Monday, November 20, 2006
Philosophy in-joke, with comics
First, for those who know nothing of Harry Frankfurt's work (or, all they know is his best-selling essay, On Bullshit, wander over to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Compatibilism and skip to 5.3.1, "Higher-Order Desires and the Nature of Persons." You can pick up on the Ekstrom you'd need to know from the entry on incompatibilist theories, and meandering down to 2.1, a couple paragraphs down.
Or, failing that, you'll probably get the joke from context anyway.
I had seen a post on a comics blog about superheroes and the myth of redemptive violence, which along the way of making some nice points about superheroes in comics, vs. folks in movies, treat & respond to violence, included the following:
A more interesting and ambiguous case is presented by Wolverine. Wolverine's attitude to violence is not depicted consistently, which is, I think, telling in itself; the shifts in his portrayals seemThis description, of Wolverine wanting to want to control his violent desires, is a great example of having a second order desire. The first order desire would be to slash someone, & the second order desire would be to want not to want to slash someone.
indicative of the differing beliefs and feelings of his writers. The classic early Claremont Wolverine is a man afflicted with a bloodlust that he can barely manage to control. He wants to control it -- most of the time -- or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he wants to want to control it, but he doesn't always want to control it. That is to say, he's a violence junkie, and while he knows his
habit is dangerous, though less for him than for the people around him, he still can't kick it. There are times when he wants to kick it -- to stop wanting to be violent -- but the underlying desire never disappears.
I sent this to some friends, and the lovely Eleanor responded (and has given permission for me to post) with the following:
Does Harry Frankfurt ever make an appearance in the comic? I can(That Eleanor wrote this without having seen all the panels of Wolverine meditating & angsting over his violent nature, is awesome.)
imagine the two of them having a good conversation:
Harry: You're having trouble forming an effective 2nd order desire not to slash people with the strips of metal attached to your hands.
Wolverine: It's true. But I've actually found Ekstrom and Velleman's
rationalist models to describe my behavior more precisely. I feel
what's most damaging about my impulse to violence is that it's
inconsistent with the self-image I'm trying to cultivate.
Harry: What self-image is that?
Wolverine: Thoughtful, sensitive, non-slashing type.
Harry: I see. With which image do you identify more?
Wolverine: I guess I wouldn't be "Wolverine" without the slashing.
Does that mean I should just choose to identify with my more violent
Harry: Um . . . I'll have to think about that. Why don't we finish
this conversation by email?
(Or something like that.) :)
jane 12:15 PM [+]