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Moral Politics? April 30, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Political Philosophy.
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I have been known to advocate for a moral politics; but not a state-imposed morality. A.C. Grayling has it right.

“What is right is the closely allied idea that what those who run the state machine, whether as politicians or civil servants, and those who influence them materially through NGO and interest group activities, should always be constrained by ethical considerations, and answerable to them. What is wrong is the idea that this unexceptionable claim entitles us to think of the state itself as an agent possessed of moral duties. The state is not an entity separate from those who run it and those who influence them, and so the expression “a moral state” can only be shorthand for “a state run by morally responsible people”.

Mayhem and War Rhetoric April 26, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events.
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Since the horrific murders at Virginia Tech, there has been much speculation about the underlying causes of such violence. The usual suspects, video games, rap lyrics, etc., are trotted out as explanations. The problem with these explanations is the lack of a mechanism. Why does the viewing of violent images give someone a motive for mass murder?

Today’s UT ran an article by Ron Dzwonkowski of the Detroit Free Press pointing toward another explanation. Anthropologist Elliot Leyton, who has built a career around the study of mass murder, reports in an interview that there is a correlation between violent crime and nations at war that may be driving our current spike in violence. Governments and the media, when advancing the cause of war, must spread the message that homicide is acceptable in pursuit of their ends, thus conditioning the public to accept the killing of others on a massive scale.

There is still the problem of a mechanism here. How do we get from a cultural meme that violence is an acceptable and glamorous means to achieve national goals to the senseless homicidal rage in the Virginia Tech massacre? Leyton suggests an answer—the deep sense of grievance mass murderers tend to exhibit toward persons, groups, or institutions, which was clearly on display in Virginia Tech murderer Cho’s rants against rich kids and debauchery. But how does the exposure to justifications of war-time violence feed this resentment?

I suspect there is a larger message that the BushChenistas and their Fox News megaphone have been adept at promulgating. Nothing defines the war fever that enabled our descent into thuggery more than the constant repetition of the refrain that evil surrounds us like LA smog threatening to penetrate our pores if not blown away by a storm of violence unleashed by the righteous. This notion that evil is a metaphysical presence that can be held back only by perpetual war has been implicit in all of Bush’s war rhetoric and remains embedded in his nonsensical claim that if we don’t defeat the terrorists in Iraq we will have to fight them here.

This rhetoric of evil gives all of us a permanent grievance against anything we don’t like. It is a series of very short conceptual steps from “I don’t like it” to “its part of the cloud of evil that threatens us all” to “it must be exterminated at all costs”.

Happy Blog-Launch! April 25, 2007

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Administration, Nina Rosenstand's Posts.
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I, too, want to wish everyone welcome to Philosophy on the Mesa, and I want to thank Dwight for launching the blog. We philosophers at Mesa–adjuncts and contract faculty– already have a tradition of convening on a regular basis for discussions about issues in the profession as well as classical and current philosophical topics. We hope to continue these discussions on this site, and we welcome comments from our students and websurfing philosophers in general. Keep your thoughts soaring, your mind open, and your language clean!

The Commitments April 24, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Ethics, Film.
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No, not the band. This is for Netflix addicts. I watched an interesting film called Downfall, a dramatization of Hitler’s bunker during his final days, as remembered by his personal secretary. The usual suspects, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer, etc. make appearances along with their wives and children, and a variety of ordinary Germans caught up in the madness. The film humanizes these monsters but there is much to be learned from it.

The film graphically portrays the danger of the idea of total commitment, promoted sometimes by existentialists, especially Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard advanced the idea that freedom and genuine subjectivity are possible only with total, passionate commitment. In Downfall, although most of the characters are wholehearted Nazis, and the realm of the ethical is not much in evidence, a few of the characters in the film seem genuinely in control of their lives and are capable of a modicum of moral insight. These few held apparently something of themselves in reserve, and did not wholly define themselves in terms of National Socialism and the aims of the Reich. They were believers with few moral qualms but maintained the sense that they were independent selves, not consumed by loyalty or dedication. Perhaps holding something in reserve is necessary for moral insight.

Hello world! April 22, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Administration.
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Welcome to the inaugural post of Philosophy On The Mesa. All authors on this site are philosophy professors at San Diego Mesa College. Comments are open to the public but you must have an email address to comment. Students are especially invited to comment.

Although we love to discuss philosophy, we have many other interests as well that are worthy of conversation. There is no restriction on topics to be discussed or information to be disseminated, as long as it is legal and not weakly percolating at the bottom of the taste meter. What meter you ask? Well, that is a good philosophical topic, but in lieu of further discussion, Nina’s and mine.

Keep in mind that the success of this blog will depend on how frequently we have quality posts, so if you have something to say, don’t hesitate to say it here.