studyin’ some Akira colors
Who’s this mystery dude? @malachiward is gonna ink ‘im
Simon Roy really kicked some ass on his Kickstarter drawings. I think he has 3 more to do still. As soon as he is done working on the Field with Ed Brisson. Which you are all reading? Right?
Brief Thoughts about an earlier post
1. In this older post here I said something that I don’t quite like anymore under the heading of “nitpick 2”. After more reading I realize it would be better to say that the Golden Rule has historically been construed as law of nature, rather than positive or divine law. Additionally, my ‘enlightenment spin’ does not really work, I think (it ends up just looking like Kant’s “categorical imperative”, and he’d really not like that). There is something of my original nitpick worth saving, however, and that is that while this rule is often seen to emerge within the context of a religion, it is not religious per se (nevermind how vastly different our relationship with religion is nowadays than in the periods in which those versions of the Golden Rule were given).
2. Some of the formulations are positive (“do to others…”) and others are negative (“do not do to…”). Both seem to me to end up being equivalent in the relevant circumstances, but the positive formulation might jog our conscience regarding certain things that the negative formulation might not. For instance, the obligation to help another in need is more apparent on the positive formulation than the negative (e.g. “If I was in need I would want someone to help me” vs. “If I was in need I would not want someone to not help me”).
This brings out the problem with the injunction given by daniellecalifornia, “don’t be an asshole” - or, let’s say, “don’t be unkind to others.” The fundamental principle of ethics is not that evil should be avoided, but that good is to be done and, as a result, evil (being an asshole, in this instance) is to be avoided. To reduce the ethical concern here to avoidance of evil is, I fear, a kind of laziness.
One of ma favorite movie themes
If you have spotify or some similar music service, do check out the Prague Philharmonic’s rendition of this song. They do something pretty cool in the first minute of the piece that is not really in the original arrangement. The first time the theme plays it sounds like a conversation between the horns and the strings and the second time it plays through they all come together, with the strings carrying the rhythm and the horns blasting the notes in unison. It sounds like the story of the movie as told by music.
Matt Sheean and I drew a robot monster.
yes we did
I’d Buy That For A Dollar
Here’s the first of a couple posts that will be related only because they are both about Robocop and its recent remake. In the next post I will be much less kind to the new film, I promise, and not pretend like it has anything interesting to say about anything.
In the recent remake of the 1987 film Robocop, there is a scene in which several of the characters are gathered to view a testing scenario for the newly minted man-machine Alex Murphy. In similar tests prior, Murphy’s human element caused him to react to situations more slowly than the purely mechanical enforcers of the law. As a result Raymond Sellars, the CEO of Omnicorp (played by Michael Keaton) - the company footing the bill for Murphy’s 2.6 billion dollar rehabilitation, demands that the scientist (played by Gary Oldman) overseeing the operation do something about it. Gary Oldman’s Dr. Dennett Norton reluctantly agrees to bypass Alex Murphy’s human tics that prevent him from pulling the trigger with the requisite speed. Dennett comforts himself with the platitude that consciousness is merely the processing of information, and that the alterations he is making are simply helping Murphy to process that information better (though it is plain that he does not believe this in a wholehearted way). Keaton, however, jovially describes the changes made as providing Murphy with the “illusion of free will.”
"Free will" is a rather slippery term, but the movie, I think, provides a clear enough usage of it to explore the idea in a helpful way. In the case of Murphy, the “free will” that Sellars refers to is Murphy’s ability to carry out specific tasks in his own way. Murphy is made now to react just as his purely mechanical counterparts would, but is under the illusion that it is his own skill in play. Murphy, through some technological legerdemain, believes that he is carrying out the objectives given to him when in fact a series of advanced circuits is doing that for him. Dennett uses the term “passenger” to describe Murphy’s relation to the events in which he is involved.
This raises the question, though, as to whether or not believing that you are making a decision, when you are in fact not, amounts to making free will an illusion. We should attend first to the qualifier “free” as it is a bit tendentious. What does it mean to say that the will is “free”. It is painfully obvious that no being is in any way radically free in the sense that it could bring about whatever it desired (go ahead, will those unicorns into existence!). What about in the case of thought, though? When I make an argument, for instance, I am constrained by certain restrictions of logical form and matters of fact on which premises in any argument depend. As the oft used example goes, if all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, then Socrates must be mortal. It is no demonstration of the might of my will to disbelieve the conclusion there, or to say that two and two make five or any other such patent falsehood. That would be to will myself into a fantasy, to grasp the world at the blade rather than the hilt. That I should choose to believe that two and two make five must be derived from a more fundamental judgement that it is good to be irrational, and I conclude from this that if reason dictates that two and two make four, I should affirm some other answer (such as “five”).* That I cannot will some other number to be the answer does not obviate the will, though. To think in this way, to make judgements (e.g. that I am Alex Murphy and that I am operating of my own accord), involves the operation of the will in the ordering of information into a logical structure (explicit or not) in a way that allows us to arrive at a conclusion appropriate to the premises.** To sharpen the point then, Murphy must still be in possession of a will simply to make the judgement that he is acting even when this judgement is untrue.
Suppose, then, that you are like Murphy all the way down, and that the information with which you must make use of in your thinking about the world is rigged in such a way that it will never be true or affect change. Even your very engagement in discursive thought is only something that you think you are doing (it is, in the end, just the buzzing of neurons). Here we can see where a problem arises for the idea that free will is an illusion, namely that coming the conclusion that this is so requires the reality of the process being denied. It follows from this that the reality of the will, or the freedom of choice, is preserved, and hopefully the question concerning the will is made more clear.
The problem then is not whether or not we have a will, but the fear that it could possibly be the case that it does not matter one way or the other that we do. This leads me, at last, to a complaint about the film. It talks too much about this problem when it should be about the business of bringing that fear home, so to speak, in the viewer. More on my problems later, though.
*I am thinking of some kind of philosophical irrationalism here, but substitute whatever you like, say, a paranoid delusion in which the person believes that everyone is trying to mislead them, especially mathematicians.
**I believe that this is more or less the argument given in Aquinas Contra Gentiles, chapter 48 (specifically those points made in headings  and ).
Ava Gardner in The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
I think I just died a little….
Subject: Barbican, London
By: Jovan Sarenac
Date: July 2014
Fineliner pens on white paper
“Every one knows that the sight of cats or rats, the crushing of a coal, etc. may unhinge the reason. The tone of voice affects the wisest, and changes the force of a discourse or a poem.”
To elaborate on the use of this quote:
The mere presence of a thing in the imagination may produce in a person the effects that it would produce were it there in reality. Some write in a way that seems intelligent and, by playing on the imaginations of others through obscure terms and a practiced demeanor, fool them into thinking that they really are.