Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blog #1, Prompt #2

Patrick Kilduff

When reading this novel, a couple of key points jump into one’s head about the overall theme/themes of this book. Yes, it is evident there is plenty of technology present in this book, the prevalent technology being Victor’s reanimation of a dead being. But what fascinates me the most is not the downfall that the technologies bring, but the moral and ethical decisions that technology creates, creating a potential ultimatum between downfall and expansion.

Before going into some of these decisions/choices Victor makes, what could potentially baffle the reader throughout the story is Victor’s philosophical background. We learn of his studious personality and his yearn for knowledge right from the onset of his story, and how at a young age he was fascinated by theory. He continued his studies throughout his academic career, moving on from single philosophers and theory to newer, more foreign philosophies to him, such as Chemistry or Mathematics. With all of his knowledge and perspective of life and knowledge, did ethics ever cross his mind? Even when caught up in the passion of success and understanding, is there a line that was crossed?

The first and most prevalent ethical decision we see is Victor’s creation of the “monster”. Using the limbs and bones of deceased humans, he creates a being that is so fantastic, yet so horrific at the same time. When looking for the pieces of his creation, did it ever occur to him that maybe he was taking it a little over the edge? What would a person on the outside say to him if they saw what he had done, and with which materials he had done it with? Although his intentions might have been for the good of science and his own personal gain, we can see that the lengths he took this project to were way too extreme.

A second ethical decision we come across in this novel is Victor’s silence during the trial of Justine. Overcome with grief and sickness throughout the entire trial, while being unable to speak to Justine in the prison, shows another poor ethical decision on Victor’s part. He knew once his first encounter with his creation occurred that it was the culprit of the murder, not a long time family friend. But he was and remained silent, maybe not because he wanted to see the downfall of a friend, but how much of a raving lunatic he would have sounded like explaining to the townspeople that a monstrosity is running amuck, killing innocent boys. Nonetheless, a person was wrongly accused and ultimately executed for Victor’s silence.

A final ethical decision that we see in this story is Victor’s contemplation of suicide multiple times. Overcome with grief, Victor was scared, alone, and alienated for a good portion of this novel. Maybe it was the ravings of a madman, being struck with fever multiple times in the process. Regardless of the conditions, suicide is never the option, and if it took him to those lengths, something is just not right.

On page 109, Victor talks about the duties of the creator. One sees that to be very fitting when talking about technology being a beneficiary to human propulsion into the future. It is taking responsibility for ones actions, for good or for ill. We can see throughout the history of mankind and the decisions that we make concerning technology, although some fantastic, it can have devastating consequences, ultimately violate one’s ethical basis, and could potentially bring the end of humanity.

One instance that sticks out the most to me is the creation of the atomic bomb during World War 2, and its usage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Millions of people, most innocent, killed in the blink of an eye. Did it help us win the war? Absolutely it did, giving us the intimidation factor to last for a long time. But, we can see now that it is a threat to society as well as the world. Think about the Cuban Missile Crisis and how close we were to nuclear war with Russia. It was too close for comfort, and if an instance like that ever occurs in the future, do not think for a second that we world will be too forgiving to stop.

So yes, technology is wonderful, making everyday tasks seem like a breeze, but at the same time, there is always the threat of danger, lurking in the shadows. One push of a button, one strain of a disease, can end humanity in a heartbeat, all derived from technology. But as I stated, it is all about the ethical choices that we make. Victor made his choices, and he received the full consequences of them, some good, most bad. The future holds so much for us as a species to grow intellectually, but some of our choices could ultimately end us, if not made with a clear mind and a sound heart.


Amy Friedenberger said...

This draft has a lot of good ideas and things to think about for your revision. It seems to me that you went for the first relationship in the prompt between Shelley and Joy. I like that you chose examples and extrapolated from them. I think it would be more effective for you to analyze them more as opposed to posing hypothetical questions. If you’re going to take the ethics root, spend some time defining ethics. When you stop and think about it, “ethics” is something that really does go beyond choosing between what’s right and what’s wrong. But the definition and discussion is for you to decide. Who decides what is the appropriate ethics? Then you can apply your analysis of that more into your discussion of the creation of Frankenstein’s monster and the creation of the nuclear bomb. How does rationality play a role in ethics and does technology make us change our definition or are we going against ethics? Also, I would consider eliminating the paragraph about the suicide attempt and include something more relevant to how ethics play a role in technology, simply because that is something strictly opinionated with no evidence, and it doesn’t relate to the focus you’re writing about. Overall, this is an interesting discussion into the way ethics plays a role – or doesn’t play a role – in technology. An additional source you may consider would be some transcripts or documents from the Manhattan Project, which I’m sure there are a slew of in Hillman Library.

Adam said...

I liked all of Amy's comments, and agree with them. I want to especially draw attention to her point that you rely on hypothetical questions which are not rooted in a clear understanding of what kind of ethical rules Frankenstein is following, or could be following.

He claims, of course, that he wants to benefit mankind (as Walton does, as well). The details of this claim/belief are well worth looking into, and would help you get away from the hypothetical, and toward the precise.

To put it another way: to address ethics coherently, you ought, ideally, to have a sense of what Victor's ethical views *are*, and what they *should* be, whether from your own viewpoint, or some other viewpoint (perhaps the "mainstream" understanding of morality from his own time).

No reader, then or now, is likely to think that everything that Victor does is fine. That doesn't mean, though, that we can just go by our feelings - you need to articulate a moral *argument*, perhaps, as Amy implies, one rooted in Joy.