Pop-culture philosophy
#1
I remember reading a long time ago about some university which had a philosophy course based on comic books. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I came across this recent article - Justice, Order, and Chaos: The Dialectical Tensions In Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. It makes an interesting read. All too often philosophy is seen as a boring enterprise with no real life relevance. Maybe pop-culture philosophy can help dispel some of those myths.
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#2
(21-Jul-2012, 06:49 AM)Lije Wrote: All too often philosophy is seen as a boring enterprise with no real life relevance.

I like this essay by Ayn Rand to tackle this typical misconception.
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#3
Thanks Lije and Kanad.

While the moral philosophy of Nietzsche and Rand will remain legitimate objects of critique, an undeniably important contribution by both is their reminder of the need to acknowledge the influences of the powers that be, on what are thought of as moral standards of a society. The powers that be maybe mighty aristocrats defining Nietzsche's herrenmoral, or totalitarian commissars whose enforced morality is what Rand saw her literature and her characters' struggles as a rebellion against.

As a contemporary case in point, consider the question of what is considered acceptable language in public discourse. While callous use of belittling language is increasingly being recognized as an instance of unexamined and abused privilege, the point that the definition of what constitutes acceptable language itself is unduly influenced by those in positions of class-privilege has also been acknowledged, for instance, recently by Ophelia Benson and earlier more controversially by George Carlin (What is unfortunate here that while this promising starts out as a potentially useful critique of euphemism as obfuscation, quickly degenerates into blatant exhibitionism of ableism.). Either way, this is yet another illustration of the Nietzschean insight(and the Randian reminder) that in practice, any notion of acceptable behavior cannot be viewed in isolation of the preferences of the powers that be.

To the thesis that morality is objective like a Law of Nature, the Nietzschean view that morality is arbitrarily defined by might is an antithesis, and much effort in moral philosophy has been devoted to attempts at a synthesis to evolve a standard of morality that is neither objective nor arbitrary.

[NOTE: (Very) Mild spoilers and oblique plot details maybe present below]

Staying with the Batman Trilogy, the first and last movie seem to, between them, constitute a critique of what maybe called the radicalisms of both the Right and the Left, enforced by plutocrats and commissars respectively. The Dark Knight Rises has been subject to the somewhat far-fetched accusation that it criticizes the Occupy movement. This may simply be an instance of the presentist fallacy, because events in the movie seem to parallel more closely the French Revolution than the Occupy movement, complete with a Bastille scene, copious Reign of Terror references and a Robespierre-like demagogue. Therein seems to be a reiteration of a historical warning against the excesses of the radicalism of the Left. A critique of unbridled free-market fundamentalism, a recognizable radicalism of the Right, which echoes Michael Moore's criticism of Wall Street here, can be found in this exchange between Earle and Lucius Fox in Batman Begins about restoring the initiative and influence to creators, innovators and developers rather than those who 'move money around'.

In the Indian context, historian Ramachandra Guha sees the history of post-Independence India itself as one of assiduous attempts to avoid the twin perils of Right and Left wing radicalism and suggests that it is a political dispensation free of both, that will respond best to the aspirations of nation as diverse as India (unlike, say a more homogenous nation like China).
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#4
(21-Jul-2012, 06:49 AM)Lije Wrote: Justice, Order, and Chaos: The Dialectical Tensions In Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The article's interpretation didn't make much sense to me:
Quote:Batman was a lawless vigilante who was ultimately responsible for numerous deaths through his recklessness. He did regularly resort to the very coerciveness that he ostensibly existed to oppose. And so even though he usually adhered scrupulously to a principle against crossing the line into killing (and becoming barely distinguishable from his foes) which kept him still a hero, he was nonetheless, in philosophical truth, a Dark Knight and not a hero to be embraced in a morally uncomplicated way

//He did regularly resort to the very coerciveness that he ostensibly existed to oppose//

I think this is totally incorrect. There is a difference between self-servicing coercion and constructive control. For e.g. if a person is on diet, s/he might force herself/himself to not eat some specific foods. This is not bad coercion. Similarly law and order can't be confused with coercion of monarchs.

The second thing that is wrong is that any morality should accept the fact that humans have their flaws. Infact that is the very reason "ethics" exist. We can't confuse the rules enforced for ethical reasons with coercion. Legislation passed to curb child abuse is in no way bad coercion.

Lastly, I strongly feel that transitional states can never have perfect implementation of ethical rules. What I mean is if the current system is not perfect, for the transition to a perfect system will need implementation of rules that are not perfectly ethical to make that transition possible. Dark Knight is indeed a very good example of that. Till a city understands "value of truth", some misdirections (if not a lie) will be necessary for the transition.
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#5
(21-Jul-2012, 06:49 AM)Lije Wrote: All too often philosophy is seen as a boring enterprise with no real life relevance. Maybe pop-culture philosophy can help dispel some of those myths.

Here is another attempt to demystify philosophical concepts via popular culture:

5 mind-blowing academic theories as taught by classic movies - By M. Asher Cantrell, Jason Cross December 03, 2012
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