terça-feira, 2 de março de 2010

Terminator and Philosophy

The Rise of the Philosophers

Judgment Day, as they say, is inevitable. Though when exactly it happens is debatable.

It was originally supposed to happen on August 29, 1997, but the efforts of Sarah Connor, her son, John, and the model T - 101 Terminator postponed it until 2004. We see it actually happen in the less - than - spectacular Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines .

But in the new television series The Sarah Connor Chronicles , we fi nd out that it has been postponed until 2011, and apparently, from the details we can glean so far as to the plot of Terminator: Salvation , it actually occurs in 2018. This kind of temporal confusion can make you as dizzy as Kyle Reese going through the time - travel process in The Terminator .

Along the way, however, James Cameron’s Terminator saga has given us gripping plots and great action.
Clearly, Judgment Day makes for great movies. But if you’re wondering why Judgment Day might inspire the work of deep thinkers, consider that philosophy, war, and catastrophe have been strange bedfellows, especially in modern times.

At the dawn of the eighteenth century, the optimistic German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716) declared that he lived in “ the best of all possible worlds, ” a view that was shaken — literally — by a massive earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1755. After Leibniz, no European philosopher took his “ glass half full ” worldview quite so seriously again.

One hundred years after Leibniz wrote these perhaps regrettable words, Napoleon was taking over most of Europe. Another German, Georg W. F. Hegel (1770 – 1831), braved the shelling of the city of Jena to deliver the manuscript for his best - known book, the Phenomenology of Spirit . Again, Hegel had occasion for regret, as he had considered at an earlier point dedicating the book to the Emperor Bonaparte himself! More than a hundred years later, critical theorist Theodor Adorno (1903 – 1969) fled Germany in the shadow of the Nazi rise. His work as a philosopher of culture in England, then America, centered on the idea that philosophy could never be the same after the tragedy of Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

Despite war and catastrophe, these philosophers persevered in asking deep and diffi cult questions; they resisted a retreat to the irrational and animalistic, despite the most horrifying events. In this respect, philosophy in diffi cult times is a lot like the human resistance to Skynet and the Terminators: it calls upon the best of what we are in order to stave off the sometimes disastrous effects of the darker side of our nature.

Besides the questions raised about the moral status of the Terminator robots and its temporal paradoxes, the Terminator saga is founded on an apparent paradox in human nature itself — that we humans have begun to create our own worst nightmares. How will we cope when the enemy is of our own making?

To address this question and many others, we’ve enlisted the most brilliant minds in the human resistance against the machines. When the T - 101 explains that Skynet has his CPU factory preset to “ read - only, ” Sarah quips, “ Doesn ’ t want you to do too much thinking, huh? ” The Terminator agrees. Well, you ’ re not a Terminator (we hope!) and we ’ re not Skynet; we want you to think.

But we understand why Skynet would want to limit the T - 101 ’ s desire to learn and think new thoughts.

Thinking is hard work, often uncomfortable, and sometimes it leads you in unexpected directions. Terminators are not the only ones who are factory preset against thinking. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) once famously remarked,“ Many people would rather die than think; in fact, most do.” We want to help switch your CPU from read - only to learning mode, so that when Judgment Day comes, you can help lead the resistance, as Leibniz, Hegel, and Adorno did in their day. But it ’ s not all hard work and dangerous missions. The issues may be profound and puzzling, but we want your journey into the philosophy of the Terminator to be entertaining as well as edifying.

Hasta la vista, ignorance!

Introduction: The Rise of the Philosophers 

1 The Terminator Wins: Is the Extinction of the Human Race the End of People, or Just the Beginning?
Greg Littmann
2 True Man or Tin Man? How Descartes and Sarah Connor Tell a Man from a Machine
George A. Dunn
3 It Stands to Reason: Skynet and Self-Preservation
Josh Weisberg
4 Un-Terminated: The Integration of the Machines
Jesse W. Butler

5 “I Know Now Why You Cry”: Terminator 2, Moral Philosophy, and Feminism
Harry Chotiner
6 Sarah Connor’s Stain
Jennifer Culver
7 James Cameron’s Marxist Revolution
Jeffrey Ewing

8 Bad Timing: The Metaphysics of the Terminator
Robert A. Delfi no and Kenneth Sheahan
9 Time for the Terminator: Philosophical Themes of the Resistance
Justin Leiber
10 Changing the Future: Fate and the Terminator
Kristie Lynn Miller
11 Judgment Day Is Inevitable: Hegel and the Futility of Trying to Change History
Jason P. Blahuta

12 What’s So Terrible about Judgment Day?
Wayne Yuen
13 The War to End All Wars? Killing Your Defense System
Phillip Seng
14 Self-Termination: Suicide, Self-Sacrifice, and the Terminator
Daniel P. Malloy
15 What’s So Bad about Being Terminated?
Jason T. Eberl
16 Should John Connor Save the World?
Peter S. Fosl

17 “You Gotta Listen to How People Talk”: Machines and Natural Language
Jacob Berger and Kyle Ferguson
18 Terminating Ambiguity: The Perplexing Case of “The”
Richard Brown
19 Wittgenstein and What’s Inside the Terminator’s Head
Antti Kuusela

CONTRIBUTORS: Future Leaders of the Resistance
INDEX: Skynet’s Database

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