Tag: Karl Marx

The Good Place and Ethics

Posted January 13, 2017 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Film & Television, Philosophy / 2 Comments

I discussed the moral dilemma in the HBO television show Westworld, and I have since discovered a show that looks at ethics. The Good Place is the story of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) who dies and finds herself in the afterlife, designated into ‘the Good Place’. Only problem is that she is not a good person and does not belong. In fact it is another Eleanor Shellstrop that should be in ‘the Good Place’, but she does not want to end up in ‘the Bad Place’ so she sets out to learn how to be a better person, in essence, to earn her place.

‘The Good Place’ is basically heaven, but the show is written to be as neutral as possible when it comes to religion. To do this, the architect of this ‘Good Place’ neighbourhood Michael (Ted Danson) states that all religions only guessed 10% of what the afterlife is like. Joking some random guy from the 1970’s managed to guess 91% of what happens after you die in a inebriated rant. While this might be considered a mockery towards religion it does allow the show to explore ethics in a stripped back way. Without getting bogged down with the religious aspect, the show explores different schools of thought when it comes to ethics.Beneath the low-brow humour the show is almost like an introduction to moral philosophy, exploring ideas from people like Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Jeremy Bentham and of course the obvious Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. These ideas are explored thanks to Eleanor’s soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper) who was a professor of ethics when he was alive. One of the major ideas that is explored is that of utilitarianism, I expect as a critique to society’s pleasure seeking ways.

The idea of utilitarianism is the idea that an action is considered right if it promotes happiness. The show focuses on the paradoxical nature of utilitarianism, mainly the idea of punishing an innocent person for the greater good. Eleanor’s presence in ‘the Good Place’ has a negative effect on the neighbourhood, where actions that are not inherently good manifest in terrifying ways. There is also the conundrum of Eleanor staying in ‘the Good Place’ may promote her happiness but it is at the cost of the other Eleanor who is suffering in ‘the Bad Place’.

“He who would criticise all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch.” – Karl Marx (Das Kapital)

While this show does more than name drop philosophical ideas of ethics, but rather try to explain them, I still find the show too simplistic. It is as if The Good Place is attempting to introduce the idea of moral philosophy to the viewers but a show like Westworld wants you to work for it. I do enjoy the philosophy and the way it explores ethics but I much prefer having to work towards understanding; then again, I am just pretentious like that. We started watching this show because my wife and I are big fans of Kristen Bell and I will continue to watch because of the philosophy, even if it is overly simplified.


Learning about Sociology

Posted January 1, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Sociology / 0 Comments

sociologyI have spent so much time playing catch up on my book reviewing, I have been neglecting some of my other post types. I created Knowledge Lost as a way to document my interests in learning. While literature is a big part of my life and my journey, I do not want book reviews to be the primary focus of this blog, more a side effect. I have done posts in the past about art, literature, philosophy and psychology but there is a topic I am interested in that has not be discussed on this blog until now; that topic is sociology.

I have been interested in the topic of sociology for a very long time, but I do not think I understand it completely. I know it is the study of social effects of various influences like religion, politics, cultural movements and so on. However this is a very broad and limited definition of this very broad social science. There is a lot of other elements, theories and logistics that play a big part in influencing sociology. I am interested to learn this topic in a lot more detail; I do not think I will focus on it in great detail but a better understanding would be useful.

Some of the people I will have to learn about, include Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Auguste Comte is considered the “father of sociology” (although some give this title to Emile Durkheim) and often cited as the one who started this field of study. Herbert Spencer did a lot of research in family, education, government, industry, and religion comprise. Karl Marx is known for The Communist Manifesto, but his research focused on social classes. Emile Durkheim thought it was important to study social facts and the patterns of behaviour characteristics. Finally Max Weber believed that sociologists must consider people’s interpretations of events, as well as looking at economy and religious influences.

fathers of sociology

There is so many more people to research, plus looking at theories and other studies. I think one of my first posts in sociology would be a comparison between socialism and communism. I hope some posts into sociology will be a good fit with my blog. Although this is a place to document my autodidactic journey so I do not see why it would not fit. If anyone has some recommended reading on this topic, please let me know. I honestly do not know where to start.


All that is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

Posted October 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 7 Comments

All that is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeonTitle: All that is Solid Melts into Air (Goodreads)
Author: Darragh McKeon
Published: Viking, 2014
Pages: 391
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

All that is Solid Melts into Air tells the story of the Soviet Union in 1986. A nine year-old piano prodigy continuously falling victim to bullies, a surgeon throwing himself into his work to avoid the emotion pain of a failed marriage, a former dissident struggling to free herself from political constraints. Everyday Russians trying to make life work in this repressed state; that was until a disaster in Ukraine changes things.

Most people who know me know that I am a fan of Russian literature and books set in Russia. The Cold War years are of particular interest to me, the social and political unrest makes for a haunting backdrop for great story telling. When I head that All that is Solid Melts into Air was this year’s answer to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, it was all I needed to buy this book. While reading the book I found out the novel centred around the Chernobyl nuclear accident which just gave that extra element to turn this into a new favourite.

I have never read a novel about the Chernobyl disaster before and I am struggling to think of other books that focus on this historical event. So I was pleased to have a new insight on a situation I hope to never experience. This was a beautiful and haunting tale of Russians living life and the connections they make along the way. However little gems like the controversial idea of implementing safety measure pre-disaster and the Soviet Union’s efforts to cover the accident up really helped make this novel great.

The title is taken from a line in The Communist Manifesto, which is quoted before the novel kicks off. This is an interesting quote to add, not just to give a reference to the title but the implications of what to expect within the novel. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels theorise in their political manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.

“All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” – Karl Marx (The Communist Manifesto)

While this is a strong character driven novel, it is not the personal but political transgressions that stood out for me. All that is Solid Melts into Air is set in a time where the Iron Curtain is beginning to collapse; things are drastically changing and then the disaster involving the Chernobyl Power Plant throws the people into civil unrest. While the book focuses on a few characters the overall theme is one of class struggles. The Russian people struggling against the Soviet government; the fear and repression rules stronger than the radioactive atmosphere. An interesting concept considering the communist society that Marx wrote about was nothing like the political government at the time.

I am a little sad to see this gem has remained under the radar; All that is Solid Melts into Air deserves so much more attention. Despite that horrific setting, this is a novel of great beauty with visceral portrayals of both people and places. The struggle the people go through is handled with tender care and empathy. It is hard to believe that Darragh McKeon is a debut author; much like Anthony Marra, I am eagerly awaiting his next novel. All that is Solid Melts into Air is a new favourite and you can expect it to be near the top of my ‘best of 2014’ list.