Exploring the Cartesian Metaphysics of The Conjuring Universe.

Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring (directed by James Wan)

The Conjuring world is one filled with ghosts, demons, ominous hand clappings, and violent possessions. It is a panorama in which the physical world of the everyday is permeated by the invisible world of minds and beings that normally elude the senses. The horror franchise spawned by director James Wan’s 2013 film, The Conjuring, is chock full of things that go bump in the night. It is also a full-blown metaphysical world bequeathed to us by the great philosopher Rene Descartes.

Early in The Conjuring, one of the characters outlines the basic…


Parasite/ Bong Joon-ho

Parasite is a profound, sometimes shocking, meditation on class, capitalism, and family. It is also a beautifully rendered portrait of the tragedy of bad moral luck.

Moral luck is a philosophical concept that acknowledges the incongruity between several deep-rooted moral intuitions. One intuition is that I can, and should, be morally assessed for the choices I make. This means that there are certain factors under my control and that I am responsible for the handling of these factors. I chose an action and could reasonably have chosen a different action. I had legitimate and reasonable choices open to me. I…


Russian Doll: Netflix (Pictured: Charlie Barnett and Natasha Lyonne)

Leslye Headland’s Netflix escapade, Russian Doll, is a darkly surreal adventure in which the main protagonist(s) die over and over again. The plot unfolds as a narrative puzzle, spinning its web to ensnare its characters inside the day of their own deaths. They die only to be born again a few hours earlier. The characters are desperate to see if there is any way out of this frightening, recurrent death cycle. Spoiler: there is. While much fictional (and even non-fictional) art concerned with exploring death leans hard toward introspective solipsism, Russian Doll evokes a universe in which death is a…


The Good Place/NBC

For fans of The Good Place, especially those who either teach philosophy or who enjoy the geeky pleasures of reading obscure philosophical works, the brainy Chidi Anagonye is a sitcom hero made in philosophical heaven. From the first season of The Good Place onward, philosophy nerds had one pressing question, namely what shining gems of intellectual achievement are contained in Chidi’s philosophical magnum opus titled (deep breath): Who We Are and Who We Are Not: Practical Ethics and their Application in the Modern World: Moral Reasoning and the Human Paradox of Self-Preservation in Relationship to the Social Contract; a Treatise…


The Platform/Netflix

The Spanish film, The Platform (2019, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia) is a political allegory, which is to say, it is a philosophical thought experiment dramatized. Philosophy has long adopted the thought experiment as a means of getting to an essential idea by stripping away the superfluous. It is not meant to be taken literally. The famed trolley problem thought experiment in which the participant is asked if they would be willing to sacrifice one in order to save five is not designed in order to highlight the mechanics of trolleys and the likelihood of faulty brakes, rather it is designed…


THE GOOD PLACE | Photos: Universal Television

The Good Place poses a central moral question: can people become “good” simply by trying hard enough? In addition to exploring differing answers to this question, the show adds its own moral imperative, namely, that whether or not we can become good people, part of our obligation to one another entails that we at least try. One of the philosophical and ethical touchstones in the entire series takes its lead from Tim Scanlon’s book, What We Owe to Each Other (published in 1998). Note that this book is not titled, Do We Owe Each Other?, rather it is taken as…


Photo by Ian Roseboro

Everyone believes they are a good person, or at the very least, everyone wants to believe they are a good person, and Buffy is no exception. Buffy strives for moral goodness and many of the conflicts at the heart of Buffy the Vampire Slayer concern ethical dilemmas and the choices that must be made in order to preserve one’s ethical integrity. In this moral landscape, Buffy embodies the Aristotelian moral agent in pursuit of a virtuous life.

Aristotle’s ethical framework is called “virtue ethics.” Virtue ethics is a system whereby moral actions are pursued with the overall intention of creating…


The world needs a new kind of hero right now. We need someone who has flaws, understands trauma, realizes that no matter how bad things might be, they can always get a little worse, or even a lot worse. We need someone who is comfortable with death; someone who doesn’t deny death or glorify it, but who also won’t turn away when faced with its likely prospect. We need a pessimist who is not defeated, someone who has given up on hope but still brushes her teeth in the morning. Someone diminutive, even fragile, but who can also kick some…


Is philosophy useful? I mean, in a practical, roll up your sleeves and “let’s get this job done” kind of way? Does it have any utility in the straightforward sense that learning it helps you accomplish a specific task in the world? What can we do with philosophy other than read it and contemplate it? Further, if it does have any practical value in a general sense, can we wield it in today’s moment of anxiety and fear? I am a philosophy professor and I am here to tell you, quite simply, that philosophy is utterly useless.

As an academic…

Marni Pickens

Philosophy Lecturer at Regis University, Contemplator of Pop Culture, Player of the Bass.

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