Werner Herzog’s ‘Into the Abyss’

Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of why people – and the state – kill (IMDB).

In class we talked about Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss. The discussion questions are below if you click on the image.

into the abyss

For your review it would be great if you engage with the big questions the film poses rather than just critique the methods/techniques used in its production. In your answer you might like to include:

  • Your opinion(s) about the legitimacy of capital punishment
  • Your reasons for it
  • Some arguments and points made by different philosophers (especially Bentham and Kant)
  • Some mention of the case of Carla Faye that Captain Allan mentions
  • Some religious view points
  • A detailed and reasoned explanation as to which opinions you agree/disagree with and exactly why

The following might help:

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Joint H Philosophy Class 23 Sept 10

The Philosophy Bites podcast is available to download here

Answer the following questions in your notes. Leave space for corrections.

1 What are the two components of Utilitarianism described here?
2 What does hedonistic mean (look this up, a precise definition is important)?
3 How does Bentham understand happiness & unhappiness? Where does Roger Crisp suggest this idea comes from?
4 How did Bentham calculate pleasure?
5 What does RC say is different about Mill and how does this affect his philosophy? Mention Wordsworth.
6 Try and come up with a contemporary analogy to replace Socrates and the pig.
i. What is this analogy a reaction against in Mill?
ii. Think carefully about the notion Mill is suggesting. Do you agree? Give (real life) reasons.
7 What are Higher and Lower Order Pleasures? What’s the difference?
8 Do you agree with NW that human sexual pleasures should be classed as lower order? Keywords: rape, kissing, procreation, animal +.
9 Is Mill still a hedonist?
10 Think about what is meant by the phrase ‘partiality to the self’. Can you think of any traditions you have studied previously that this sits particularly well with/sits is direct contrasts to?
11 Why is utilitarianism so hard to criticise?
12 How does Peter Singer develop the utilitarian principle? Find out a little about him (when, what, where etc.).