Monday, November 1, 2010

On A Monday

I got a bee in my bonnet about the kids talking about Fight Club like it was some incredibly deep shit. I, of course, am pretty sure there is nothing new under the sun.

Fight Club is to philosophy as Rent is to musicals. That is to say, it's an introduction that smarmy self-proclaimed independent thinkers use to say that they know the genre while having experienced nothing else. Okay. Seriously, Rent is saccharinely melodramatic but well-intentioned. Hell: The bad guy in the production is called Coffin. As for Fight Club, track this: think of every person that mentions Tyler Durden, ask yourself: have they gone further, or do they all love that quote "self-improvement is masturbation?" Yes, in short, I care, far, far more about where they go once they've seen these things.

Yes, I'm judgmental.

I'm in philosophy. It goes with the territory. I didn't get into this so I could hide behind something. I got into this so I could run my mouth. And thus, I'm going to talk about chapters seven, eight and nine of A Theory of Justice. Chapter seven, entitled Intuitionism (which I initially thought was institutionism) is about how people decide between competing ideas. of, for example, balancing equality and total welfare when talking about justice. As Rawls explains: put total welfare on the x axis and equality on the y axis, and put a generic upper left to downward right curve on it and we're off. He uses the phrases indifference curve and ceteris paribus, the second of which might be my favorite piece of latin since quid pro quo motherfucker.

Put two non-intersecting indifference curves on there and it's a neat visual way of representing two different ways of viewing justice. (You can have a great amount of total welfare unevenly distributed over a given number of people that might mathematically be equal but be unworkable otherwise.) Obviously, the further to the top left one goes, the better the theory is, since it balances equality and total welfare in a way that maximizes both better.

Rawls then speaks about intuitionists, and how they would agree that such a mathematical proof exist, there are not "constructive moral criteria" to help define it in real world terms. He says that the way to defeat the theory is to show that the constructive moral criteria exists. This leads into chapter eight, of how to solve the priority problem. Rawls posits the lexicographical order of principles, a not so complex system that puts principles like links in a chain. Each new principle must hold the principles before it.

He favors the lexicographical order insomuch as it helps indicate the larger structures and conceptions of justice, not that it's a perfect fit. He acknowledges in chapter nine, that nothing is perfect and everything is flawed, but we end up judging by how often the theory is correct versus how often it is flawed.

I mean, yes, I was attracted to philosophy because of the phrase no answers and about how everything is flawed, but up until this point, I never had a real good conception of what that meant. I think in RPG terms. I'll explain. I think in terms of games and statistics and there's always one best, most powerful piece of armor or weapon that is the best fit for whatever class you're going for. A trinket that is most perfect above all other things, and maximizes all of the statistics more evenly than anything else.

That doesn't exist here. The whole book is about working towards it, but Rawls admits: "justice as fairness moves us closer to the philosophical ideal; it does not; of course, achieve it." I'm used to searching for the special, special drop of some benevolent designer, which would appear only if the right things were maximized or minimized. Here, though, it's admitting that I'm never going to get there. Ever. Even more damning: "It is obviously impossible to develop a substantive theory of of justice founded solely on the truths of logic and definition."

Well...shit. That's not a sexy thing to admit in a book called A Theory of Justice, man. And that, simply put, is why I'm still attracted to philosophy today.

Blaqk Audio's Cex Cells was a CD that I heard about when I first heard about it, I liked only one of the singles from it and more or less forgot about it, except for Semiotic Love. I found it again last night and am liking On A Friday, a song about dancing in clubs. Oh! Right! Blaqk Audio is Jade Puget and Davey Havok from AFI doing electronic music. It's fun and not close to the AFI canon. (I've been dancing with strangers for all of my life, sings Davey, and it's hard to tell whether that's him talking about his day job or dancing in clubs on his own.)

If you couldn't already tell from dropping Katy Perry in one of the other ...Justice posts, I have a fondness for putting dance songs next to Rawls for the purpose of a little sugar with the medicine and subverting the austerity and academic nature of philosophy with songs about nothing more (and nothing less) than dancing and pretty people you're attracted to.

Not quite nihilism, but certainly a counter-argument to the all-encompassing and dead sober nature of judgments, principles and the original position. It's not that nothing matters, but instead that dancing with people, correctly articulated, has demonstrable, meaningful worth.

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