Is There Rightness In Vigilantism Or Not?

I watched Martin Scorsese’s film, “Taxi Driver”, again the other night and I was reminded of the arguments surrounding justice and vigilantism.

Lets define the terms:

Justice—just treatment and moral rightness.

Vigilantism—taking the law into one’s own hands and attempting to effect justice according to one’s own understanding of right and wrong.

The taxi driver, Travis Bickle(Robert De Niro), cruises the city by night and sees all the scum on the streets(prostitution, drug use, criminals). He would like a heavy rain to wash it away.

Travis is a lonely man and he’s looking for someone to be with. By his voice-over thoughts, we don’t know whether Travis is entirely sane. He feels somebody has to do something about the scum but it seems nobody is doing anything, so he has to take responsibility.

He meets Betsy, a pretty woman who works for a politician. He dates her but she rejects him and this unhinges Travis and he plans to assassinate the politician against all logic, but he doesn’t go through with it.

Then he meets Iris, a young prostitute, who is trapped in between her pimp and his boss. She says there is no way out.

Travis sees the police can’t be counted on to help her and she certainly can’t help herself. So, it is okay, in his mind, to help her out of the criminal’s clutches. He didn’t kill the politician, which would have been insane, but rescuing Iris is justice in Travis’ mind.

Is Travis going to do the right thing by killing the criminals? The law isn’t doing the job so, he thinks: “We the people must take charge.” He is the people.

After freeing Iris, by killing the pimp, the room keeper and the big boss, he tries to kill himself, but runs out of amo.

So, what can we conclude about vigilantism?

It has been said that in a civilized society people give up the right to private revenge, they give that right to the government for purposes of objectivity. So, citizens can’t go out of their way to enact revenge.

One of the problems is that law enforcers are NOT held in high esteem today. Why?

People see criminals getting off lightly in the courts and consequently they don’t feel justice is done. So, is there any rightness to vigilantism?

Well, I guess in the end the world has always acted on the principle that one good kick deserves another!




Can Egoism and Friendship Exist Together?

After watching Martin Scorsese’s film, “Casino”, the question of egoism popped into my mind. Can egoism live beside friendship?

Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), manages the Tangiers, a casino owned by the mob in Las Vegas. His “friend”, Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), exploits their friendship for his own enrichment. He is the maximum egoist in the film. Egoism is the view that a person’s self-interest is of paramount value in their life.

Nicky says Ace is his friend, but is there such a thing as egoist friendship? They are conflicting terms.

Nicky has a special relationship with Ace, sort of enforcer bodyguard, but is it a friendship? A selfish person can wish another well, but really selfishness and egoism are incompatible.

The philosophy of egoism states that people are motivated by their own interests and desires. Altruism is the opposite of egoism.

Questions arise:

Can an individual ever act only with regard to their own interests, completely disregarding the interests of others?

Can an individual ever act only for others without thinking of their own interests?

The theory is: that people ALWAYS act in their own interests, even though they might disguise their motivation saying that they are helping others, but their altruism is still self-serving.

My opinion is that a person should pursue their own interests as long as it doesn’t hurt others.

There are different degrees of friendship. Even an egoist can wish another well and can be very attached in a relationship, but real caring for others is incompatible with egoism.

In Casino, Nicky always asks himself:

“What’s in it for me?”

His priority is making sure his life goes well. So, an egoist would take advantage of a “friend” when it is in his self-interest.

Nicky believes in maximizing egoism, which means to promote his good to any extent, even to the determent of Ace. In the film, Nicky’s extreme egoism leads him to a horrible end.

But, there is such a thing as satisficing egoism. Some people reject maximizing egoism and take up satisficing egoism instead, which means to pursue a course of action that satisfies their minimum requirements to achieve a goal. Now, this would leave room for friendship. In other words, to make sure your life goes good enough but falling short of the BEST possible life.

This discussion has reminded me of the quip:

Some of us veer to the left and some of us swing to the right, but MOST of us are SELF-CENTERED!





The Minds Of Others

After reading “Othello”, I was amazed how Iago, Othello’s “friend” and ensign, dupes everyone in the play, particularly Othello. Nobody knows what is going on in Iago’s mind. They think he is honest and trustworthy. But, he is a master of linguistic manipulation, in other words, he speaks falsely but people think he speaks the truth. Iago is Shakespeare’s ultimate villain. He is a liar who delights in inflicting pain and suffering on others through his deception.

All this brought to my mind the philosophical problem of our supposed knowledge of other people’s minds. We tend to make inferences about what other people are thinking, but these inferences are fallible. This makes us skeptical of what people say. What’s behind their eyes?

You can observe what a person says and does but you have to guess what’s really going on in their head. The other person’s mind is hidden from you, only the person themself know what’s going on in their mind.

I look at another person and they seem to me as opaque, not transparent, their mind is out of my view. I also know my mind is hidden from them. It’s a funny feeling, at times, knowing that the other person doesn’t know me, just like I don’t know them.

So, the gulf between my outer self and inner self opens up possibilities of concealment that I can exploit if I want to. I remember when I was a kid and I realized my thoughts were not knowable to others and I could misrepresent what was in my mind, a whole new moral world opened up.

The element of trust is wrapped up in this concealment of the mind from others. I have to take your words at face value and when I do this I place my trust in you. But, when you deceive me, that trust is destroyed.

So, when we interact with others we are constantly asking ourselves: “Is this the “real person” or are they deceiving me?” It’s frustrating that other people’s real thoughts are hidden from us.

This reminds me of the quip: The fellow who says he has an OPEN mind may only have a VACANT one.

Hamlet’s Character Is Part Of Us All

I always wanted to read Hamlet but never got around to it until I was a month away from my 78th birthday. I became interested in Philosophy in my retirement and Shakespeare’s plays are chock full of Philosophy.

To start, lets have a quick synopsis of Hamlet:

Prince Hamlet attends his father’s funeral. His father was King of Denmark. His mother, Gertrude, is remarried to Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, brother to the King.

Hamlet is depressed and angry when he encounters the King’s ghost, who tells him Claudius has killed him, he wants revenge, so does Hamlet.

For a while he fakes madness to observe the goings on in the castle. Hamlet wants to kill Claudius but he thinks: “Conscience makes cowards of us all.”

He worries about death, but he realizes we all have to face up to it.

Then the deaths start:

Hamlet gets rid of Polonius, who is counselor to Claudius and father to Ophelia, Hamlet’s beloved. But Ophelia is bereaved over her father’s death. She eventually drowns.

Laertes, son of Polonius and brother to Ophelia, vows to punish Hamlet for his family’s deaths. Laertes and Hamlet fight, but Laertes has a poisoned sword. Hamlet kills Laertes but has been cut by the sword, so he will soon die.

Claudius, meanwhile, wants to kill Hamlet with a poisoned drink, which the Queen drinks making a toast. The Queen dies.

Finally, Hamlet stabs Claudius, so that does Claudius in. Before Hamlet dies, he declares the throne should go to Fortinbras, a Prince of Norway. He, also, wants Horatio, his loyal friend, to tell his story to the world.

The end of a great story with lots of words spoken by the main character.


So, back to the title of this blog: We are all like Hamlet in many ways. That’ right, we are! Hamlet thinks like an existentialist. He wants to know: “Who am I?” Don’t we all? Also, “To Be or Not To Be?” This question haunts all of us. Why do we exist?

We all have thought: “Should we accept out troubles in silence, or should we act to overcome them?” Hamlet feels the absurdity of life and thinks whether death is preferable to life. He delays his actions. Don’t we all procrastinate?

Hamlet questions the meaning and purpose of life. Who among us doesn’t doubt our motives? He, also, has and uses many masks, don’t we all?

Hamlet demonstrates the mechanisms of human thought. His state of mind affects his decisions. So does ours. He procrastinates, so do we. He seeks revenge. I’m sure all of us, at sometime or other, have thought about revenge.

Hamlet seeks meaning in life. So do all of us. But, I’m afraid it’s your responsibility to make your own meaning in your life.

Hamlet is angry and starts to collapse. All of these things are part of being human. This is why Hamlet is us, when you come to think about it.

“I think therefore I am.” Who said that? Not Shakespeare or Hamlet?


Isn’t Shakespeare’s Hamlet wonderful?

Words, words, words. Hamlet loves words, he is all about words, his soliloquizing is world famous. Words are his forte, just like a writer. Give me the words and I will write a story.