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Wotton’s Society

Wotton’s Society:
Secretaries’ Meeting (Family Guy; Terrorism)

What, if anything, do the dysfunctional fictional characters of the television series Family Guy and international terrorism have in common? It wasn’t the aim of the two secretaries of Wotton’s to give papers on the same topic but by happy chance both touched on the inner and outer aspects of political life.

Alex MacKeith’s excellent paper ‘Family Guy and philosophy: are there any good guys?’ took the various characters of the cartoon series and considered to what extent they exhibited any of Aristotle’s traits in practical reasoning which would give them the accolade ‘good guy’. At first glance it seemed that none of the characters could ever manage more than the vices of excessive sexual incontinence, perpetual failure to hold down a job, or even in the case of Stewie  - the youngest child of the family but with the thoughts of an adult – the intellectual incapacity to exercise phronesis in order to kill his mother or achieve world domination. Yet, despite these failures, Good Guy poses some interesting questions about how we are to judge just what it means to live a good life. If the characters are working hard to realise their natural capacities – even if these capacities appear very odd, even perverted, from the outside – then the vice/virtue distinction becomes very hard to distinguish: one person’s virtue is another person’s vice. However Alex concluded that there are no good guys in Family Guy – except Stewie whose childish intellect means he cannot be expected to behave maturely just yet.

Cristo Liautaud’s erudite paper ‘Tolerating terrorism: trying to justify civilian violence’ considered the moral justification of terrorism in the world of international politics. Unlike the provincial world of Family Guy, the global village means that acts of terrorism are no longer isolated events but can have global effects in the way we view ourselves and the impact this can have on international policies. Could terrorism achieve great ends through comparatively small acts of violence? Terrorist acts can be used to reinforce rights and perhaps express outrage against the infringement of international law. Yet, despite the attractiveness of these justifications, Cristo concluded that terrorism (much like the use of torture) is morally reprehensible. Terrorism functions because it deliberately does not distinguish between innocent and non-innocent lives and thereby establishes a most dangerous precedent. If permitted, it would be a slippery slope to anarchy and the loss of fundamental human values.




DATE POSTED: 11 March 2010

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