Javert and Valjean at Prayer

javert and valjean

The two things I found most frustrating about the Les Mis movie were the camerawork and Russell Crowe's performance as Javert.  And they both came together to annoy me during "Stars."  Crowe is sad-eyed instead of steely from his first appearance and, for this number, director Tom Hooper places him on a ledge.  This seems to be done simply so that Hooper can set up some parallelism in his cimematography; the shots of Javert walking right along the edge of the roof in "Stars" are echoed when he pa … [Read more...]

“Nobody human can stand all that everlasting affection!”

The quote is from Company, the subject is Passion, as the Sondheim Symposium goes on. This installment includes spoilers for 1984.At the climax of 1984, Winston is broken by the tortures in room 101. The moment that anihilates him and represents victory for Big Brother is the moment where he cries out: Do it to her! Do it to Julia! I don’t care what you do to her, but do it to her! Tear her face off! Do it to Julia, not to me! Do it to Julia! Not me! If this is betrayal, we might assume tha … [Read more...]

“What’s Hard is Simple, What’s Natural Comes Hard”

This post is part of Patheos's book club for T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. I recieved a review copy free of charge.In T.M. Luhrmann's ethnographic study of charismatic evangelical Christians, When God Talks Back, communing with God is a strenuous practice.  Cultivating a personal, two-way relationship is a choice for these Christians, and the sheer level of effort they put into changing their minds trips a lot of my e … [Read more...]

Lewis Trounces Freud

sundays good book

I've already blogged once about reading Freud's Last Session, a two person play that is an extended argument between C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, but now I've gotten the chance to see it performed.  (And it looks like it's running through May at the New World Stages in NYC, if anyone fancies seeing it.)When I saw it, I tried to keep score in my head of who was winning or who had the upper hand, since I was particularly interesting in how the changing dynamics of the debate were mirrored in … [Read more...]

Finding the Morality Pill Hard to Swallow

tank-man

After a week of talking about transhumanism, brain-hacking, and the persistence of identity, I couldn't pass up a chance to comment on Brian Appleyard's slam on using science to improve people's moral character. Moral enhancement cannot be a scientific project because neither term has any measurable meaning that can be universalised. Rather, it is an ideological project which would hand power to an oligarchy of neuropharmacologists who would be permitted to decide that somebody – probably them – … [Read more...]

Simulated Ethics and Brainmodding

It's not all science fiction.  Check out Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcranial_magnetic_stimulation) or brain implants for depression (http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110207/full/news.2011.76.html)

It's a week of tough questions about transhumanism.  After reading my post on moral hazard for uploaded humans, Gilbert asked: OK, so people value other people based on some kind of proximity function. In practice they instinctively use some evaluation procedure that generalizes badly to modern situations (where interactions can be more remote) and even worse* to uploads. Perhaps a bit like different polynomials may be functionally identical on some finite fields but not on others so that using … [Read more...]

The Trap of Numbness and Self-Satisfaction

I've still been thinking about some of the questions we've been picking over in the discussion of David Brook's new book and attempts to alter personality/moral character through pharmacology.  I'm sure some of my friends are delighted to find that there are transhumanist ideas I'm uncomfortable with, and I've been trying to nail down why.To refresh your memory, Tristyn asked: What if there was a drug that made you kinder, more charitable, more forgiving? Let's say even that it has some … [Read more...]


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