Friday, June 28, 2019

Ave, Charles!

Charles beats me to the punch and puts out his massive review of "Avengers: Endgame," a review that actually covers a good bit of "Infinity War" before moving to the main topic. I haven't read through everything, but when I saw that Charles had highlighted the utilitarianism/deontology conflict that divides Iron Man and Captain America,* I had to wonder whether he'd seen the same Wisecrack video I'd seen on YouTube.** Heh. Anyway, I look forward to finishing Charles's review, which will no doubt be clear, thorough, and eloquently expressed.

*UPDATE: I've read through my friend's review, and I see he liked the movie much more than I did, although I can't say I hated "Endgame." Charles actually frames the ethical divide as between the utilitarian Thanos and the deontic Avengers, but he makes clear that he doesn't see Thanos's behavior as fitting the utilitarian paradigm, nor does he see the Avengers as purely deontological in their collective (and somewhat patchy and fractured) worldview.

**For the record, this blog has also trafficked in moral dichotomies, although in our case, those were more of the deontology/consequentialism variety. See more here. Keep in mind, too, that utilitarianism can be seen as a species of consequentialism because of its focus on the practical effects of people's choices and actions. In the West, people tend to associate deontology with Kant and consequentialism with Hume. There are, of course, arguments that these two ethical modes aren't actually antipodal, but may, in their details, imply each other. In Asian thinking, a religion like Buddhism contains elements that are both deontological and consequentialist (e.g., the concept of upaya—skillful means—which is context-dependent and thus more consequentialist in nature; and the concept of sunyata—emptiness—which is a core, eternal metaphysical principle). Taoism is the same sort of mixed bag: living in harmony with the Tao requires fluid adjustments to every changing situation, but the Tao itself has a particular nature governed by discernible, unchanging principles. Whether we're talking East or West, though, ethics seems to play out in both bending and unbending forms which is, I suppose, simply a reflection of the variations that are possible in the human character. Some of us are inveterate pragmatists; some of us are inflexible idealists.

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