Why I Need to Write About Aristotle

Candorville, by Darrin Bell

I’ve been futzing about for a few days, trying to decide whether to write a post that centers on Aristotle, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” My big hang-up is frankly … audience. How much are y’all going to balk if you read the word Aristotle in the first sentence? And yet I can’t write my film review without mentioning him. So I’ve been stuck between the urge to get these ideas out and the knowledge that we’re living in a time of anti-intellectualism.

It’s like a seesaw effect. We don’t even know what we think about smarts. There are constant little tests nestled in among Corgi pictures on the interwebs that tell you to “solve this puzzle and your IQ is 180.” Which anybody with some kind of education knows is patently false because that’s not how IQ works and nobody has IQs over 170 except that little kid they found in Nepal once. (OK, I checked the Internet; there are a few people now with IQs over 170. But not because they can do some little puzzle.)

Meanwhile, we don’t even care if people learn how to write anymore because we have ChatGPT and other tools coming that will just write stuff for us. As if Chat knows. I think of ChatGPT as like a rather stupid, random World Book Encyclopedia. If you happen to go to the right page and copy the right bits word for word (or verbatim–we used to use that word in a business context until we were told people didn’t know what it meant, so we had to replace it with “word for word” because people can’t learn what words mean anymore)… If you go to the right page and plagiarize it, you might just get away with it. But what if you have to combine things? And if you’re not learning because all you ever do is copy things other people wrote, then you just wander through school and come out as dumb as you started.

AI art of a hamster balloon, from NYT

I was looking at the syllabus for a financial class the other day and the goal of the class was to learn how to be a disruptor. If you read my bio, you know I was in banking for decades, so I know a lot about banking, payments, money streams etc. Apparently, the goal in financial technology now is to understand these elements and create a business that DISRUPTS them. Not a business that helps customers in a BETTER way, that satisfies customers with new and innovative ways to make their lives EASIER–no! It has to be a DISRUPTIVE business, and you will be graded in the class as to how well you understand disruption. It’s another variation of ANTI– We need to be anti-traditional, anti-intellectual, anti-the crowd (but all together now, let’s be Anti!!!!)

I’m at a loss.

We went through this anti-intellectualism experience before in the 1950s, when people like McCarthy started sneering at anybody in the university and claiming they were Commies. We love it when the smartest guys in the room get their comeuppance. We go through these phases where we want to put the Fool in charge and then well… there’s the plots of “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” for you. And you-know-who telling you to drink bleach to ward off Covid.

from my Plato/Aristotle Philosopher Cage Match post

If you aren’t scared of Aristotle, or if you do want to know a little about Aristotle (and philosophy), I wrote about this before in a way that I hoped wasn’t too egghead-y, in my post on the Philosopher Cage Match. Aristotle had an impact on how we think about things, if not directly then because a lot of people read what he wrote and then wrote other things. Aristotle’s a building block. I don’t have a philosophy degree; this was from high school. Basic Aristotle.

I asked ChatGPT to write me something about “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” and Aristotle, wondering whether it would see the OBVIOUS thing that I was going to write about. Here’s what it said (in part):

Title: “Barbie & Oppenheimer: A Philosophical Journey”

Rating: ★★★★☆

“Barbie & Oppenheimer” is a thought-provoking and unique cinematic experience that brings together two seemingly disparate worlds: the iconic Barbie doll and the intellectual prowess of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. While one may initially dismiss such a combination as whimsical, this film delves deep into philosophical realms inspired by the works of Aristotle, making it an unexpectedly profound exploration of human nature and existence.

Director David Cohen masterfully intertwines these elements, drawing on Aristotle’s philosophical framework to guide the narrative. Aristotle’s concepts of ethics, virtue, and the nature of reality serve as the film’s backbone, transforming Barbie and Oppenheimer into symbolic representations of contrasting human ideals.

The film opens with Barbie (played by a human actress) living in a perfect, plastic world that mirrors Aristotle’s idea of the pursuit of happiness through virtue. Barbie epitomizes the external beauty and material success that society often values. However, as the story unfolds, we witness the shallowness beneath her perfect facade, prompting viewers to question the true meaning of a virtuous life.

Oppenheimer, portrayed brilliantly by a dedicated actor, represents the intellectual pursuit of knowledge and the consequences of scientific discovery. His character embodies Aristotle’s philosophical exploration of the nature of reality and causality. The film delves into Oppenheimer’s involvement in the Manhattan Project, posing challenging ethical questions about the role of science and its impact on humanity.

CHATGPT’s movie review in part of the “Barbie Oppenheimer” movie

Phew! ChatGPT doesn’t know what the F it’s talking about! My favorite parts are the “portrayed by fill-in-the-blank actor” and the four out of five stars! Also “Barbie” is listed first but it still picks the male director because … you know how they do. That review “looks” real because there are words in it, but it doesn’t make any sense. It’s wrong, and it misses the BIG thing. Which I now feel empowered to write about.

In conclusion, I don’t know if you will be offended to encounter Aristotle in a movie review. At least I feel like you can’t get it from someone else. If you’d rather read something less challenging or written by robots, then good on you. I’m going to write it anyway.

Stay tuned for tomorrow or whenever I finish my smashingly brilliant post on Aristotle and “Barbie/Oppenheimer”!

Coming soon to kajmeister.com. Photo mash-up from Daily O.

2 Replies to “Why I Need to Write About Aristotle”

  1. Can hardly wait for the next one! You are simply amazing, Maria. We saw neither of the movies…Our world is not moving toward honesty and actually studying and learning something…Very sad.

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