October, 2017
October 15, 2017
“Blade Runner 2049”

The following review spoilers various plot points of the movie, though doesn’t give away any major twists. In writing this review, I have profitted from an interview with philosophy professor Timothy Shanahan on the movie.

This film is a splendid spectacle of overflowing visual imagination. If for nothing else, the film is worth seeing. More importantly, Blade Runner 2049 also manages to capture the mood of its predecessor—a bleak universe in which intensely lonely people, powerless in the face of a corporatist police society that controls and destroys them at will, face their own existential despair. Like Blade Runner, this film does not depict a primarily social or political dystopia; what we first and foremost see is a dystopia of human existence: an unflinching assessment of what it means to be an anonymous no one in the face of a hostile mass society, existentially powerless in the face of death and forces that seem to determine one’s life, and deeply uncertain about one’s individuality.

Combined with its circling, slow approach to its central themes, Blade Runner 2049 has ensured that it won’t be a great commercial success. The film has avoided the obvious temptation to turn itself into yet another action film franchise, distinguished from, say, Captain America only by being a bit darker and more broody. For that itself it deserves high praise. In short, this is a very good sequel, one that does justice to the original, and is faithful (perhaps even overly so) to its aesthetics and mood. If a sequel had to be made, it is unlikely that one could have hoped for a better one.

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October 11, 2017
Collective Competence: Some Initial Thoughts

This post expands on themes from a previous series of blog posts, “The Demands of Political Competence”.

No one person knows how to put someone on the moon, but the brilliant minds at NASA, as a collective, do. Similarly, one might suggest, while no one person is politically competent, the electorate as a whole possesses the necessary competence. If this can be established, one might argue, we should worry less, or not at all, about individuals not knowing much about politics, and not being individually competent to make political decisions. After all, we do not think it surprising or troubling that no individual NASA employee knows how to put someone on the moon; what matters is that NASA as a whole can. This analogy provides us with a comforting and appealing way to think about democracy. But is it true?

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