Philosophy in the World: Slumdog Millionaire and Peter Singer

The rise of poverty in the world is at a staggering all-time high. Especially in impoverished nations where the government cannot support the population alone, and thus aid from charities is needed. A film that I saw a while back was Slumdog Millionaire. It’s about a young boy who is living in a poverty-stricken slum in India, where he ends up becoming orphaned upon his mother’s death. The life of impoverished and orphaned children is shown by slum mafia gang abductions, that result in the children being forced to become street beggars. A scene that still stuck to me after all these years is when one of the child beggars get his eyes forcibly removed by one of the gang members, in order for him to look more pitiful, and in turn raise his chances of receiving more money from passersby through sympathy. Of course, this could have been prevented, had there been an effective system of reducing poverty and taking care of orphans that come from poor backgrounds. The only means of this ever happening in countries like India is through international aid from charities, which is what I’m going to be talking about, as well as the significance of said organizations.

Coming from an Indian background, I’ve heard stories similar to the ones portrayed in the film from my parents. It is an all to real of a reality back home, because of the widespread poverty and corruption that runs rampant. Therefore, Peter Singer’s philosophy of affluence and global poverty really hit home to me. My definition of his philosophy in this context would be treat other people the way you want to be treated. Although this is usually used in terms of not bullying or berating others, I like to think of it as helping others, in a sense that you want their lives to be as well-off as yours, and if you were in their shoes, you would want to be helped as well. If we individuals that are living so comfortably in our first-world countries, that have no need to worry about slums or forced child begging, then what is the reason for us not to help support those countries where this this is a reality, in hopes of lessening the impact to those that it affects? What I’m trying to convey is that international aid is vital in these situations for the impoverished to thrive. According to Singer, “if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it”. By supporting those charities in India that help the poorer communities in slums by sending their children to schools, and building orphanages for the orphans, we are essentially preventing the bad occurrences such as the gang activity to overtake those communities. Moreover, the nothing morally significant will be sacrificed from us rather than a few dollars, which to those impoverished individuals can dictate whether or not they live to see another day.  On the same note, this supports my definition of Singer’s philosophy I had stated earlier. If we somehow found ourselves in a third world country in a situation very similar to those living in the slums of India, of course we would want to be helped out of that situation. We would rely on any means necessary for us to go back to our old lives of wealth and comfort rather than living in the dangerous condition of poverty and disease that runs rampant in everyday slum life. Therefore, if we cannot bring ourselves to be placed in the shoes of someone from a slum, then why should we continue to let those individuals live the way that they are?

On the same tangent, we cannot discriminate against those living in India, just because they’re oceans apart from where we are living in Canada. This again fits in with my definition of philosophy, for it supports the idea of supporting our fellow human, regardless of where they are located. This humanitarian aspect is also explained through Singer’s arguments, as he states that “if we accept any principle of impartiality, universalizability, equality, or whatever, we cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away from us (or we are far away from him)”. Regardless of where the person is located, it is still our duty to help support them, just because they are humans as well, and we have no right to assume that just because they are suffering far away from us, their suffering isn’t valid, nor are their lives. In terms of Singer’s philosophy, we should donate to charities and organizations that help reduce the corruption and improve the livelihood of those living in slums. It is therefore imperative for the people living in richer nations to contribute towards reducing, and eventually eradicating the concept of slums and the human rights abuses that take place within those environments. Since Singer’s arguments essentially revolve around charity towards to poor and that it is a human right for everyone to live with a morally balanced and ethical life, we should take this into consideration and donate to charities involved with this type of work improving the lives of the impoverished. Organizations such as UNICEF, World Vision, and even NGOs strive to build infrastructure within these communities that help boost education, reduce disease, and maintain an effective policing system that prevents gang activity to take over and rule the people. In terms of the movie, the poor children that were subjected to the tortures by the gang members would be spared from a lifetime of begging if there was enough support from organizations and charities to help the lives of those orphans. In a greater sense, enough support from charities would eventually result in the slum environment to be eradicated, and those children that were shown as beggars in the movie, could’ve had a chance to live successful lives with a job and education.

Based on my definition of philosophy, I engage in food drives and donating to food banks, sponsored from my local temple. These food drives help the homeless in Vancouver through provide enough meals for them to not go hungry. The reason why I consider donating once a month is because of the assumption that if I ever were to go homeless, I would appreciate the fact that there are people looking out for me, through means of donations of food. It’s a give-and-take situation, one that can be attributed to the idea “today you, tomorrow me”. Although I haven’t really done and donations to charities internationally (mainly because I have not got the money to do so at the time), I like to give back to the community at a local level in the beginning, and as I get more experienced in supporting the poor through these types of donations, I’ll move on to a more global scale of monetary donations to charities.

Philosophy in the World: The Greatest Showman

Recently, I was on a flight back from a trip to Brazil when, in an attempt to distract myself, I decided to watch Michael Gracey’s The Greatest Showman (2017). Based on real-life occurrences, the critically-acclaimed musical follows the journey of P.T. Barnum, an American man who spends a great deal of his early life struggling greatly financially, and decides to pursue his vision of founding what we have come to know today as a circus. Barnum slowly gathers a group of performers with “peculiar talents” (such as a pair of trapeze artists and a bearded woman) to be a part of his team and, despite facing a series of obstacles and heavy criticism from many who refused to accept his ideas and branded it a ‘freak show’, he eventually finds a great deal of success with the public and finds himself personally accomplished, with a close bond with his colleagues.

This film presents to the audience, beyond a great deal of hopeful ideals of self-accomplishment and perseverance, an interesting perception of a human life and what drives and motivates one to succeed.  When looking at P.T Barnum’s tireless efforts to find personal gratification and success, one cannot help but reflect on the goals and forces that led Barnum (and, on a larger scale, lead a great number of people in modern society) to strive for what he did, and to perceive success and the world around him in the way he did. Despite there being no absolute answer, this is where engaging in philosophical thought and questioning would bring us to further understand the forces that drive an individual, what influences society and how one should choose to live their life – was Barnum’s idea of success correct? Should we all adopt his mentality? What does in fact bring individual fulfilment? I will argue that this continuous string of questioning and endless search for answers is what the essence of philosophy is. Philosophy aims to comprehend and offer explanations for the fundamentals of life and individual action – it is an endless search for an understanding of the world around us and ourselves, as well as a tool through which we seek to find the driving forces behind our existences and enhance our performances as human beings to make us as successful as possible. On an individual scale, human beings are always, even if without realizing it, engaging in philosophical activities. Personally, I always seek to remain aware of my knowledge limitations and understand why I act in certain ways and why I perceive success and the world around me the way I do. Even when at work, I always seek to performs my tasks as a cashier and produce worker as efficiently and quickly as possible – to make as many co-workers and customers satisfied and happy as possible (as Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle, who I will be mentioning later, suggests individuals ought to act). In this sense, one notorious philosopher in ancient Greece who worked towards furthering the development of this philosophical thought was Epicurus, who greatly believed that the “highest good” in the world was the idea of living the best life one could possibly live. One should, according to him, always strive for the greatest enjoyment and personal success possible – and that is precisely what Barnum, throughout his journey, is constantly attempting to achieve. Coming from a background intense financial struggle and virtually no support or enjoyment, he grows up to find himself slowly succeeding (getting married, having kids, opening his circus, and finding financial success), and subsequently striving for even more. He does not seem to settle – he wishes to keep improving his life and make it greater and greater, which is, as Epicurus notes, the highest form of moral good that could possibly exist in our society. Further, Epicurus argues that pleasures are greatly important in one’s life, and we have both static and kinetic ones. According to him, a individual should strive for Ataraxia – a state of static pleasures, where one finds tranquility in not having any unfulfilled desires. P.T. Barnum, however, in his incessant search for more, simply finds himself not being able to possibly achieve this. He winds up focused on a series of unnecessary natural desires (wishing for more money, more public attention and expensive houses) – likely due to his lack of resources as a child -, and these kinetic (brief, momentaneous) pleasures become the thing he is most preoccupied with; he does not settle, despite having already found substantial success. Analyzing this from an Epicurean perspective, then, Barnum has, with his greed, ultimately ‘lost track’ of what he truly needs to lead a fulfilled life by prioritizing his kinetic pleasures over a life of static fulfillment. Additionally, Epicurus’ view on friendship is interestingly worth noting. He is confident in the power of such bonds to bring pleasure and improve one’s life – without the, one would greatly struggle to achieve their best life possible. Barnum, in a similar manner, appears to realize this through his life, and works to make amends with his friends from the circus (who he temporarily neglected as he saw his rise to fame). In return, they offer him their utmost support and loyalty in times of struggle, and establish a friendship that carries their way through ultimate success and proves to be a source of crucial support to both Barnum and his colleagues. Without these bonds, as Epicurus would note, Barnum would arguably never have achieved the levels of success and happiness that he eventually found.

Another philosopher that greatly works to establish and comprehend the driving ‘forces’ behind society and individual action is John Stuart Mill, who advocates for what he understands as the “Greatest Happiness Principle”. According to him, the way we perceive an action as morally right or wrong depends on how much happiness it brings to the largest number of people possible. Similarly, The Greatest Showman brings us a protagonist whose main intention is to bring joy to as many people as he can with his circus – despite temporarily losing sight of it due to selfish pleasures. Although Barnum faced an incredible deal of public backlash in the beginning of his journey – being branded a “fake” and “freak” act due to the innovative nature of his show -, he was confident in his desire to bring happiness and a distraction from pain to every person who needed it. When confronted by critics, Barnum would nobly respond with “Do these smiles seem fake? It doesn’t matter where they come from. The joy is real.” His intentions were intrinsically good and, ultimately, he did find a great deal of public acceptance – which, to notoriously consequentialist Mill, means that his actions were indeed morally good as they brought the greatest amount of happiness possible to the greatest number of people he could possibly reach. To Mill, “pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends” (Utilitarianism, 2) – and that is precisely what Barnum aims for. Ultimately, P.T. Barnum’s personal trajectory in The Greatest Showman was nothing short of a philosophical illustration of the fundamentals of one’s life and, through struggles and successes, the tools necessary to achieve a fulfilled and good life.

Works Cited:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance on justice

In many ways, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the ultimate Western. Although it might superficially seem like a typical John Wayne movie with a good-guy/bad-guy narrative extolling self-reliance, there is in fact much more going on. Essentially, Liberty Valance examines the legend underpinning Westerns – an Old West won through rugged individualism, where every man had his own code of honour – by putting it in conflict with the civilizing westward march of progress and democracy.

In the frame narrative, US Senator Ranse Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) travels with his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) to the small frontier town of Shinbone for the funeral of the cowboy Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). In interview with a reporter, Stoddard explains, in a long flashback comprising most of the movie, his prior relationship to Doniphon. Back then a young, idealistic lawyer travelling west in a stagecoach, Stoddard is robbed and beaten up by the local bandit Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). He establishes in some degree the rule of law to Shinbone, opening a legal practice, starting up a school, and getting elected delegate to the statehood convention. But he cannot directly challenge Valance’s control over the town because his democratic principles prohibit the use of extralegal force.  Doniphon’s position is that violence is the only way to stop Valance, but even though he has the physical skill to confront him he refrains out of an individual sense of honour. Eventually, Valance challenges Stoddard to a gunfight, where he shoots him in the arm and threatens to kill him. But before he has the chance, Stoddard fires, settling things the old-fashioned way despite his dedication to liberal values. Based on his reputation as Valance’s killer, Stoddard wins statehood for the region (as well as winning over Hallie from Doniphon) and goes on to become a successful politician. Assuaging Stoddard’s guilty conscience, Doniphon reveals to him that he was not in fact the killer: the man who shot Liberty Valance was Doniphon himself. Back in the present, the interviewing reporter realizes Stoddard’s reputation is fake, but nevertheless decides not to publish the interview, saying ‘This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’

What counts as philosophical activity? For me, philosophy is a pretty broad term encompassing wide swathe of scholarly theorizing about the basis of knowledge and reality. But philosophical activity can also occur outside the academy. Anyone who engages in enquiry about the fundamental nature of things is doing philosophy. In support of this definition is the day-to-day behaviour of Socrates. Although his work now forms a core part of the philosophical canon, Socrates was not well-respected by the elite of Ancient Greece. He practised philosophy not by publishing treatises but by going around Athens and asking questions about the fundamental nature of things, upturning spurious assumptions and generally annoying those around him. For example, in the Apology (written by Socrates’ student Plato), when Socrates is facing the death penalty, he not only defends himself against the charges of his accusers (namely Meletus), he also more generally examines commonly-held beliefs about a wide range of subjects, digressing numerous times to investigate the nature and role of wisdom (8–9), justice (10), rhetoric (11–12), death (15), etc. In another Plato dialogue, Euthyphro, Socrates questions the eponymous religious expert on the character of piety. Despite Euthyphro’s self-proclaimed theological knowledge (3), he is unable to come up with a definition of piety (and by extension, moral good) that does not collapse (10) under scrutiny. After this rigorous, although informal, examination on the nature of piety, Euthyphro absconds and Socrates concludes that he has gained no insight (16). Even though Socrates’s discussions were conducted orally and only later written down, his sustained examination of the fundamental facets of human existence is what makes them philosophy.

Similarly, the philosophy found in Liberty Valance is explored through cinematic language rather than written language, and as such, the conclusions drawn in the film are reached more indirectly than they would be in an academic philosophy paper. Nevertheless, the movie is as philosophical as any other work of art. In addition to exploring the psychological depth of its characters faced with the moral dilemma of how to deal with Valance, critiquing the American national mythos as exemplified by the Wild West narrative, Liberty Valance presents two differing concepts of justice, freedom, and the state. On the allegorical level, Stoddard is a stand-in for liberal democracy, progress, and society: the new America. Doniphon represents self-reliance, traditional honour, and individualism: the old West. With the death of Valance, the old frontier, caught midway in between civilization and anarchy, is destroyed and the new way of life triumphs. The film examines the old-fashioned individualist myth so common in Westerns and so integral to the American conception of nationhood, showing that a lack of societal rules and institutions is not sufficient for true freedom. As his name suggests, Liberty Valance is free in an individual sense just like Doniphon, but this absolute self-determination in itself restricts the freedom of the townspeople to live in security – one type of freedom contradicts the other. The statelessness that used to reign in Shinbone preserves justice and freedom only for those with the ability to secure it for themselves. The film critiques the individualist position on justice as insufficient to protect everyone in society. But the film also reveals an important truth about the liberal, progressive ideal of justice. Stoddard prides himself on his devotion to the rule of law and democratic principles. But the film shows that no legal system can justify itself. In other words, civilized society depends on some initial establishing act of coercion. Without the extralegal violence that killed Liberty Valance, Stoddard would be dead and the rule of law would have died with him. The new American freedom guaranteed by the state is in a way just as self-contradictory as the old-fashioned mode: freedom can only exist by virtue of a denial of freedom to those who don’t comply. Neither of the film’s two opposing heroes are good-guy figures. Neither conception of justice survives the film’s scrutiny. In a way, the viewer of Liberty Valance is left in much the same position as the reader of Euthyphro: we know what the answer isn’t. None of the definitions of piety Euthyphro presents us with are satisfying and likewise with Liberty Valance and justice. We may not have an unshakable conclusion, but we have gotten somewhere.

The Philosophical Implications of “Ratatouille”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3sBBRxDAqk

 

The 2007 Disney-Pixar movie “Ratatouille” became a childhood favorite for many children upon its release, including myself.  The movie depicts a rat named Remy with an incredible talent for cooking, who lives out his dream of being a cook by using a young man, Alfredo Linguini, as a human puppet in the kitchen of a famous restaurant in Paris.  Alfredo not only uses the Remy to maintain his own reputation as a cook, but Remy is ultimately used to maintain a good reputation for the restaurant as a whole. The story portrayed in “Ratatouille” seems lighthearted and fun as a children’s movie, but its true colors are revealed when examining the role that philosophy plays in the morality of the characters.  In examining the role that philosophy plays in the movie “Ratatouille,” I realize the extent to which philosophical ethics play in seemingly insignificant aspects of our lives.

In order to understand how philosophy plays a role in the movie “Ratatouille,” I must first define what philosophy means to me.  To me, to think philosophically is to think about how to live the best and most meaningful life possible. In order to live a meaningful life, one must live by good moral standards.  Consequentially, I believe that to think philosophically is to think about the ethical implications of one’s actions. Philosophers, such as Mill and Kant, have debated the subject of morality for a very long time.  Mill was a Utilitarian, believing that the most moral actions are those that lead to the greatest amount of happiness for all those affected by the action. He believed that the only way to measure the morality of an action was to examine the consequences, no matter what the intentions were.  Kant, on the other hand, believed that the consequences of an action are irrelevant when examining the morality of an action, as the morality lies in the intention of the person committing the action. Unlike Mill, Kant believed that goodwill is the highest good, rather than happiness. While their analyses of Philosophy are different, both Mill and Kant discuss how we should go about living the life with the most good and meaning, which relates directly to the definition of philosophy that I outlined above.  Both of these analyses of philosophy can be related to the actions of the main characters in the movie “Ratatouille”.

The morality in question when examining “Ratatouille” is that of the rat, Remy, and the main human character, Alfredo Linguini.  While it seems like a harmless story of a rat living out his dream of being a famous chef by (consensually) taking over the motor skills of a shy, untalented kitchen employee, there are serious ethical implications to this plot line.  Both of these characters are lying about the identity of the cook. Remy lies in order to be able to be a chef without upsetting customers and employers, while Alfredo lies in order to keep his job in the kitchen. When examining these ethics through the eyes of both Mill and Kant, two different conclusions arise regarding whether the actions of these two main characters were moral or not.

As a Utilitarian, Mill would argue that the actions of both Remy and Alfredo Linguini are morally good, as the lie they both tell does not lead to any negative consequences to those affected by their cooking.  The customers of the restaurant love the food, which leads to happiness for everyone involved. The customers receive the happiness of eating a delicious meal, the owner of the restaurant receives the happiness of good reviews and happy customers, and Remy and Alfredo remain happy about their respective situations.  Even though their actions come from a fundamental lie, Mill would argue that this does not affect the morality of their actions, as the maintenance of the lie leads to nothing but good consequences. Thus, he would argue that the actions of Remy and Linguini Alfredo are morally good and contribute to the goodness and meaningfulness of their lives.

Kant would have a completely different approach to examining the ethics of Alfredo and Linguini’s actions, concluding that their actions in “Ratatouille” are immoral.  As Kant purely focuses on the intention of actions in order to determine their morality, he would argue that the lie on which the actions of Remy and Alfredo are based is what ultimately makes them immoral.  As part of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it is essential for moral actions to be universalizable (Shafer-Landau, 2015). Because lying, regardless of the consequences of the lie, is not a universalizable act, as some lies negatively affect all people involved, it follows that Remy and Alfredo Linguini’s action of lying about who cooks the food is immoral.  Kant would also argue for the immorality of their actions as both Remy and Alfredo are using each other as a means to an end, which goes against the second form of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Remy is using Alfredo as a means to live out his dream of working in the kitchen of a famous chef, while Alfredo is using Remy as a means to keep a reputable job. Under the framework of his Categorical Imperative, Kant argues that an action that uses something or someone as a means to an end is not a moral action (Shafer-Landau, 2015).  Thus, he would argue that, although their actions may lead to the happiness of those involved in the situation, the actions of Remy and Linguini Alfredo are not moral actions, and do not contribute to making their lives good and meaningful.

The application of philosophical thought to the premise of the movie “Ratatouille” reveals just how deeply philosophy is embedded in our lives, even when we do not think about it.  With my newfound knowledge and understanding about ethics and philosophy, I am now able to apply my definition of philosophy to my everyday actions. Whenever I think about telling a lie, or using someone as a means to an end, I am able to critically think about the ethical implications of those actions.  This ultimately contributes to my ability to lead the best and most meaningful life that I can. Additionally, I will now never be able to watch a Disney movie without analyzing the morality of the protagonists.

Community (Philosophy in the World)

Community is a sitcom style tv series that follows a Spanish study group in a community college, Greendale. Through the shows six seasons, many themes and topic have been explored, but one has remained constant. This theme is growing up, and community has a lot to say about it. Specifically, the show implies that there is a moral value to acquiring responsibilities beyond happiness.

Moral claims like this one are philosophical in nature. This is because  philosophy is the active questioning of knowledge. Attempting to determine the values that determine morality, therefore, would be a philosophical activity.  For example, John Stuart Mill established his own philosophy known as Utilitarianism by evaluating the morality actions by their general consequences. Specifically, Utilitarianism assigns value to consequences by the amount of happiness they usually produce. In so doing he identifies what he believes to be the absolute basis or morality, which all individuals should follow.

Community counts as philosophical under this account because it questions the notion of happiness. To do this, the show imposes values on certain choices, establishing moral values. Specifically, through its narrative, Community seems to oppose Mill’s greatest happiness principle. This is because the show puts value into decisions that cause characters pain, but give them things such as responsibility. Eventually, all the characters in the show must move past Greendale, which had evolved to a sort of dreamland where constant fantastical adventures would take place. For each of them their departure is hard but reflects a gained maturity which seems to be morally important. For example, in the episode “geothermal escapism” in the fourth season, the character Troy departs the show. Throughout the episode, he and his best friend Abed attempt to distract themselves with their usual escapism, this time with a school wide game of “the floor is lava”. Throughout the episode, the facade of their game fades, as the childish escapism that was once everything to the two seems to be useless to their happiness. Abed, still desperately clings to the chance that Troy might stay with him, but it is no use. In the final act of the episode, Abed finally comes to terms with the departure of his best friend, and in so doing is able to achieve happiness through a feeling of pride for Troy and his accomplishments. This same arc of childish escapism, giving way to reluctant acceptance is common throughout all the departures on the show, including the final episode. This motif is employed by the show to give value to maturity over childish pleasure and posits that there are moral choices in which joy is less important than other values. Specifically, the ideas of personal evolution and responsibility seem to be important. The characters in the show become very unsatisfied with their constant romps because they become repetitive, and they never evolve to more complex actions. The ideas of responsibility and growth, therefore, seem to be morally important. Additionally, there are no consequences to their actions, positive or negative. In the final seasons at Greendale, the characters come to understand this, and accept that their childish joy is not permanent.

This specific philosophical idea has influenced me greatly. When deciding my future, in terms of career path, and choice in degree, I have followed a similar maxim. Namely, I have chosen a path which is more difficult, and less expedient because I believe that there is a value to the acquisition of knowledge which is greater than that of joy and monetary gain. This is why I decided to pursue science, instead of a trade, despite the fact that I both enjoy the trades, and they would pay me more in the time of my life where I could enjoy said wealth.

Philosophy of the World – “Darkest Hour”

At the beginning of the course I defined philosophy as a subject that concerns it self with answering difficult questions that are not answerable. After taking the course I still have the same view but I now know why they are not answerable. My view still remains because Philosophy does attempt to answer questions that are difficult to answer and part of this reason they are not answerable is because it is hard for us to take one side. You either kill one person or kill three. Many of the topics we faced in class like wether it is alright to kill one person or 4 people, and wether it is morally okay to kill an animal; These are all heavy topics, and coming up with one standard answer is what makes philosophy… philosophy. To me Philosophy raises awareness about the questions we do not want to answer but it also allows us to be more aware of the implications of our decisions. 

For instance, I will use the example of a trolley problem and Kant’s theory of using people as mere means. You are in control of peoples lives. Either you kill one man or you kill 4. Either way you are killing someone. Now most of us will hopefully never have to be in this situation but if we were, we most likely will not choose to push the fat man over the bridge. However, this is the best thing to do. In the eyes of a utilitarian you try and bring the best to the most amount of people. Unfortunately, if we did choose to push the fat man, killing him we would look like terrible people. So philosophy allows us to realize that life is not straight forward and we ca not make decisions based solely off of one method, wether that be Kantianism or Utilitarianism, most of the time life includes various methods. 

However I chose my philosophical example because it challenges my definition. The “Darkest Hour” is a film about Winston Churchill and his time as Prime Minister during the Second World War. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the various decisions Winston faced and made, which were questioned by many. One of the main focal points of the movie is how Winston planned the rescue of Britain’s troops from the shores of France, using thousands of civilian boats. Through out the movie the decisions churchill makes are rather utilitarian – focusing on the greater good. In one particular instance Churchill has to choose between sending 4000 troops (meaning they will all most likely die) distracting the Nazi troops away from Dunkirk giving the remaining British troops a chance to retreat saving over 300,000 members, or the troops from Dunkirk retreat while the Nazi troops get closer and closer threatening the island of Britain, but saving the lives of those 4000 men. In this case, Churchill chooses to use the 4000 men as mere means to save the other men. At first many of his colleagues can not believe the decision he is making yet at the same time he is doing the right thing. He does understand though the implication of what he has done and struggles personally with it. Through out the movie each decision that is made is done to consider the greater good, and is always a controversial decision. I used this example to demonstrate that in extreme cases using one philosophical method/theory can work, but what remains is that we still have a difficult time taking one side- Churchill shows this in the film when he is split between his personal struggles and what is best for the country. 

I am thankful in my life that I do not have to make decision about choosing between the lives of people. Instead I am faced with the decision on what to do in the future. This is something I find extremely difficult. There are various things one can do in life but they do not always bring happiness to you. Focusing on what brings you happiness and on what will bring you what you want in life do not always add up. The choices I have to make are hard and I’m never quite sure which one to make. It’s almost more difficult to make decisions about your self than it is about others. This comes back to choosing one philosophical theory, or choosing a balance between several, I don’t think you can be happy going only one direction.

Philosophy in The World: “Rick and Morty”

To me, philosophy means trying to understand life and the universe in which we are a part of by examining it from many different perspectives and accepting that we cannot understand everything. However, before accepting that we cannot understand something, philosophy leads us to question it and reason until we do come to that point of acceptance instead of doing so blindly. It’s about questioning even if there may not be one solid or agreed upon answer.

 

Camus questions whether life is worth living or not as well as brings up the meaning of life being one of the most important questions, because without it we cannot easily define whether or not a life is worth living. This relates to my understanding of philosophy as it is about examining life, trying to understand what gives it meaning and what happens if we cannot understand it.

 

In my own life, I’ve found it important to look at many works from a philosophical standpoint to see what the creators are trying to say, if they are, about their take on what the meaning of life is or what they deem as giving it meaning. I can then use this to question my own views on life and how I give it meaning or if I do at all. It all contributes to helping me accept the absurdity of it all but to not be overwhelmed by it. I also use it to help keep myself grounded as to not get too caught up in my own head.

 

When the topic of philosophy in the world is brought up, the first thing I think of is “Rick and Morty”. Not just one part but the show as a whole. “Rick and Morty” follows the adventures of Rick and his nephew Morty as they travel throughout the multiverse, usually for the purpose of Rick obtaining something he needs for one of his inventions and often involving many highly dangerous situations. With all of its entertaining and comedic moments, at the core of the show sits one main discussion, and that is one on the absurdity of life.

 

Now in relation to “Rick and Morty,” Rick is someone who has embraced the absurdity of life, finding it pointless to end it all but also by not ignoring it. He has been through more than one universe and understands that we try and find meaning in a universe that has no meaning to give us yet he still continues on living his life, doing what he desires and not letting the absurdity bring him down, for the most part.  Meanwhile, his nephew Morty starts of fairly naive to life, not questioning the meaning of it until his uncle comes into his life. Throughout the series Morty slowly begins to take on his uncle’s mindset even if not quite to the extremes that Rick has. During this process though Morty can be seen breaking down several times at the idea that the universe does not give us a meaning and occasionally slips into wondering what the point of living is at all. As a young kid, he is overwhelmed by this yet both do embrace the absurdity of life, continuing to go after what they want in each episode but understanding that sometimes, the universe just won’t let them have it. While the show is one full of crazy adventures and highly comedic scenes, it also has a more grounded element, both tackling the absurdity of life and watching as characters first begin to question it and their resulting growth from understanding it. Apart from Rick and Morty there are several other characters that represent different views on this subject, including Mr. Meeseeks, which are creatures that can be summoned to complete a task for you, stating that it is their only point in life and once that duty is fulfilled they die. This is just a short glimpse into the philosophy of the show as there is a multitude of perspectives that can be discussed relating to each individual character. For anyone very interested in philosophy involving nihilism, existentialism, and absurdism, this show is a must-watch.

 

To watch the show, it can be found here. This site is one provided by Adult Swim, the original network of the show.

Peter Pan; the Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up

One of my favourite stories is that of Peter Pan, written in 1904 by author and playwright J.M Barrie. He tells the tale of a mischievous boy gifted with the ability to fly, and most importantly, to stay young forever. His misadventures with pirates, mermaids, and lost boys have thrilled audiences for generations, with numerous adaptations to date. There is something in this story that captivates and truly enthralls the reader, which may be the magic and whimsy in staying young forever. Barrie wrote the character Pan based on his younger brother, who died at the age of 11 and was frozen in memory as forever young. Even though the character has unhappy roots, Pan himself is the gleeful picture of childhood innocence and imagination. His ability to stay young is one that many people waste away chasing after, and is one of the reasons this story is so popular.

To me, philosophy is the study of and search for knowledge and truth. It is inquisition into the deepest aspects of reality and existence. One does not have to consider themselves a philosopher, take a class in the subject, or even know what philosophy is to be able to participate and contribute to the pool of knowledge created by those with an interest to learn more about the world around them. This is similar to how Socrates defined the word, and what he based his life around accomplishing. In the Apology, Socrates explains that he was sent by the gods in order to teach, learn and search for the truth in every situation (Plato, 33d). Based on this definition of philosophy, I see myself engaging in this search for wisdom. I often contemplate and discuss with friends what we believe our meanings in life are, and have studied many religions and belief systems. While I have my own convictions as to what is truth in the case of meaning in life, I still want to expand my knowledge of the topic, and continue to learn more.

The original story of Peter Pan, which goes by Peter and Wendy, Peter Pan; the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, contains the famous quote “to die would be an awfully big adventure” (Barrie, 1904). The 1953 Disney adaptation of the movie, however, altered this to say: “to live would be an awfully big adventure” (Peter Pan, 1953). What is the reasoning and motivation behind this modification? Is it simply for the younger audiences watching this movie, that they not be upset over the use of the word “die”? I think that actually, there is deeper reasoning, with roots in philosophical concepts. Humans have long argued over notions of life after death. The use of the word “die” in this quote is I believe a play to the very human fear of mortality. It is implying some sort of continuation of experience post life, which may have made it a controversial line to include in the movie. Substituting the word “live” in the place of its forerunner may make this quote friendlier and more inviting, but it very much removes the original meaning Barrie seemed to be attempting to convey.

This story falls into the philosophical realm as it is an inquisition into mortality, the primary threat to the existence of man. Socrates himself would, I believe, be very intrigued by Peter Pan and his perpetual youth. As a person, whose death sentence was ordered because of his search for truth, Socrates would be able to appreciate Pan’s lack of fear in the face of death. Socrates faced death without fear as well, and did not see the reasoning in being afraid of something that did not concern the living.

Another philosophical theme evident in the story of Peter Pan is that of the meaning of life. It is often discussed that if there is no God, nothing awaiting us after we die, that there is no meaning to existence. The aforementioned quote however points to an afterlife, and therefore enters into this conversation. There is insufficient evidence as to whether Barrie himself was religious, but his indications through his show the hopefulness that he held for both himself and his deceased brother that in some sort of way their adventures would continue in the future. The story of Peter Pan raises the question of life having meaning if there was a way that one could live forever. Whether Peter Pan’s eternal youth is an allusion to an afterlife is unclear, but it makes one consider the possibilities of finding purpose if time was no factor. The story of Peter Pan, when carefully examined, holds many interesting philosophical themes that contribute to the greater pool of understanding of knowledge concerning the world and truth within it.

 

Works Cited

Barrie, James M. Peter Pan. United Kingdom: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911. Www.readprint.com. Web. Apr 2017.

Peter Pan. Prod. Walt Disney. Dir. Clyde Geronimi. Perf. Bobby Driscoll. Disney, 1953.

Plato. “The Apology.” The Apology and Related Dialogues. Broadview Press. Peterborough, Ontario. 2016.

Philosophy in Grey’s Anatomy

Most American crime, mystery, and drama tv series deal with moral dilemmas on a fairly regular basis. In the show Grey’s Anatomy they are constantly faced with tough decisions concerning patient care; in the episode titled “Bad Blood” one of their patients is a Jehovah’s witness and they must decide whether respecting his religious wishes is more important than saving his life.

To me, philosophy covers many things and can be difficult to concretely define. One major aspect to me would be the focus of this class, Socrates statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (Plato, 38a) and what that means. A main theme of philosophy is whether there is any meaning to our lives as absurdists like Camus argue that there isn’t and we can only start to live happy life once we’ve accepted this, or there are those like Wolf who believe that there may not be a meaning to our lives but we can find meaning in our lives from doing meaningful things. In defining what is meaningful we get to what I find to be an overarching focus of philosophy, the Epicureans believe that living meaningfully is living a morally right life, and to this concept, we must define morality. While debating the meaning of life is important to philosophers, I find philosophy to be a grand debate on morality, what is right or wrong to do, and when or why we must or must not do certain things.

Considering the debate over what is morally right or wrong to do as the definition of philosophy, we can find philosophy everywhere, like in the previously mentioned episode of Grey’s Anatomy. For those that are unaware, the show is about a hospital in Seattle and the doctors that work there. In the episode “Bad Blood” a Jehovah’s Witness comes to the hospital in critical condition and in need of major heart surgery, however, it is their religious belief that accepting blood is an act against the will of God. Through the episode the two doctors working on this man enter into a moral dilemma, as they know the only way he can survive is if he receives a blood transfusion, however, his religious beliefs and those of his family say that they cannot do so. As doctors, they have been given the moral obligation to do everything they can to save his life, but they are at odds with this when they are not given permission to give the man the blood he needs to survive. The two doctors argue over whether it is more important to save his life or respect his beliefs, one even tries to sneak in and give him blood against his family’s wishes. In the end, the man unfortunately dies, and the doctors are left knowing that in this instance they could not do everything they could have to save his life.

I find that making morally right decisions plays a big part in everyone’s day-to-day life. We are constantly faced with decisions that raise questions on our own personal moral values and those that society has imposed on us. One basic thing I can think of is my moral decisions to use products, such as for hygiene and makeup that are cruelty-free. In John Stuart Mill’s “Utilitarianism” his idea of morality is that we must act in accordance to what will promote the greatest happiness for all sentient beings involved in the matter. I agree with Mill in that we must consider the happiness not only of ourselves, or other humans, but also the happiness of other animals that may be involved. I believe that the harm caused by animal testing is not outweighed by the happiness given by the product. I believe that causing that sort of pain and suffering for the sake of the beauty industry is not a morally right action. I like to know that the products I buy do not support the suffering of animals for the sake of beauty. I am okay with animal testing when it comes to things like medicines and attempting to find a cure for some diseases, the outcome of such a discovery would provide significant amounts of happiness that it could outweigh the harm done from testing; however, this is a very different scenario from trying to create a product that is simply for aesthetic and does not have as great of a result of happiness.

Works cited:

Camus, Albert. “The Myth of Sisyphus, An Absurd Reasoning.” The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1955

Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. 1st ed. 1863. Print.

Plato. “The Apology.” The Apology and Related Dialogues. Broadview Press. Peterborough, Ontario. 2016.

Rhimes, Shonda. “Bad Blood.” Grey’s Anatomy. ABC. 31 Jan. 2013. Television.

Wolf, Susan. “The Meaning of Lives.” The Variety of Values: Essays on Morality, Meaning, and Love. Oxford Scholarship. December 2014. Online.

The Walking Dead

“The Walking Dead” TV show on AMC, based on the comics by Robert Kirkman, can be examined as a morality play that consistently deals with philosophical dilemmas through the characters and plot. The show creates an ideal philosophical situation where morality is constantly questioned through the need for survival versus the greater need for humanity. The philosophical conflicts are achieved by stripping the world of a structured society through a zombie apocalypse. This forces the characters to rely on their intuition and question whether there is a moral standard that is common among all humans. In particular there are two characters that contradict one another by showing the opposite arguments of the utilitarian debate. After season 2 Carol had become a pure utilitarian, arguing that the sacrifice of one for many is worth the pain since there is a greater amount of good achieved. She is opposed by Morgan who believes that lives can not be measured quantitatively, therefore no life should be spared for a greater purpose to achieve the highest amount of good in the world. This long-running debate examines a similar issue of the Trolley Problem, as proposed by Thomson. To me philosophy questions whether there is an inherent morality across the human race, as does the Trolley Problem proposed by Thomson and the characters within “The Walking Dead” universe.

The Trolley Problem is a thought experiment that presents a difficult moral decision. There is a trolley going down a hill and it has lost its ability to brake, therefore the trolley must choose a direction out of two paths. Currently it is going on a path where five people stand, thereby killing them if that path is chosen. The other path has one person standing, thereby killing them if that path is chosen. To chose the path with the singular person, the train conductor must change the path using the gear. In addition to this scenario there is another where you are a bystander who can change the path by pushing a gear on the side of the tracks.  Both of these scenarios apply to the show, where Morgan and Carol show the extremes of both sides. The dilemma lies in how one sees the gear shift. It can be viewed as killing the one or as saving the five. This distinction creates the foundation of ones morality, and the differences between Morgan and Carol.

Carol began the show as a mother of a young girl and a wife of an abusive husband. As her story progressed she experienced hardships that affected her and made her a tougher character, one that is willing to sacrifice anything for the greater good of the group. On two distinct occasions Carol showed how she is a pure utilitarian in her actions and choices. The first is in season 4 where the group, currently residing at a prison, is in danger due to a sickness spreading across the camp. This sickness seems to be deadly, but at the current moment it is contained to two people who are quarantined. Carol then takes it upon herself to save those in the group by burning the infected alive, thus killing them and the sickness. This can be paralleled to the Trolley Problem with the bystander, Carol sees an opportunity to hit the two people with the cart so save the hundreds. This is a mathematical and purely analytical utilitarian approach where the greatest good was achieved but at the cost of two innocent people.

Morgan was a father and husband to a wife who had become a zombie. After also facing pain and losing his family, he takes a different approach to coping with the hardships and becomes a non-violent and peaceful man. Morgan believes that all people can be saved, whether it is from others or themselves. He holds no value to a human life, only saying that every life must be defended and protected. This morality was seen in Morgan even before the pain he faced throughout the apocalypse. Morgan faces two dilemmas that puts his morality and ethics into question. The first is in the pilot episode, where Morgan must decide whether he should kill his zombie wife who roams the streets. He sits in the attic of a house aiming the gun on his former wife, a bystander not directly in the conflict. Morgan is incapable of completing the action because even though she has no more personality left or humanity, he still values her life as one not worth ending. This is mirrored in the Trolley Problem where one path is to let the cart continue as it should through the street and let it kill the five people, or kill the one. Morgan can not kill the one and instead let’s her roam free, eventually leading to his own sons death.

The second event for both characters is when they face one another and their conflicting ethics. In season 6, the camp is threatened by a man of the “Wolf” gang, he is captured by Morgan. Instead of killing him, Morgan chooses to rehabilitate him by keeping the Wolf in a cellar without the rest of the camp knowing. Carol finds out and the morality battle ensues. In this situation they are both the drivers of the trolley since they have been directly involved. Morgan views the Wolfs killing as exactly that, a murder. Whilst Carol see’s his potential death as the protection and saving of the rest of the camp. This difference is the moral dilemma of the Trolley, killing the one or saving the five? It is all dependent on the viewing of the situation. Morgan momentarily wins the argument by locking Carol in the cellar, during this time the Wolf escapes and eventually kills another member of the group. This moment illustrates Morgan’s ethics downfall, it shows that perhaps in a dyer situation there is a certain morality that must be used.

Although Morgan’s views almost always failed him, by having Carol counterpart him the audience can see that each person has a different set of inherent morals. They are formed through personal events and are very specific to how each person copes with their emotions. Without a society to create a standard of morality that is spread across the country, each person has a moral path that is true to them specifically. This perhaps proves that humans do not have an baseline of moral values, but instead humanity is defined differently by each person. Through the Walking Dead comics and other works of fiction, I take certain qualities and aspects of the most inspiring characters and engage in philosophy by creating my own moral grounds to follow based on what I believe is morally “good”.

Works Cited

“The Official Site from Robert Kirkman.” The Walking Dead. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.

Thomson, Judith Jarvis. “The Trolley Problem.” The Yale Law Journal 94.6 (1985): 1395. Web.

“The Walking Dead.” AMC. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.