What should we be hurt by?

hand-with-candlelight

Poking around the internet, I ran across two interesting articles that seemed to be linked only by offhand comments about the legitimacy or 'realness' of certain kinds of suffering.  First, from a Mother Jones piece on PTSD: Whatever is happening to Caleb, it's as old as war itself. The ancient historian Herodotus told of Greeks being honorably dismissed for being "out of heart" and "unwilling to encounter danger." Civil War doctors, who couldn't think of any other thing that might be un … [Read more...]

But Aren’t Saints Dreadfully Dull?

colm valjean

Tonight I'm seeing Les Miserables for the third time (there have been various outings as people have straggled back into DC after the holidays) and, a day or so after my second viewing, I ran across David Denby's pan of the movie for The New Yorker.  Some of the criticisms are fair (the camerawork draws attention to itself in a bad way, Jackman's voice isn't as well suited to Valjean as it was to Curly, etc), but there was one plot-related criticism that I disagreed with big time.  Denby wri … [Read more...]

What Freedom from Moral Sensibilities Feels Like

Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Kevin Dutton underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to damp down his amygdala and explore the way some brain scientists think psychopaths feel.  (It's the Dark Side version of a moral jump discontinuity).  I've read some scientific literature on this hypothesis before, but it was really interesting to read his subjective experience. It isn't long before I start to notice a fuzzier, more pervasive, more existential difference. Before the e … [Read more...]

A Disquisition on the Nature of Love, or, Contra Ron/Hermione

Ron's face is how I feel about this pairing

See, this is exactly why I love culture-wide book clubs.  I mention Harry Potter in passing, and you all start discussing the proper nature of love, and whether Ron/Hermione or any of the other case studies we're all quite familiar with from the series, fit the mold.I said that one of the reasons I hate the Ron/Hermione pairing is that Ron has, at best, apathy and at worst contempt for Hermione's curiosity and brightness.  I didn't she, or anyone else, should you marry someone wh … [Read more...]

Who are you dressed up as today?

Since we've been talking about theatre, (and had a guest post from an actress) I have all the excuse I need to link to Eve Tushnet's tribute to John Keegan. She wrote: Keegan proposes that leadership requires theatricality: Heroic leadership–any leadership–is, like priesthood, statesmanship, even genius, a matter of externals almost as much as of internalities. The exceptional are both shown to and hidden from the mass of humankind, revealed by artifice, presented by theatre. The theatrical imp … [Read more...]

On Value-Neutral Bravery

green-day-heart-grenade

Back before I went off to awesome, wacky summer camp (a few more things to come on that, by the way), I was writing a series of posts on martyrdom, pacifism, drone strikes and other problems of offering resistance.   And it turns out, looking over some of the posts I missed, I wasn't the only Patheos blogger wondering whether you can praise courage regardless of what exactly the person you're admiring is steeling herself to do. I was talking about drone strikes and David French is talking about h … [Read more...]

Brave Enough to Kill

The Pentagon is considering awarding Distinguished Warfare Medals to drone pilots and Glen Greenwald is furious.  He sees it as an attempt "to depict drone warfare as some sort of courageous and noble act." Greenwald and I are in accord in condemning the use of drones for assassination, but I don't know that I agree with his critique here.  Greenwald says flying a drone cannot meet any of our traditional criteria for valor because: Whatever one thinks of the justifiability of drone attacks, i … [Read more...]


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