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The Philosophy Takeaway Rises

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Meet Our Philosophers!

Name? Serhan Ozturk Mehmet Photo you feel comfortable sharing:
Age? 23  serhan
Gender? Male
Favoured philosopher/philosophical stance? Alan Watts
Profession? Teacher
Which philosopher would you give your last Rolo to? Rumi

Blogs created by Serhan:

A Cheeky Analysis of Rumi.

 

 

 

Name? Sean Ash

 

Photo you feel comfortable sharing:
Age? 35  sean
Gender? Male
Favoured philosopher/philosophical stance? Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Profession? Educator
Which philosopher would you give your last Rolo to? I would give my last Rolo to Plato and ask him to give it to Socrates.

Blogs created by Sean:

Socio-Emo Extinct.

 

 

 

Name? Samuel Mack-Poole Photo you feel comfortable sharing:
Age? 32  sam
Gender? Male
Favoured philosopher/philosophical stance? Nietzsche, Jesus, Norse mythology, Christopher Hitchens. Viva la contradiction.
Profession? Teacher
Which philosopher would you give your last Rolo to? Marx, as he is so fond of sharing.

Blogs created by Samuel:

A (Very) Brief Philosophical Inquiry of History

 

 

Name? Martin Prior Photo you feel comfortable sharing:
Age? 72  martin
Gender? Male
Favoured philosopher/philosophical stance? Logician, scientific socialist.
Profession? Retired
Which philosopher would you give your last Rolo to? Arthur N Prior or Bertrand Russel.

Blogs created by Martin:

Brexit, Jean Monnet and the ethics of ratcheting

 

 

 

Name? Ellese Elliott Photo you feel comfortable sharing:
Age? Declined to answer in strong terms. I could not get the consent of this philosopher to share a photo. It was not that she did not give it, she did not respond in time, and I can’t share information without consent (Ed).
Gender? Is a sterotype.
Favoured philosopher/philosophical stance? Stokely Carmichael and Love-ism.
Profession? Dole-ism.
Which philosopher would you give your last Rolo to? A starving one.

Blogs created by Ellese:

Eaten By Your Appetite

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Featured post

A Philosophical Review of Blade Runner 2049 by Samuel Mack-Poole

Wow! What a film! After watching Blade Runner 2049 my mind was racing like Deckard after a replicant. Having scoured the internet, I’ve seen that the critics are awash with praise whilst the general public are rather lukewarm about it. Well, whatever is common has ever but little value – all rare things for the rare and all that jazz. So, I am glad it supposedly flopped at the cinema (it made $248 million at the box office thus far), after all, who wants to share what they love with every Tom, Dick and Harry?

For those of you who are ignorant of the original, the basic premise is that in a dystopian future, Earth is somewhat of a wasteland, and the discovery of other ‘M’ class planets has been fuelled by replicant labour.  These replicants are androids, but they’ve been made to ‘be more human than human’ – they are almost cloned, but their DNA is synthetic. Consequently, they are stronger, faster, more intelligent and, in essence superior to their makers – except for their longevity. They only live for six years.

Thus, in the original, these replicants go rogue and rebel against their masters on these foreign planets, aching to return to their motherland, Earth, to, quite literally, meet their maker. It is the job of the protganist, Deckard, to hunt replicants who ‘run’; thus, he is a Blade Runner.

I don’t want to give an entire synopsis of the plot, but Deckard discovers something about his own humanity from the replicants, so he becomes a runner himself – ironically falling in love with a replicant himself. Thus ends the original.

Which leaves the audience itching to know what has transpired in the sequel.

Blade Runner 2049 is set 30 years after the original, with Harrison Ford slipping back into the role in an amazing piece of continuity. However, he is not the protagonist. That particular role falls to ‘K’/ Joe, a replicant himself. He, too, is a Blade Runner, hunting Nexus 8 models that have rejected their function as warriors to live a life of peace. In this dystopia, any replicant whom doesn’t obey their masters slavishly is deemed to be malfunctioning – they can be ‘destroyed’ (but they are murdered in reality, as they are sentient beings).

*Spoiler alert*

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(K/Joe played by Ryan Gosling, right)

The plot revolves around his investigation into a Nexus 8 which spirals into something revolutionary, or perhaps evolutionary – it seems a replicant has given birth, something thought by the corporate Wallander (whom mass produces replicants) to be impossible; thus K/ Joe is assigned a role to hunt down the child of this replicant by his superior, Lieutenant Joshi. In essence, Lieutentant Joshi wants this replicant killed, because if replicants can give birth, they will be able to destroy humans. However, Wallander sees corporate potential in planetary colonisation with a product that can reproduce. Thus, there are two competing parties; they are equally morally dubious, but for different reasons.

It is in this assignment/ quest that K/Joe inadvertently searches for his identity in the film, thus becoming very interesting to the philosophically minded. Of course, both Blade Runner films are awash with such themes. What is unusual about these films, and science fiction in general, is that although the fictional concerns take place in an alternate reality, the questions raised couldn’t be more important.

The philosophical questions the audience are provoked to ask, in my opinion, in the first film are: what is life? How do we define what life is? What would it be like to meet your creator? If you met your maker, would you be satisfied with his/her answers?

The second film takes a slightly different, but similar tack: how do we define ourselves? Who am I? Are my memories my identity? Is your father the most important role model a man will have?

Many of the replicants have memory implants. I find this so interesting! The replicants know these memories are fake – yet they cherish them. One has to wonder why they do this. Perhaps it’s because the replicants are designed to be more human than human (or, as Nietzsche would say, all too human)…humans naturally create patterns and systems in their minds. A central pattern we create is an autobiographical narrative; this forms the very essence of who we are.

So, why should it be any different for a sentient, albeit synthetic, being designed to look and function just like us?

*Spoiler alert*

During the course of Blade Runner 2049, the audience discovers that K/Joe thinks he is Deckard’s son, but later learns he has been cloned to be a male genetic twin of his true born sister (Deckard’s authentic offspring). Despite the fact that K/Joe learns that he is inauthentic, he still very much yearns to be close to Deckard – he is, virtually, his son; K/Joe has his genetics and the memories of his true born sister. He loves Deckard and protects him from threats. In the full knowledge that he isn’t *real*, his emotions towards Deckard are. Consequently, the sincerity of these feelings have a true value.

Even falsehoods ring true, it would seem.

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(Joi played by Ana de Armas)

Another interesting aspect to the film is the role of the character, Joi. Merely a hologram, she serves as a genuine love interest for K/Joe. From a feminist perspective, one could say that women have become obsolete to men  who merely want pleasure from them…however, Joi can only reward K/Joe with emotional pleasure because she isn’t tangible (as holograms are obviously made of light). Perhaps, once we get past the objectification of Joi, for she is very beautiful, we see that she is very caring and attentive (which are sought after values in either gender). Nonetheless, she can’t be said to be free, for she is programmed to be as she is…therefore, her bondage lies in her lack of free will. She isn’t sentient at all. She merely is what she is – a computer programme emitted in the form of light, designed to be pleasurable for men in both an emotional and sexual sense.

Whilst this has been derided as sexist, I think that it poses an existential quandary – can two synthetic beings love one another? Do androids dream of an electric soul mate? Also, if Joi isn’t sentient and is merely a pleasure model (as her name would suggest), how is she different from a sex toy which so many healthy adults utilise today?

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(Luv played by Sylvia Hoeks)

Moreover, with regard to accusations of sexism, Luv, the replicant antagonist who ruthlessly tries to stop K/Joe from realising his ambitions by any means necessary and with extreme prejudice, is a very powerful female character, physically, intellectually and more interestingly, morally. She commits the taboo of killing humans – Lieutenant Joshi* – and lies about so as to not implicate herself (the ambition of replicants becoming ‘more human than human’ seems to have been, at last, realised).

Weighing everything up, Blade Runner 2049 is a brave attempt at a sequel to a film with such a cult following and legacy as the original. It neither totally distances itself nor tries to repeat themes from the original (unlike the new Star Wars’ films). It is perhaps a little too long, but it is also a genuinely authentic piece of art. The dialogue is fundamentally engrossing and the plot dynamics create genuine tension. Nonetheless, it is the film’s philosophical thematic that engrosses the audience, as long as they have the intelligence and creativity to appreciate it. If the audience lacks in those two qualities then this film’s brilliance will be lost, like tears in rain.

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*I think Lieutenant Joshi is a very brave, if morally dubious, female character. She is authoritative and demanding as well as unflinching in the face of adversity.

The philosophy of grief by Samuel Mack-Poole

Epikur

“Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” ~ William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3 Scene 2.

In the West we are utterly obsessed with happiness. There are many self-help books one can find in a bookstore which are wholly dedicated towards the art of being happy. It seems to me that we are on a search for the holy grail of happiness, and that this search makes us much the reverse. In my opinion, happiness cannot be sought after, it happens in impromptu moments, when you least expect it.  A welcome surprise is far better than a planned social event – at least in my opinion.

However, if you read the title, you will see that this philosophical article is dedicated towards the reverse. Life, as many Americans would say, often throws you a curve ball. I’m only 32. Nonetheless, I have known close friends I went to school with, and who I have worked with, to have committed suicide. I’m only 32. Nonetheless, I have seen good people die from cancer. I’m only 32. Nonetheless, I have seen one of the best people I have ever known suffer a traumatic brain injury.

Now, I do not want this article to be a self-indulgent pity party. That is not the point of this article; the whole point is that we can go through intense grief and loss in our lives.  When we go through these periods of pain and grief and we feel ever so isolated from the world. In particular, with the rise of technology and social media where people create false digital images of their lives, we can feel even more morose than ever.

I feel that we do not accept our grief. I feel that we are so focused on the opiate of happiness that we ignore our grief and that we do not deal with it. Being British, I can dangerously and lazily generalise that my culture is particularly appalling in this respect. How can we be resilient in the face of grief when we are so focused on being happy?

Now I have somewhat waffled around the subject, I will analyse quotes from a select group of philosopher Kings and Queens which evoke wisdom around this muted topic.

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” Nietzsche ~ Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146.

Nietzsche’s advice here seems to contradict mine. After all, he advises against gazing long into the abyss. Despite this, I think it is important to have a balanced approach. Having an obsessive grief within your heart will not help you deal with the dark emotions which are dominating your mind. Whilst I do not have an answer or a magic pill for this, all I can say is talk about how you feel. It’s an age old therapy. I have seen grief destroy people, never to return to their former selves (and after all, once you have lost someone, how can you?). Whilst this is understandable, I am certain the dead would not want us to be a slave to our grief. They would want us to soar high above with the eagles once more.

 

“Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” ~ William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3 Scene 2.

Ah, William Shakespeare! I consider him a fine philosopher, as did the late, great, Christopher Hitchens. Benedick’s line here is wonderful in its wisdom. One of the main issues with regard to grief is that a situation often comes as a supreme shock. Let me give an example: someone sincerely loved by you, for whatever reason (be it death, separation or a debilitating illness) is gone. As a consequence, you will never speak with them again. It’s finality.  Whilst it can be death that causes this silence between you and your loved one, it doesn’t have to be.

A divorce or romantic separation feels like a death. A family member suffering from a brain injury, never to return to their former selves, can feel like a death. These experiences are functional deaths.

Whatever the reason, the shock of it all is overwhelming to the person experiencing it; those who are a friend of someone experiencing this grief can quite often feel very uncomfortable around someone experiencing this.  This is most strange as the person experiencing this grief requires is empathy and an open ear – as a friend of someone who has experienced grief, I know that I should be supportive towards them. I shouldn’t minimise them, avoid them or change the conversation.

A person in grief has a voice. They deserve to be heard.

“Death is nothing to us. When we exist, death is not; and when death exists, we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death, there is awareness.” ~ Epicurus.

Epicurus, you early doubter! In a world awash with the supernatural, he was certainly a very different man. Whilst this analysis shifts towards death more than grief, the two abstract nouns are certainly strongly linked. Epicurus sees death not as something to be feared, but as something to be accepted. He strongly believed in avoiding pain – it is central to his philosophy – and so it is somewhat natural that he would see death as a release.

Often for the ill and infirm, this is true.

However, when the person who dies is young and/ or healthy, the sense of injustice and tragedy increases exponentially. Certainly, it is a problem for theists whom believe that in an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent deity. The famous Epicurean quote regarding this comes to mind:

God, he says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? Or why does He not remove them?

Thus, unless you have utter conviction that your loved one is in a supernatural paradise, it is somewhat hollow to suggest that death is a release for a child/ young person of good health. The grief experienced by the family and friends of death/ functional death is truly a monster. It can gnaw away at you, even in what should be joyous moments. There is one thread of hope amongst all of the tragedy of those taken too young: your child, your family member, or your friend, quite simply and frankly would not want you to be burdened with lifelong depression. Speaking frankly, they would want to be remembered with joy! They loved you and they would want you to have a happy and pleasurable existence.

I would like to conclude by stating that I am no expert, no psychologist, no counsellor – I am merely a man who has experienced a standard amount of tragedy in his life. I seek no pity, but I do want people to be released by an unhealthy shackle of grief, one which those they have loved would not seek them to be burdened with. Please do not misunderstand me; some people will say, “My grief and sorrow is no burden!”

I empathise with that, I really do.

Nevertheless, I have grieved in my life and I question how much of it is selfish and how the person I am grieving for would want me to feel for the rest of my life.

I dedicate this essay to Serhan Mehmet, one of the greatest men I have had the honour of meeting.

The Philosophical Brilliance of Rick and Morty – Part Two by Samuel Mack-Poole.

                     The Philosophical Brilliance of Rick and Morty – Part Two.

                                                             By Samuel Mack-Poole

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“We must all learn to pray for peace,” he says, “and then become and answer to that prayer.” ~ No Atheists In Foxholes: Reflections and Prayers From The Front ~ Patrick McLaughlin.


“Please, God, O Lord, hear my prayer!”
 ~ Rick, in a life or death situation in A Rickle in Time.


“F**k you, God! Not today, bitch!”
 ~ Rick, after surviving in A Rickle in Time.
 

 

Following on from  my blog yesterday, where I heaped an epic amount of praise on the science-fiction genius that is Rick and Morty for its acerbic insight into the human condition, today I would like to focus on a moral dilemma which is faced by the misanthropic, nihilistic, scientific genius come anti-hero, Rick Sanchez. In season two, episode one, Rick is presented with a salient issue. With death appearing a serious and likely consequence (Six months after Rick froze time in the episode Ricksy Business, Rick unfreezes time again, but after being outside of it for so long, they begin to start splitting time into two different realities with potentially fatal results), Rick acts in a way which is, in essence an act of understandable moral human hypocrisy, but in the end it is still hypocrisy, something universally despised amongst various cultures across the world.

Yes, Rick, despite being a defacto atheist, rather than an overt, evangelistic one) opts for prayer. His fascinating and rather rapid conversions from rather antithetical theological standpoints (defacto atheist to Christian theist to anti-theist) are hugely comical, but have a sobering truth in the middle of the chaos.

Death, after all, is a frightening concept. In the UK, most people would meet the criteria of a defacto atheist. They might put CofE on a census, and they would even have a Christening for their children, but they would probably resent more muscular Christian intrusions into their lives (such as Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on their doors, open air preaching and the like). These defacto atheists live in a consumer culture, without fully contemplating their existence. However, when faced with a life or death situation, whether for themselves or a close family member, they will sink to their knees and pray for divine intervention and mercy.

Rick does this selfsame thing. Rick pleads, “Please, God, if there’s a hell, please be merciful to me!” This all plays out, quite neatly into a Christian apologetic: that there are no atheists in fox holes. If you’re not au fait with the premise, let me elucidate: an atheist is a (without) theos (God), and a foxhole is merely a hole in the ground used by troops as a shelter against enemy fire or as a firing point. However, the premise is that when a soldier is afforded a brief opportunity of a safe haven on a battlefield, with his mortal coil in danger of being shed, they will appeal to a higher power, a supernatural power for safety, or for the guarantee that their soul will find itself safe in the afterlife.

What is fascinating about this predicament is the fact that Rick is such a huge nihilist. He has quite a bleak view of humanity, as is confirmed by his dark philosophy in a number of quotes:

 ‘I hate to break it to you, but what people call “love” is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard Morty then it slowly fades leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are going to do it. Break the cycle Morty, rise above, focus on science.’

‘Listen, I’m not the nicest guy in the universe, because I’m the smartest, and being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets.’

‘The world is full of idiots that don’t understand what’s important.’

rick-grumpy

It doesn’t take a doctor of theology to figure out that these quotes don’t exactly espouse Christian values, when it comes to love, moral behaviour or loving thy neighbour.  That may be the whole point of Rick’s comic hilarity (his humour is clearly derived from his counter-cultural ethos), yet I find that his appeal for divine absolution from a Christian deity is the most hypocritical of all (and yes, that is what makes it funny, but it is also what makes this scene the most troubling, for when we laugh, we laugh at our own moral hypocrisy).

What complicates matters is that when Rick’s situation changes for the better, he is far from thankful, as is the expected response from someone whom has survived a life or death situation after an appeal to divine providence. Much the reverse! In fact, Rick transitions from a questioning Christian theist into an anti-theist! Rick exclaims, “F**k you, God! Not today, bitch!

Whilst I can only reiterate that Rick’s theological flip-flopping is designed for comic intent, I experienced a simultaneous revulsion for him, because he is so very human. His weaknesses are understandable. Death is a prickly terror to us all (not matter how much people deny nice from afar, once confronted with death, we act very differently, often in unexpected ways), and thus we all experience an eccentric schadenfreude in watching Rick fail to match his lifetime’s  nihilistic philosophy to his (potential) deathbed’s moralising.

I’m quite aware that a number of Christian theists will feel a certain level of smugness when they read this post, and I’m also aware that a large number of atheists will feel that of all shows Rick and Morty should have treated this theme somewhat differently – after all, it was born from the imagination of post-enlightenment society, and of a character whom wears the Nihilism like a badge of honour. However, I can only comment upon what has been presented, and it seems that even Rick isn’t immune to a death-bed conversion.

 

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The Philosophical Brilliance of Rick and Morty — Part One by Samuel Mack-Poole.

 

                              The Philosophical Brilliance of Rick and Morty — Part One

                                                                      by Samuel Mack-Poole.

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“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” ~ As You Like It, Act 5 Scene 1, William Shakespeare.


“Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere
.” ~ Morty, Rixty Minutes.
It is quite rare that you stumble upon genius. As Jonathan Swift once said, “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Now, I don’t want to take a dangerous foray into Gulliver’s Travels and misanthropy from the start, as there will be much more of the latter later, but Swift’s biting aphorism holds true when it comes to the principal writer of Rick and Morty, Dan Harmon (born January 3, 1973). He had produced three other failed pilots for Fox TV, prior to Rick and Morty becoming that rare brand, a commercial and critical success.

Now, the question is:  why is a science-fiction comedy cartoon worthy of a philosophical analysis? My response would be as so: the philosophers of the past were limited to verbal debate and, if they were lucky enough to be educated, the written word. In this world of bleeding edge technology, rising with machines, we can create art that carries extremely salient philosophical messages – messages which permeate through our moral zeitgeist. As Ernst Fischer (3 July 1899 – 31 July 1972) once stated, “In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay.
Rick and Morty reflects the crumbling society of the west with acerbic wit and biting insight. And, now that I have built it up with the plaudits it thoroughly deserves, I shall now get to the philosophical analysis.

In Mortynight Run, (season 2, episode 2), whilst on an escapade to an alien arcade called “Blips & Chitz”, Rick and Morty stumble across a computer game called Roy. The premise of the game  is that a player’s consciousness is transported into the game, so that the life the player has in reality is forgotten (although it residually manifests itself in dreams or nightmares). In this life, you make salient choices which impacts on then value your life will hold.

In this way, of course, the game is not unlike reality.

However, the game is available for everyone and anyone (who is interested) to watch the game manifest. Thus, although the game play feels completely authentic, and with extreme value, to the player, in reality, it’s just a way to score points in the way society views success.

Most interestingly, Morty’s journey as Roy leads him away from school, which he finds dull, and to the excitement of being what appears to be a great college level player. Unfortunately for Morty/Roy, when he is middle-aged, that career has fizzled out, and with the responsibility of fatherhood, Morty/Roy acquiesces to his wife’s wishes and works in a dull, yet stable, carpet shop.

Further down this narrative, Morty/Roy is afflicted with cancer, but he overcomes it, and goes back to work in the carpet shop – however, the irony is that Morty/Roy dies in a meaningless accident, after overcoming cancer.

roy

The game over sequence flashes on the screen, and Morty finds himself simultaneously confused about his identity and judged by is immoral grandfather, “You beat cancer and then you went back to work at the carpet store?! Boo!” Find the video here.

Now, where to start? This scene is fascinating on so many levels. Firstly, I think the trite what is reality/ am I dreaming debate rears its head once again. This line of paranoid proto-solipsism  can be dismissed with the arguments exhibited in Simon Blackburn’s Think (fantasy is parasitic upon reality, and dreams are parasitic upon the experience of being conscious). In all honesty, I don’t worry that the reality we live in is synthetic, and this is due to my ability to realise that as Wittgenstein once stated, “How can I generalise the one case so irresponsibly?”. If all we have to go on is sense-data, then we should not be bogged down by unrealistic paranoia.

What I actually find more interesting is the way in which life choices are judged by our peers, and the esteem in which we hold those choices. Rick, who prides himself on his unconventional approach to life – he is, after all, a charismatic maverick of an anti-hero, bitcccccchhhhhh – seemingly sneers at Morty’s ‘dull’ choices. However, I take issue with Rick’s carefree attitude. He seems to not have the same issue of confusion as Morty whilst his consciousness is inhabited by the game, and he lives his life as Roy/Rick with a carefree abandon which others in the arcade are enamoured with.

Thus, what we as an audience judge to be of value – that which is rare: namely excitement and a rejection of society’s rules – isn’t really on the same playing field as what Morty/Roy did, as he made rational and responsible choices based on what he felt was real. Whatever a player does, it seems that Roy has responsibilities for dependents outside of his own selfish concern, and this is where I have central issues with Rick’s decadence (don’t forget that he abandoned Beth — and we all know what that led to…marrying Jerry).

Although this is merely a meta-reality (a fiction within a fiction), the attitudes and outcomes are merely manifestations of societal concerns. In the west, we live for ourselves. In fact, we are utterly self-obsessed. It’s the route of our unhappiness. It’s also what I think makes Rick so chronically depressed, (as is evidenced in episode Auto Erotic Assimilation with Rick’s flirtation with suicide and ambiguous passing out/ chickening out from it. See it here.). The juxtaposition of Morty’s more grounded and familial values with Rick’s individualistic yet ‘bad-ass’ values is fascinating, yet I err towards Morty, even if it is truly mundane, as I think family is of the highest level of primacy for a society to function.

The whole premise of the Roy game is to show society that we live in judgement of our success (or lack thereof). Unlike in real life, where the roll of the dice in our life choices slowly manifest, the Roy game shows the outcomes of this with an instantaneous affirmation (or lack thereof).  In this way, I am reminded of the vulgarity of social media and our obsession as a species with instantaneous feedback. It’s not enough to make a video on social media, now we need to go live. It’s not enough that I will write this blog and show it to my friends, I will post it all over a range of intellectual discussion boards, waiting for one or two comments which will validate my choice to write this article.

If there are any conclusions from this, if I can wrestle with the abstract and find something tangible, it would be this: watch Rick and Morty, don’t venerate Rick as moral guide for your existence, and realise that living for yourself in an absolutist way is the first step towards becoming unwoke.

bird-person

Brexit, Jean Monnet and the ethics of ratcheting. By Martin Prior.

Brexit, Jean Monnet and the ethics of ratcheting.

By Martin Prior

 martin

These days everything is Brexit  The important name of Jean Monnet is sometimes mentioned, along with his ratcheting tactics, so I felt this was an interesting ethical issue to discuss.

Now the EU would say that it is committed to (a) democracy, (b) ending wars, (c) the market economy.  But some would say that the priorities are the reverse of the above.

Whatever we may think, all paths to Euro-federalism seem to originate with Jen Monnet (1888-1979), and Prof. Tim Congdon, in his review of Leach, Rodney (2004)  A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union.  4th edition, states:

Leach favours the cooperative and democratic vision of Europe, but he believes that – at present – he is on the losing side. In his words, the federalists and bureaucrats have “won the upper hand”, not because of the merits of their case than because of “the forethought and subtlety of the Common Market’s architects”.  In particular, Jean Monnet is credited with the clever tactic of incrementalism, of never going backwards but always adding small, ratchet-like steps on the path to union.

Now this concept of ratcheting reminds me of the diagram in one of my previous Takeaway articles, on “Survival Society, Self-fulfilment Society and Quixotic Society” (Issue No 57):

The flow chart does in fact depict the interaction of survival society and self-fulfilment society: as with rock-climbing you ensure that each move across the rock-face is reversible.  You only move to a new position if you are in a safe position already, and you only stay in the new position if it is safe.  And this is clearly the opposite in principle to ratcheting: you make sure that when people advance there is no going back.

Now the ‘ratcheteers’ would reply that we have a totally different situation: we are trying to move from a Quixotic Society to a Survival Society, where in the example of the EEC/EU, our first priority is that we wish to avoid wars.

 

Now this is to some extent understandable: Jean Monnet’s career dates back to 1916, when at the ‘ripe’ age of 26 he pressed on the French PM a scheme of war-time co-operation.  Nowadays we think of the Nazis as the archetype warmongers, but in those days the French wanted a war – partly to avenge the 1871-2 Franco-Prussian War – as long as they didn’t start it.  And in August 1943 Monnet declared to the French National Liberation Committee:

There will be no peace in Europe, if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty… The countries of Europe are too small to guarantee their peoples the necessary prosperity and social development. The European states must constitute themselves into a federation…

 

But what becomes apparent is that in the early days, when France was much stronger than the defeated Germany, France wanted access to German resources.  France initially wanted to detach the coal-rich Ruhr region, and in the face of American opposition to this, only consented to the establishment of the Federal Republic (West Germany) when they agreed to placing the Ruhr under allied control.  And then they only stopped dismantling German industry when Germany agreed to the European Coal and Steel Industry.

So when we view all this we realise that the Survival Society being created was very much French Survival Society before German ascendancy took effect.

But we now see that the quest for Survival Society, be it French, German, EEC or EU was in effect Quixotic Society: the measures to bypass or manipulate democracy meant that a bureaucracy was being built up which could impose its own agenda, and we certainly see this in the imposition of the prevailing neo-liberal policies: a philosophy of institutionalised Quixotry that fuelled Nazism during the depression, and now fuels neo-Nazism in Greece.

In effect the attempts to bring in measures to avoid wars may well be counter-productive, and maybe Leach’s vision of a co-operative and democratic Europe is the right one after all.  Indeed it is said that the only time two democratic countries have been at war was Britain and Finland.

So, whatever we may think, all paths to Euro-federalism seem to originate with Jen Monnet (1888-1979), and Prof. Tim Congdon, in his review of Leach, Rodney (2004) A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union. 4th edition, states:

  • Leach favours the cooperative and democratic vision of Europe, but he believes that – at present – he is on the losing side. In his words, the federalists and bureaucrats have “won the upper hand”, not because of the merits of their case than because of “the forethought and subtlety of the Common Market’s architects”.  In particular, Jean Monnet is credited with the clever tactic of incrementalism, of never going backwards but always adding small, ratchet-like steps on the path to union.

But to my mind, all this is on borrowed time, for the simple reason that the Single Market is too large and unwieldy.

The most serious feature of it is the way in which one country, Germany, acts as a centre of gravity, attracting funds to enable greater development in the core rather than at the periphery.  Regions need to have greater meaningful control: while each region will have its own centre of gravity, these will be far more manageable, with fewer funds needed in the exercise to achieve the same result as developing the periphery to a Single Market.  If there are to be cross-country currencies, they should be confined to these regions.

To avoid Brexit leading to or intensifying a messy collapse, what we need is a European Environmental Community:

  1. This would retain the EU environmental institutions.
    2.  The Euro should be dismantled.
    3.  TTIP and/or CETA should be abandoned and TTIP-style ‘partnerships’ torn up.

Since the Single Market is unwieldy, the environmental community should be divided into regions which pursue co-development, rather than the neo-colonialism of the core, eg. Germany vis-à-vis Greece and other PIIGS.

As I have already argued, the EEC was set up as a move to end warfare in Europe, but it made the crucial mistake of thinking this could be brought about through political developments, while fuelling the economic causes of warfare. The Second World War itself came about because of austerity and the prequel to neo-liberalism. Well, certainly not the Single Market and its ‘four freedoms’, which do not represent freedom for the UK.

Since we have decided to go it alone, rather than hope we can reform the EU from within, we need, along with allies in Europe, to resist the ever-powerful EU sucking us in with its ratcheting strategy (see note below): just as the Roman Republic turned into an Empire, democracies in Europe are turning into a neo-Empire… and now, with ‘Brexit’, there’s a chance that that will unravel.

But finally, the reality is that UK vis-à-vis EU is very similar to Canada vis-à-vis US and NZ vis-à-vis Australia… there is no way that the UK would accept loss of sovereignty to the extent that would be necessary to make the EU properly democratic, if indeed that is feasible.
REFERENCES

  • Leach, Rodney (2004) A Concise Encyclopaedia of the European Union. 4th edition
  • Congdon, Professor Tim (2004?) Review of Leach(2004) on the June Press website.
  • A useful link:

http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/european-union-functionalism-and.html
European Union: Functionalism and the Ratchet Effect

Socio-emo Extinct By Sean Ash.

Socio-emo Extinct

By Sean Ash

sean

Young people are now growing up in a post-modern reality that is far different from the reality my parents grew up in. I would argue that by growing up in-between realities, I have been able to observe the patterns and therefore see the shift firsthand. This has helped to build a profound understanding as to why I think that we are solely thinking of and prioritising our own happiness, whilst we simultaneously are making our own children suffer for it.

Many younger people do not aspire to be teachers, nurses, care assistants, paramedics or philosophers anymore. Why would they want to? They’ve seen how hard people working within these professions struggle on a daily basis. They’ve seen how hard professionals have to fight in order to justify their jobs to bosses, who’s bosses and their bosses are only concerned with finding somewhere to save money. They’ve seen how stressful it can be and the sheer amount of (time + energy) professionals have to give just to = a fairer wage that allows them to live. Many of us belittle younger people by presupposing they don’t know about these things, or that they can’t read between the lines when we are lying to them, but young people aren’t stupid, even if we are certainly doing our very best to send them that way.

Younger people have been brought up forever seeing the good punished, while those who are selfishly in it for themselves succeed with far greater rewards. They’ve seen how meaningful jobs can easily come and go, while observing those who have made it rich off the backs of others, last far longer and go a lot further. What does this teach young children? That people might want to be more of an arrogant so and so like Steve Jobs than to be an altruistic teacher such as Mr. Mackers from Poole? Where is the consistency for younger children? What message are they learning?

We used to look up to those with knowledge because we had a thirst for it. It was hard work at school, but we understood the importance because one day it would be us responsible for passing the knowledge down. We admired and looked up to our teachers, not down at our phones. Instead of stepping up and providing young people with the skills to think, and the confidence to turn to their fellow human being for help, we’ve taught them only how they can rely on smartphones for everything. They no longer look for answers from the likes of Plato, Hobbes or Hegel, but their one and true philosopher (or God) is now called Google.

We as a society have given younger generations the false hope that more people can be successful Youtubers and Social Media entrepreneurs than they can be successful in the public services. We have instilled inside their minds a false consciousness. We have built machines because we don’t want to be bothered anymore. We just want to be left to our own devices.

We have glorified and invested all our time and money into dumbing kids down by placing our faith in technology, instead of placing our faith in them. All due to our own desires to be lazier and making things easier, we have only taught them how to be lazier and how seek the easiest option.

We have removed their natural evolutionary yearning for survival and love for their fellow womb-man by replacing it in a reliance for technology. In classrooms up and down the country, teachers are being ignored while smartphones stifle the attention of students. Students would rather play ‘Sugar Sugar’ than learn about the historic events that have lead to their existence. They would rather take snapchat selfies and wallow in narcissism than try to understand how learning maths can help them in life. “We have a calculator on our phones, Sir. We don’t need to do this” is a common response when asking students to find a simple equation on their own. We used to seek out complexity but now we seek out simplicity.

Instead of feeding our children with warmth, love and empathy, we tell them to leave us alone and to go play their games. Anything for a spot of peace.

As educators, we have to acknowledge and accept, just like any addict would, that we have a problem and that problem is we are engineering a future society of cyborgs. I will not deny that it is a huge statement to make, but I personally think that the rise of autism and ADHD isn’t vaccine related as such, but more to do with the social and emotional parts of our brains being rapidly killed off due to technology. What do you think?

 

Eaten By Your Appetite by the intellectual Juggernaut, Ellese Elliot.

A fish, golden and serene, scaly and gracefully, glistened swimming around a small silver office bin. Another, just the same, swam in the opposite direction, for a moment, then followed, then didn’t. Blue and green translucent fins, of a slightly larger liquid creature, let the light of a full moon beam through onto broken slivers of glass that reflected a stream of photons onto a cracked mirror. A temporary luminous narrow pathway gently glowed. Tiny forgotten formations waltzed silently into the path and out into a space once inhabited by capitalist creatures.

Microsoft keyboards swayed gently like seaweed. Once blank white walls were colored green with algae and purple pods. Tentacles wrapped around desks like wires. Though largely bound by blackness, one can see the skeleton of a tall phallic building that once stood center of London. What was a colossal symbol of control and power, now lurked in the darkness unnoticed, like a ghost without a machine.

One thousand years ago, the Shard, as the building was named, buzzed with busy bee like workers. Wall to wall Wi-Fi would fill the space with cancer causing frequencies that could carry codes from anywhere in the universe. It mimicked the great Egyptian pyramids, built from tons of sand that had been blown into glass.

Formerly towering over all of London, the Shard now dwelt below a cosmic ocean; the surface covered with a dusting of glittering ice. This ocean had poured down from a gigantic interstellar cloud that had drifted from the moon of Venus and had burst above the earth. It rained down a substance called palatine. Palatine, a foreign element to earth, instantly killed most water-based life forms. However, what it did not kill, it gave extraordinary powers to. Palatine creatures could pass through solids and morph into other palatine creatures, from two creating a new evolved life form. That life form could absorb all others. Palatine created a world where you and I, this or that, could be effortlessly altered. The boundaries of identity were repetitively breaking. Subsequently, creatures behaved collaboratively in simplistic ways, sharing food, and building underwater nests for each other’s young. If one could easily morph into the other we want the other to be well. The other may become the I. Humans observed none of this. Yet, persisting, under this harmonious realm, a human hybrid subsisted, still holding onto a sense of self.

In the old queens warrens, built for apocalyptic purposes, but reserved for royal and state secret meetings, some survivors of the cosmic cloudburst had escaped the peril of palatine. The scientists of the day had managed to create a device to recirculate air underground and a machine run lab that grew food out of petri dishes using DNA and artificial lights. The lab had been created by the most incisive minds of the day.

There were fifty-two survivors at the time. Those who survived were the most powerful men and women of the corporatocracy in England. Among them was Queen Elizabeth the second herself and her near relatives, Teresa May the head of state, the Chiefs of MI5 and MI6, Tony Blair, the Ex Chequer, Tony Pigdeley (CEO of BERKELEY GROUP) a number of members of the Rothschild’s and Rockefeller families and other CEO’S. The man to woman ratio was seven to one. There survived, no children, no animals no workers, no bourgeoisie, no masons, bar a few freemasons. It was a hostile environment. At first the atmosphere was mildly celebratory, but soon the powerful were rendered obsolete in their new conditions.

The senile, scaly, geriatric, wretched upper class reproduced a genetically poor population they scorned and abused.

The new young learned to snatch the scraps of organisms grown from the petri dishes from their mothers who reluctantly shared a morsel. Their diet mostly consisted of protein, so they were more brutish than intelligent. But there was never enough. The intelligentsia of that time was quickly overtaken by force, as the selfish way of being for the upper-class in a period of scarcity was now inept. They could no longer hide behind the wall of the atomized masses using methods of manipulation. They were as good stripped bare, to reveal fragile bony bodies. Weak, it is a wonder how they ever got away with oppresses the masses of workers all that time.

Unlike the palatine creatures, and despite the real threat to their species, the human hybrids did not advance beyond their dog-eat-dog mentality that had been sowed into their skin by the elite, which in turn, turned back on them. The prince ate the queen, and the princess ate the prince, and the princess grew fat and died of a heart attack. Her young losing there mother and they fought one another. Reproduction happened largely through incestuous rape and sexual pleasure came from disparities in power between old and new blood.

However, atomic amounts of palatine had entered the hellish species and many were born at a time. There were subsequently many births, from little conception, but many killings kept the numbers low. Now, there stood a modest human population of five thousand. The individualistic way of life, that had worked so well in 2016, in a time of material abundance, where man was pitted against man in their billions, to keep the ever increasing weight of a super rich race on their shoulders, had backlashed drastically in a time of scarcity and when the numbers were few. If only they could have been more fluid, more harmonious, more like the palatine creatures of the cosmic sea, a glorious species may have lived. But for now, ugly violent cannibalistic mutants persisted.

 

 

Welcome to our new blog!

A note from the Editor, Samuel Mack-Poole:

Salutations, fellow thinker! You are most welcome here, in the arena of thought.

Six years ago, I stumbled across The Philosophy Takeaway.  It was an overwhelming experience. I met many great young minds, willing to ask, question, argue passionately, and wield their intellects like hammers and shooting stars whilst attempting to discover a truth that motivates the human condition. These special people, united by a common and rare bond, were a gem of beauty in this rough ocean that is life.

However, like the Roman Empire, The Philosophy Takeaway peaked – but it is when you peak that the only direction that can follow is an inevitable fall. Great minds moved on – whether to family, work, travelling, activism, or politics (and if those special people are reading this, you know who you are). Yet, whilst you can take the philosopher out of the takeaway, you can’t take takeaway out of the philosopher.

Out of the ashes, the phoenix will arise!

This is but the first attempt at a comeback. There are new and exciting issues at stake.  We will make cartoons, videos, podcasts, radio and, most inevitably, more blogs.

Beauty and creativity will flow from our fingertips, and you are more than welcome to participate.

Also, as a message to all members of The Philosophy Takeaway – I am not in charge of this. If any of you want to be an editor for future blogs, that’s fine by me. Should you wish to create something which doesn’t coincide with an issue, then you go ahead and create. We are not bound by hierarchy in our brave new world.

Enjoy all rare things for the rare.

Contact me at sammackpoole@gmail.com if you wish to contribute. Continue reading “Welcome to our new blog!”

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