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Matthew Becklo

About

Matthew Becklo is a husband and father-to-be, amateur philosopher, and cultural commentator at Aleteia and Word on Fire. His writing has been featured in First Things, The Dish, and Real Clear Religion.

   
 

The Philosophical Landscape of “Westworld”

At the halfway point of HBO’s unsettling new series Westworld – a J.J. Abrams reboot of the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton – some big plot questions remain. Is William a younger Man in Black? Is Bernard really a host? And what’s this maze all about? The premise of the show is (relatively) straightforward: In the distant future, scientists and businessmen collaborate to create a vast amusement park in the style of the Old West, populating it with artificially intelligent... Read More

The Alien Nation of “Fargo”

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Filed under Culture

Right before becoming hypnotized by a UFO in the middle of the road – a fatal error which puts him halfway through “self-actualizing” hairdresser Peggy Blumquist’s windshield – Rye Gerhardt, the youngest son of a North Dakota crime family, corners a judge in a waffle hut in a fledgling attempt at extortion. Before Gerhardt resorts to shooting everyone in sight, the judge sighs and explains why he’s wasting his time: “One day, the Devil came to God and said, ‘Let's make a bet between... Read More

The Existential Classic Behind Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man”

Irrational Man, the 45th film from the prolific Woody Allen, starts Joaquin Phoenix as Abe Lucas, a philosophy professor in a small town undergoing an “existential crisis.” You suffer from despair,” Emma Stone (who plays one of his students) tells him – and it appears she’s right. The professor has a drinking problem, suffers from “dizziness and anxiety,” and is tormented by a quest to commit a “meaningful act.” Early reviews suggest that Irrational Man will go the way of Crimes... Read More

Sacrifice and the Sacred

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Filed under Jesus

I once saw a startling exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin titled “Kingship and Sacrifice.” On display were two “bog bodies” – “Clonycavan Man” and “Old Croghan Man” – which, because of the chemical composition of the bogs in Ireland, were preserved in fairly recognizable shape for over 2300 years. Scientists and historians were able to extract a surprising amount of information from these bodies. The Irish Examiner explains: "Both men had been subjected to... Read More

Dressgate: Is Perception Reality?

Philosophers are a maligned group these days. Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example, suggested that the paradigmatic philosophical question is not “Why is there something rather than nothing?” but “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” (Cute idea, in other words, but let’s not waste our time.) So when the internet exploded into a full-blown panic over whether a dress was white and gold or black and blue, I know philosophers everywhere slept well that night. No one knew, because everyone... Read More

Exorcising Epistemology

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Filed under Belief

Two fantastic articles at Strange Notions in recent weeks have turned from the question of God to the question of the human self. In “Atheism and the Personal Pronoun,” Patrick Schultz explores what he calls a “doorstop” argument for the soul: under materialist atheism, we are mindless machines, but given that every one of us is inescapably a subjective “I,” materialist atheism looks false. In “Exorcizing the Ghost from the Machine,” Matthew Newland counters this argument by looking... Read More

The Dying of the Brights

“We have to make this planet as good as we possibly can and try to leave it a better place than we found it.” The crowd, gathered to hear Richard Dawkins debate the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, responds to the trite apothegm with unsurprising applause. But off-stage, after the cameras are turned off, the proverbial devil of the details rears his ugly head. A weary Dawkins—one almost gets the sense that he’d rather not talk to anybody at all—kneels besides a disabled... Read More

The Human Strain

In his dark 1977 novel Lancelot, novelist Walker Percy brings us into the walls of a mental institution to hear a man named Lancelot tell his life story, a tale of empty commercialism, salacious self-destruction, and one murderous act of vengeance. Now confined by the four walls of an asylum, he confides in his old friend, a priest and psychiatrist, about the “quest” that led him there and the truth of the world outside: “In times like these when everyone is wonderful, what is needed is a... Read More

Pascal in “The Rum Diary”

The Rum Diary is a rollicking farce based on Hunter S. Thompson's novel of the same name written in the early 1960s. It focuses on a young American journalist named Paul Kemp who ventures into sweaty, inebriated San Juan, Puerto Rico to write for an ill-fated newspaper, and stumbles into the middle of a major land acquisition deal.Thompson said that his "long lost" novel (which wasn't published until 1998) had "a romantic notion," and that it was simply "a good story." I haven't read the book,... Read More

The Argument from Johnny Cash

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Filed under Music

Johnny Cash

Recently, for my Mom’s 60th birthday, I put together a tribute video complete with creased photographs, old music, and clips of my brothers recounting a favorite memory of her—mostly revolving around her cooking or buying the four of us food. As part of the tribute, I asked my Dad to summarize their forty years of marriage together in a minute-long clip—a Herculean task that he met with such calmness and profundity that I knew instantly it would be the grand finale. I also knew this... Read More

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