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Big Brother is Watching

Posted 11 April 2003, 11.26 pm by marilee

Is Google evil?

Absolute vs. Subjective Morality

Posted 11 April 2003, 4.03 am by winter

By endorsing that notion that all morality is subjective and the result of uncountable (though not infinite) forces upon an individual and is therefore unassailable, one ends up endorsing the actions of human beings like Hitler, Kissinger and Pol Pot. This is something many people balk at. The idea that the philosophies, moralities and actions of murders are as valid as those of a bank teller or mid-western grandmother who enjoys baking cookies and going to church is rejected instantly by such people. This means that there must be some moral absolutes for them and anyone else who would wish not to condone Hitler’s morality.

There can be many ways to arrive at these moral absolutes. Popular opinion seems the least credible of those that occupy my list, so I’ll ignore that except to say that most people are idiots (simply look at the US census figures for the number of people that believe in god).

Following Kant, we could formulate a rule or rules that generate maxims that any rational creature could understand the utility of. (BTW, ending sentences with prepositions is FUN!) Maxims generated by rationally founded rules would be universally understood (assuming that rationality is immutable and universal). For instance, “don’t act in a way that you would deny someone else the option of acting in” or “don’t make a special case for yourself” would be rules that would generate ethical maxims when confronted with actions and situations. So, if you were given the chance to lie in order to benefit in some way, you would have to say to yourself that you would not approve of someone lying about this matter to you, and that therefore you should not behave in this way. This requires the point of view that all humans are rational and all rational creatures should be treated the same because their differences are superficial.

Imagine an example where one was in a social situation in which lying about a future event (paying someone back for money borrowed or being someplace at a certain time) would seem to be better than being truthful. While this may grant you some sort of an advantage (it’s easy to concoct a story that sets up a situation like that) by lying you’re saying that it’s okay for any rational agent to lie and if this were true the institution of promising would fall because everyone would be ‘allowed’ to lie, the value of a promise would be nothing and you would not be able to profit from either lying or telling the truth.

There are plenty of situations where people would like to think that lying would actually be the morally correct thing to do (a la: the ax murderer’s example). The main problem with this argument against lying and it’s relation to the argument that one shouldn’t make an exception for one’s self is that it assumes that all humans are created equally. This cannot be so. Even if we start out tabula rasa social and economic forces differentiate each individual to such a degree that wild divergences are seen from this initial state. Besides which, we live in a world in which we can reject morality and rationality and lie freely and still maintain the practice of promising. Treating one’s self as an exception does not ruin the world, it’s probably the reason the world is at all interesting.

Another supposedly interesting maxim that can be generated by the ‘don’t make an exception of yourself’ rule is that murder is wrong because the killer does not wish to be killed. If an individual who truly supports capital punishment were asked whether he would support the state taking his life should he be found guilty of murder there’s no reason not to think that he would say yes, believing that if you kill someone, your own life is forfeit. Through this example it seems that as long as you support capital punishment, murder is morally sanctioned by the golden rule in that the murderer does not make an exception of himself when he kills, but admits his inclusion.

Of course this can be countered by the creation of a ‘precious life’ clause on killing, but that would dis-allow even state run executions and war and lead to a very dull world. You could say that if the state elects to kill you based upon your immoral act or an immoral act by the nation-state that holds you a citizen (assuming the state thinks murder is wrong, excluding when it kills) it is acting in accordance with the golden rule by treating you as you treat others. This weakening of morals to exclude certain acts of murder means that the absolutism of morality is already shaken.

Even if you maintain that all murder is wrong, there are well known examples and thought problems that seem to beg a moral person to be torn in two. Examples include killing to save yourself, loved ones, a thousand people, a million people, shooting Hitler or someone similar whom you believe to be a ‘monster.’

I’m sure there are other moral absolutes that can be generated in this way and that do hold up under scrutiny, but these seemed like interesting ones to me (and interesting ones to poke holes in).

A less powerful way to generate more absolutes is to take a personal opinion (such as ‘murder is wrong’) and justify it rationally through thought experiments and examples. This process is long and is bound to result in an incomplete list, not to mention one that is full of conditional clauses (‘murder is wrong unless…’ or ‘lying is wrong unless…’). If there are ‘moral absolutes’ they seem likely to be culture and class specific and conditional, and absolute only in a loose sense of the word.

Besides which, do we ever want to hold on to moral absolutes? Is killing to save someone else or in self-defense to be held in the same regard as the Zodiac Killer (one of the greatest, uncaught and famous serial killers ever) taking out a cabbie? On the opposite point, is it enough to say that Hitler was justified only in his own mind, just as everyone else is? Doesn’t that mean that no one can be condemned outside of personal opinion and that the whole notion of justice is fundamentally flawed beyond recovery? I certainly hope so.

If we don’t hold morality to be timeless and free of context, can we say that killing millions of people because of their religion or creed is wrong? Hitler certainly justified it, can we judge his morality to be flawed when he’s seen as a product of his times and environment? Is disagreeing with genocide the most that we can do, or does a physical, violent defense of a particular morality (and a violation of that morality in the same stroke) an acceptable answer? After Auschwitz can morality be defended?

A second rushed attempt at free will

Posted 10 April 2003, 8.45 pm by Winter

For a creature to possess free will it must be able to see alternatives and choose to act based upon its own judgment. If this judgment were arrived at via a universal rationality it could not be considered free will because it would not reflect the ability to make a choice, only the ability to see the most rational answer. If this judgment were arrived at without any sort of universal rationality being used (assuming that universal rationality still exists and that we can ‘choose’ not to make use of it) it could not be true that a choice was made, only that an option was selected at random.

As far as being able to ‘choose’ not to make use of rationality: This choice cannot be arrived at rationally because it would require the rational rejection of rationality, while rationality argues for itself.

If we do not assume that rationality is immutable and concrete, then any choice that we make may be in accord with rationality, but seem not to be so in retrospection or from an outside source. Beyond this, any sort of social factor within a causal or deterministic world eliminates beyond a doubt the possibility of making a choice “for one’s self.”

Free will seems to be an impossibility, something that cannot happen in any sort of a world. This leaves us in a world where all of our actions and feelings are not our own, but are the property of history or unassailable chance. Who we are and that we think and sense are either chance happenings or inevitable. If this is depressing, it couldn’t be any other way, or it could but it doesn’t matter because it is and we can’t choose to think any other way. If it doesn’t affect us, it’s because we cannot be affected beyond the narrow scope of necessity or chaos. Either choice results in simply going through the motions of life in the hopes that we’re wrong or living in imposed ignorance, fearful of the madness of the real.

A rushed attempt at 'Free Will'

Posted 9 April 2003, 9.06 pm by Winter

The problem with free will is that the phrase itself is one that seems to have meaning, but on closer examination is found to have none. I will take it to mean self determination. Self determination requires the rejection of rationality. Rationality leads all actions from reflection to the same end (under the enlightened meaning of ‘rationality,’ though I’m unaware of any others), all things being equal. So you’re not acting because of any sort of self-determination but because rationality, a universal judgment, says to. The ability to act irrationally then? That has to be arrived at rationally, else it’s just acting at random, not acting via ‘free will’. Does it mean acting in a way that can’t be predetermined? How could that be verified (though it’s probably our best bet, or something close to it, a la Deterministic Chaos)? If it can’t be verified, we can at least see what the results would be. Acting in a way that isn’t predetermined would be saying something that could not be expected, that conflicted with rationality but was in accord with it. This would require that the project of Modernity is fundamentally flawed and that the Postmoderns are right when they reject the possibility of universality and insist that consensus is impossible due to social factors and chemical, biological and linguistic imbalances.

Rejecting free will does not mean acceptance of destiny. A Deterministic world view need not be accepted. The future isn’t mapped out, but we can’t do anything about it. We can’t plan because we don’t have the capacity for real planning (re: Stalin and such), ‘rationality’ disagrees with the world and acting irrationally disagrees with any attempt to plan beyond the act. We’re paralyzed and free, tied down and fucked (depending on you’re inclinations and the usage you see in their ambiguity, those can be bad or good). We don’t have any room to move but the future’s wide open. In this we can be voyeurs and decedents, watching life and acting like later-day Epicureans (Death is inevitable, don’t bog yourself down with misery but make merry as best you can) or we can be the thinking Dandy, Lucretius’ Epicurean (The god’s care not for man, existence is an accident, think and live as best you can).

Of course, chaos is another alternative to a Deterministic world-view. Everything is simply an accident, the right chemical and physical properties and components became arranged in a brief moment that resulted in everything I sense and remember and in another moment it will all fall apart. This only seems unlikely because of a history we believe we remember and any theory that explains that history as a momentary accident of chaos supersedes this ostensible objection, and, really, any sort of objection. But I’m still here so I might as well consider other things while I am, as nothing else seems to hold my mind as I wait for destruction.

Deterministic Chaos says that the rules of physics and chemistry and other high, new sciences apply only generally. If you know that hitting a billiard’s ball at a certain angle with a certain force will result in the ball moving in a straight line to a particular place, assuming no interruptions then you also know that if you hit the same ball with ten times as much force it will travel ten times as far. In practice, according the Deterministic Chaos, this is only approximately correct. The result of the theory does not map directly to the experiment, but only matches it very closely. The ball almost travels ten times as far, but not quiet or too much so, the rules of physics are wobbly. While this does not seem to allow for free will, it does explain variance in cognition and memory among other things, such as something being rational and ‘irrational’ or for reflection to lead to two different ends or acting in a way that can’t be predetermined, however you wish to argue it.

Of course, just because Determinism isn’t a ‘fun’ theory for those who like to think we’re conscious, rational beings able to think for themselves doesn’t mean we should just reject it. So our actions are pre-determined and we can’t do anything outside of the expected. What does that change? Any action we attempt is doomed to fail or succeed, but so is not acting because we’re depressed over this fact. Action for the sake of action (what is a ‘sake’ anyway?) is denied because of our lack of choices. We can still do what we think we feel like doing, knowing that no matter what we feel and think, it’s as unalterable as the past happens to be. Though the ill-fated “Do what you feel like” day celebrated by the city of Springfield several years ago should be kept in mind.

Like a Hand In A Velvet Glove

Posted 8 April 2003, 8.57 am by The_Roach

I think about sex a lot. I think it's my right as a man to do such a thing and suspect that it doesn't cross my mind any more than Jow Blow next door. Regardless, I can't remember an hour of my life in which fantasies haven't dislodged something else fluttering about in my mind. The caress of a woman. The feel of her body heat combining with my own thermal release. Sweat. Passion.

Empires have risen and crumbled because of our obsession with pleasures of the flesh. Our weaknesses are scattered throughout the stories of the ages. Paris and Helen. Romeo and Juliet. They reflect what we hope to achieve. They demonstrate the darkest truth of our nature.

Religion would tell us that thoughts such as those I entertain on a constant basis are unhealthy. Zen Bhuddism teaches that to have desire is to be imperfect, flawed, and that desire will ultimately prevent us from achieving perfection, possibly even destroy us. Catholics will say such thoughts are impure and go against God's way, that the purity of love is tainted by desire.

Of course, where the latter is concerned, an argument springs up: If God didn't want us to fornicate, why did he make it feel so good?

It's only now, tonight, that I came to the realization as to why that argument is so flawed. We ate from the Tree of Knowledge because how dare He tell us what we should and should not know. We want fast cars, 500 channels and opportunity to stroke our egos. No, God didn't make sex pleasurable because he wanted us to do it at every available opportunity.

He did it so we'd do it at all.

The Family Dog

Posted 8 April 2003, 1.18 am by Alexa

My family is obsessed with the dog, and that's putting it lightly. From an outsider looking in, we look like our entire existance revolves around the dog! He's a fat little black Scottie with an under bite and a bunch of strange quarks.

During the summer, here in Arizona, it can get pretty hot, way up the in hundreds. My dog, Loki, likes to jump down onto the first step of the pool, and dig. Just dig like mad, as hard as he can, for hours. Then, he hops out, see's how much water he has knocked out, and jumps back in and keeps digging. He plays with empty cardboard boxes, too. Whenever we finish a carton of sodas we give him the box they came in. And he tears that mother fucker to shreds! Sometimes he'll open up the pantry, drag out a FULL box and attempt to play with that. Or, if there are no boxes, he'll go right for the tupper ware.

I have a point here, just stay with me for a moment. My best friends dad told me that animals have no personality. They can not make desisions and that they are not self aware. My dog is self aware. He KNOWS he is the dog. He knows he gets fed table scraps after we eat because he is the dog. He knows he has to go outside to take a shit and he knows he will never be as tall as us, or drive, or ever get his nuts back.

He has a personality too, damnit! He has a rubber chicken that is his favorite. And no matter where he is, if you ask him to find it, he knows where it is. Granted he isn't a genius, but he has a personality. I know we like to think that we are the center of the universe and everything revolves around US, but the only real leads we have are opposable thumbs and vocal chords.

Road to Perdition

Posted 3 April 2003, 4.02 am by Jake

I rented this movie, expecting a sub-par, cut-and-dried Hollywood piece of garbage. The only redeeming factor seemed to be its origin. Seeing as how Road to Perdition originated as a graphic novel, I was afraid that this would turn out to be another disappointing comic movie. You can safely say that I approached this one with a bit of caution and boatloads of pessimism.

I’m glad to say that my expectations…well, they received a hearty kick in the nuts and were shoved away to somewhere special. This film is yet another excellent tour-de-force from director Sam Mendes (American Beauty). The cinematography is lush and expansive as well as gritty and constricted, depending on the mood of the scene. The score flows along nicely with the movie, switching from dark, ominous orchestral pieces to light jazz bits as if it were nobody’s business. But it is somebody’s business, you see.

Business is what Tom Hanks is all about in this one. He plays as Michael Sullivan, a moody and relatively quiet hitman whose world is rocked within the first 30 minutes of the film, and who is thrust into a new situation with new responsibilities. One of these responsibilities being his twelve year-old son, Michael Jr., who eventually discovers that his father’s profession is nothing as it seemed. The vagueness of his father’s confidant (and foster father) John Rooney (Paul Newman) is stripped away, revealing Rooney to be an aging crime boss with a strong sense of solidarity with the men that he employs. But that solidarity doesn’t even last long, thanks to some complications between Sullivan and Rooney’s son, Connor (Daniel Craig). These complications lead to the aforementioned world-rocking that Sullivan and his son must plunge through in order to save themselves and get revenge… Jude Law plays an especially disturbing role as Maguire, a photographer who moonlights as a gun-toting hitman on the search for Sullivan and his son. The performances of each of the actors are what give this movie its edge, and there are some genuine, powerful moments that may have fallen idle at the hands of any other group.

The premise of the story is great, putting emphasis on character development while throwing the characters through a relatively diverse set of situations, ranging from light-hearted (the ‘learning to drive’ scenario) to somewhat disturbing (Michael’s grim discovery of the truth behind his father’s profession). I would have liked to have seen the plot to be a bit more drawn out in places, and that seems to be its only shortcoming in my eyes. There are several surprises during the movie, and the plot twists are powerful, wrenching and contorting Sullivan and his son into quite a few different quandaries.

Aside from its (minute) flaws, it's a smooth film with some qualified veteran actors. I was slightly disappointed with Paul Newman towards the end. Although he does a convincing job of portraying a man torn between his biological and his adopted son, he seemed to start out strong and sort of fade out...however, that could have a good bit to do with characterization as far as the story is concerned.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric drama with some strong performances and an excellent storyline, go get Road to Perdition. And you’d better not regret it, or I’ll load up the boys and we’ll come over for a little “friendly chat”. Now excuse me while I go find a kick-ass Tommy gun.

And now for something Completely Different!

Posted 2 April 2003, 4.25 am by Assassin13

For anyone who is a little bored and has nothing better to do. I really got a kick out of this one.

here

Enjoy

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In 2018 I started painting again. This was one of a series of acrylic sketches I did to relearn techniques and revisit my skills from art college.


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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness

Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

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