Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Avatar

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 467
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

But then there was the big plot hole where the

arrows bounced off in the beginning, but in the final battle scene they were scoring head shots on all the pilots through bullet proof glass.

I thought this too, but

the arrows bounced off the ship that the colonel was riding in, and went through the glass of the individually-piloted ships. Perhaps the colonel's ship was better-protected than the individual ones? Seems reasonable to me...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I went to see the movie. Rationalbiker went to see the movie. Sophia went to see the movie. You went to see the movie. Why should any of us tell others not to see the movie? Discussing the movie, identifying, analyzing and judging its parts and interpretations is enough to neutralize its harmful aspects and highlights the good aspects.

My original comment (to which RationalBiker first responded) referred to those who hadn't even seen the movie - in fact, could not have since it wasn't even released yet.

The subconscious accepts what it hears very literally, it is not a critical faculty. That is the reason psychological advertising and all propaganda can succeed. When you mount no defense, words go straight into your brain. Whether that is harmful or not depends on the idea the words conveyed. The habit of just letting things wash over you puts a great deal of trust in what you expose yourself to and is more dangerous the more the culture is mixed up with bad ideas.

Are you arguing my subconscious will motivate me to act without any conscious thought?

Psychological advertising and propaganda succeed because people, by and large, don't want to think. They consciously act without critcal evaluation because it would be too difficult to think. It's not a result of their subconsciousness accepting whatever is fed to it as truth. It's a result of consciously accepting whatever they are told because entertaining the contrary would require thought. What you're proposing sounds like subliminal messaging and mindless automation - like I have no control over what I do; like I'm ruled by my subconscious, or could be ruled by my subconscious if I fail to critically evaluate what my senses perceive.

I can watch T.V., and hours of advertising, without conscious thought, without mounting any defense, and yet without any hint of changing my actions. I can sit through a special-effects laden film filled with flawed premises and faulty philosophy, indeed allowing myself to be tricked into believing what I'm seeing on the screen actually exists, yet still walk out of the theater without, for even a nanosecond, believing any of it really did.

If you don't want trees in your yard, isn't it better to address it as a seed or a sapling first?

Certainly the seed. But in the analogy, what is the seed? I argue it's the fact that so few people actually think. That people accept flawed philosophies grows from the fact that they do not think.

I'm not sure if you find that so different than much of the discussion has alluded to in this thread, but I think many here would be advocating that as well.

Much of the discussion, yes, but not all.

That seems to be a very big IF considering all the bad ideas and premises our society accepts.

Why do the members of our society, in fact all of mankind, accept these bad ideas and premises? It's not such a big IF when the root cause of accepting these bad ideas and premises is never addressed.

How easy do you think it is to accomplish this task?

I honestly don't know. So far, it's been exceedingly difficult. As evidence, I present history as it was, and the world as it is today. Doesn't give me much hope for the future.

What would you do concretely to make this happen, say, over the course of the next year? 5 years? 20 years?

I'm raising two individuals and am teaching them to think. I try to talk to as many people as possible about real issues, and challenge them to think. Beyond that, there's little I can do.

I consider addressing environmentalism "really important", though I can't speak for you.

I view it as a symptom of a more fundamental problem: the unwillingness to think. That's not to say it can't be a topic on which I can challenge people to think on. It can be. The environmental message, if one could call it that, in this movie was so quiet, and so poorly delivered, that encouraging someone against seeing it based on that seems Cassandra-esque to me. It doesn't seem worth the risk of turning them off to rational thought by discussing this movie. Especially when there are better examples of environmetal wacko-ism out there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It doesn't seem worth the risk of turning them off to rational thought by discussing this movie. Especially when there are better examples of environmetal wacko-ism out there.

It doesn't seem to me all that great a risk, nor a topic which has to be mutually excluded from other examples.

At any rate, I think I've made the points in this thread that I intended to make and we seem to keep circling over the same ground at this point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Are you arguing my subconscious will motivate me to act without any conscious thought?

Psychological advertising and propaganda succeed because people, by and large, don't want to think. They consciously act without critcal evaluation because it would be too difficult to think. It's not a result of their subconsciousness accepting whatever is fed to it as truth.

Right, the sequence is the opposite. The conscious decision not to think must come first, then the subconscious acceptance follows. Those two events can be further analyzed. The failure to think can be intentional or the result of not knowing how to think. When I took a film class I actually learned things about directorial technique and lighting I did not even have a vocabulary for so could not properly identify, things like the cutting techniques and backlighting. The acceptance means not a complete and immediate agreement, but the integration of the idea into your knowledge where it can conflict with other ideas, forming that "ball and chain of self doubt where your mind's wings should have grown", to use Rand's phrase.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought this too, but

the arrows bounced off the ship that the colonel was riding in, and went through the glass of the individually-piloted ships. Perhaps the colonel's ship was better-protected than the individual ones? Seems reasonable to me...

No... It was all about

arrow size, angle and distance. The first arrows were coming from far below on the ground and deflecting off the windows at angles.

The arrows that cracked the glass were larger and being shot from above the ships at closer range from Na'vi on the flying dragons moving at high speeds directly towards the ships

.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Avatar/Dune: http://clunkline.com/?p=2455

I happened to like Avatar despite the anti-tech message, and the rather simple plot, and the stupid villains. I agree that it is a failed allegory for what's going on on this planet because it is not mysticism or hysteria that drives the Navi's belief but an actual biological organism. I believe it was Sigourney Weaver's charatcer who said the Tree of Life thing has more neural connections that the human brain, which would mean the entire planet is basically sentient. Our planet is not sentient.

Plus, they have the right to live in their tree even though someone else really really wants what is buried underneath it. It is their home, and it was stated in the movie that families and children live there. No one has the right to kick another sentient being out of their home if they legally own it. Since it is their planet, I would say the Navi legally own their tree. The invaders certainly don't have any rights to it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At any rate, I think I've made the points in this thread that I intended to make and we seem to keep circling over the same ground at this point.

I agree. Thanks for the discussion.

Right, the sequence is the opposite. The conscious decision not to think must come first, then the subconscious acceptance follows. Those two events can be further analyzed. The failure to think can be intentional or the result of not knowing how to think. When I took a film class I actually learned things about directorial technique and lighting I did not even have a vocabulary for so could not properly identify, things like the cutting techniques and backlighting. The acceptance means not a complete and immediate agreement, but the integration of the idea into your knowledge where it can conflict with other ideas, forming that "ball and chain of self doubt where your mind's wings should have grown", to use Rand's phrase.

Can one really integrate knowledge without first at least consciously acknowledging it? It seems to me that integration would at least require a conscious recognition that the knowledge exists.

Regardless, even if knowledge could become integrated without conscious thought, this wouldn't seem to be a problem for one committed to thought and critical evaluation. Even if some ridiculous thought made it into my head without first passing my consciousness, I don't see how it would become a "ball and chain of self-doubt." In order for that to happen, it would have to stand up to the rigorous evaluation given to any idea in my head AND contradict some previously held idea. I don't see how this would be possible without my conscious evaluation. In short, I don't see how passively allowing commercial messages, or poorly delivered philosophical messages in films, pose any threat to me - epistemologically, philosophically, or psychologically. I don't see the importance of mounting a defense against these things.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can one really integrate knowledge without first at least consciously acknowledging it? It seems to me that integration would at least require a conscious recognition that the knowledge exists.

I don't think conceptual knowledge can be manipulated this way. Perhaps the elements for implicit concepts can be put in place. But forming emotional associations subconsciously is very easy and is the technique used in almost all advertising today, including political advertising.

Regardless, even if knowledge could become integrated without conscious thought, this wouldn't seem to be a problem for one committed to thought and critical evaluation. Even if some ridiculous thought made it into my head without first passing my consciousness, I don't see how it would become a "ball and chain of self-doubt." In order for that to happen, it would have to stand up to the rigorous evaluation given to any idea in my head AND contradict some previously held idea. I don't see how this would be possible without my conscious evaluation. In short, I don't see how passively allowing commercial messages, or poorly delivered philosophical messages in films, pose any threat to me - epistemologically, philosophically, or psychologically. I don't see the importance of mounting a defense against these things.

I agree that for one committed to thought and critical evaluation the emotional manipulations and philosophical messages in films are not much of a threat, if any. However, the rest of your comment confuses me.

Being committed to thought and critical evaluation is exactly the defense that is needed. Thinking and evaluating is how that defense is accomplished. Being passive means not thinking and critically evaluating. Are you thinking that "a defense against these things" entails some other special measure beyond thinking and critically evaluating? I can't imagine what that additional measure would be.

This discussion began when you used the "it's just a movie" argument to discourage thinking and critical evaluation. Possibly you would describe what I was doing in this thread by some other terms?

I have a question regarding this "the rigorous evaluation given to any idea in my head". How and when does this happen for you, and is it something other than conscious thinking and critically evaluating?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good morning,

I saw this movie on Friday night. As I read through this thread yesterday, I kept asking myself the following: "What is the underlying philosophical premise of this film?"

I finally realized what it was and it is encapsulized in two lines towards the end of the film: " “There is no green anymore on our planet, we killed our mother.” and “The humans went back to their dying planet.”

The filmaker thinks we belong to mother earth and it is our duty to protect it. Take that for what it's worth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw this movie last night and it's definitely anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-man. It's not subtle, either. It hits you over the head with a sledgehammer.

Now, if you accept the context of the movie, clearly the humans are the bad guys and the Nav'i are the good guys, but the problem is the context is very contrived and it's clearly meant to be a parallel to man and his treatment of nature and American Indians. The marines are slandered unjustly as well. In fact, Cameron goes after multiple targets all from a postmodernist perspective.

The special effects and world created were awesome. The best I've seen! I loved that part, but the underlying message is from a very corrupt and hate filled mind.

I'd give it a 10 out of 10 for special effects and a 2 out of 10 for story and sense of life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw this movie last night and it's definitely anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-man. It's not subtle, either. It hits you over the head with a sledgehammer.

Perhaps we are going on two different definitions of anti-man.

Was man damn as evil? Was it criticizing an aspect of man that is part of his nature? No.

Was it anti-reason/anti-mind? No.

Did it called for humans to sacrifice their well being/survival for the sake of nature? No. (what they were mining was more on the level of gold rather than humanity saving resource).

Was it calling for no human intervention in nature? No (just not for digging under that one tree).

Was it calling for a world without innovation? No. (in the story Na'vi could survive without technology but humans could not even breathe without the use of it).

--------------

Yes there were elements that were bad but let's keep it in perspective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I blacked out spoilers!

Perhaps we are going on two different definitions of anti-man.

Was man damn as evil? Was it criticizing an aspect of man that is part of his nature? No.

Without a doubt.

About man the protagonist says:

“They killed their mother, and they’ll kill you.” Their "mother" is the earth, and "they" is mankind.

Also, there is a line were the leader of the mercenaries asks if he likes being a "traitor to his own species" and the answer is pretty clear.

And

I don't think it was accidental that Jake Sully shed his own body for the Avatar body. I believe that was symbolic of the rejection of being human.

Was it anti-reason/anti-mind? No.

I didn't say it was, but the whole context was ridiculous, so I'm not sure how to evaluate their "rationality". They certainly did not emphasize reason. In fact, they seem to emphasis the idea of an oracle that gives them knowledge, this network of trees.

Interestingly, the primitives were presented as superior to modern man -- super modern, since it's the future. They also presented man as brutish and thoughtless. Contrast this with something like Star Trek, where man is presented as hero.

Did it called for humans to sacrifice their well being/survival for the sake of nature? No. (what they were mining was more on the level of gold rather than humanity saving resource).

It had the view that man is a plague on nature, and the implicit idea that it would be great if man disappeared. Certainly the whole mining operation was lead by the shallowest, stupidest, lowest people imaginable.

Was it calling for no human intervention in nature? No (just not for digging under that one tree).

Sure it did!

Was it calling for a world without innovation? No. (in the story Na'vi could survive without technology but humans could not even breathe without the use of it).

That's all part of the anti-man message. Nav'i are at one with nature. Man is trouble.

And the idea that the Nav'i could thrive without technology is completely unreasonable.

--------------

Yes there were elements that were bad but let's keep it in perspective.

Sophia, it was atrociously bad.

Also there were the gratuitous attacks on the marines:

Marines treating other marines like dirt.

Remember how he landed on Pandora and the other Marines saw he was handicapped and treated him badly? That's a slam against Marines, and not in the character of the vast majority of marines in the real world.

Marines acting like concrete bound simpletons who had little regard for another rational life form.

The relish we are supposed to feel as marines/men are killed.

It was also anti-business/capitalism in a big way. A corporation that went mining for an ore that was available at other locations, and with crass indifference to the Nav'i.

It was one big postmodernist stereotype.

Let's not forget lines like "tree hugger" and "blue monkeys". The movie was replete with this sort of rhetoric.

This has the potential to be a great story, but it was marred by postmodernism.

The trick was the set up. The context created was ridiculous, a strawman meant to turn man into the villain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About man the protagonist says:

“They killed their mother, and they’ll kill you.” Their "mother" is the earth, and "they" is mankind.

The context, from memory, was that he was trying to communicate to the Na'vi the seriousness of the situation which they were not fully grasping. What humans did was almost unthinkable to them. The mode of survival of the two species was different and thus the values were drastically different as well. Na'vi did not know any other environment and this was their first encounter with a different species. Also this comment, and few other similar ones were the exception in the movie. They did not constitute the essence of what the story was about.

Also, there is a line were the leader of the mercenaries asks if he likes being a "traitor to his own species" and the answer is pretty clear.

It is not unreasonable that the leader would have characterized the situation in this way. My son watching the movie did not think that the main character was a traitor.

And

I don't think it was accidental that Jake Sully shed his own body for the Avatar body. I believe that was symbolic of the rejection of being human.

It only reasonably follows that he would. In time he would have used up all of the oxygen supplies. Also his human body was damaged. Makes sense to me. If I decided to stay I would have made the same choice.

There was also a risk involved - success was not a given outcome - he and his love bravely took that risk. The main character showed a lot of heroism.

I didn't say it was, but the whole context was ridiculous, so I'm not sure how to evaluate their "rationality". They certainly did not emphasize reason. In fact, they seem to emphasis the idea of an oracle that gives them knowledge, this network of trees.

It also made sense for Na'vi to be mystical to some degree. They were considerably less advanced than humans and lacked the scientific understanding of their environment. Main character, a human, used reason throughout the movie rather than relying on Na'vi superstitions.

Interestingly, the primitives were presented as superior to modern man -- super modern, since it's the future.

Modern/superior - in what way? Humans were much more advanced in terms of being able to understand reality even if much different from what they are used to. Na'vi were presented as much more primitive species that could survive without technology (which was probably the reason for why they were able to remain ignorant). But their context was different, their world was different. There was some type of cross-species chemical connection on that Planet. It was clear that humans could not take the same path.

Pandora was so drastically utopian that Na'vi's choices do not translate to human context.

They also presented man as brutish and thoughtless. Contrast this with something like Star Trek, where man is presented as hero.

They presented some men as that. Others, including the main character, were presented differently.

(The kind of men I admire are usually not the majority and usually not the leaders of our world. This part was actually not that unbelievable to me. I don't like where humanity is going politically - do you?)

This movie primarily was about rights and fight for freedom despite great odds (massive technological advantage on the side of humans).

And the idea that the Nav'i could thrive without technology is completely unreasonable.

So? It was a fantasy movie!

The relish we are supposed to feel as marines/men are killed.

I did not get that impression at all. I have no idea what you are referring to.

A corporation that went mining for an ore that was available at other locations, and with crass indifference to the Nav'i.

Criticizing particular business practices is not necessarily anti-business.

Humans did not "return to the primitive" - that was not presented as the ideal. Main character stayed behind for a woman (his human body was also damaged).

-------------

Aliens invading earth and humans being the less advanced species has been done many times before.

-------------

Edited by ~Sophia~
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Marines treating other marines like dirt.

Remember how he landed on Pandora and the other Marines saw he was handicapped and treated him badly? That's a slam against Marines, and not in the character of the vast majority of marines in the real world.

Marines acting like concrete bound simpletons who had little regard for another rational life form.

I realize that that was a pretty minor part, but I found it pretty distasteful also. I've been well acquainted with a few former marines and other former military, and found it really implausible. Marines, who are themselves in mortal danger, at risk of finding themselves in that same handicapped position making fun of a cripple? In particular one wounded in combat? I'm not saying it couldn't happen. Humans are humans after all, but that and other distasteful choices of focus made it hard for me to enjoy what was admittedly a very pretty movie.

Other parts like CEO's and generals with the emotional maturity of six year olds, for example, bothered me. With the collective incompetencies presented I found myself pretty certain that their spaceship could have never actually made it to the planet.

Most of them felt more like caricatures of evil then the real thing. Lost my interest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The context, from memory, was that he was trying to communicate to the Na'vi the seriousness of the situation which they were not fully grasping. What humans did was almost unthinkable to them. The mode of survival of the two species was different and thus the values were drastically different as well. Na'vi did not know any other environment and this was their first encounter with a different species. Also this comment, and few other similar ones were the exception in the movie. They did not constitute the essence of what the story was about.

I have to disagree with you there. That quote referred to mankind and it was the essence of the message of the story.

You're one of my favorite posters here, Sophia, but I think you're projecting your benevolent world view onto the movie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyway, here is an article for the "It's-not-just-a-movie file." Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues

I was just about to post that.

heres a good quote from that atricle

I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality

Read that reaction to the movie and then tell me its not anti-man/anti-reality.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to disagree with you there. That quote referred to mankind and it was the essence of the message of the story.

You're one of my favorite posters here, Sophia, but I think you're projecting your benevolent world view onto the movie.

Agreed.

The planets connective nature seems to really be throwing some of you for a loop. But I think taking the Gia super-organism network as a plot point worthy of deep consideration regarding metaphysics and property rights is giving Cameron way more credit than he deserves. I think it was simply meant to symbolize the way environmentalism treats everything as interconnected. Had it been true that Cameron wanted the audience to stop and think about abstract things such as what kinds of facts give rise to property rights he would have explored that more explicitly in the plot, but he didn't. As a matter of fact, that could have made for a much more interesting and less cliche' movie. But instead it's not presented beyond being a means for the natives to empathize with nature and as an excuse for the planet to respond to their calls for help by sending backup.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I finally decided to write about this movie after hearing the racist allegations, and seeing how many people here seem to have gotten muddled over the core of the movie.

Avatar, Racist? Try Anti-Life.

Every time Hollywood tries to depict an ‘original’ tribal species, we usually end up with several sensibilities being offended (as it is common in an age where people seem to think that opinions are tantamount to rights.) We all remember the ridiculous fiasco of Jar-Jar Binx, of course, a character who was not really as much of a racial stereotype as people claimed he was- but I suspect that that was merely an excuse used by people who were as annoyed as I was to let Lucas know that this whole New Trilogy idea wasn’t working out. It failed miserably, but at least the twerp kept his beak shut for the next two cinematic torture sessions.

Now that AVATAR has hit the movie theaters, we have the likes of Robinne Lee crying foul over racial stereotyping and ‘white savior fantasies’ in the movie, and James Cameron denying it has anything to do with race at all.

For once (and only once) in his cinematic life, Cameron is right:

What’s wrong with this movie isn’t that it is racist, but that it is philosophically bankrupt: The Na'Vi are poor (but expensively rendered) rip-offs of the Noble Savage stereotype, a throwback to the more embarrassing era of literature in which any underdeveloped civilization was seen as 'more pure' and 'innocent' and therefore superior to evil industrialized West with its ghastly materialistic values such as health, progress, comfort...

Such portrayals often gloss over inevitable realities as, for example, medical and scientific technology (how many Na'Vi children and mothers die at birth, obviously having no obstetricians? What is old for a Na'Vi, the ripe old age of forty?) in favor of painting this idyllic, bucolic and rather ridiculous "One with the earth" image of the Noble Savage.

The inevitable point of contention here is that in reality -the plane we all inhabit- the bucolic term "one with nature" usually means the abandonment of all 'evil' technology (because technology and industry are evil things to both the Noble Savage proponents and its historical descendants, the Environmentalists), which usually results in really being 'one with nature', such as being inside the stomach of a predator, or being part of a compost heap by the twilight age of thirty-five.

The other half of the equation lies in a portrayal of the Westerners that makes them out to be absolute brutish villains. Why are they evil and brutish, the Noble Savagist/Ecologist asks in false rhetoric? Why, it's because of his corrupt ways and technology!

Industrialization, according to the Virgin Earth proponents, is evil (evil enough that it has given us the longest lifespan in our history, and freed up our time so we don't have to spend nineteen hours a day toiling the soil, dying from gangrene, etc) and only after the Westerner abandons Western culture does he become Truly Noble -- such is the case with Avatar's protagonist who, when he abandons western culture and becomes like the Na'Vi, is even more superlative at being Na'Vi than the Na'Vi are!

This ideological befuddlement is not a plot flaw of “Avatar”, but rather it is the very essence of its Noble Savage root: The Noble Savage exists only to point Western Man in the direction of an ideal which they themselves cannot accomplish - only the Un-westernized westerner can. Are you still with me?

It’s not about race, race is the red herring that confuses the argument here: the whole core of The Noble Savage is to say that Man is only Man when he stops being Man (that is, he is only man when he becomes mystical, superstitious, abandons technology and the scientific method, and is reduced to the life style and expectancy of a Neanderthal.) Forget the aspect of race, the Na’Vi – and in the past the Hollywood Native Americans, the Literary Natives Of Fictitious Islands and so on and so forth- are only cardboard cutout poster children for an ideology (from Primitivism to the current Environmentalism) that wants nothing more than to see humanity reduced to its poorest state: huddled by a campfire and paralyzed by fear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think conceptual knowledge can be manipulated this way. Perhaps the elements for implicit concepts can be put in place. But forming emotional associations subconsciously is very easy and is the technique used in almost all advertising today, including political advertising.

It seems to me that conceptual knowledge must be manipulated this way. Leonard Piekoff writes in The Philosophy of Objectivism:

"[Objectivism rejects the Freudian] theory of a dynamic unconscious—i.e., the unconscious as a mystic entity, with a will and purpose of its own unknown to the conscious mind, like an inborn demon that continually raises Hell. Strictly speaking, Objectivism does not subscribe to the idea of an unconscious at all. We use the term “subconscious” instead—and that is simply a name for the content of your mind that you are not focused on at any given moment. It is simply a repository for past information or conclusions that you were once conscious of in some form, but that are now stored beneath the threshold of consciousness. There is nothing in the subconscious besides what you acquired by conscious means. The subconscious does perform automatically certain important integrations (sometimes these are correct, sometimes not), but the conscious mind is always able to know what these are (and to correct them, if necessary). The subconscious has no purposes or values of its own, and it does not engage in diabolical manipulations behind the scenes. In that sense, it is certainly not 'dynamic.'" (ref: The Ayn Rand Lexicon)

Nothing enters the subconscious without first passing a conscious evaluation. That evaluation may be flawed, or it may not be. The determining factor in whether that evaluation is flawed is the philosophy held by the evaluator: if it is a flawed philosophy, the evaluation has a far greater chance of being flawed. Once evaluated, though, the information - now knowledge - becomes available to the subconscious for snap emotional decisions. The emotional associations one makes subconsciously depend upon the underlying philosophy.

The reason advertising works so well is because people, by and large, don't think. Primarily, they don't think about their philosophy. The majority of the population have flawed philosophies. If one has a solid foundation in a proper philosophy, advertising ploys don't work.

Being committed to thought and critical evaluation is exactly the defense that is needed. Thinking and evaluating is how that defense is accomplished. Being passive means not thinking and critically evaluating. Are you thinking that "a defense against these things" entails some other special measure beyond thinking and critically evaluating? I can't imagine what that additional measure would be.

No, no additional measure is needed. I'm only arguing that this defense need not be on high alert at all times. As examples we can use Avatar and commercials. Some posts on this thread (and I'm not thinking of yours) imply that to see the movie would be tantamount to laying one's mind at the altar of all that is evil in the world; as if seeing it would somehow destroy one's rational mind just by watching it, much less enjoying it. I can watch the movie (as I suspect you can) and simply enjoy the spectacle. Yea, when we walk out of the theater we'll think, "Well, that was a pretty lame story. And the philosophical undertones, and even some overtones, were ridiculous. But, jeez! Sigourney Weaver as a Na'vi?! Amazing." We're not going to think, "Boy, I've been wrong this whole time. Reason and logic are silly ways to interact with the world. I think I'll go join Greenpeace."

I can (as I suspect you can) watch commercials all day and not be affected one way or the other. My eyes can see the pictures, my ears can hear the sound, but my mind doesn't need to be engaged on those messages. I don't need to consciously evaluate every message delivered and decide whether it's valid or not. I simply ignore it. The messages don't enter my subconscious without my consciousness being engaged. I don't suddenly feel an urge to go out and buy a new truck.

This discussion began when you used the "it's just a movie" argument to discourage thinking and critical evaluation. Possibly you would describe what I was doing in this thread by some other terms?

No, and I hope I've clarified that. Please, let me know if I haven't.

I have a question regarding this "the rigorous evaluation given to any idea in my head". How and when does this happen for you, and is it something other than conscious thinking and critically evaluating?

The "how" is conscious focus on that information. The "when" is when that information becomes important to my values.

With Avatar (or any movie) I went to see a Hollywood, special-effect laden, spectacle. I didn't go for philosophy. When I sit down in the theater, my conscious thought is, "Entertain me." I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and allow myself to be taken up in the ride. I'm not thinking about what ulterior motives the film-maker has. In fact, I don't want to. It ruins the experience for me. I just want to enjoy the ride. Now, if I walk out of the theater and someone says, "Don't you agree with Cameron that we should stop killing our mother?" If I'm feeling up for a fight, I'll engage that person on the philosophical underpinnings (or lack thereof) of such a question. If I'm not feeling up for the fight, I'll probably laugh in their face and walk away. That's the time for rigorous evaluation. The time for rigorous evaluation is not before even seeing the film.

When I need a new car, I'll pay attention to car commercials. That won't be the only information, and no commercial is going to convince me to buy a car. But until I need a new car, I can watch thousands of car commercials without a second thought. I don't need to defend myself from the message - I don't need to do any rigorous evaluation of the message. It's simply not important to my values.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peikoff's "“subconscious” ... is simply a repository for past information or conclusions that you were once conscious of in some form" is not the same as your "Nothing enters the subconscious without first passing a conscious evaluation." Being conscious of something simply means being aware of it, not evaluating. When you watch a movie with a suspension of disbelief, or in a passive mode, you are still conscious of the movie in some form even while suspending critical judgement. As the subconscious is not a diabolical manipulator, consciousness is not an automatically vigilant guardian.

No, no additional measure is needed. I'm only arguing that this defense need not be on high alert at all times.

Yes, afterward is good enough.

I can (as I suspect you can) watch commercials all day and not be affected one way or the other. My eyes can see the pictures, my ears can hear the sound, but my mind doesn't need to be engaged on those messages. I don't need to consciously evaluate every message delivered and decide whether it's valid or not. I simply ignore it. The messages don't enter my subconscious without my consciousness being engaged. I don't suddenly feel an urge to go out and buy a new truck.

If you were paying attention to something or someone else while a commercial was playing then I would agree that is ignoring. Tuning out is possible but only by concentrating on something else. But if you are watching the screen and there is no interfering noise or sound cut-off then you can't be ignoring the commercial. But this particular example does not demonstrate much because the stakes are so low. A commercial touting the virtues of a particular brand of truck is not threatening in any way or contrary to what you know, so there is not much distance in this example between evaluating and not evaluating it.

The "how" is conscious focus on that information. The "when" is when that information becomes important to my values.

With Avatar (or any movie) I went to see a Hollywood, special-effect laden, spectacle. I didn't go for philosophy. When I sit down in the theater, my conscious thought is, "Entertain me." I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and allow myself to be taken up in the ride. I'm not thinking about what ulterior motives the film-maker has. In fact, I don't want to. It ruins the experience for me. I just want to enjoy the ride. Now, if I walk out of the theater and someone says, "Don't you agree with Cameron that we should stop killing our mother?" If I'm feeling up for a fight, I'll engage that person on the philosophical underpinnings (or lack thereof) of such a question. If I'm not feeling up for the fight, I'll probably laugh in their face and walk away. That's the time for rigorous evaluation. The time for rigorous evaluation is not before even seeing the film.

Actually you did go for the philosophy. You subscribe to the "movies are the same as fireworks" school of cinema theory (not exclusively, I'm not claiming you can't see a theme when it is there). James Cameron subscribes to that philosophy as well and created an excellent example of a film in that genre, the best in that genre since Transformers 2. For many movies, this is the only way to extract any value from the experience at all so its not a bad philosophy. I agree that thinking about the movie much while watching it for the first time does interfere with visual appreciation.

Because movies also tell stories the principles of literary criticism can also be applied. The characters, plot and other elements can be dealt with after the show when there is more time, better than during the show. And those principles should be applied, otherwise the themes and ideas of the movie will lay unevaluated in the subconscious. Here the difference between evaluating and not evaluating the story can be huge. The naively unanalytical can have their whole attitude toward modern civilization poisoned and they won't even be able to identify why.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It has been claimed here that Avatar is primarily about rights and the fight for freedom. I think that is an example of wishful thinking or projection.

Setting aside the fact that Cameron himself is no defender of rights, the fact is that the Na'Vi were essentially a stone age, tribalist people. Such people by their very nature can have _no_ understanding of the concepts of rights or freedom. Those are political concepts, and primitive people haven't yet even discovered philosophy as a subject matter, let alone its most abstract branches.

Additionally, there is a fundamental contradiction in that view. Tribalists are inherently collectivists, but rights are an individualist concept. For that reason, to claim that tribalists are defending their rights is to claim that the tribalists are individualists, which contradicts the premise that they are tribalists.

Somebody else in this thread recently hinted at what I think is the actual theme of this film. Yes, the film is anti-business, anti-military, anti-capitalist, pro-environmentalist - but those are only a means to an end. The end is to communicate one idea: "Primitive culture is superior to all others, it is the moral ideal, and hence you should hate your (Western) culture because it is the destroyer of the primitive".

That explains the feelings of depression I've seen reported about an apparently non-trivial number of admirers of this film. That also explains why I was alternately bored out of my skull and enraged while watching this film. The "noble savage" myth has been done so many times before that as soon as I saw that Avatar centered on a conflict between primitives and moderns, I knew what was going to happen. And the "noble savage" myth _is_ a myth, primitive culture is not the moral ideal but the anti-ideal, and hence I don't hate Western culture, but love it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...