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I just finished The Philosopher At the End of the Universe (philosophy explained through science fiction films) by Mark Rowlands. Overall, I enjoyed this book. Today I started the book Batman and Philosophy (The Dark Knight of the Soul) and just within the first chapter I saw a bunch of familiar terms and names, so I'm happy for the review. I'm really glad I read PAEU first as I think it was the more "explaining philosophy" of the two books, and I think it will help me with reading the Batman book. The Batman book reminds me a lot of the Physics of Superheroes - which was a surprisingly difficult read in which I learned as much about comic books as I did about physics. I think I will learn more about Batman than I will about philosophy. That's okay, cuz I loves Batman. (There is a chapter called "Why Batman is Better than Superman")

Anyway, the writing style for The Philosopher At the End of the Universe was kind of odd. He was extremely conversational in tone (with occasional swearing) which was kind of fun, but he constantly repeated himself. I mean he would say the same thing twice, without even putting any new content in between. He barely rephrased the sentences. I would read the same sentence, repeated over again with a slight rephrasing. Sometimes he would repeat a sentence without even rephrasing. Sometimes he would repeat a sentence with the change being suddenly it was in italics. Mostly he would just say the same thing over again. It was at times frustrating, but at the same time it seemed to beat the definition into my head, so I opted to read it over and over instead of skimming.

Despite the repetition, or possibility because of it, I think I got a lot out of PAEU. At times it's topics on morality matched up nicely with Catechism classes. I got to discuss determinism and predestination with someone. I learned quite a bit about how deeply you have to think about things, because something can sound nice and reasonable on the surface but when you try break it down to its basic meanings and mechanisms it can become absurd. (That reminded me of physics and quantum physics.) I had thought I was a social contract type of person, but it turns out I'm not. He did a good job of not being biased I think. It felt like he was disproving just about everything. I know what hedonism is now (just the pursuit of happiness because happiness has intrinsic value - not crazy debauchery). I never really got contextually before. The Blade Runner chapter on death being a limit of life, not an event in life, was my favorite chapter. It was examining what harm death actually caused and the difference between losing a possibility versus losing an actual future. Life is a series of moments with transitions in between. Those transitions are not part of the moment, they are the limits - where one moment ends and the next begins. They are connected in a linear line, since time is linear, ending with the ultimate limit - death. The context of time gives meaning to those moments. The example he gave was Roy's death soliloquy. Spoken just before dying, it was epic. Had he survived, it would have been comedic. If he was never in any danger at all, it'd be crazy. The temporal limit as a point of reference is what makes moments stand out and gives meaning to life.

Frankenstein (the meaning of life)
The Matrix (can we be sure of anything)
Terminator 1&2 (mind/body problem)
Total Recall & 6th Day (personal identity)
Minority Report (free will)
Hollow Man (why be moral)
Independence Day & Aliens (scope of morality)
Star Wars (good & evil)
Blade Runner (death)


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 5th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
He was actually able to present a reasonable argument against the existence self which I cannot possibly explain in my own words or even summarize his argument down to a paragraph. I haven't seen the movie The Sixth Day, so I'm going to blame that on my not being able to internalize his explanation... Part of the problem was determining how to define the word "self." Something about Dualism. Something Body theory, Brain theory, Memory theory, etc. It basically boils down to the fact I can't even be sure of my "self"ness. :)

I did like how he pointed out we shouldn't let this stop us from living. (And apparently enjoying Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.)

Oh- and he seems to really dislike Descartes, which was funny to me. :)
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