Hume and ethics

I may not have time to write proper posts anymore, but I still seem to have time to argue with people on comics forums. So to pad this blog out a bit, here's me philosophizing on Whitechapel:

I should come out and say that I LOVE Hume, and pretty much think he's on the right lines meta-ethically, even if some of the technicalities of his system now seem a bit crazy (to be fair, he was writing in the 18th century -- we know a lot more about human nature now). I have to admit that I don't quite understand your misgivings about him: for Hume ethics was ALL about 'how we get there'. There are no transcendent 'oughts'. A scientific approach to moral philosophy seeks to understand the emotional processes by which 'oughts' are generated in different societies.


What you say about societies w/o the capacity for empathy is true, but this is hypothetical, right? Human beings have evolved to live in groups, have certain instincts, empathy, because all of these things help us survive. And ethics is a human phenomenon: we can only empirically study what's in front of us. That's about as 'logical' as ethics can get, no?

Basing your entire value system on ethos and the actions of others is even more problematic and arbitrary

Hume argues that we do this all the time, that it's a natural disposition humans have. I think a lot of that makes sense. It's arbitrary from a transcendental point of view, maybe. But if you ground ethics on the real-world experience of how humans behave, then its quite a logical point to make.

Just generally, my sense is that what is so difficult to accept about this stance is that it inevitably leads to some kind of relativism. Criticizing alternative belief structures becomes difficult when you don't have deontological laws or utilitarian calculuses. Then again, the understanding that your ethical beliefs are grounded in illogical, emotional assumptions might also teach humility, and perhaps tolerance as well. You might say (and some have) that this awareness can have a moralizing effect!


Mushroom pasta

Yeah, so posts have slowed down alot in the past month, what with valuable time now taken up w/ work (can't talk about it), BDs (don't know french well enough to talk about it) and Farscape (really not worth talking about). ((Altho, by-the-by, if people thought Gaius Baltar was the pinnacle of self-serving sci-fi Brit brats, they obv haven't experienced Dominar Rygel XVI condescend from his hover chair)). Practically the only activities I CAN talk about are everyday banalities like cooking. I haven't cooked since I came to Brussels, b/c I was staying in catered halls (where the food was surprisingly good) and then when I moved out, I reverted back to my old MO of eating absolute trash. I'm talking doritos washed down w/ beer lows, here. (Tho shd say, this being Belgium, the beer is totally worth drinking at every opportunity. Paying a euro for a can (a can!) of Leffe DEMANDS that you develop an alcohol dependency post-haste.)

Today, I finally got myself together. Went to the local hypermarket to buy supplies. Middle class student stuff: 2l olive oil, large bag o' pasta, bottle o' passata, garlic, onions, milk, museli, black pepper w/ the plastic grinder-cap, chili flakes, mushrooms (cause meat/fish/cheese is expensive). Oh, and beer of course. Go home, this is what I did, and what you should do too, if you make a habit of listening to people on the internet. Pour a goodly amount of olive oil in a pan, and put on a low heat. No need to be frugal, you've just bought two litres of the stuff. And you bought two litres of the stuff because this is the ONE THING that both tastes divine and has ZERO negative health consequences. Eat it every day, it will make you live forever. Word is bond. Dice up two onions. I was using a plate and a serrated knife, so you can imagine how neat my dicing was. No matter. Throw them into the pan. Yr gonna cook these mofos slow, make 'em melt. I slightly burnt mine, because I was busy with the garlic, but you will do better!

Garlic. I decided on four cloves, because I'm not sharing my breathing-space w/ anyone this evening. Chop, as fine as you can. Plate and serrated knife meant mine were pretty chunky. Go get them mushrooms, wash five or six, and slice them any which way you like. Chuck all that in the pan. Put a little bit of milk in it, the fiends love it -- immortal words from Raekwon the Chef. You should follow his advice. In all things. Also pepper, lots of it. I'm a six twists of the mill kinda guy. Chili also vital. You don't have money for fresh basil / oregano / other herby shit. Yr going for the heavy artillery. Spice, spice, spice. Finally, a couple of spoonfuls of the passata. Don't over-tomato, you don't want the sauce too sharp. Plus, this stuff costs a fortune and you want it to last the next fortnight.

By this time, you should have had the kettle boiling. No? I always forget as well. Boiling water in the pan, heat up. Put salt in the water. My pasta of choice is fusilli, called macaroni by the ignorant. Chuck two handfuls in (if yr as hungry as I was) and boil that shit until it's cooked. Not overcooked. People always overcook pasta. It should be chewy, not soupy. Extract and taste samples every two-three minutes until you get it right.

Right, by this time the sauce should have reduced down to a paste. Pour some of the pasta water into it to get it runny again. Then drain the pasta, throw it in the pan w/ the sauce. Spoon it round for a minute until it's good and mixed, and then pour it on a plate. By now you should be ravenous, so I shouldn't have to tell you to eat the thing immediately. Two three clementines for dessert (they're in season now), then lie down and type-up your activities for the internet to read. Then go watch Farscape.


The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me

Posting the rambling comment on Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies: Record Club #2 -- Brand New over here:

Late to the party. Was really looking fwd to this discussion, but then of course I forgot all about it! Reading thru and listening again, the following thoughts occurred:

I hear a lot of Mogwai-type post-rock on this album... which I think is great. The biggest problem I have with the genre is its grandiose portent and its lack of personality. Lacey's whispered confessionals and strained screaming solve those problems -- there's a confused guy at the centre of all the winding / crashing guitars. Brand New can hypnotize and pulverize just like Explosions In The Sky, but they've got heart as well. This might be why I'm not such a huge fan of 'Welcome To Bangkok' or 'Untitled'... they skip what's so engaging about the band. They aren't particularly interesting post-rock pieces, either. Quite simple arrangements...

I initially hated the soft crooning switch to shouting, because it sounded really wrong -- how would you produce such extreme dynamics live? But then I realized that it's actually a really cool effect. It internalizes the songs, makes them about the sounds in your skull rather than the sounds at a show.

As for the lyrics... some of the clunky lines grated at first. But I got over that. I think too many people are scared of being earnest, and I admire the way Lacey has the guts to put himself out there (as has been pointed out above, his ambivalence about this is a key part of what makes Deja Entendu so interesting). Actually, I think his conviction and his voice can redeem a bad line quite well! Plus, there are enough gems on the album to make the work of unravelling meaning rewarding.

The obscured lyrics are a boon in this task. The effect is a bit like what Grouper gets up to. Suggestions of words shrouded by the music -- songs that become more about mood than message. Also, it might be a way to avoid the teenage spokesman role Lacey's so uncomfortable with.

'Handcuffs' is a bit too arch for me. The darkness becomes comical. Also dislike 'Limousine', which is too stretched out, the repeating line at the end just becomes annoying (didn't know about the story behind the song, but it doesn't really make it more interesting for me). 'Millstone', 'Jesus', 'Know' and 'Archers' are all amazing tho. I think Deja Entendu is superior, but Devil and God is a great step forward. Daisy was awful, tho...



OK, Clerks you can forgive because it was Smith's first feature and he had no money. But should I let shoddiness slide four films in? Smith has some professionals to work with now. But Alan Rickman, Chris Rock and Selma Hayek just seemed lost, not knowing what tone to aim for -- how arch or how serious each line was supposed to be. Linda Fiorentino is TERRIBLE. I really liked her sarcastic resignation in Men In Black, but Bethany's character requires something more than that. And Smith really cannot film conversation scenes w/o making them look like bad tv. Dude, give me an over or a two-shot or make the camera MOVE a little, rather than just cut to the next facial expression... gods, this is just boring!

Smith does have a talent for writing. The best scene in the film is the marketing meeting being turned into a temple of idolatry (although it's slightly undermined by the lady in the boardroom being put on a pedestal). Rufus's injunction to stick with ideas rather than beliefs is also well-meaning (although once you start thinking about it, not all that substantial). The notion that religion is being undermined by its own pretensions to infallibility, its dogma, is a great hook for the whole film, but the relapse back into faith at the end is puzzling. I guess it is supposed to be -- Alanis Morrisette silently suggests that existence is just a benevolent joke. But my feeling is that Smith fudges the REALLY philosophical stuff by making God inexplicable.

Then there's Jay and Silent Bob. I'll admit to laughing at the former's torrential swearing and the latter lighting a smoke after throwing two guys off a train, but a lot of the other japes fell flat. These dudes are clowns, obv, but Smith has the tendency to celebrate their immature and offensive ways. He's not distant enough. Literally! He loves being a blunted, slacker-nerd who fetishizes black people and silently defends (fears) women... He's the comic-book guy who doesn't fully accept that you have to stop being a comic-book guy.