Thursday, April 28, 2011

Abstract: Death Note and Justice

In class, we've often talked of morality. Generally, we have talked about morality on a large scale, whether it is right to take this or that attitude. For this presentation, I'd like to focus on how morality affects the legal system, and how the word "justice" can be interpreted. To that end I'm focusing on a story from across the Pacific called Death Note, originally written by Tsugumi Ohba. The story focuses on two young men, Light and L, with vastly differing views on justice and the legal system. However, the two are actually very similar to one another, and their actions are not clear-cut black and white, but more toward the grey. Through examining them through the lenses of various ethical standpoints, we may learn what true justice is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Locke, Empiricism, and Tabula Rasa

Locke was one of the first empiricists and he believed that memories formulate who people are. He believed that without memories, a body is just a shell, and not an actual person. In this presentation, we will relate Locke’s memory theory to the movie Memento and the TV series Dollhouse. Both deal with people who live in a tabula rasa state, which as defined by Locke is the state all humans are born into. People learn through experience and experience only. In the nature vs. nurture debate, he believed in nurture. These are two representations of this philosophy, because in the case of Memento, Leonard wakes up every day as a blank slate, not being able to remember anything after his accident. He uses his body as a way to organize those facts he knows about the man who killed his wife, so that he can remember, through tattoos. Dollhouse is an example of tabula rasa in that the “actives” memories are erased, and replaced with memories that are desired by other people. After this so called “engagement” the actives minds are once again erased and they revert back into this blank slate state. The big question is: does this event (or series of events in the case of Dollhouse) change who these people are? Or is there something about these people that defines them, instead of their memories?

Abstract: Kuhn and The Paradigm Shift

In 1962, scientist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn changed the way society views science with his revolution book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In this work, Kuhn identifies the nature of a scientific paradigm and describes the process that must be undergone for one to change. While Kuhn’s work focuses on how paradigms affect science and scientists, his philosophy transfers beautifully to film. For this presentation, our scientists will be Neo from The Matrix and Truman from the Truman Show. With the help of these cinematic scientists, Kuhns views on paradigm shifts become more apparent. This presentation will focus on specific elements of the paradigm shift. For the paradigm to shift, an initial paradigm must be in place. The Truman Show will help us to understand why an initial paradigm can seem completely absurd to those above it, while being completely believable to those who subscribe to it. To follow, The Matrix will help us to identify the grief and denial that a scientist may experience when a paradigm is shifting. The Matrix will also demonstrate Kuhn’s notion that a paradigm shift requires a catalyst. Later, Neo will demonstrate the Kuhnian ideal that a paradigm shift can create enlightenment. To conclude, The Truman Show will provide a word of caution and express the need to keep an open mind when confronting paradigm shifts.

Why So Extreme?

One of the things we've been talking about in class is Eastern vs. Western culture and specifically about murder and violence.  We've talked about The Boondock Saints and whether taking the life of a person who will kill more is ethical and we've talked about the Dalai Lama and his approach toward the Chinese who've invaded his country.

Why do we only talk about the extremes of death, murder and violence?  On a more day-to-day level, what about things so small as talking about someone behind their back? Or lying? Cheating? 

Do you inform those with authority if you see someone doing something wrong or believe that karma will even everything out in the end? If you find out that someone said something mean about you, do you spread rumors about them too or shrug it off believing that it says more about the person talking than it says about you?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ontology: Black Swan

Kathleen Trujillo
Gail Wester


Black Swan (2010) directed by Darren Aronofsky exemplifies ontology due to the philosophical issues apparent in the life of the emotionally arrested protagonist, Nina Sayers. These predicaments are concerned with the nature of being and question what it means to be human, what one’s life is amounted to, and will often lead to a significant alteration of the way one lives. In the case of Black Swan, these questions raised launched the main character into a transformation in which she discovered her tragic flaw: an obsession for perfection. Undergoing this change, she learned to embrace herself and others, which ultimately led to her triumphant death. In addition, the analytical nature of the study focuses on differentiating between the psychological and ontological crisis of Nina.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

No Country For You!

The following scene is from the movie The Terminal. I think it shows a great representation of an ontological crisis. This scene is near the beginning of the movie.

I see many parallelisms between this clip and any regular ontological crisis we might have, for example: the fact that Viktor can't communicate clearly highlights the lack of understanding we face when thrust into a difficult situation. In this scene, Viktor doesn't yet realize the full weight of his situation.

If you guys haven't seen the movie, it's pretty good. It gives a humorous look at hard times that we all come across in life.

Heros/ Idols

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I couldn't get the clip to embed to here is the link.

How important is it to have a hero to admire?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why would an evil be necessary?
Is any means that leads to evil itself evil?
How did it happen that Yuri has this job?
Is there wide personal demand for what Yuri does or is there simply wide demand for his clients (governments)?
If his clients were not governments would you stop buying their products when this was discovered?
Why keep using the interstates built specifically to move military hardware? Why keep paying your taxes?
Why let Yuri Go?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Sisters Keeper

This movie depicts many different philosophical themes.
The first theme is ethics because they engineered a child for the sole purpose of saving their oldest child from cancer. The second theme in this film is ontology, which is showed in two different ways. The first is due to the challenges not only because of the disease, but also because of the legal problems they are faced with. Due to these problems the family starts to break apart, but in the end even though they have had many tribulations they grow stronger as a family. The second problem of ontology that is shown is through Ana because she doesn't really know her purpose in life. The only reason for her birth was to save her sister's life, and that is all she has ever known. The third philosophical theme is the issue of free will. Ana's parents want Ana to continue to give her body parts to her sister, but both Ana and her sister, Kate, refuse to.

A Walk To Remember

In this clip Jamie has leukemia and has stopped responding to treatment. She and her boyfriend Landen are faced with the fact that she is going to die. Even though they know this they try to live their lives together to the fullest, which leads Landen to ask her to marry him.
This scene displays the reaction that many humans have, which is to fulfill all their dreams before they die; To see their miracles come true.
In this movie Jamie had a list of things she wanted to see and accomplish before she died. With the help from Landen she was able to live out all of her dreams. Landen shows how many people would react if they find out a love one is going to die.

Angst, and Sickness Unto Death in Evangelion

Evangelion is full of some real basket cases, but also has a good bit of Existentialist Angst.

response for dark knight (really the dark crystal)

To question “can there be good without evil” implies that they are fundamentally different in their true nature and that could take a lot of justification. It really goes back to the first question of who gets to define good and evil and that could be more complicated than can there be good without evil.

Even though there seems to be a social conscience of what good and evil are they are still relative terms. Relative terms that we have assigned using our senses and experiences. We may need good to describe evil and vice versa but that could be just a nomenclature issue and what part of a name encompasses an object?

Maybe good and evil are just different parts of the same thing just seen in a different relative light. The question then could become can we alter how someone receives/perceives their inputs in an effort to alter their perception of good/evil?

But in a lighter note the concept that good and evil are really just two parts of the same is presented in the clip from Dark Crystal.

For Ryan (warning language)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kinect Self-Awareness Hack

A somewhat humorous take on artificial intelligence, morality, and the commonplace notion that A.I. will try to take over the world.

Video from

Donnie Darko: life isn't that simple!

At one point in the movie Donnie Darko, one of Donnie's teachers starts up with a class exercise about a thing called the "lifeline". The lifeline is a system of organizing situations and actions, based on "the two deepest human emotions": Fear and Love. Donnie insists that "life's not that simple" while the teacher insists that yes, life is just as simple, since the lifeline says so.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

just another cheesy kung fu clip

First let me state that I am not a Buddhist but I was speaking with another student today and the conversation turned to a quote from the Dalai Lama. When China invaded Tibet and killed many people, some of his followers went to him and asked what should be done. The Lama is reported to have said “We must pray for the Chinese.”

It was stated that this quote was used by some to vilify the Lama for how could he stand to see his own people slaughtered.

One could argue that the Lama is a moral absolutist, like Kant, and simply feels hating or harming the Chinese is wrong no matter what. Or…

Could it be that for the Lama the death of the many, innocent or not, was not as important as the actions of the still living aggressors? This may seem horrible but maybe to the Lama the dead have returned to the source, the Creator, or to Plato’s Big Truth. The dead have left this realm and there is nothing more he can do or provide for them. Now the dead are in the realm of the source/Creator/Big Truth and it is up this indescribable force to do with them what It will. Heaven, reincarnation, nothingness believe what you will.

But the living murderers what of them? If I remember right one of the roles of the Lama is to end the suffering of all by helping them find peace and nirvana. Once he had escaped the cycle of reincarnation he was “reassigned” to blissfully help others achieve the same. In the still living murderers, the Lama has the ability to achieve this.

I guess this might make the Lama an objectivist for his desire, like Roark’s, is in his work. If you notice the Lama did not say “pray for me, for I have work to do” because like any good objectivist, he does not expect or ask for the labor of another for his benefit. He would do Rand proud. Or maybe Rand, like all of us, stands on the backs and ideas of giants.

Some Determinism in House, MD

House is in a coma, and has a conversation with a dead woman about fate and the meaning of life.

The fallacy of freewill.

Short clip that took me awhile to find, been thinking about it for awhile though.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reality, truth, dreams

...and more, to be sure. Thanks, Evangelion!

Disclaimers: spoilers ahoy, and some sexual stuff (maybe?).

Pay special note to ~7:20! Later, around 8:00, we get a little bit of Nietzsche's complaint over the inaccuracy of language and the will to power.

Here's the link, since YouTube doesn't think it can embed the video.

Ah, Evangelion

An Existentialist clip from Evangelion. Hurray!

No, it doesn't have any spoilers, which is good.

There's also a bit of discussion about Self and Mind.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Some other examples of AI: Outlaw Star and Terminator 2

The anime Outlaw Star involves a spaceship's computer, named Gilliam. This episode introduces Gilliam (jump to 5:40 for his introduction). A little later (jump to 19:50), Gilliam expresses concern for his "future prospects." In general, Gilliam tends to be polite, sensitive, somewhat prideful, and concerned about his future (he mentions "future prospects" more than once throughout the anime).

Let's not forget the Terminator! At one point in T2, Sarah Connor muses on how the Terminator, a "cybernetic organism" sent from the future to protect her son John, is a better father than any of the human men in her son's life. Throughout the movie, John also teaches the Terminator how to "be more human": how to smile, why people cry, etc. At about 4:00 in that last clip there, Sarah thinks that "...if a Terminator, a machine, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too." Throughout this movie there is a theme that machines are capable of learning, of becoming more human. There's also a bit of free will/determinism with Terminator's general concept of "There is no fate but what we make it!"

And, because I think this is hilariously funny.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pursuit of Happyness

The Fountain: Immortality and Death

Life (at least biological life) is finite, and all people must eventually face death. Despite knowing this, people have a wide range of emotions and reactions to death. Some people embrace it with a sense of honor and dignity. Some fear it, and some refuse to acknowledge that they will ever see death. Does knowing that death is inevitable change how we life? Why does death surprise us?

What about the possibility of the soul? If we have a soul, is it finite like the body? Perhaps, it is not subject to the natural decay of the universe, and perhaps the soul can "live" on after the body has ceased to function. Does this possibility change the way we live? Maybe it is impossible to know for certain, but if it was, would that matter? Would knowing that we will live forever have any effect on how we choose to live today? Would our choices be different? What about our values? Do we even want to live forever, or is ultimate death a welcome relief from the trails and pain of life?

Who are you? Caterpillar Scene from Alice in Wonderland

The Matrix - What is Real?

This clip doesn't need much of an intro ;)

The Matrix - what is real?

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Directed by Jonathan Dayton, Little Miss Sunshine truly captured the philosophical concept of ontology in the scene, "Colorblind."

Dwayne, an emotionally disconnected character, is a follower of Nietzsche and has taken a vow of silence in protest against the world. He has the dream of becoming an Air Force pilot and in this scene, that dream is shattered, as you will see through your own eyes.

This is linked to ontology because it raises the question of, "What does my life mean?" In the context of the movie, Dwayne's life revolved around what he believed to be his destiny to fly jets. When that was pulled out from under him, it challenges his previous way of living. It even leads him to speak for the first time in years.

Check out the clip linked below and witness Dwyane's ontological crisis. Sit back and enjoy! (I apologize that I was unable to embed the video and that it is rather low quality.)


Memento deals with personal identity, Cartesian duality, and epistemology amongst other things.


This anime deals with the issue of ethics. Can good and evil co-exist, or must one be destroyed for the benefit of the other.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thinking about Movies and Memories (Dark City)

Maybe we can frame the question of memories differently. Instead of asking do memories define us can we ask if someone could insert or change your memories would you be a different person? Another way to think of it is... Was Neo a different person after he “learned” Kung Fu? Though it sounds ludicrous for surely we are who we are, Locke would disagree. Locke felt that we are the sum product of all our experiences imprinted upon our blank slate from birth. Regardless if we could recall the memories or not they still had an effect on our conscience, and it was this conscience not the physical body that was the definition of our personal identity. I believe this is Locke’s personal justification for the disconnect between the mind, body, and soul.
So the question again is… If someone could insert or change your memories would you be a different person?