tell our three-year-old that Sparky didn’t go to doggie heaven? Should we tell the truth even if the truth isn’t nice?
Is it better to think it and not say it?

Should we just omit the truth?

There is a line between being tactful and lying. We lie when we withhold the truth. But not telling the truth isn’t an outright lie − it’s not saying anything.

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But isn’t omission a lie?

What is lying by omission?

Lying by omission, otherwise known as exclusionary detailing, is lying by either omitting certain facts or by failing to correct a misconception

Let’s get back to the original Thumperian principle: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. Thumper isn’t omitting facts or failing to correct a misconception. The matter at hand concerns Thumper’s opinion.

If Thumper followed his father’s admonition, he wouldn’t have lied by omission.

He wouldn’t have been rude, either.

That kinda was Thumper’s mom’s point, wasn’t it?

mothers

Ok. Thumper isn’t a liar. But something’s still bugging me about what Thumper said. Or rather, something’ bugging me about abiding by the Thumperian principle. Sometimes we need to tell some of those not nice truths.

After all, we’re not just talking about not hurting someone’s feelings. In the long run, it doesn’t matter whether someone wears a pair of ill-fitting jeans. It’s not just a matter of bad manners.

We’re talking about philosophical integrity.

When we declare a principle like, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” we’re declaring a philosophical position. We’re saying we believe being nice − being nice; being aware of the feelings of others and respecting others as we want to be respected − is a good thing.

And by good, we mean it’s the morally correct thing to do.

The Bible tells us it’s good to be nice to people. Mathew 7:12 says,

“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Being nice isn’t just a very Christian thing to do, it’s the Kantian thing to do.
The German philosopher. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), created the Categorical Imperative as a means of establishing a basis of ethics (not based in religion or consequentialism) that would apply to all people, universally.

Kant’s Categorical Imperative states, “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law”

Yeah, it sounds a lot like the Golden Rule, but Kantians INSIST that it’s not the same thing.

Another Formula Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the Formulation of Ends, states: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”

In short, according to Kant and the Bible, we’re morally obligated to treat others with respect – an element of which is not lying to people.

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It’s important that we be nice to people, but it is also important that we tell people the truth.

That’s because the truth is illuminating.

Plato demonstrates the illuminating effect of the truth in the Allegory of the Cave.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, from Book VII in The Republic, Socrates describes the story of a group of prisoners trapped inside a cave.

The prisoners are unable to leave the cave because they are chained to a wall and unable to face in any direction other than to face straight ahead. The only images the prisoners see are the shadows projected on the wall in front of them, illuminated by the light from a fire behind them.

The shadowy images on the wall are the only reality the prisoners know.

platosallegoryofthecave2

The prisoners eventually escape the confines of the cave and are brought into the light of day.

Light of Day… good song, awful movie.

At first, the brilliant light of the sun pains their eyes and they are confused by what they see. The prisoners realized that the world inside the cave isn’t reality at all.

There’s a bit more to Plato’s allegory, however, misinterpreted to its most basic components, Plato’s tale of the chained prisoners demonstrates the effect of truth, and how the truth, even if initially hurts us, is essential for a good (i.e. philosophical) life.

So, what does all this have to say about Thumper?

Well, for starters, Thumper was rude. Additionally, he wasn’t really stating anything that wasn’t obvious to even the most unobservant forest dweller. Thumper’s unsolicited opinion based on his observation of the newborn fawn’s walk doesn’t seem controversial – primarily because it was an opinion.

opinions-vary

But − should we be concerned about the feelings of others? Should we hold opinions to a different standard than we hold the truth? Should we, as Maurice Switzer suggested, “remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it”?

Honestly, I really can’t say exactly what a philosopher should think about what Thumper said. Maybe, just for the sake of preventing meaningless (and all too often pedantic) philosophical arguments, we should follow Thumper’s dad’s advice.

Seriously, where was Thumper’s dad???

 

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I THINK I HAVE AN IDEA…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumper_(Disney)

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lying_by_omission

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

My New Year’s Resolu – Oh, Nevermind.

It’s the end of the year.

2013 is over and done. Onward to 2014!

 

i can't believe it's been a year

 

The end of the year means taking the time to assess the important things: Life. Relationships. My credit rating. Blog views.

 

You know,  the important stuff.

 

Unfortunately, being the cynic that I am, thinking about life inevitably leads to thoughts like this:

 

ending one minute at a time

 

Thanks a lot, Chuck Palahniuk.

 

And of course as the end of one year approaches, we mark the occasion by making resolutions.

Or as I call them, my annual list of unreasonable goals and broken promises.

 

stop lying resolution

 

The funny thing about New Year’s resolutions is, even though I absolutely know that I’m never going to stick to my resolution, I can’t not make them. Not making a resolution leaves me feeling like I’ve gone somewhere and left something behind. Like driving to the beach only to realize that I’ve left my towel at home.

 

You can’t go from one year to the next without making a resolution. That just ain’t American.

 

New-year-resolution-2014

 

Ok. I know that 9 out of 10 resolutions anyone makes at any time of the year are made to be broken. And to reduce my chances of failure, I’m not going to vow to lose weight or to become a better person (whatever that is),  And as a philosopher, I know that consistently making and breaking promises to myself violates Kant’s Categorical Imperative. So, I figure, in order to actually achieve my goals and to maintain any kind of philosophical integrity,  that this and all my future New Year’s resolutions shall be more realistic  – that is, accomplishable.

 

 

MAKING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF SISYPHUS. HE DIDN'T ACCOMPLISH HIS RESOLUTION, EITHER.

MAKING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF SISYPHUS. HE DIDN’T ACCOMPLISH HIS RESOLUTION, EITHER.

 

 

I’m gonna limit my list to stuff I can actually do.

 

So , without further ado, I, The Mindless Philosopher, hereby resolve to:

 

  • Stop shooting smack (I thought I’d put one at the top of my list that don’t really do, so this one should be easy).
  • Get outside more (and by “outside” I don’t mean periodically poking my head out the front door to check if the mailman has dropped off the stuff I ordered from Amazon).
  • Pick a political philosophy and stick to it.
  • Write more on epistemology and metaphysics (writing on ethics is too easy).
  • Finish writing my second book.
  • Start writing my second book.
  • Stop calling myself a sapiosexual (no one knows what that is. and it sounds pretentious, anyway).

 

sapiosexual

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THIS WORD MEANT UNTIL THIS YEAR, EITHER.

  • Read something other than true crime books.
  • And on that note, stop watching Mob Wives.
  • Get a Twitter account (No, wait, scratch that one. I’m not going to tweet anything).
  • Learn how to walk in heels.
  • Lighten up my attitude towards Aristotle (the homunculus is no reason to discredit a philosopher’s entire philosophy).
  • Get over my obsession with Morrissey.
  • Devote my Sundays to something other than watching The Walking Dead.
  • Contribute to the Pacifica Network (On second thought, I might actually break this one).
  • Stop wearing pajama pants in public.
  • Stop quoting Nietzsche out of context.
  • Actually read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Admit that I don’t always have to be right.
keep calm i'm always right

WHO AM I KIDDING, I’M ALWAYS GOING TO BELIEVE I’M RIGHT

 

  • Acknowledge that Severus Snape is not a real person and that I cannot marry him.
DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

 

And finally, stop being so cynical.

 

That last one might not happen this year. I am a philosopher, after all.

 

imnotcynicalLOGO

 

You know, I don’t know if I will break any (or all) of my resolutions by year’s end. If I’ve learned anything from David Hume, it’s that what happened yesterday can’t tell us what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even five minutes from now.  There are literally millions of reasons to break a New Year’s resolution.

No, really. If there are parallel universes the reasons are infinite.

I can imagine pajama pants sweeping the runways during New York Fashion Week. I could find a whole new reason to hate Aristotle.  Or VH-1 could give Big Ang another spin-off reality TV show…

 

Or I just might open my door one warm day in April to find Severus Snape delivering my Amazon order for  Farscape the complete series.

Ok. Probably none of that will happen.

 

But there is one resolution I know I will fulfill this year – and that’s to wish everyone a  Happy New Year.

Here’s to 2014 and a new year of happy thinking!

 

Philosophically yours,

TMP

My New Year’s Resolution…. I Guess.

2012 is over.

We’ve only been a few days into 2013 and I’ve discovered that the new year has revealed a new problem.

I can’t talk to people.

Actually, I’ve known this for years.

That’s not exactly right. Let me correct myself. I mean, I can speak my vocal cords work and whatnot. I can make sound and say words. It’s just that for the past few years I’ve spent so much time writing, talking about, and thinking of philosophy that when it comes to the act of simple chit chat, it’s a no-can-do for me.

All I talk about is, ugh! philosophy.

As a result, I think I’ve become the most boring person, ever.

When I speak people this is what happens:

Bored-people-007

And as a result of that, I’ve decided my New Year’s resolution. I’ve resolved to become an INTERESTING, DYNAMIC, NOT-SOCIALLY AWKWARD PERSON.

By the end of 2013, I’ve resolved to be less like me and more like this:

David-Lee-Roth-jump

 

Yeah, I know. I’m a philosopher. Good luck with that.

However, as much as I truly desire to become as exciting as Diamond Dave in any conversation, I realize that I’ve got one big problem I can’t stop talking about philosophy. No, really. I can’t it’s like I have a compulsion a moral imperative that I do. You see, the (great) German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that if one has a talent like intelligence, judgment, or wit (regrettably a quality I lack) we are obligated to use that talent. It is our imperative to do so. Kant writes:

A third finds himself a talent which could, by means of some cultivation, make him in many respects a useful man but he finds himself in comfortable circumstances and prefers indulgence in pleasure to troubling himself with broadening and improving his fortunate natural gifts… let him ask whether his maxim of neglecting his gifts… agrees also with what is called duty… But he cannot possibly will that this should become a universal law of nature or that it should be implanted in us by a natural instinct. For, as a rational being, he necessarily wills that all his faculties should be developed, inasmuch as they are given him and serve him for all sorts of purposes.

I guess my talent is talking about philosophy.

So you see, if I don’t go around telling people about philosophy, I’m totally violating Kant’s categorical imperative. And that means

Hey wait! Where are you going? I was just explaining how Kant says

Oh.

oh…

SOURCES:

Immanuel Kant. 1997 [1785]. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. Trans. Lewis White Beck. 2nd Edition, Revised. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 39-40.

On Honey Boo Boo and the ethics of self exploitation

I’ve noticed a few things lately. I’ve noticed that scripted television isn’t around much anymore. I think there are still writers out there (or did I miss something? Are professional television writers banned?). Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but none seem to be busy writing for prime time TV.

I have noticed that there are a whole lot of “reality TV” shows flooding my Time Warner cable.

I’m not necessarily complaining about reality TV. I actually like some of these shows. I admit I can’t do without my RuPaul’s Drag Race, Project Runway, Chopped, Face-Off, or My Cat From Hell. Although I enjoy watching the overly dramatic (and thoroughly edited) lives of reality TV stars and their shows, I’ve noticed that despite the tremendous entertainment value of reality TV, the genre has been the object of an equal amount of criticism. As of late, the criticism seems to be focused on one reality TV show in particular.

This one:

This is the cast of The Learning Channel’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

In case you’ve been living under a rock (or just somewhere where there is life beyond television), Here Comes Honey Boo Boo follows the lives and antics of seven-year old pageant kid, Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, her parents, June “Mama” Shannon and Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, and Alana’s three older sisters, Anna (aka “Chickadee”), Jessica (aka “Chubbs”), and Lauryn (aka “Pumpkin”), while giving the rest of America a glimpse into life in rural McIntyre, Georgia.

Might I add that the family recently added Baby Kaitlyn, the daughter of Alana’s eldest sister Anna.

…And for a while the family owned a pig named “Glitzy”.

Now, on the surface, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is no different from its watching-real-people-as-entertainment predecessors. PBS’ An American Family, which aired in the 1970s, established the tradition of broadcasting one’s private tribulations for the world to see (I think one can clearly mark the start of the decline of reality television from the moment PBS aired Pat Loud asking her husband Bill for a divorce). The problem with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, some say, has to do with the fact that the Family Boo Boo has done something one might have thought was impossible to do in reality television: show has actually crossed the line of good taste. A critique of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo in The Hollywood Reporter read:

“You know this show is exploitation. TLC knows it. Maybe even Mama and HBB know it, deep down in their rotund bodies. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a car crash, and everybody rubber-necks at a car crash, right? It’s human nature. Yes, except that if you play that card, you also have to realize that human nature comes with the capacity to draw a line, to hold fast against the dehumanization and incremental tearing down of the social fabric … “

The Hollywood Reporter called the show “horrifying”.

The Guardian wrote:

“none of the women or girls who participate in the show seems to hate themselves for their poverty, their weight, their less-than-urbane lifestyle, or the ways in which they diverge from the socially-acceptable beauty standard.”

In addition, The Guardian accused TLC of  portraying Honey Boo Boo and her family as something to “point and snicker at”.

But what exactly are we pointing and snickering at? As much as we might want to keep the reality of rural America a secret, the Thompson/Shannon family is no different from many families in the U.S. Thirty-seven percent of Americans live in the South. At last count, a clear majority of the American public (like Honey Boo Boo’s family) is overweight. And like June Shannon’s family, many American families include children fathered by different men.

So what’s the problem?

If The Guardian is correct and TLC is offering Here Comes Honey Boo Boo as something to “point and snicker at”, then we should consider what exactly the network is up to in airing the series. If the show is on merely for the purpose of laughing at the Thompson/Shannon family, we may have an ethical problem on our hands. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (via the Second Formulation of his Categorical Imperative) argues that we are not to use others as mere means to our ends. Kant writes:

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” — Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals

This means, if we want something (e.g. we want to be entertained) we must make sure that no one is exploited by our act. THAT means if we watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for the sole purpose of laughing at Honey Boo Boo and her family, we are using them as mere means to our ends. There are other, less harmful ways we can be entertained (like reading philosophy). And our entertainment should not come at the of the degradation of others.

But is the TV show truly exploitive? Well, lets start by asking what is truly exploitive about the show? We know that low-income, not-too-educated, rural, self-professed “rednecks” exist — whether they are on TV or not — and Alana Thompson’s parents were entering their daughter into kiddie pageants long before the show aired. Watching a family like Honey Boo Boo’s isn’t necessarily exploitive, even if we are entertained by what we see.

It is possible that some people are watching the show for educational reasons.

Hey — It’s possible!!!

I guess we’re left to ask, does the fact that a camera is present automatically mean that anyone is being exploited?

Watch it and make the call for yourself:

SOURCES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Here_Comes_Honey_Boo_Boo

* it is worth noting that The Learning Channel (TLC) was created as a joint project between NASA and the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, in 1972, for the purpose of providing “real education” via television. So, the claim that one is watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo for its educative value is not so far-fetched as it seems.