To the Thinkers Hoping to Just Get Along:
Two regulars at recent meet ups have said it would be interesting to take a somewhat philosophical look at why we are as perceptibly violent as a people, particularly in America. For our March meeting we will take this on in some hopefully meaningful way.
Of course there are many looks from academia that are everywhere nowadays after this discourse around eliminating guns to take down violence, particularly on the mean streets, has started in popular political culture. One comprehensive, encyclopedic view of Violence in America came in a three volume 1999 collection of papers on the nature of violence in this country compiled by several including Ronald Gottesman. Of course the entire set of books retails for $575. I would like to concentrate on the one section that discusses a view from philosophy that can be read at the link below.
Let us call this our first wave for focusing the discussion.
I would like the second wave to be the vibrations from Stephen Pinker’s amazing book The Better Angels of Our Nature that argues quite powerfully that with the exception of one awful period in the middle of the 20th Century the world has become far less violent over the centuries and is heading toward a period a relatively short time off where the our cooperative natures will transcend our savagely competitive intonations. Though Pinker does not dwell on how America’s tends to be a bit behind everyone else, we too will get there. Let us think this through.
Then I would like us to dwell a bit in the arts. Our popular entertainment has dwelled darkly in our violent natures, almost making violence the preferred pornography of our times. In the middle of this, there have been some nuggets that could help us understand more than it titillates. For our third wave I would like us to consider in my opinion the best film that dwells in our violent culture in both a provocatively and potentially a profound way, A History of Violence. This highly awarded film was done by one of the true philosophers of film art, David Cronenberg who has given us many other thoughtful though always edgy films like A Dangerous Method, Videodrome, Naked Lunch, Existenz, Crash (the real Crash), and Spider. A History of Violence gives us a quite savage view of the nature nuture conundrum we face in our violent world and is done in a way most philosophers would enjoy. Let this be our third rail.
So let us get thinking about this violence thing we all might want to discuss a little more meaningfully in March. I look forward to your comments in preparation.