This post is my first foray into the question of whether or not there is a God. Before I can begin to attempt an answer, I need to explore a deeper question. Namely, what is the nature of this question? What exactly are we asking, when we ask this question? I want to suggest that this question is best understood as a fundamental choice, and that the choice is not simply one of satisfying an ontological preference, but one of universal significance. The way one answers this question will define one's entire life, indeed all life. It will condition the content of all of one's relationships, and predispose the outcome of every subsequent choice. It will frame every subsequent question you will ask yourself, from the nature of morality and history, to the kinds of activities you engage in, day to day. This choice lies at the center of everything it means to exist, and to be human. Which fork of the dilemma you choose, is therefore, the most important choice you will ever make.
Last night, I re-viewed George Lucas' "THX-1138" (for the 20th time), and paired it with Phillip Noyce's 2014 film treatment of "The Giver". Here is something that occurred to me while watching.
In any given exchange market (whether free or otherwise), goods and services are traded as a matter of course, in the pursuit of both individual and social goals. Those trades will result in substantive outcomes both for the individuals involved in trades, and more broadly for society as a whole. It has been suggested that some of those outcomes may be undeserved. If we assume this to be the case, the question then arises, are undeserved market outcomes are unjust? Any reasonable answer to this question requires a coherent idea of justice within which we could determine what is deserved and undeserved, and judge the justice of those deserts. In the interest of space, this essay will briefly describe two essential notions of justice, and rule one of them out as the less coherent of the two. Once an acceptable sense of justice is established, I will then proceed to render a decision on the question of desert and justice in the market.
This essay will first briefly summarize these three formulations, assess whether they function as bulwarks of liberty. At that point, I will pivot to examine how the harm principle is incorporated into Mill's view of free speech in chapter two of the work, and briefly evaluate the strength of his defense against censorship in that context.
A question is posed to me via my coursework: “Does justice require that anything be distributed equally? If so, what?” This is, of course, the bog-standard prompt for the student to explain the modern dispute between John Rawls1 and Robert Nozick2 . We’ll get there shortly, but first I want to back up and ask …
In the end, the 'general will' is a solution in search of a problem. Rousseau wants to craft an account of the collective behaviour of humans in large groups, before he really understands the behaviour and motivations of individual humans. This is hardly surprising, given the fact that Rousseau was himself a deeply confused and corrupt man.
In his famous Paris Manuscripts of 1844, Marx argues that a society organized around the principle of private property and the commercial production of commodities forces man to stand in opposition to his own nature in order to subsist, and that this self-oppositional stance is best described as ‘alienated’ (or ‘estranged’) labor. To fully understand what Marx means by ‘alienated labor’, and under what circumstances labor becomes alienated, we must therefore first understand what Marx means by ‘human nature’. From there, we can understand what it means to be alienated from it, and the various ways in which this alienation is accomplished in a capitalist situation.
On it's surface, it is a pop-culture expression of Cold War anxiety. But Cold War anxiety is just a symptom of a much deeper problem, and in this movie, is used as a mere cover story to ask essential questions: What does it mean to be human? What makes us so special? How did the Enlightenment change our understanding of ourselves as creatures in the universe: unique, and deserving of special regard because of that uniqueness? What would it matter if we did in fact "blow it all to hell"? What is the significance of our capacity to learn and understand, to communicate, to experience love and loss, to create, and to destroy? Planet of the Apes asks all of these questions, and more...
This book does far more than "inspire further investigation". It is a compact hand-grenade with the explosive power of an H-bomb. Anyone with the ambition and the sensitivity to the philosophical conundrums addressed in this book, could find himself on a life-long quest hunting down the splinters in the mind it leaves behind.... given a wise guide, and a group with which to discuss the men and ideas presented in this book, I think the book is a fantastic place to begin a journey, not just in the ideas of the Enlightenment, but in philosophy itself.
We're being robbed of our capacity for expression in more ways than just overt censorship. In the name of "liberation" from an ostensible "oppression" we are stripped of access to our cultural heritage, and denied the opportunity to learn the rules and principles that governed the creation of new art in previous generations. This is dangerous, and we ought to reject this.