Matthew Becklo writes that Westworld is a metaphor. It’s a metaphor relating to the show’s tagline/ambition to tell a story about “the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” Becklo suggests this boils down to a lesson “about the swiftness with which we develop human-like objects, but also about the inhumanity with which we objectify each other.” I’m continuing to watch Westworld for now, and Becklo’s piece does a good job conveying why there might be more meat on its bones than it looked like at first.
In his piece Becklo cites Edward Feser’s thinking on intentionality:
“The term ‘intentionality’ derives from the Latin intendere, which means ‘to point (at)’ or ‘to aim (at)’ – hence the use of the term to signify the capacity of a mental state to ‘point at,’ or to be about, or to mean, stand for, or represent, something beyond itself. (It is important to note that intentions, for example, your intention to read this chapter, are only one manifestation of intentionality; your belief that you are reading a book, your desire to read it, your perception of the book, and so forth, exhibit intentionality just as much as your intention does.) The concept was of great interest to the medieval philosophers but Franz Brentano (1838 -1917) is the thinker most responsible for putting it at the forefront of contemporary philosophical discussion. Brentano is also famous for regarding intentionality as the ‘mark of the mental’ – the one essential feature of all mental phenomena – and for holding that their possessing intentionality makes mental phenomena ultimately irreducible to, and inexplicable in terms of, physical phenomena.”
A few years ago I sat with Michael Novak in Ave Maria, Florida where his wife’s “Archer” print hangs on the wall across the dinner table. We got to talking about the Archer and what he means in Aristotle’s thinking. To paraphrase Novak, the Archer is aiming for a distant target (maybe the Greek’s eudaimonia) and has to act with intention, precision, sensitivity, and focus in light of his own nature in order to succeed in hitting the target—or at least coming close. Living a good life takes intention and work, in other words. I have The Archer because of how much I want to think on this.
In The Archer and Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean, Glen Koehn writes that the Archer conveys “that moral virtues lie in a middle region between pairs of opposing vices.” While Koehn’s academic paper deals with different types of thinking on the questions the Archer raises, Novak’s point is simpler: the slightest change in stance or taughtness of the bowstring or change in the wind can throw the Archer from his target. The seemingly smallest thing can result not just in slightly missing the target, but in fact wildly missing it because of the dynamic nature of things.
At a higher level, the Archer points to what Feser writes about intentionality—about the capacity of the mind to “point at” something “beyond itself.” The Archer’s attempt to hit a distant target is its own proof for the world beyond the ego.