Monday, September 19, 2011

Pop culture roundup

Two or three of my readers have expressed interest in my posts on movies, popular music, and pop culture in general.  And I’ll bet at least twice that many are interested.  So, for you fans of pretentious pop culture analysis, here’s a roundup of relevant posts and articles.  For the most part I’ve included only those that are fairly substantive.

For some posts on jazz and popular music, see:


Jazz-funk phenomenologist [on Donald Fagen’s Sunken Condos]

Goo goo ga ga [on Lady Gaga]





My brush with greatness [on Michael Jackson]

For some philosophical reflections on movies and television, see:

Rorschach test [on Watchmen]






Twist ending [on Rod Serling] 

How to animate a corpse [on the Night Gallery episode “Cool Air”]

Cinematic representation [on The Spanish Prisoner, Arachnophobia, and some other movies] 

The metaphysics of bionic implants [on The Six Million Dollar Man, Iron Man, etc.]

Self control [on Memento and Philip K. Dick’s “Paycheck”]




Is a picture worth a thousand words? [from the old Right Reason blog]

For some science fiction related posts, see: 


Disching it out [on Thomas Disch on Ray Bradbury]

The dreaded causa sui [on Robert Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps”]

 

Speaking of conspiracy theories, here are a few pieces on that subject, which is relevant to contemporary popular culture:




Epstein on conspiracies [on Edward Jay Epstein’s The Annals of Unsolved Crime]

For some posts on comic books, see:


No laughing matter [on Wally Wood and Steve Ditko]

You drinkers out there might enjoy:




For some general thoughts on conservatism and popular culture, see:


(My post on “Pop culture and the lure of Platonism” linked to above is also relevant, as are some of the other music-related posts.)

Finally, some book reviews and the like related to pop culture themes:


Twilight of the Mad Men [on Fred Kaplan’s 1959: The Year Everything Changed]

Unbroken and the problem of evil [on Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken]

Catacomb culture [on Roger Scruton’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture]

This last one is a bit of a museum piece -- the prose a bit too purple, the tone a bit less light than I usually tend to be, and the overall attitude reflective of the fact that I had not yet entirely worked my way out of a C3 type atheism.  Anwyay, whatever I now think of the review, I still think Scruton’s book is excellent.

17 comments:

Matthew G said...

Wow, you wrote far more on this topic than I remembered.

Michele Arpaia said...

May I ask you why you don't tag your posts?

Untenured said...

I second Michele Arapaia, tags would be extremely helpful. So quit publishing and teaching and get to work on the blog! :)

21st Century Scholastic said...

Prof. Feser, i have an important question on cocktails and natural law (well, important to those of us who enjoy the stuff).

Take an (extra)ordinary glass of Martini. Now, being a cocktail, it obviously contains alcohol. Alcohol is a waste product of microorganisms, and it's not meant for ingestion by human beings (as evidenced by its many negative effects on health, especially on the liver).

This considered, how do we square our passion for aperitifs with the apparent fact that one of their main components is extraneous to our organism (and, therefore, drinking it would be going against its intended function)?

Edward Feser said...

May I ask you why you don't tag your posts?

I ask myself the same question some times. Basically, it's a bad non-habit. For some reason I didn't do it when I started the blog and not doing it has by now become ingrained. Help!

and it's not meant for ingestion by human beings

Says who?

(as evidenced by its many negative effects on health, especially on the liver).

Only when used to excess. Which is true of anything, including water. So what's the problem?

21st Century Scholastic said...

Looks like i was under a false impression. But how do we draw a sharp line between alcohol and tobacco or "light" drugs such as Marijuana? Maybe some kinds (like cigars, or smoking pipe tobaccos) are OK while others are not?

Anonymous said...

Doc Feser.
Could you do a post on your thoughts related to Don't Ask/Don't Tell repeal?

Edward Feser said...

But how do we draw a sharp line between alcohol and tobacco or "light" drugs such as Marijuana? Maybe some kinds (like cigars, or smoking pipe tobaccos) are OK while others are not?

Well, it's not the thing itself but the way in which it is used that raises moral questions. The basic principle is that it is, for natural law theory, inherently wrong forcibly to deprive oneself of the use of reason other than for the sake of health. "Forcibly" here contrasts with "naturally," e.g. by going to sleep, which is a natural part of human life. "For the sake of health" covers cases where one uses some drug for the purpose of treating insomnia, relieving pain, etc. even if one foresees (without intending) that this will impair reason. (The idea here is that since the part exists for the sake of the whole, it is permissible to impair the faculty of reason temporarily for the health of the overall organism.)

So, from this point of view smoking cigarettes and cigars and drinking in moderation are not at all problematic. Other practices are (other than the legal aspect) problematic to the extent that they do not fit the alcohol and tobacco model. But the problem in the other cases is not the substance itself, but rather the extent to which it has a greater inherent tendency to deprive one of the use of reason. (Of course someone who is seriously impairing his health by smoking tobacco will have other moral reasons to stop, but that is a separate issue. I think the risk would have to be pretty clear in an individual case, though, for it to be immoral, and in general I am opposed both to anti-tobacco hysteria and to rigorism on these sorts of questions.)

Could you do a post on your thoughts related to Don't Ask/Don't Tell repeal?

Well (no surprise) I'm against it. But I'm having enough trouble as it is getting my second original sin post and other partially-written in-progress posts finished given various writing deadlines I'm trying to meet, so I doubt I'll write anything up on it.

Anonymous said...

Dr.Feser, when did your blog become so popular? Nowadays your posts regularly garner +300 comments, whereas before the number of comments per post was nowhere near that much. What do you attribute the change to?

Edward Feser said...

Oh that's just my mom -- she posts under various pseudonyms ("djindra," "Steersman," "StoneTop," etc.)

Anonymous said...

Come on, Doc Feser!!!
Just one quickie stating your views on Don't/Don't.

Anonymous said...

Anon, don't pressure the professor.

Anonymous said...

Doc Feser!!
Don't listen to Anon.
We need to hear your thoughts!

Quiet Anon!!

Steersman said...

Edward Feser said:

Oh that's just my mom -- she posts under various pseudonyms ("djindra," "Steersman," "StoneTop," etc.)

That's 'a ma boy ....

How are the book sales doing, son?

And, by the way and speaking of such, ever actually read The God Delusion?

Anonymous said...

And, by the way and speaking of such, ever actually read The God Delusion?

Was this comment tongue-in-cheek? It gets quoted in TLS, so it's safe to assume that Feser has read it.

And I guess the book sales are doing just fine. Even Sir Anthony Kelly has recommended his stuff.

Don't be hatin', playa.

Steersman said...

Anonymous said:
September 23, 2011 2:20 PM

”And, by the way and speaking of such, ever actually read The God Delusion?”

Was this comment tongue-in-cheek? It gets quoted in TLS, so it's safe to assume that Feser has read it.


I meant to say “all of TGD” – seems from a brief perusal of TLS that virtually all or most of the references to TGD are about Dawkins’ “disproofs” of God, notably those pertaining to Aquinas. Seems Feser is quite aware of the downsides of religion in both its theoretical and practical aspects, although one might argue that if he had read all of TGD, he might have had – and manifested – a greater appreciation for the latter.

And I guess the book sales are doing just fine. Even Sir Anthony [Kenny] has recommended his stuff.

And, as Feser himself notes, Kenny ultimately rejects Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God. Hardly seems like a slam-dunk conclusion, much less one justifying the wagering of one’s putatively immortal soul.

Don't be hatin', playa.

One might reasonably be apprehensive about being self-indulgent in one’s anger and allowing it to drift over the line into irrational hate. But I’m reminded of, and paraphrase, Anthony’s (fictional) peroration over Caesar’s body (even if he was labouring under a misapprehension himself): “O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers of reason and logic and compassion and humanity”. And likewise and in the same vein of Massimo Pigliucci’s Nonsense on Stilts (which A-T metaphysics eminently qualifies as):

... Amitai Etzioni quotes the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet to the effect that intellectuals are people who devote themselves to “the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them.” .... [pg 106]

And:

For Chomsky [in his “The Responsibility of Intellectuals”] the basic idea is relatively clear: “Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions ... It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.” Yet one could argue that it is the responsibility of any citizen in an open society to do just the sort of things that Chomsky says intellectuals ought to do, and indeed I doubt Chomsky would disagree. [pg 106]

I’ll be the first to acknowledge and even champion – as I have done repeatedly – the idea that there is more than a small amount of truth within the corpus of Christianity – but only (or largely) if it is viewed from a metaphorical perspective. To insist on the literal truth of, for example, Adam and Eve is to repeat the same mistake the Church made with Galileo – a slow learner, apparently. One might reasonably argue that Adam and Eve could be construed as a metaphor for the fork in the road in our very distant past that has led to the our consciousness, our self-awareness, our “knowledge of good and evil” – the “evil” of nature being justified by its “knowing not what they do”.

But to insist on a literal interpretation in the face of mountains of real, tangible, empirical evidence is risible at best and, at worst, seriously detracts from whatever good the Church might actually manage to do – based on, to some extent, some credible morality and even philosophy.

Kjetil Kringlebotten said...

Steersman, "And, as Feser himself notes, Kenny ultimately rejects Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God."

Yet he doesn't give any impression of having understood them.