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Tuesday, May 24

May 26, 2016
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WWTWWT: An interrupted and thus shortened class — apologies for that — but we continued talking about Immanuel Kant, and the way he combined rationalism and empiricism. He did this by coming up with two concepts: the phenomenal world (that is, the world of phenomena — sensory experience), and the noumenal world (the world beyond our sensory experience). Kant suggested that there are limits to our knowledge: that all we can know for certain is contained in the phenomenal world. Everything that exists beyond that — including what Kant called the world of things-in-themselves, or things as they really are — belongs to the noumenal world.

This is a theory that has some things in common with both Plato’s Realm of Ideal Forms, and with the Christian idea of heaven. However, Kant deliberately left God out of this picture of the world. He didn’t say that God doesn’t exist — only that, if he does exist, he is part of the noumenal world, and can only be experienced with our minds.

Then we talked about free will and determinism (the idea that our choices are determined by things outside our control, like heredity or our environment). Kant argued against determinism, which would mean, in essence, that our behavior could be explained (and thus predicted) purely by what we could observe in the phenomenal world. That would eliminate the concept of free will, and Kant argued strongly that we have it. Although morals can’t exist in the phenomenal world (we can’t measure or quantify them objectively), Kant said that they DO exist. He argued that all of us — even “bad” people — believe in some sort of moral code, and that if morality (and the free will to exercise it) did not exist, we could never complain when anyone treated us badly. They would have no choice, because their actions would have been predetermined.

This led to Kant’s concept of the Categorical Imperative. This is his ethical guide, which states that you should only act as if your actions might become a universal law. This is why his response to our example — about telling a potential murderer the hiding place of your best friend — would be that you must tell the truth, no matter what you assume the consequences are going to be. Otherwise, you are treating people as a means to an end, instead of an end unto themselves — and you’re also sanctioning lying. If you lie, in other words, you deprive the other person of the chance to make a free choice as to whether to do the right thing. Maybe the axe murderer will have a chance of heart, drop his axe, and go home. (Obviously, most people don’t agree with this hard-line sentiment; it is intellectually understandable, but not terribly practical.)

Kant believed that an ethical guide was necessary because he didn’t believe in determinism — the idea that our actions are pre-determined by nature and nurture. We DO have free will, he believed — and he thought it was located in the noumenal world, the world of things-in-themselves, the world about which we can never have true knowledge. So the Categorical Imperative was a way to try to make this unknowable concept (our desire for morality) intelligible.

Book History: There was a demonstration for the assignment that’s due on Thursday (this one: Book History 5.17.16 – Assignment 7, Alphabet Book Part 2). Remember: you do need to follow the general guidelines, but there’s no exactly right or exactly wrong way to do this book.

Siren: May edition. It’s out. It looks swell. Thanks to everyone who made it thus.

Prompt: Notebooks will be checked on THURSDAY. We will discuss then how we’re going to make up for lost time. 🙂 

Survey: Screenwriting: Today we had a combined class and went over the following:

  1. Extra Credit Assignment: Development Project Part 7: Beat Sheet (Screenwriting 5.23.16 – Story Dev Proj, Part 7 Beat Sheet). This is a GROUP assignment, and the due date has been moved to Tuesday, May 31. This is also for EXTRA CREDIT!! So no, it’s not required, but yes, it would be a great thing to do. But you must do it as a group, so plan accordingly.
  2. Final Assignment for Semester: Development Project Part 8: Excerpt (Screenwriting 5.23.16 – Story Dev Proj, Part 8 Excerpt). This is a required individual assignment due Friday, June 3. It is for at least 50 points, which means it could be a game changer – for better or worse – in terms of your grade.
  3. Test: On Tuesday, May 31, we’ll have combined class and there will be a Screenwriting test. There will be no formal review for this test, but I will answer any questions you may have on Thursday or Friday of this week. So come with questions, if you have them. The test will be a combination of question styles (fill in the blank, short answer, error identification, etc.) and will cover screenplay formatting and style (review the handbook! Screenwriting 3.14.16 – Handbook 2016), three-act structure, story development, and any other topics we’ve discussed this semester.

If you have any questions, see me at your earliest convenience.

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