Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kanye West

A guest blog from Dr. Matthew Murray

"I think therefore I am" is perhaps one of the most known philosophical expressions of all time. Rene Descartes is credited with coining this phrase through his seminary work in epistemological thought. Simply stated, it implies that a being thinking of its existence thereby affirms this very existence. A bit like a magician reaching into his magic hat and pulling his own head through it, this is a circular philosophical argument of the highest order.

This Cartesian mind trick has been supplanted by the Kanyeian proof, "I think I am therefore I am". Whereas Descartes implies that you must contemplate rationally all to find the essence of knowing, Kanye has seen fit to remove this pesky rationality and replace it with a cartoonish self-invented conceived, and thus affirmed, falsity. So the trick still works, it just makes less sense. Kanye West is not Kanye West, he is a man Kanye West thought of and made Kanye West. Ironically, most true lowbrow listeners find him disposable to the beat, samples and Jorde Laforge sunglasses he has become famous for. Surely an auto-tuned BellLabs Text to Speech engine would sound roughly the same. Kanye is a post-modern tease. Destroy foundations of holistic being to achieve… authenticity…. Noooooo… no one likes authentic. Fake.. fake fakey fake fake fake. Falseness on the level of blue raspberries and Mitt Romney’s tan.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Backstreet Boys 2 - Economic Theory (guest blog)

A guest blog, by @RoadrunnerEats

In basic economic theory, it is stated that all exchanges must be mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, voluntary exchanges can occur in which external social costs are not taken into account. In economics this would be considered a negative externality. Take, for instance, the trance-inducing harmonies of the sexually ambiguous Backstreet Boys. If a pre-teen were to purchase one of their compact discs for $15, they might reasonably expect to get $15 worth of utility out of said disc. Unfortunately, passers-by inadvertently hearing "I Want It That Way" would be be inflicted with roughly negative $5 worth of utility. This loss of $5 should be considered a dead weight loss in social welfare, due to the inficted negative externality.

Since, in the above example, the marginal social cost of the transaction would be greater than the marginal social benefit, we can only come to the conclusion that the free market system fails in regards to pre-teen music. Laissez-faire has failed AJ, Nick, Brian, and the other AJ. When faced with such failure inflicted by the invisible hand, governments have no other choice than to invoke a sin tax on the sale of the Backstreet Boys' merchandise.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Backstreet Boys

Bentham's Act Utilitarianism and J.S. Mill's Rule Utilitarianism offer differing interpretations of the moral legitimacy of the Backstreet Boys' careers. While undoubtedly many horrors have been visited upon the world by "Backstreet's Back" and their ilk, the overtly popular nature of these songs would lead one to believe that the positive utility (when interpreted as 'pleasure') felt by those misguided screaming teenagers almost certainly outweighs the negative utility (when interpreted as 'pain') felt by everyone else, who were largely indifferent, rather than being outright horrified. Thus, the "tyranny of the majority" allowed by Benthamite utilitarianism strikes again, in the form of the bad boys that young girls love to love.

However, Mill's Rule Utilitarianism would specify that a rule should be enacted which promotes the greater overall utility, rather than judging each individual act on its utility. Given the transient nature of pubescent-targeted close harmony singing about love, and the shame that everyone then has to live with for years afterwards, if one accepts the (not uncontroversial) premise that rule utilitarianism, as the product of experience rather than reaction, is better positioned to judge moral worth over a longer timespan, then we should all agree that such music should be banned, due to not only the negative utility of those expressing a dislike at the time, but also the subsequent pain felt by those who once felt pleasure.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Katy Perry

Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative states that each of us should act in such a way that we would will everyone else to act in that way too. This simple moral tool provides a quick way to judge one's actions as broadly either right or wrong.

Thus, can it be said that Katy Perry has acted correctly when she releases songs as abominable as Firework, or indeed that other one with Snoop Dogg in the video that I've forgotten the name of? Only if you believe that the world would not fall into anarchy if every single piece of music was an overproduced pop song written by a committee.

Furthermore, should every film be a documentary about a struggling pop star who, thanks to her average singing voice and gigantic bosoms, succeeds to such a great extent that she gets to both marry and divorce Russell Brand?

This raises a troubling follow-on question - does any music, given as most music is necessarily fixed in a particular genre or style, meet the exacting ideals of the Kantian Categorical Imperative? Does the act of producing a song mean that you will that every other song be like your song? It is perhaps a blessing, in several ways, that Kant himself never had to encounter Katy Perry.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christina Aguilera

In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes teaches us that there can be no state without total submission to the ruler. It is worth sacrificing every right we have in the name of stability, for all that awaits us outside the state is a short, brutal life and death.

This offers us several insights into the less-than-stellar back catalog of Christina Aguilera. Firstly, can Aguilera's clear and obvious submission to the desires and ideals of her record company and their notion of what it takes to stably become millionaires be considered artistry, or just the application of a considered and well-developed set of principles honed into making everyone involved as much money as possible?

Second, given the preceding thoughts, what would a state-of-nature Christina Aguilera record look like? Could it even exist? Would the necessary chaos initiated by a break from an army of songwriters, handlers, producers and bosses result in Aguilera's subsequent career itself being nasty, brutish, and short?

In a word, yes.

Mumford and Sons

In Plato's Republic, he speculated that there is a knowable World of Forms, in which the perfect version of every knowable concept is deposited, and from which we derive the poor copies of perfection that cast shadows over our lives in the imperfect world of being. And so it is we arrive at the latest Mumford and Sons record.

Rather than striving for the folk record that exists outside of the cave, Mumford and Sons simple observe the flickering shapes on the cave wall, mistake them for art, and repeat the mistakes of their previous releases, which themselves were the products of chained men unaware of the freedom that knowledge of the World of Forms might have brought them.

If one were to bring in another Platonic principle, we might speculate that Mumford and Sons have only bronze in their souls, rather than the divinely-bestowed gold necessary for knowledge of the Form of the perfect folk record, and thus a bronze medal is the best I can afford their album. Perhaps, as Plato speculates, if they are to study geometry for several decades, their song structure might improve. Or perhaps they are doomed to stare at the reflections on a wall forever, in the belief that they are producing art, rather than a simple mockery of art.

Motley Crue

What if, as David Hume may have speculated, the thousandth time you hit a guitar, exactly the same way as the other nine-hundred and ninety-nine times, it makes a completely different sound?

The Humian principle of induction seems to govern the latest release from Motley Crue. Performance of a process to produce a particular result a thousand times might lead one to believe that the actions comprising the process are themselves the cause of the outcome.

As Nikki Sixx produced his millionth unremarkable bass riff, he probably didn't even consider the actions he was performing, as he knew that the very act of pressing pick to string was enough to drive the Crue forward.

 And yet, can we truly say that the latest chauvinist 1980s time-warp was the production of the same processes that produced previous Motley Crue records? We cannot for sure, posits Hume, as there can be no such thing as absolute cause and effect.

For this reason, the next Motley Crue release might be a worthwhile piece of music, as the identical process may produce something akin to listenable, the direct opposite of an average Motley Crue CD. But then again, it will probably suck.