Posts Tagged ‘Braak’

The Hitler Questions

Posted: April 13, 2015 in Braak
Tags: ,

I like hypothetical ethical dilemmas. I think they’re interesting, because ordinarily I think we don’t really think about what constitutes “right” and “wrong”: we’ve just got a sense of it, and when questions come up, we respond to them intuitively first, and then justify them later. The purpose of Ethical Dilemmas is to interrogate that mechanism that lets us choose, but in an environment where outcomes are known to us. This lets us examine both how we feel about a question, and how those questions interact with what we say our principles are.

Here are some questions about whether or not you’d go back in time to murder Adolf Hitler.

(Trigger warning for some talk about the Holocaust and about rape and murder.)

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Here’s the thing about nerds – and please know that I’m including myself in this, maybe as the worst of us all, the monster is within me, &c.: we all know at this point that there are nerds. Nerds are people who like weird stuff, and sometimes display a socially-unacceptable level of enthusiasm for our weird stuff. We dress up in costume for Harry Potter book launches or sign our emails with Star Trek quotes or what have you. But I think everyone also knows that there are nerds, and then there are nerd nerds: the kind of guys that you hope never show up to a conversation about any topic, because despite our enthusiasm and our granular knowledge of every little bit of a topic, we’re fucking terrible.

We’re the Comic Book Guys of the world, the Um, Actuallys, the Technically Speakings of the world. You all know us and I think that, even though we talk a big game about bullying, I think we maybe know, deep down, that when we do that kind of shit we deserve a little bit of the pejorative muck that still sullies the word “nerd.”

So, what I’m here to do is to present my Unified Theory of Being a Nerd, and then (maybe more importantly), I want to talk a little about the two major attitudes towards the world that it causes, and why these things are bad, why they should be rejected, and a little bit about how to quarantine them.

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We have all been waiting for the answer to this question, “Can a white man criticize the p.c. culture of the liberal left?” and Jonathan Chait has answered this question at length . The answer is apparently, “He CAN, but probably SHOULDN’T.” Much better writers will do much better responses to this, but it’s left me so irritated that I couldn’t help but write at least a little bit.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with…I guess…let’s do “commencement speakers”, and maybe ask a few questions about why guys like Jonathan Chait get their knickers in a twist when a student body tries to block one person or another from speaking at their commencement.

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I don’t know, now I got started, I figure I may as well get it all out of my system.  The idea, as I mentioned earlier, was to try to do one of these supernatural-adventure-mystery shows like Constantine or Detective Grimm, but with a feel that was more like CSI or Law and Order (or Bones, I guess), where you’re using these sort of forensic systems and legal procedures to deal with supernatural concepts, rather than every week having to have to hunt a new monster that you Look Up in the Book.

I guess, imagine it like the Deep Space Nine to Star Trek: The Next Generation.  A key difference between the shows, and one that a lot of people liked better, is that in DS9 there was no getting away from the problems that they ran into.  They were here in a place, dealing with communities over and over again, facing certain problems and then the consequences of those problems, and such like.  And imagine it even a little more concrete, where we start the show knowing what different tools we have at our disposal to create and solve mysteries, and if we’re going to create a new tool, we have to 1) know how it works, 2) know why it works, and 3) not introduce anything that we’re going to wish we could forget about three or four episodes down the line.  But THEN, imagine that it’s not just a question of formalizing our investigative processes, but a question of formalizing what the communities are like and how they relate to each other, so that if we are going to introduce a new monster we have to 1) know what it is, 2) know why it’s here, and 3) not introduce it unless we plan to use it again.

SO.

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I was talking to Holland via THE INTERNET the other day, and complaining (I pretty much only ever complain when I talk to Holland about things) about things that bother me in these sorts of supernatural adventure mystery shows like Constantine and Detective Grimm.

This thing is, when they have to figure out what the monster is and what they have to do about it, the either 1) look it up in a book (some variations include Grimm: first ask that guy about it, THEN look it up in a book, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: look it up in one of several books), or 2) use some kind of spell or charm that has the exact specific purpose of finding this particular demon/monster/orc and then is never mentioned again.

Both of these bother me, and as a sort of mental or creative exercise, what I would like to do now is brainstorm some ideas based on the following premise: what if you were a forensic scientist (i.e., a person whose job is to extract secrets from the dead, so: necromancer) in a world where the mundane and the supernatural mixed regularly? Like, there were just demons and faeries and trolls and such around, what systems would you use to figure out who committed the crime? What procedures would you put in place?

If you had this stuff in place, could you just basically make a CSI or Law and Order episode, but with monsters? (I am definitely aware that these shows ALSO resort to “one resource that solves all the problems” and “one resource that solves exactly this problem, exactly this one time”, they’re not immune to it, but they also have these multi-purpose but not omni-purpose procedures in place.)

Anyway, I think it’s interesting.

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So, here I am, continuing on with my PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I talked before a little bit about what I think the world isn’t, and how we can have a functional morality within an atheistic context; then I talked a little bit about what I think the world is, and about how we navigate it. Today I am talking about Mysticism, and why I think it’s important, and this is the part where it begins to get weird (it’s going to get even weirder as we go) and where I’m probably going to start earning the scorn of my fellow atheists (who are my “fellow” only in the loosest-possible sense of the term).

Mysticism typically refers to a kind of intuitive, direct communion with the divine reality, but I don’t believe in a divine reality, so that’s not what I mean by it. When I refer to mysticism, I’m talking about something that’s a little simpler, and doesn’t make ontological statements (that is, statements about the nature of what things are) about the universe: “mysticism” is a sort of philosophical position in which we argue that the essential or important experience of the universe is a non-rational experience.

I realize this sounds pretty crazy, probably more crazy to people who know me, and understand me as being aggressively rational or logical, but maybe I can explain it a little bit. To do that, I need to back up.

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So, prompted by some comments about how certain atheists (*cough*richarddawkins*cough*) tend to make all atheists look bad by acting like huge pricks all the time, I figured I’d participate in the process of the differentiation of atheists by laying out what my own philosophy of the world is, rather than according to one particular thing I think it isn’t.

Before I talked specifically about the atheistic part of the world as I see it – the idea that there is no guiding benevolent force directly interacting with the universe in any perceptible way and sort of concomitantly, that any other kind of deity (the God as Watchmaker, for instance) isn’t particularly relevant. This time I want to write about what I think the nature of the world is, and the way in which we live in it.

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