Mad Men and the Futility of Wanting

it is not difficult to discern the final thread of meaning from the series finale. What all of those people had in common all along, throughout the entire run of the series, was unspecified desire. They all wanted without knowing precisely what they wanted. Some of them had a better grasp of this than others, and there is perhaps hidden somewhere in the show a character that depicts the “right” relationship to wanting. Maybe it is the final version of Don, who seemingly renounces the material world and now embraces chanting and meditation. Maybe it is his ex-wife, who now goes coolly into death and maybe understands wanting in a way that most of us cannot. Or maybe it is the plucky but uncertain Peggy who now has love in her life. 

Any of them might qualify, perhaps, but the point seems much simpler to me: our lives are structured by wanting. Whether we reject it or embrace it, whether we fulfill our wants or not, we are caught in the ebb and flow of striving and failing. Trying to deny this only leads to more wanting and failing, just as does the embracing of it. 

There is in all of this a sense of great waste: all that time for such a simple message? Years of a television show just to tell us what anyone who examines life ought to see? 

Well, yes. The show communicates The message about as efficiently as life itself communicates it. Don took 40 years to figure it out, but his insight won’t save him from the lesson. Chanting in front of a beach won’t take away the basic dynamic of life. Those of us who are mere viewers are no worse or better off, for we have learned nothing useful here. As Don goes, so go all of us. And what else could a “mere” show be expected to accomplish?


Filed under: Humanities, Philosophy, , , , ,

A Notetaking Tool for Plato’s Republic

It is a surprising fact that one of the greatest works of western literature has little in the way of pedagogical aids to assist instructors who teach the text, but that is in fact the situation with regard to Plato’s Republic. Sure, there are commentaries galore; and yes, there are the occasional summaries and even a decent treasure trove of related images (there’s good stuff on the Allegory of the Cave, the Divided Line, and not-so-good imagery on The Myth of Er).

Still, with all of the accumulated commentary of two millennia and the subsequent rise of the web in the last two decades, we should have more. We need good processes for studying the text and for teaching it, and these are unfortunately lacking.

This document is an attempt at a partial remedy: Notetaking Tool for Platos Republic.Its objective is not to summarize the text, or to depict it visually, or to comment upon it (at least this is not the principal aim), but to assist the student and instructor who determine to read it (either in its entirety or partially).

The document does not attempt to promote a particular interpretation, although one probably emerges out of it. Its chief purpose is to ask questions that are relevant to each of the sections (roughly carved up in the same way as in Desmond Lee’s translation and Penguin Books publication).

It’s my hope that it will prove useful to those who seek to study it, but I am also under no illusion of perfection. I have undoubtedly missed many questions and relevant issues, and there is no doubt that my lack of Greek hampers my understanding.

Critical comments are most welcome.

Filed under: Philosophy, Political Philosophy, , , , , ,

The Case of Mary Northern

An interview on the case – includes video and transcript: http://www.kosmosonline.org/2011/01/18/podcast-conditional-preferences-and-refusal-of-treatment-or-the-strange-case-of-mary-northern/.

Filed under: Bioethics, Philosophy, , ,

Existential neuroscience? Really?

Really: Quirin M, Loktyushin A, Arndt J, K├╝stermann E, Lo YY, Kuhl J, & Eggert L (2012). Existential neuroscience: a functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of neural responses to reminders of one’s mortality. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 7 (2), 193-8. PMID: 21266462

Filed under: Existentialism,

Online CT Education: The effective discussion forum


Filed under: Critical Thinking, Higher Education Policy, ,

The latest case of mistaken coma diagnosis


Filed under: Bioethics, ,

Zarathustra enters the blogosphere


Filed under: Philosophy,

Philosophy’s roots in conversation


Filed under: Philosophy

Famous Engineering Ethics Cases

BF Goodrich A7D Air Force Brakes: http://www.onlineethics.org/cms/4572.aspx

The Space Shuttle Challenger Morton Thiokol Case: http://www.engineering.com/Library/ArticlesPage/tabid/85/ArticleID/170/The-Space-Shuttle-Challenger-Disaster.aspx and http://www.cedengineering.com/upload/Ethics%20Challenger%20Disaster.pdf and http://ethics.tamu.edu/Portals/3/Case%20Studies/Shuttle.pdf.

The Ford Pinto Gas Tank: http://mecholsky.mse.ufl.edu/EMA4714/Ford_Pinto_Engineering_Disaster.ppt and http://users.wfu.edu/palmitar/Law&Valuation/Papers/1999/Leggett-pinto.html.

The Chernobyl Reactor: http://www.engineering.com/Library/ArticlesPage/tabid/85/ArticleID/71/Chernobyl.aspx and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/chernobyl.html.

Filed under: Engineering Ethics, , ,

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