Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Psycho-Pass - of legal, ethical and moral judgement - an analysis (PART 2)

Rumor has it that a second season of Psycho-Pass is slated for 2014. The songs are still my favorite and they make me wonder about Kogami and Akane. (By the way, the opening songs really feels cool when you're driving, honestly. haha.)

*I did promise a 2nd part of the ethical analysis. It's way overdue but here it is!

Alright, first up, I am really sorry the 2nd part is only available now. Most people would be having a summer break or something in May/June... but I was busy doing my 2nd (and last) Senior Project during the Summer Semester (or term, if you will). So my paper was on Friendship between International and Malaysian Students and I had a tight deadline (yup.. less than two months.. I finished it within a month, give or take).

So there you have it... the reason why I didn't post anything... and I also worked for a while (on a tight schedule) after I finished my studies so I really couldn't post anything.

So for this part, we'll discuss Aristotle, Mill and Bentham and Relativism

Before that, let's revisit the different types of ethics:
*Yup, I copied it from the previous post so that you'll stay on track here (including the explanations as indicated below).

Teleological ethics - telos (purpose)
Purpose/Consequentialist: Utilitarianism, for the greater good. You sacrifice the minority for the good of the majority.
Famous theorists: Mill and Bentham - Minimize harm and maximize happiness.

Deontological ethics - deon (obligation)
Duty oriented: . Whatever decisions you make, you have to consider others' rights and your duties.
Famous theorist: Emmanuel Kant.

Virtue ethics - what we ought to be, moral development
Virtue ethics: Who you should be, your morals.
Famous theorist: Aristotle - The Golden Mean.

So in this part, we'll talk about Aristotle's Golden Mean and Mill and Bentham's Utilitarianism.
(If you're still lost, please go to Part 1)

Since I mentioned teleological ethics first, I think I'll start with Mill and Bentham.

According to Mill and Bentham, the greater good is important. As long as happiness is maximized and you reduce harm, you're good to go.

Let's go back to Sybil System. I believe it was created with the purpose of reducing crime, thus less worries and stress. The original intention was good; it's conception seemed perfect. However, one can't help but notice the flaw in it. A system ruled by a collection of brains, incapable of emotions and these sets of brains include criminals (though they don't call it that)?

How does that even work? Normal, ordinary citizens who aren't much of a genius but getting stressed out or just a normal guy... are potential victims of the system. Children getting their potential robbed like Kagari, is one of them.

I said 'victims' because the decisions are pretty much taken out of their hands once their 'hue' is clouded and their Psycho Pass is at a certain level. It can be affected by stress.

I believe that eustress is a good thing. It motivates us. It only becomes bad when that distress overwhelms us. In the society depicted in Psycho Pass, it is easy to assume that these people rarely experience stress and things are forced upon them (though they may not think that way).

In my humble opinion, they rarely need to make decisions. Please correct me if I'm wrong. =)

For example, in our reality, a person who is capable of becoming a dentist can make the decision to become a chef. Now let's compare with the Sybil System. It basically tells people what they can do, and what they aren't capable of. In a nutshell, you don't worry about screwing up. At all.

As J.K. Rowling once said,
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”
J.K. Rowling
But I digress. The conception of Sybil society was so 'perfect' at face value but once we're invited to view the dark side of it, it changes our perception.

People seemed happy with the Sybil System but once they were given the opportunity, they rebelled against the system. Take a look at the scenario when they were provided a helmet that prevents their hue from being read. Very telling isn't it?

And how about the warning that it would cause an uprising (I'm using this term loosely), so to speak, if people ever found out the real face of the system?

So this makes me question if the majority are really happy, or are they just ignorant. Maybe not ignorant by choice... but to be honest, the harsh truth would be quite hard to swallow.

Now let's move on.

What about Aristotle's Golden Mean? How does it tie with Psycho-Pass?

The Golden Mean advocates morals and virtues, and more importantly, balance.
"It must not be confused with carnal or material pleasures, although there are many people who consider this to be real happiness, since they are the most basic form of pleasures. It is a way of life that enables us to live in accordance with our nature, to improve our character, to better deal with the inevitable hardships of life and to strive for the good of the whole, not just of the individual." 
- Golden Mean -
I believe that all our experiences, both good and bad, forms the person we are. We've all gone through hardship (unless you've been living in a glass castle) and each of these experiences help mold our perception and once we come out of it (and learn from it), we'd be able to better deal with similar experiences in future. Hardship in life is inevitable.

In Psycho Pass, I find that balance lacking. Yes, the Sybil System strives to make it the perfect society, for the good of the whole. However, if that is just the case, we'd only fall back to utilitarianism. It's as if the Sybil System is shaping people into those incapable of balance and handling hardship (I'm not talking about choosing which job they offer - really). We're looking for a society that can improve themselves and as Cecilia Ahern wrote in The Gift (2009),
"One thing of great importance can affect a small number of people. Equally so, a thing of little importance can affect a multitude."
Look at the girl who was manipulated by Makishima because of her anger at Sybil System. Her father turned into a barely functional person at rehab only because he was stressed and his hue was affected. Whatever drugs they gave him, I have no idea and he was like a shell of a person until he died. A very sad ending.

It may seem of little importance at the beginning, but once Makishima latched on to that hatred, it manifested and consumed her to her demise (and whoever else she killed).

Look at Makishima also. Makishima belongs to the minority of 'criminally asymptomatic'. These people are forcibly taken and their brain harvested for the system. The system chooses you. Being criminally asymptomatic is a big 'hush hush'. It is a national secret (like, if I tell you, I'll have to kill you - e.g. Kagari died - with the exception of Akane). Now that's something big that affects a small number of people relative to the population.

Remember in episode 20, the flashback of the conversation between Akane and Kagari.

Kagari: You're like all those folks who lived in the days before the Sybil System was created.
Akane: Yeah, it's incredible, isn't it? Everyone used to fumble around, blindly choosing what they're going to do. I can't believe that was once our natural way of life.
Kagari: Nowadays, the Sybil System reads your talent and tells you the way of living that will bring the most happiness. And you're talking about purpose? The reason you were born?

Much of this section can be found on episode 20. It's really worth re-watching.

Then, we also have the Relativism Theory. What's good for me, might not be good for you and vice versa.

Well, it can be argued that the Sybil System might be good for some, it might not be so for others. In Kogami's point of view (and Makishima), it basically spells doom. One is demoted and sentenced to a life of misery with no freedom to enjoy life (except enforce and execute others... and being called dogs), the other is ostracized (and we know how that ended!).

It worked for Akane, however. She's smart, she has a hue that is always clear and things usually work in her favor according to the Sybil System.

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether Sybil System is good for you or not. After all, it's relative.

I also mentioned previously that I would look into civil disobedience as (if I'm not mistaken) Saiga Jouji mentioned that Makishima's actions are considered as such.

Remember Thoreau's Essay on Civil Disobedience?

So if we were to examine Makishima's actions in terms of Saiga Jouji's interpretation that it is indeed, civil disobedience, then yes, I think we can agree or disagree on that as well.

In Thoreau's essay, it was mentioned that one should do what one believes is right, not follow the law to the letter (if the law is unjust, one should dissociate themselves from it. In Thoreau's book, I think it was more on dissociation from an unjust institution, which I think was what Makishima did. Only, Makishima went much more than that. He goaded people into committing murder and violence that, I think wasn't Thoreau's aim/intention. Probably too extreme for me too). 

You may ask why unjust is mentioned here.. I think it has more to do with his feelings of being excluded for being different. Think about it, his psycho-pass cannot be read. He was treated differently as a result. So he might think that the society ruled by Sybil System is hardly fair because everyone is judged by their hue and the system tells you if you'll succeed or you won't.

Additionally, Marx was mentioned in the story so I'm going to dabble on that too. In terms of Psycho Pass, the idea that can possibly involve Marx would be hegemony, in my opinion. That's right. As puts it, "leadership with the consent of the led".

So which kind are we talking about? Is it through:

1) force


2) ideology

That, my dear readers, is up to you to find out. I'm maxed out for this post. Might dabble on this next time if I suddenly feel like it! hahaha.


References should be acknowledged here, I think. My classes used Mitchell's Roots of Wisdom (Intro to Philosophy) and Day's Ethics in Media Communications: Cases and Controversies (Communication and Media Ethics). Whatever theories I said here may be mentioned in those books and my instructors' notes.

Additionally, I credit the section on Civil Disobedience to Thoreau's essay "Essay on Civil Disobedience" as it was renamed. I also have to credit SparkNotes for making life easier on me because it would really take a longer time to post this without the help.

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