Discussion:
Clockwork Orange and its humanist message
(too old to reply)
Lisa Morgendunst
2004-01-02 04:05:59 UTC
Permalink
I read somewhere that Burgess had once been beaten to a pulp and his
wife raped by a drunken bunch of American G.I.s. This made Burgess
angry and ask himself.. does he still believe in freedom?

From my understanding, Burgess was a humanist who believed in freedom.
He believed in something like a soul or moral consciousness. I guess
this was a time when guys like B.F. Skinner and others were arguing
that freedom was just a myth, that our behavior is just a matter of
conditioning. And, this was also having an impact on social and
political policy, whereby it was argued that merely changing the
enviroment would create better citizens or it was simply a matter of
education and proper conditioning thru big government bureaucracies.

Burgess thought there was more to man that nurture, that man had the
innate power to choose good or evil. That this freedom to choose was
ultimately most valuable despite the risk we all take in a free
society.

Anyway, Burgess got beat up real bad and his beliefs were shaken. How
nice if brutes like those drunken louts could be rendered harmless
thru technology. What did it matter what they thought in their hearts
as long as they could be conditioned not to do harm to others. I must
say, I like the idea myself.
But, we can kiss the concept of freedom and moral choice goodbye. It
would lead to a virtuous society of robots rather than a flawed but
free society of humans.

I read the book some yrs back and it has a chapter missing in the
movie. In the book, Alex grows somewhat older and seems to change,
perhaps sending an optimistic message that people are capable of
change, or growth, or gaining new perspectives on life.
Kubrick excised this ending but the movie works too, at least in
making a grander statement about humanity(Burgess book is about a guy
named Alex while Kubrick's Alex stands for something larger). We see
Alex 'reformed' from his robotic state to his original state, and
marvelously weird is the idea that mankind is forever in this state of
flux between two extremes--mad freedom and ordered lunacy. Because if
you think about it, Alex can never be what he had once been despite
the deprogramming, no more than a gangsta rapper who's been accepted
by the mainstream as an 'artist' can truly be a streetpunk. But, then
Alex isn't part of respectable society either. I think upon hearing
Beethoven at the end he enters into an unreal state of mind.

Come to think of it, most of pop culture is like trying to make
insanity palatable and dandy, like what the politicos have done with
Alex. Sell bottled insanity and everyone gets rich.
gaza-B-gone
2004-01-02 05:50:44 UTC
Permalink
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=troll
I read somewhere that Burgess had once been beaten to a pulp...i
Matthew Dickinson
2004-01-03 06:24:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by gaza-B-gone
http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=troll
I read somewhere that Burgess had once been beaten to a pulp...i
I don't think she is a Scandanavian dwarf who lives in a cave in the mountains.

Matthew
magnulus
2004-01-02 08:33:52 UTC
Permalink
The old fallacy about duality... the soul vs. body... Burgess sees the
soul trapped inside a mind that's chained and restrained by conditioning, as
if such a thing as a soul could exist apart from a mind or body and have a
will of its own.

The big problem I have with Anthony Burgess/Clockwork Orange is his
incorrect portrayal of conditioning. In one scene, Alex is presented with
a naked woman . He reaches up and attempts to touch the woman's breasts, but
recoils at the last minute into a sickened fit. Truth be told, if he was
conditioned against violence and sex, he wouldn't even think about touching
the woman... he probably would have ran away from her. Likewise, he
wouldn't even have raised his fist against his parents in the "returning
home" scene, because the thought would not have crossed his mind.

Now, we've discovered that classical conditioning does not work in all
cases of behavior correction, for some reason. It's not that the theories
are wrong per se, but what motivates people to act is far more complex than
Pavlov's dog. Most psychologists now days aknowledge that you cannot just
have a persons actions change, but there must also be a concurrent change of
thought patterns and values for a behavioral change to hold. Behavioral
oriented psychologists just insist that behavior can precede different
thoughts and beliefs, then the desire will go away in time), whereas
cognitivists insist that thoughts and beliefs must precede changing a
behavior. In practice, both approaches work equally well, perhaps because
with repitition both involve forcing different thoughts and behaviors, no
matter which is emphasized.
unglued
2004-01-02 14:30:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by magnulus
The old fallacy about duality... the soul vs. body... Burgess sees the
soul trapped inside a mind that's chained and restrained by conditioning, as
if such a thing as a soul could exist apart from a mind or body and have a
will of its own.
Where exactly does he make such a convoluted statement ? The whole
point is whether or not the state should be allowed to use modern
technology to control individuals who are seen to be a threat. Neither
in the book or the film is any there any definate answer, it all boils
down to political wheeling and dealing as it usually does in real
life.
Post by magnulus
The big problem I have with Anthony Burgess/Clockwork Orange is his
incorrect portrayal of conditioning. In one scene, Alex is presented with
a naked woman . He reaches up and attempts to touch the woman's breasts, but
recoils at the last minute into a sickened fit. Truth be told, if he was
conditioned against violence and sex, he wouldn't even think about touching
the woman... he probably would have ran away from her. Likewise, he
wouldn't even have raised his fist against his parents in the "returning
home" scene, because the thought would not have crossed his mind.
Now, we've discovered that classical conditioning does not work in all
cases of behavior correction, for some reason. It's not that the theories
are wrong per se, but what motivates people to act is far more complex than
Pavlov's dog. Most psychologists now days aknowledge that you cannot just
have a persons actions change, but there must also be a concurrent change of
thought patterns and values for a behavioral change to hold. Behavioral
oriented psychologists just insist that behavior can precede different
thoughts and beliefs, then the desire will go away in time), whereas
cognitivists insist that thoughts and beliefs must precede changing a
behavior. In practice, both approaches work equally well, perhaps because
with repitition both involve forcing different thoughts and behaviors, no
matter which is emphasized.
magnulus
2004-01-02 20:06:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by unglued
Where exactly does he make such a convoluted statement ? The whole
point is whether or not the state should be allowed to use modern
technology to control individuals who are seen to be a threat. Neither
in the book or the film is any there any definate answer, it all boils
down to political wheeling and dealing as it usually does in real
life.
Listen to the prison preacher's little speach that he gives several times
about "good and evil" and "choice". It's pretty clear Anthony Burgess is
speaking through the preacher. Mystical mumbo-jumbo.

Alex isn't merely a threat to society, or somebody who appears as a threat
to society. He's a convicted criminal. We aren't talking about stealing a
piece of candy from the store, and whether we should cut off all shoplifters
hands to deprive them of the choice. We're talking about a murderer and
rapist. Most people would haev no problems throwing the book at Alex for
that one.

A better film about dystopian mind control and beaurocracy would be George
Lucas' THX 1138, IMO. Clockwork Orange is just typical European art-house
egg-headedness.
Lisa Morgendunst
2004-01-03 04:25:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by magnulus
Post by unglued
Where exactly does he make such a convoluted statement ? The whole
point is whether or not the state should be allowed to use modern
technology to control individuals who are seen to be a threat. Neither
in the book or the film is any there any definate answer, it all boils
down to political wheeling and dealing as it usually does in real
life.
Listen to the prison preacher's little speach that he gives several times
about "good and evil" and "choice". It's pretty clear Anthony Burgess is
speaking through the preacher. Mystical mumbo-jumbo.
Two things. Yes, Burgess spoke thru the preacher but Kubrick satirizes
everyone in the movie. The movie does not share the book's moral
position. Kubrick opens up the debate much wider and poses moral
issues without resolving them. Perhaps it makes the movie somewhat
nihilistic and nasty but it also invites us to think for ourselves. In
the movie, the reverend is just as foolish or naive as the rest. His
position may be sound but Kubrick doesn't favor it over other
arguments.
Also, it's not mystical mumbojumbo but a clear exposition on the moral
dilemma at hand. Is there no soul? Is man merely a sum of his
conditioned reflexes? Is it enough merely to control his outward
behavior?
Let's say we can have such technology in future; is our moral sense
really nothing but a set of conditioned reflexes?
Post by magnulus
A better film about dystopian mind control and beaurocracy would be George
Lucas' THX 1138, IMO. Clockwork Orange is just typical European art-house
egg-headedness.
Actually, THX is the more consciously arty film. A great movie but THX
deals with broad abstract themes. Clockwork Orange deals with nitty
gritty socio-political concerns in the modern hightech world.
THX is free at the end. In Clockwork Orange, there is no ultimate
escape from the crisis of humanity.
magnulus
2004-01-03 06:08:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
is our moral sense
really nothing but a set of conditioned reflexes?
No, but a good part of our "moral sense" is just conditioning... operant
conditioning.

I think its safe to say some of our morality is in our biology. Studies
of apes have shown that they often do value the same things humans do. A
recent study found apes and humans both resent "bad deals", even if they get
something out of the deal, for instance (I give you ten bucks, and the guy
next to you gets 1,000... for instance).
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Actually, THX is the more consciously arty film. A great movie but THX
deals with broad abstract themes. Clockwork Orange deals with nitty
gritty socio-political concerns in the modern hightech world.
Hahahahh.... right. Clockwork Orange is just 1000 year old tired
theology. Anthony Burgess thought he was so clever but he was just
rehashing stuff that's been said before. That kind of worldview is passee.
Now days they are indeed "medicalizing " many crimes. In the US they
practice chemical and physical castration of sex offenders, and very few
people are crying out in protest. Very few people care about the criminal
giving up his "rights" to commit more crimes, they are more concerned with
the innocent victims that will be spared, and rightly so.

I've never seen, smelled, or touched a soul. Thus any arguement based on
its existence is not falsifiable, and not worthy of debate.

THX doesn't require belief in a soul to appreciate the themes. It's all
about a mechanistic society, a society where humans have been subservient to
the order of a machine, instead of the machines serving humans. The joke at
the end, is of course being a machine, once he gets overbudgeted, it just
lets Robert Duvall go because it doesn't have the ruthlessness of a human
pursuer.
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
THX is free at the end. In Clockwork Orange, there is no ultimate
escape from the crisis of humanity.
Just shoot Alex. Problem solved. Sometimes Mao and Stalin had the right
idea.
Lisa Morgendunst
2004-01-03 19:24:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by magnulus
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
is our moral sense
really nothing but a set of conditioned reflexes?
No, but a good part of our "moral sense" is just conditioning... operant
conditioning.
I think its safe to say some of our morality is in our biology. Studies
of apes have shown that they often do value the same things humans do. A
recent study found apes and humans both resent "bad deals", even if they get
something out of the deal, for instance (I give you ten bucks, and the guy
next to you gets 1,000... for instance).
I would agree that much of the impulse behind morality is about body
chemicals and conditioning, and in that sense we do have alot in
common with apes. However, humans also self-consciously become aware
of this process. He is able to reflect and even resist forces arrayed
against him.

Why do kids who were brought up in religious families and conditioned
to accept God sometimes become agnostics or atheists? Why do
communists lose faith in their ideology? Reasons may vary but among
some it really was a matter of self-reflection. I think most people
don't much reflect on their lives and actions and depend on how
society haved programs their values, which is why every generation
has, more or less, a common value system for its members.
Yet, we are more than slaves to psycho-social dynamic. While it's true
that many people do fall to the allure and seduction of capitalist
brainwashing(gotta drive that car, gotta drink that beer, gotta smoke
to look cool like Brad Pitt, etc), there are also many who at least
become aware of the puppetstrings pulling on them.

So while moral sense do have their source in biology, true morality
requires thought and reflection. All societies have set rules and
morals. Most people don't question these rules as they've been
conditioned to simply accept and not ask questions. But, there have
been figures like Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus who went against the
grain; who transcended the conditioned strictures of cultural morality
to a higher morality based on individual reflection. Buddha was born a
priveleged prince yet he abandoned the caste system. It was to his
benefit to live a rich and powerful life of a prince but he sought
higher truth instead.
Post by magnulus
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Actually, THX is the more consciously arty film. A great movie but THX
deals with broad abstract themes. Clockwork Orange deals with nitty
gritty socio-political concerns in the modern hightech world.
Hahahahh.... right. Clockwork Orange is just 1000 year old tired
theology. Anthony Burgess thought he was so clever but he was just
rehashing stuff that's been said before. That kind of worldview is passee.
What he said wasn't original but it was necessary when people were
becoming too cocksure about what technology can do. In fact, most
themes or moral messages are not original but revived for their
timeliness(depending on the zeitgeist), just as King Lear has been
embraced as the most relevant of Shakespeare's plays in the modern
world because of nukes and prospect of total destruction.
Post by magnulus
Now days they are indeed "medicalizing " many crimes. In the US they
practice chemical and physical castration of sex offenders, and very few
people are crying out in protest. Very few people care about the criminal
giving up his "rights" to commit more crimes, they are more concerned with
the innocent victims that will be spared, and rightly so.
But, there is a crucial difference. In the cases of some sex
offenders, evil is really not part of the equation. They don't do what
they do because they want to harm others or commit acts of evil. They
just want to fondle little boys because they have a lustful craving
for such things. It's like someone with a craving for chocolate or
ovaltine. He just can't help himself. In such cases, chemical
treatments could be justified.
But, if it's a matter of people who commit evil because they embrace
evil and really enjoy doing harm to others, does it make sense to
reduce it all down to body chemistry? I'm not saying release them to
society. I say keep them locked up. But, as they have chosen and
believe in evil, we should at least acknowledge, if not respect, their
individual choices to be evil.
Of course, we can argue that 'evil' doesn't exist, that sadism or
greed or cruelty is just the product of chemical imbalance; that an
overly bullying or greedy person can be cured with a series of shots
on his butt. And, I do believe that certain people are more disposed
to 'evil' because of their body chemistry. But, people do think,
people are capable of changing based on thought, and people will
always be one step ahead of simple conditioning. The problem with
people is though they can easily be conditioned, it's not too long
before they become aware of this conditioning, which then leads to
rebellion and assertion of individuality. Godard's films are all about
not falling prey to the seductive slumbering allure of movie escapism.
Post by magnulus
I've never seen, smelled, or touched a soul. Thus any arguement based on
its existence is not falsifiable, and not worthy of debate.
Let's not call it 'soul'. Too many vague religious connotations. Let's
just call it everything from the subconscious to consciousness(which I
agree grows out of the body). The soul is energy, or energy that is
conscious of itself. A car burns gasoline and produces energy. Humans
burn food in our stomach and it turns into energy. Much of this energy
is used to run our bodies(just as burning gasoline runs the engine)but
the special thing about animal life is this energy also becomes
patterned into awareness, and among humans being into highly
sophisticated self-awareness. Let's call this the soul. When we read
great works in literature, we become aware that this soul wanders thru
vast areas, across new frontiers, seeks meaning... we can't reduce it
simply down to a generalized concept of bio-chemistry. Human awareness
is too creative, eccentric, unpredictable, too self-aware to be
understood purely in laboratorese.
Post by magnulus
THX doesn't require belief in a soul to appreciate the themes. It's all
about a mechanistic society, a society where humans have been subservient to
the order of a machine, instead of the machines serving humans. The joke at
the end, is of course being a machine, once he gets overbudgeted, it just
lets Robert Duvall go because it doesn't have the ruthlessness of a human
pursuer.
But, why would a man conditioned to fit neatly into a mechanized
society seek freedom? Why would he rebel against all the social,
political, and chemical forces that have defined what he is? Okay, we
can say his medication was tampered with by his roommate but then what
got her started on this path of rebellion? The movie is about the
soul, about something deep within man that seeks freedom, that seeks
meaning beyond what is set down by the state. While most people may be
sheep, not all are. And, when we become too arrogantly sure of what
makes people tick, we forget about the individual and only think in
terms of mass solutions, which explains the totalitarian impulses
behind Stalin and Mao. In such societies, the lone individual who can
climb out of the established and 'enlightened' dogma is anathema. He
poses a challenge to Political Correctness. Yet, THX represents this
kind of spirit, the spirit of the individual to seek freedom even if
it bring him face to face with the unknown, to think for himself
whether right or wrong and not have the state or some institution do
it for you even if such powers may be 'right'. This spirit may as
easily lead to Charles Manson as to Albert Camus, but it's what makes
us human.
Post by magnulus
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
THX is free at the end. In Clockwork Orange, there is no ultimate
escape from the crisis of humanity.
Just shoot Alex. Problem solved. Sometimes Mao and Stalin had the right
idea.
If you want to switch this to a capital punishment debate, I agree. I
believe lowlife scum should be shot. But, at least give the scumbag
the right to be a scumbag. Let him his preserve his 'honor'.
Suppose we had caught Adolf Hitler and with chemical tweaking turned
him into a totally repentant Jew-loving, liberal, tolerant person.
It's dishonorable to both Hitler AND to his victims. I say just shoot
the sumfabitch. There's dignity for everyone all around. Scumbag can
say he died for his beliefs while still holding onto his beliefs. And,
we can say it was a great act of justice for punishing a scumbag
accordingly. Now, that's morality for everyone.
Matthew Dickinson
2004-01-03 10:35:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Also, it's not mystical mumbojumbo but a clear exposition on the moral
dilemma at hand. Is there no soul? Is man merely a sum of his
conditioned reflexes? Is it enough merely to control his outward
behavior?
Let's say we can have such technology in future; is our moral sense
really nothing but a set of conditioned reflexes?
If your mirror image is really a mirror into an alternate reality in
which contains a universe identical to your own, except that it is
facing opposite you, you would only lose your faith in your
individuality, or your soul, if you became aware of this higher
reality. We live in a world where our self-awareness has been
magnified to such a degree that it is becoming increasingly difficult
to believe other people have inner lives, or souls. We instead see
reality like we do a TV image and we literally believe our eyes to be
like cameras. Say there is an all controlling God, with us his puppets
- without the objective view from outside which a camera brings, we do
not see our strings. Even so, even a slave master has some dim
awareness that even the most loyal of slaves has a soul of some kind,
even if it is of the most hidden sort.

Matthew
unglued
2004-01-03 13:57:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Post by magnulus
Post by unglued
Where exactly does he make such a convoluted statement ? The whole
point is whether or not the state should be allowed to use modern
technology to control individuals who are seen to be a threat. Neither
in the book or the film is any there any definate answer, it all boils
down to political wheeling and dealing as it usually does in real
life.
Listen to the prison preacher's little speach that he gives several times
about "good and evil" and "choice". It's pretty clear Anthony Burgess is
speaking through the preacher. Mystical mumbo-jumbo.
Two things. Yes, Burgess spoke thru the preacher but Kubrick satirizes
everyone in the movie. The movie does not share the book's moral
position. Kubrick opens up the debate much wider and poses moral
issues without resolving them. Perhaps it makes the movie somewhat
nihilistic and nasty but it also invites us to think for ourselves. In
the movie, the reverend is just as foolish or naive as the rest. His
position may be sound but Kubrick doesn't favor it over other
arguments.
Also, it's not mystical mumbojumbo but a clear exposition on the moral
dilemma at hand. Is there no soul? Is man merely a sum of his
conditioned reflexes? Is it enough merely to control his outward
behavior?
Let's say we can have such technology in future; is our moral sense
really nothing but a set of conditioned reflexes?
The technology exists in the form of media and the entertainment
industry, you can't claim that the culture people are immersed in from
birth doesn't profoundly influence their moral senses, in effect a
conditioning of reflexes. Propaganda, both intentional and
unintentional is an integral part of our cultural upbringing now
adays.
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Post by magnulus
A better film about dystopian mind control and beaurocracy would be George
Lucas' THX 1138, IMO. Clockwork Orange is just typical European art-house
egg-headedness.
Actually, THX is the more consciously arty film. A great movie but THX
deals with broad abstract themes. Clockwork Orange deals with nitty
gritty socio-political concerns in the modern hightech world.
THX is free at the end. In Clockwork Orange, there is no ultimate
escape from the crisis of humanity.
unglued
2004-01-03 10:17:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by magnulus
Post by unglued
Where exactly does he make such a convoluted statement ? The whole
point is whether or not the state should be allowed to use modern
technology to control individuals who are seen to be a threat. Neither
in the book or the film is any there any definate answer, it all boils
down to political wheeling and dealing as it usually does in real
life.
Listen to the prison preacher's little speach that he gives several times
about "good and evil" and "choice". It's pretty clear Anthony Burgess is
speaking through the preacher. Mystical mumbo-jumbo.
No, it's not clear that one should arbitrarily choose one veiw point
above any others as the authors viewpoint in this case. Especially if
you read the book.
Post by magnulus
Alex isn't merely a threat to society, or somebody who appears as a threat
to society. He's a convicted criminal. We aren't talking about stealing a
piece of candy from the store, and whether we should cut off all shoplifters
hands to deprive them of the choice. We're talking about a murderer and
rapist. Most people would haev no problems throwing the book at Alex for
that one.
A better film about dystopian mind control and beaurocracy would be George
Lucas' THX 1138, IMO. Clockwork Orange is just typical European art-house
egg-headedness.
Lisa Morgendunst
2004-01-03 04:41:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by magnulus
The old fallacy about duality... the soul vs. body... Burgess sees the
soul trapped inside a mind that's chained and restrained by conditioning, as
if such a thing as a soul could exist apart from a mind or body and have a
will of its own.
I think Burgess was saying people are capable of thought, reflection,
and moral choice. This is a certainty but there is always potential.
We are capable of being free or condemned to be free as Sartre once
said.
Post by magnulus
The big problem I have with Anthony Burgess/Clockwork Orange is his
incorrect portrayal of conditioning. In one scene, Alex is presented with
a naked woman . He reaches up and attempts to touch the woman's breasts, but
recoils at the last minute into a sickened fit. Truth be told, if he was
conditioned against violence and sex, he wouldn't even think about touching
the woman... he probably would have ran away from her. Likewise, he
wouldn't even have raised his fist against his parents in the "returning
home" scene, because the thought would not have crossed his mind.
This isn't true. A dog can be conditioned not to bark but his
repressed instincts still remain. All conditioning can do is put
controls and brakes on our behavior. Unless we can devise a highly
sophisticated device that thorougly alters our nature, there will
always remain an impulsive or natural part of us, which is why we
often feel things that we don't act on. We don't act on them because
we feel it's morally wrong but there is a deeper impulse that says do
it!
Post by magnulus
Now, we've discovered that classical conditioning does not work in all
cases of behavior correction, for some reason. It's not that the theories
are wrong per se, but what motivates people to act is far more complex than
Pavlov's dog. Most psychologists now days aknowledge that you cannot just
have a persons actions change, but there must also be a concurrent change of
thought patterns and values for a behavioral change to hold. Behavioral
oriented psychologists just insist that behavior can precede different
thoughts and beliefs, then the desire will go away in time), whereas
cognitivists insist that thoughts and beliefs must precede changing a
behavior. In practice, both approaches work equally well, perhaps because
with repitition both involve forcing different thoughts and behaviors, no
matter which is emphasized.
This is true but when Burgess wrote the book there was a fashionable
argument that freedom and even thought were all malarky. That we are
all like pigeons and that behavioral conditioning is the key. The
book may seem dated today because dogmatic behavioralism has been
discredited.
Anyway, if we are capable of changing, it will have to depend largely,
if not solely, on our ability to reflect, think, and make decisions
that we feel are right. I think Burgess was arguing along such lines.
He made the argument tougher by positing it as an extreme and
challenging scenario. How tempting to fall on easy technology if it
could easily solve moral problems by nullifying morality itself. If we
can completely disarm criminals when they return back to society, how
nice. I'll bet every victim of rapists feels that way. But, is it
right to take away a man's ability to even choose. It's one thing to
deem him dangerous and keep him locked up. But, is it justified to
change his ability to choose so that he can only choose good which is
actually not choice at all but programming. Is it okay for man to be
programmed like a robot?
Because Burgess was beaten up and his wife raped, there was a part of
him that wanted to say "YES"! The purpose of writing the book was to
explore and exorcise this vengeful thought and all-too-convenient
solution.
Thrawn
2004-01-07 04:54:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Because Burgess was beaten up and his wife raped, there was a part of
him that wanted to say "YES"! The purpose of writing the book was to
explore and exorcise this vengeful thought and all-too-convenient
solution.
It seems to me that everything you believe is wrong because none of
those things happened. You made them up, so you came up with all too
convenient answers to a hypothesis based on fiction.

1. Burgess was not beat up by thugs.
2. His wife was not raped.
3. He wrote the book because he was given a year to live.

Alex Thrawn
www.malcolmmcdowell.net
RattleRain
2004-01-07 10:52:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thrawn
Post by Lisa Morgendunst
Because Burgess was beaten up and his wife raped, there was a part of
him that wanted to say "YES"! The purpose of writing the book was to
explore and exorcise this vengeful thought and all-too-convenient
solution.
It seems to me that everything you believe is wrong because none of
those things happened. You made them up, so you came up with all too
convenient answers to a hypothesis based on fiction.
1. Burgess was not beat up by thugs.
2. His wife was not raped.
3. He wrote the book because he was given a year to live.
Alex Thrawn
www.malcolmmcdowell.net
Nothing was made up. I remember reading an interview with Burgess, why
Clockwork Orange is the least favorite of his novels and how it was an
attempt to exorcise his rage.
Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren
2004-01-05 20:05:13 UTC
Permalink
[Lisa Morgendunst]

| From my understanding, Burgess was a humanist who believed in freedom.
| He believed in something like a soul or moral consciousness. I guess
| this was a time when guys like B.F. Skinner and others were arguing
| that freedom was just a myth, that our behavior is just a matter of

others may have, but Skinner did not. Skinner believed that freedom is
real, but very expensive; and that societal engineering can be applied
to achieve the same feelings as freedom gives, but without the
expenses.
--
Rolf Lindgren http://www.roffe.com/
***@tag.uio.no
David Kirkpatrick
2004-01-06 17:31:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren
[Lisa Morgendunst]
| From my understanding, Burgess was a humanist who believed in freedom.
| He believed in something like a soul or moral consciousness. I guess
| this was a time when guys like B.F. Skinner and others were arguing
| that freedom was just a myth, that our behavior is just a matter of
others may have, but Skinner did not. Skinner believed that freedom is
real, but very expensive; and that societal engineering can be applied
to achieve the same feelings as freedom gives, but without the
expenses.
Lisa is more on the mark. Beyond Freedom and Dignity came out in 1971,
although perhaps too late to have any impact on the film's content.
Skinner argued that freedom (or "autonomous" man) was an illusion and
dignity a construct whereby an individual was credited or blamed for
behavior in proportion to how unexplicible it is in terms of
environmental factors. I think you'd have to do some fancy
hermaneutical dancing to argue that Skinner believed that freedom was
"real but..."

"Humanist" is a funny word. To a religious fundamentalist, Skinner must
seem like the ultimate "secular" humanist. But to most people who think
of themselves as humanists, he is the personification of the
anti-humanist, a kind of rationalistic technocrat. In a sense, he was
as humanistic as Voltaire and as anti-humanistic as the most vocal
critic of Rousseau. Or in 19th century terms, he was humanistic in the
way that Darwin or Robert Owen were but not in the way of any of the
Romantics.

Skinner was also an Empiricist as opposed to a Rationalist (although
BF&D was largely framed as a rationalist's critique of the
pre-rationalist). This is where the contrast between him and Chomsky is
most glaring, whereas there are ways in which they are both humanist and
both scientistic rather than humanistic.

One thing that Burgess and Kubrick seem to be suggesting is that while
behavioral engineering may be possible, the inevitable price of
replacing human evil with machine-like functionality will be to render
whoever is to be a machine into the tools and weapons of whoever might
wield those tools/weapons. It's like trying to suppress terrorists who
threaten democracy by means of creating a police state. Burgess'
perspective is somewhat more theological, Kubrick's more
anthropological, but they both come down on the side of human spirit
versus mechanism.

There seems to me something special about the Zietgeist-like timing of A
Clockwork Orange (the film) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner's
manifesto seems like the last gasp of a certain line of rationalistic
utopian thinking, while ACO is a dystopian vision that takes one's
breath away and knocks the wind out of the sails of the good ship psych
pop. Whether Kubrick is a Freudian or a Jungian, he certainly insists
that human depths cannot be skimmed over. Perhaps his most important
artistic decision in filming ACO was to put Beethoven's Ninth at its
heart, implicating both the tortured humanity of the composer himself
and the polymorphous lines of influence of the work itself -- this most
personal of symphonies which paradoxically also became the international
anthem of the U.N. and inspiration to German Nazis.

Of course, the behavioral engineering in ACO has more to do with Pavlov
(essentially the first behavioristic psychologist) than Skinner but no
behaviorist did more than Skinner when it came to trying to envelope the
total human context within a behavioristic worldview. It is ultimately
a superficial philosophy, but the roots of human longing to escape from
the dangers of humanity into the comforts of mechanism run deep. It is
easy to appreciate how fascism is dystopian, but to really understand it
we must also understand how it is utopian. It is the wish-fulfilment
qualities of ACO that made it so immediately repellent and yet so
resonant with truth.

I know I use versions of the word "resonate" a lot in my posts, but it
seems to me that this is what Kubrick's films do so well: echo themes
resoundingly, with reverberation. One thing that ACO resonates or
reverberates a lot with are the layers of Western history known as the
Renaissance and Reformation (and Counter-Reformation). And Skinner was
very much a modern remnant of these eras. On the one hand, an inventor
and explorer who, as if extending the vision of Copernicus and the
methods of Galileo, applies a telescope instead of a microscope to the
human psyche. On the other hand, a kind of Martin Luther-like (or
Thomas More-like) social reformer, although only via his alter-ego
Frazier. In Skinner's writings one finds a certain breadth of classical
learning, up to perhaps Locke, but probably no reference anywhere to
such thinkers as Vico, Hegel, Wittgenstein, McLuhan or Kuhn, just to
name five proto-modernist or modernist (or post-modernist, if you
prefer) thinkers who throw a monkey-wrench into the
rationalist-empiricist dichotomy. Whether or not Kubrick has read any
of these writers, his films show an intuitive awareness of the issues
with which they grappled. If any one word characterizes what unifies
these variations on a post-mechanical, humanistic worldview, that word
might be "ecological". The idea that changes in technology and culture
(whether conceived of as heroic stage, antithesis, extension of man,
language game or paradigm shift) are a kind of evolution-driving
mutation that grows out of a human ecology and has effects on the
ecology which are in some ways catastrophic and unpredictable by
mechanistic or non-organic ways of thought. This way of looking at
things is one way to define what can be meant by "humanism". It is the
idea that the nature of humanity has its own effects on humanity's
destiny, not reducible to either laws of biology, chemistry, physics or
for that matter God. Often people associate "humanistic" with optimism
or romanticism, but it would be truer to connect it with existentialism,
which can be as bleak, life-affirming or Zen-like in its neutrality as
one wishes. What really defines this kind of "humanism" is not what it
is for or against, but the kinds of structures which it permits us to
use to imagine and conceptualize the world. There is nothing utopian
about an ecological point of view; it is a dizzingly rich and dirty
perspective full of tragedy tinged with hope and concern for the future.

It seems to me that Kubrick films invite us to view situations both from
a humanistic or ecological point of view or from an earlier, more
reductionistic, mechanical or utopian one. A pre-humanistic perspective
(e.g. the plan for a heist in The Killing)is juxtaposed with a
post-mechanical perspective (e.g. its catastrophic unfolding). There is
also the juxtaposition of the two-dimensional caricature with the
three-dimensional mise-en-scene. The comedy of the contrived and the
tragedy of the all-too-real. In ACO, the Walter Carlos production may
be cartoonlike, but the Beethoven is still real. The viewer is tripped
up and grounded at the same time.

David Kirkpatrick
Rolf Marvin Bøe Lindgren
2004-01-07 21:25:42 UTC
Permalink
[David Kirkpatrick]

| Skinner argued that freedom (or "autonomous" man) was an illusion and
| dignity a construct whereby an individual was credited or blamed for
| behavior in proportion to how unexplicible it is in terms of
| environmental factors. I think you'd have to do some fancy
| hermaneutical dancing to argue that Skinner believed that freedom was
| "real but..."

I think perhaps you're confusing several applications of the term
<freedom.» I was thinking of freedom in the sense of «having options
to choose between.» You are probably thinking of freedom in the sense
of free will, or autonomy. Skinner most certainly did not believe in
free will.

people feel free when they have options, or more precisely, when the
same operants have many possible reinforcers. this freedom is real (how
can it not be), but in order to achieve this freedom, we use up natural
resources, or commit acts that are immoral, illegal, or we become fat.
moreover, given the absence of free will, it is mighty difficult to do
anything about our pursuit of variation of reinforcers.

Skinner, then, suggests a society in which resources are organized so
as to achieve the feeling of free will in an economical way, sort of a
precursor to sustainable growth :)

apart from that, I think Skinner is the one who gets down to the core
of what actually causes human behavior and is therefore much more
«deep» than the depth psychologists, who never did anything but to
scratch the surface - they did use some mighty deep words in describing
the surface.
--
Rolf Lindgren http://www.roffe.com/
***@tag.uio.no
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