November 02, 2007

Two interesting articles

I thought I'd note two articles that have been published.

Firstly there is my own article about Leon for the Bright Lights Film Journal. Leon is a really interesting film that makes you reflect about what it means to be adult. What I would argue is that there is a teleology within Leon which is very interesting. Leon is a film in which one of the characters may die because he has fully become adult. That is an interesting and constant idea throughout human life- we talk of a full life implying that a life may be complete. We talk of the culmination of acheivements, which implies that there is such a thing. Its a very interesting mental trick that we perform- and is a thought which recurs through major philosophies and religions. The idea of culmination and an end to a process I think is about our use of the analogy of life as a task. Ultimately we tend to imagine life is something like an exam- we work to its completion. But actually it isn't- my own experience demonstrates that life is much more incomplete, much less teleological than that. Most lives end not at a full stop but mid-sentence. To imply otherwise is comfortingly incorrect.

Secondly there is an article, which thankfully is not by me. This article reflects on the scientific facts behind rumours of Vampires, Ghosts and various other ghouls. It is a very interesting discussion. The discussion of zombies in particular is interesting because it brings me to something which I think is one of the distinguishing marks of scientific thought. Ultimately in the cases of zombiefication, which these two attribute to a particular method of poisoning, the people concerned did see something which was similar to a zombie but their attribution of the cause of that was wrong. The magical explanation infers a vast other world of supernatural power- whereas actually all we need to discuss is the particular poison found in a particular fish. It isn't that the people observing are incorrect, it is that their assumption that the occurance is magical is incorrect- they assume too much to explain that which they cannot understand and don't conceive of the fact that there are more facts about the natural world to be discovered, rather than a whole other world that exists to explain ours.

Both of these ideas- teleology and magical explanation- are buttresses to much of our philosophy and religion. Both are in my view contrary to experience and consequently to be rejected, but they seem attractive. Our mental equipment is rigged for evolutionary reasons in various ways- to accept the definition of existance in anthropomorthic ways- as a task to be completed for example- which helps us survive but doesn't help us to explain the world in which we live.

3 comments:

Count James d'Estaing said...

Careful with the latter, Tiberius.

Gracchi said...

So long as its only vampires James- I'm a champion garlic eater so should be safe!

edmund said...

I foudnb the zombie article fascinaing. Humans do have a tendency to think that actions have more of a direct effect in a secular sense than they do- e.g a hurricane must be the resut of some kind of action by us. We should be carefull of superficial amthormophism and not just if we're haitian peasents.

However i'm not sure the magical system works as well as it sounds. After all to find out that substance and how it works there are all kind of assumpstiions that are made - how powder can be expalained , how things can be identied. There's s a whole system a whole "world" of molecutes and chemicals, at least as elaborate as Voodo backing it up and explaining how the world works. It just happens to have a higher truth quotient or at least work better in predicting results.

I think one should be carefull of holding that people outside the modern west (or even in it see the populariyt of astrogly among peole who otherwise accept modern scince) acualy differnat clearly between magical and non magical explanations- or understand the latter any better tha nthe former.