Wednesday, July 25, 2012


From Nate Winchester comes this silly MLP:FiM birthday game. I mean, obviously the results don't mean anything. The game, for example, pits Nate in an Iron Pony competition against Big Macintosh that Big Mac would most assuredly win. Ridiculous! As for me, it seems I'm best friends with Applejack...wait a minute! I think this game is trying to tell me something, considering my next post on MLP Virtue Ethics happens to be on AJ and Honesty/Lying, oh, and I also think AJ is one of my favorites among the Main Six (behind Fluttershy and obviously Derpy). Now we just need to find out if DGD was born on the first day of any month (except maybe August)!

Yehaaw! Ya'll hear that? Me and AJ are P.F.F. (Pony Friends Forever!)

[Update: DGD bakes cupcakes with Discord!]

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gilson on Aquinas on Accepting Truth Humbly

While so many men were trying to base philosophy on theological foundations, a very simple and modest man was putting everything in its place. His name was Thomas Aquinas, and he was saying things so obviously true that, from his time down to our own day, very few people have been sufficiently self-forgetful to accept them. There is an ethical problem at the root of our philosophical difficulties; for men are most anxious to find truth, but very reluctant to accept it. We do not like to be cornered by rational evidence, and even when truth is there, in its impersonal and commanding objectivity, our greatest difficulty still remains; it is for me to bow to it in spite of the fact that it is not exclusively mine, for you to accept it though it cannot be exclusively yours. In short, finding out truth is not so hard; what is hard is not to run away from truth once we have found it. When it is not a "yes but," our "yes" is often enough a "yes, and..."; it applies much less to what we have just been told than to we are about to say. The greatest among philosophers are those who do not flinch in the presence of truth, but welcome it with the simple words: yes, Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the latter, clear-sighted enough to know truth when he saw it, humble enough to bow to it in its presence. -- Etienne Gilson, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, 49

Other recommended reading on Aquinas:

-G.K. Chesterton, St Thomas Aquinas (free online version)

-Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (Brandon: "Still the best introduction to Aquinas you can get your hands on.")

-Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Ed Feser: "Probably the best single volume in print for anyone looking for an overview of the whole range of Aquinas’s philosophical and theological thinking.")

-Edward Feser, Aquinas

For peeping Thomists like me who've just discovered the Angelic Doctor, a good place to start is:

Timothy Mcdermott, ed., Summa Theologiae: The Concise Translation

Ralph McInerny, ed, Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings

For the full Summa, there are a few choices: hardback/paperback, Kindle, and online.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

MLP: FiM Season 3 Preview: The Crystal Ponies

It recently came to my attention, glancing at the Derpy Hooves Facebook fan page, that a sneak preview of the third season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic surfaced at Comic-Con last week in San Diego. As far as I can make out, Princess Cadence will have a big role. But what will become of Princess Luna and the beloved fan-favorite Derpy Hooves? We will see...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fluttershy and the Virtue of Friendliness: Part 2

                     Friendship Report: Aristotle and Aquinas on Friendliness or Amiability

Well, I did like this episode. It’s a bit fun to see Fluttershy acting out of character. However, what I find more interesting is that “Putting Your Hoof Down” is a kind of a moral lesson on the virtue of friendliness or amiability, as identified by the two prominent virtue ethicists Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Aristotle, Aquinas, and some guy named Plato

Before I get to the specific virtue, allow me some words on virtues in general. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that:

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

Summarized roughly, the virtues are dispositions towards doing the good, for morally right actions. A disposition (or habitus in Latin) is a firmness or stability in doing something, as opposed to random behavior – “A virtue is a habitus that is always for good” as Aquinas says (ST 2-1.55.4). Therefore, somepony who exemplifies the virtue of honesty, like Applejack, is disposed towards telling the truth, instead of just sporadic truthfulness some of the time. (We can get into the further issue of the consistency of AJ’s honesty in the series but that’s another post for another day, not to mention it'll lead us back to that whole debate on the Catholic blogosphere a year ago on the definition of lying and whether lying is always wrong, which I think is the case.)

AJ, be honest, have you told any lies lately?

As virtues dispose us towards the good, their opposites, vices, dispose us towards the bad. More specifically, while virtues perfect our powers of the soul (the rational soul in us humans), as Aquinas notes (ST 2-1.55.4), vices work against the perfection of our powers.

Cultivating virtues is then just like learning to ride a bike, you practice and practice until the action becomes easy to do, or second nature.

Two further points, though. First, it is important that the Latin term habitus used by Aquinas translates as “disposition” rather than “habit,” as a disposition, while firm once acquired, is still voluntary, that is, we freely chose to exercise the action. Second, both Aristotle and Aquinas see the good as the fulfilling of the end of something (my buddy DGD mentions “final causality” in connection to MLP-related matters here). In the case of humans, rational animals in Aristotle’s definition, the good for us is the perfection or fulfilling of our rational nature; the virtues help us in the journey towards this end, which is happiness, be it intellectual contemplation in the case of Aristotle or the beatific vision for Aquinas.

Virtue theory usually divides the virtues into the intellectual, moral, and theological, the first two (potentially) acquirable by human effort and the third only attainable by God’s grace (though for the Catholic all virtues require God’s help in some sense). However, for the purposes of this post, we focus only on the moral virtues (or “cardinal virtues”). The cardinal virtues divide into prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Prudence guides the other virtues and is a kind of moral common sense that allows us to discern the right goods to purse along with the right means. Justice is concerned with giving what is due (to both other men and God). Fortitude is firmness in pursuit of the good. Temperance is a balance in sensual pleasures, like food, drink and sex.

Since the virtue of justice concerns giving what is due to our neighbor, and since humans are social animals as Aristotle points out, it is of great importance what sort of relationship we have with others in society (and with God). We owe a debt of honor of truthfulness in our words (honesty) and actions (friendliness), without which society could not survive (ST, 2-2.114.2). As Julie Davis of Happy Catholic blog reminds us, it all boils down to following the commandant of Christ to love, to “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). The just man, then, lives in harmony with his fellow man, which brings us back to friendliness, a satellite virtue of justice…

                                        Fluttershy the Element of Amiability

Among the moral virtues considered by Aristotle is one to which he gives no name that deals with our relations with other people, but can be called by us friendliness or amiability. First, Aristotle considers two extremes or vices related to friendliness - obsequiousness and disagreeableness:

Some men seem to be obsequious in association with others and in interchange of words and deeds. They praise everything for the sake of pleasantness, and never contradict anyone, being of the opinion that unpleasantness ought to be avoided. 

Others, on the contrary, always find fault, taking care to emphasize anything unpleasant. They are called perverse and quarrelsome. (NE, IV, 816-817)

In other words, obsequiousness is being a “doormat” or “pushover” with others, being overly eager to please and not cause offense, especially in matters in which disagreement is necessary. While with her general agreeable disposition Fluttershy is always in danger of this vice, in “Putting your Hoof Down” she definitely slides over in obsequiousness. At the start of the episode, when her dealings with other ponies call for her to point out an injustice, she instead backs down, not wanting to displease anypony.

Fluttershy the Doormat

On the other hoof, the opposite vice of disagreeability doesn’t give a flying feather what others think, be it causing offense, criticizing, and arguing at every opportunity. Therefore, the new Fluttershy, fresh off her assertiveness training, is nasty towards the other residents of Ponyville, even her own friends, harshly criticizing any mistakes, flaws, or quirks that cross her path, regardless of what pain it may cause or of the necessity.

Aristotle next tells us the mean between the two extremes:

These habits being reprehensible, obviously the mean habit is laudable—that habit according to which a person approves what he should and also disapproves what he should. (NE, IV, 818)

Amiability or friendliness boils down to being agreeable with others when necessary and disagreeable when necessary. Aristotle further elaborates that the amiable man “aims to cause no offense and to give pleasure” but “will refuse to give pleasure and will choose to cause pain over what is dishonorable and harmful to himself or to the person doing an injury or a great wrong” (NE, IV, 825). In other words, the friendly or amiable will usually be pleasant around others and seek their good unless an injustice or an evil performed by others calls him out to cause pain in the form of criticism or correction.

By the end of the episode, Fluttershy returns to this mean (the old Fluttershy), no longer being a pushover who is okay with everything or a “Flutterbitch” who fights everypony over every little thing. As Rarity points out, “You can stand up for yourself without being unpleasant about it,” which is the Element of Generosity’s way of saying that we should be agreeable to others. But what is being agreeable to others other than friendship or a sign of friendship? For friends seek and will the good of one another, and, thus, sometimes it is necessary for a friend to cause another friend pain in the form of disagreement or criticism if that friend should falter in the pursuit of the good, but this is done out of amor amicitiae, the love that is friendship.

Old, amiable Fluttershy returns

Or as Fluttershy tells us in her “Friendship Report” letter to Celestia:

Sometimes it can be hard for a shy pony like me to stand up for myself, and when I first tried it, I didn't like the pony I became. But I've learned that standing up for yourself isn't the same as changing who you are. Now I know how to put my hoof down without being unpleasant, or mean.

Other sources worth noting:
Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue

Fluttershy and the Virtue of Friendliness: Part 1

      Putting Your Hoof Down: Character and Plot Overview


Before I get to the episode, allow me a few words of introduction for the character of Fluttershy. She is timid in temperament and extremely shy. In fact, she frequently seems apologetic for even getting into a conversation (consider the number of times she says “um, excuse me, you wouldn’t mind…”). Overall, she displays an extreme sensitivity in her relations with the other residents of Equestria. Among the Main Six, she exemplifies the Element of Kindness (or good will). She goes out of her way to be agreeable to everypony and to avoid causing offense. Another notable trait is her love of animals. She keeps several pets, including one rather mischievous rabbit ironically named “Angel.” She enjoys singing with the birds.

In short, Fluttershy is a very likable character. In many ways, she reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi, famous for his gentle nature and fondness for animals.

But, of course, Fluttershy is no saint and, like the other Main Six, betrays flaws that sometimes lead to conflict. As I mentioned before, she’s not very brave (even her own shadow sometimes spooks her), the complete opposite of Rainbow Dash, who is daring if not foolhardy. (In Fluttershy’s defense, when pushed to the brink, she unveils her special ability: her stare.)

You wouldn't want to be on the business end of this...

In “Putting your Hoof Down,” FS’s agreeable disposition morphs into the vice of obsequiousness, which she unfortunately attempts to overcome by taking on the opposite extreme of disagreeability. Now, Fluttershy has had a few outbursts before, but these moments were rare. In addition, the short-lived turn to cruelty instead of kindness in “The Return of Harmony” came entirely from Discord’s influence (notice that she didn’t initially fall for his trickery).

                            A Summary of the Plot and Some Random Commentary

The episode begins with Fluttershy in her secluded cottage feeding all her pets – and she does indeed have many pets! She keeps several rabbits, rats, skunks and squirrels, but one rabbit in particular, named “Angel,” is rather close to the yellow pegasus. He’s also a picky eater and the local grub just isn’t cutting it for him, so he demands that Fluttershy make him a special salad with a cherry on top. Since FS doesn’t want Angel “to starve,” she sets out to the marketplace in search of the necessary ingredients.

Angel the Bunny, aka Mr. Picky Pants

Fluttershy isn’t in the marketplace for very long until we start seeing hints of her problem. She’s waiting in line to buy some asparagus and several ponies begin taking advantage of her unfailing politeness to cut in line. Fluttershy isn’t fond of confrontations so she avoids complaining. Then when two valley ponies from somewhere in Las Pegasus spring up as if out of the ground in front of her, Fluttershy finally appears to summon the courage to stand up for herself. But when the valley ponies start talking in their west coast speak about having their “personal space” invaded, FS just backs away.

"And then I was, like, OMC!"

Luckily, just nearby Rarity and Pinkie Pie, two members of the Main Six clique, happen to be hanging out and they watch all the events unfold. Rarity offers some advice, telling Fluttershy to “stop being such a doormat, a pushover.” Both Rarity and Pinkie Pie then start trying to teach by example. Rarity uses her marely charm to convince some skinny nerdy stallion to part with the last asparagus.  Next, Pinkie Pie uses her Bugs Bunny negotiating skills to convince a seller into bringing down the price for tomatoes. Of course, the usefulness of this lesson for Fluttershy is questionable at best, as she hasn’t a clue how to flirt or haggle. Thus, the last cherry eludes her clutches and she returns home to make an incomplete lunch for Angel.

Angel doesn’t take kindly to eating his favorite salad recipe without a cherry and literally kicks both the bowl and Fluttershy out of the house (yeah, he’s like that sometimes). Lying on the ground outside her door, Fluttershy laments her “doormat” status until a letter arrives, advertising an “assertiveness seminar” led by Iron Will.

The Fluttershy Doormat, by Hasbro!

Fluttershy swears an oath to Celestia to stop being a pushover and heads on over to the seminar. After some ponies attending slap her around, FS manages to find a comfortable spot face-first on the ground just behind the large rabble. Iron Will, a minotaur and not a monster, makes a testosterone-charged presentation. He’s Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Johnny Bravo and Hercule from Dragon Ball Z all rolled into one! Promising to turn anypony from a doormat into a “lean, mean, assertive machine” and “pitying the fools” who doubt his methods, Iron Will calls out a volunteer from the audience for a demonstration. Fluttershy is the lucky winner and she goes up on stage. One of the goat assistants blocks her path and after unsuccessfully trying to walk around him, Fluttershy gets some encouragement from Iron Will… in the form of a little nudge. FS knocks down the assistant and then proceeds, with IW’s urging, to sort-of harshly criticize him (“um, next time get out of the way!”).

Why would Fluttershy even need "assertiveness training" with smiles that can melt the heart of anypony?

Fluttershy proves a quick study of Iron Will’s techniques and the next morning she is ready “to attack the day.” It doesn’t take long for the “New Fluttershy” to strike. The gardener Mr.Greenhooves overwaters FS’s plants and instead of kindly pointing out his mistake, she gives him “the once over.” Excited by her newfound boldness, Fluttershy heads over to the bridge into Ponyville. Bon-Bon (the mare of a thousand voices) and Cherry Berry block the bridge with their garbage carts and their mule jokes. But when somepony tries to block, the New Fluttershy shows them that she rocks… by dumping trash onto both background ponies!

You're making her angry, you won't like New Fluttershy when she's angry!

Fluttershy, triumphant in the Battle of the Bridge, moves on to Sugarcube Corner, where her friend Pinkie Pie runs the confectionary store. Once again, a pony cuts her in line, but this time, Fluttershy is more forceful in pointing out the injustice. She growls at the mare to get back in line! The offender follows suit as do the rest of the ponies already in front of FS. Now, Fluttershy is first in line! Pinkie Pie and Rarity (who pops in out of some void) are pleased with Fluttershy’s new attitude. But when FS misinterprets Pinkie Pie’s laughter as aimed at her, she takes out her wrath on Pinkamena’s bowl of punch!

Fluttershy leaves and hails a taxi. Yet again, a pony tries to take advantage of Fluttershy by getting in before her (what a day!). But Fluttershy takes what is hers, beats up the stallion and kicks him out. Before leaving, she declares to friends and strangers alike, “Nopony pushes new Fluttershy around!”

Now all of a sudden, Rarity and Pinkie Pie are not so thrilled…

Pinkamena and Rarity are shocked, shocked by New Fluttershy! 

The next morning, Fluttershy is more aggressive such that even her disobedient animals begin to fear her. The day is hers, she says. Nopony is going to take it from her! Not the farsighted mail pony (shades of Derpy), who delivers the wrong letters to FS’s house. For his indiscretion, FS stuffs him into a mailbox. Also feeling the blown fuse of new Fluttershy is a random tourist pony looking for a watchtower landmark, who asks the pegasus for directions. When FS drops a letter into a puddle, she takes out her anger on the tourist, sending him flying into a hay pile.

New Fluttershy is not satisfied with the mail pony...

Pinkie Pie and Rarity finally confront Fluttershy and tell her that she’s taken her assertiveness too far, that they’d like the old, nice Fluttershy back. But FS will not listen and instead accuses her own friends of wanting to push her around like a doormat. She even gives Pinkie Pie and Rarity the most unkindest cut of all (at least as far as this show is concerned), personal insults meant to wound. Pinkamena is the pony of very little brain, partying away her life. Rarity is “petty,” concerned with nothing but fashion.

New Fluttershy takes it out on her friends

Seeing her friends running away crying appears to wake Fluttershy from her unpleasant slumber. “I’m the monster,” she says as she slowly paces back to her cottage in a manner reminiscent of Bruce Banner hitchhiking at the end of The Incredible Hulk episodes from the 70s.

Fluttershy begins to rethink the whole assertiveness idea...

Rarity and Pinkie Pie return later to Fluttershy’s cottage to make amends, but Fluttershy refuses to open the door, afraid that she might turn into the Incredible Hulk again… or perhaps just say more things she will regret later.

But the pair has bigger problems on their hooves as Iron Will shows up to collect payment for his assertiveness training. After attempts to stall by Rarity and Pinkie Pie meet with failure, Fluttershy emerges to face Iron Will. However, instead of surrendering her bits over to the minotaur, FS stands up for herself, this time without the nastiness displayed earlier. She finds a technicality in Iron Will’s promotion she can use: “100% satisfaction guaranteed.” Well, Fluttershy is “not satisfied” with Iron Will’s advice, simple as that. As the minotaur is a rational creature and not really a monster, he can do naught but walk away. Thus, FS saves the day with no broken bones or hurt feelings!

I pity the fool who doesn't get all these references!

Fluttershy apologizes for her rudeness and the trio embrace, still friends. 

P.F.F (Pony Friends Forever!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Oddball

[I know I wrote that the next post would be on Fluttershy, but I thought that since Mrs. Cari Donaldson was nice enough to link to my blog, I'd take "revenge" on her kindness by linking back to her blog. For as the Philosopher says:

For those who are friends on the ground of virtue are anxious to do well by each other (since that is a mark of virtue and of friendship), and between men who are emulating each other in this there cannot be complaints or quarrels; no one is offended by a man who loves him and does well by him-if he is a person of nice feeling he takes his revenge by doing well by the other. (NE, VIII, 13)

Friendship: the only kind of revenge we can support!

Besides, I didn't exactly make a Pinkie Promise.

                                             By the way, Applejack is the Element of Honesty...]

"Looks like someone is beginning to take an interest in your handiwork." -- Han Solo, Star Wars 

Cari Donaldson, a writer for the Catholic Exchange, recently linked to few interesting sci-fi/fantasy blogs, such as David Ivies’ B-Movie Catechism (the only other dude I know who admits to watching the entire Star Wars Holiday Special). To my surprise (since I'm not big on marketing), Cari seems to have stumbled across my own blog:

Eric Mendoza, at RPG Catholic, is younger than I am, odder than I am, and smarter than I am.  Also, he has a raging love for My Little Pony that is so perplexing that I fully plan on spending naptime today parsing through that phenomena. 

I'd probably be boasting more than Trixie ever did by saying I'm a smart guy rather than a dummy, but I can definitely vouch for the oddness. I can understand Cari's puzzlement; it still feels strange being a Brony. I certainly didn't imagine only 6 months ago that I'd be watching a girl's cartoon about talking horses, wearing a Derpy t-shirt, trying to write MLP fan fic, and attempting to tie FiM moral lessons with Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy.

I'll also add the sci-fi writers DGD (who's Derpy post back in February won me over to FiM), John C.Wright (leader of the Space Princess movement), Nate Winchester (currently reviewing MLP episodes), and Mike Flynn to the list. The Deej, JCW, and Nate are Bronies, but I'm not sure about the OFloinn.


For my next MLP philosophical post, I finally look at one of the Main Six and see the virtues and vices they exemplify. Here's a hint as who'll it be...

                                           Warning: video may cause permanent hearing loss!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

RPG Catholic Update

I'll officially start catechism class this Sunday, perhaps leading up to my confirmation sometime this November. I've already met the catechist and some of the other students and they all seem like a nice bunch! I'm thinking of blogging about some of the topics covered in class. We'll see...

For my next post, I'm planning to begin my MLP virtue/vice spotlight series with Fluttershy, the bashful pony of the Main Six, who, in the episode "Putting Your Hoof Down," might have a few things to teach us about the virtue that Aristotle and Aquinas refer to as "friendliness" or "amiability."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Hobbit Movie Update

The poster from Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego, wish I were here
According to the Lord of the Rings fan site, Peter Jackson just finished principal photography for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which will release December 14. As you can imagine, a Tolkien geek like me is definitely excited by the news. In fact, I'm so jazzed that I feel like sharing a few Hobbit-related Youtube videos! December just can't come early enough!

First, the trailer for The Hobbit released last year (HT: Brandon)

Next, the animated version by Rankin/Bass from way back in 1977:

SDG's review

Finally, Brandon uncovered the weirdest take on The Hobbit yet, from 1966:

Slag the Dragon...that is all.

A Link to the Past II

I have a few posts from around the Catholic Blogosphere to highlight today, some dealing with friendship, of course!

- From Father Dwight Longenecker comes an interesting meditation on the biggest problem of all...lack of love, or rather, the perceived lack of love. (HT: Waiting for Godot to Leave)

I am convinced that at the heart of all our problems is an empty or a broken heart. What I mean is that there is a 'love lack.' Our problems stem from the fact that we do not have enough love–total, unconditional, over whelming love. Somewhere along the line an ache like a hunger pang developed in our heart and we sensed way down deep that we were not loved, or at least we were not loved enough. From that perceived lack of love we developed our problem.

-  Mark Shea tells us about "magic" of friendship in his own way:

Friendships can be deeply transformative experiences. A deep and true friendship with another person or a circle of persons can completely revolutionize a person’s life — and the lives of many other people.

Friendship has been at the core of some of the greatest human achievements of all time. Perhaps nowhere is its power more potently seen than in the founding of the Church: It was a band of friends Our Lord sent into the world to announce the Good News. 

- Wondering what I mean when I say I'm a "Bad Catholic"? Well, Shea, John C.Wright, and Marc Barnes help explain with the help of Hillaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, and Walker Percy.

Hillaire Belloc on the Catholic Church: 

An institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.

- The Thomist James Chastek shares his philosophical bugbears (or pet peeves). I have to admit, I might have committed quite a few on his list in my youth and inexperience. As if the readers who remember my quote from Aquinas on "avoiding small errors that might have big consequences" need any more reminding, here's a clip from MLP that shows what might happen if you ignore Chastek's advice:

Just as the errors of modern philosophers like Descartes and Kant brought down the house of A-T metaphysics, Derpy Hooves’ clumsiness brings down Ponyville's city hall!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Classical Theism: No Laughing Matter

What's a good way to know that you're dealing with the God of classical theism (the God of Aquinas) as opposed to another conception, such as the personalist God of neo-theism, which dominates philosophy of religion circles today?  Well, you could tackle hugely important and complicated theological/philosophical issues like the classical view of divine simplicity. My friend Alfredo has plenty to say on DDS here. The Christian film critic and fantasy writer Jeffrey Overstreet, however, suggests another approach:

When Terry Gilliam's Monty Python cartoons portray a big-bearded, grouchy God in the clouds, we laugh because we have seen such insufficient representations of God before. We're laughing at our own feeble illustrations of someone too mysterious and powerful to be illustrated. In short, we're laughing at ourselves.

But try to make a joke at the expense of God Himself and we'll be hard-pressed to come up with anything funny. It just doesn't work. That's because there's nothing wrong with God. There's nothing out of place. Those who try to make fun of God end up exposing their own limited views of Him. They're usually driven by pride, cruelty, anger, and outrage, which ultimately turn the jokes back against the jokers, revealing them to be arrogant and misguided. Likewise, any attempt to degrade Christ through humor reveal the lack of proper reverence and respect in the joker.         
 -- Through a Screen Darkly, 235

Monday, July 2, 2012

Discord: The Most Dangerous MLP Villain?

[I'll definitely need to expand on these thoughts, but here's a quick and rough post on the villains of FiM.]

As I 've mentioned before, DGD regards the villains of MLP:FiM as pushovers compared to G1 antagonists. However, I've been wondering if the villains of FiM can be considered formidable threats from a different point of view, I mean, as threatening the heroes in a different manner than simply being satanically wicked both in look and act like Tirek. Since the main theme of FiM is friendship perhaps what Lauren Faust intended to do is  have the villains try a new approach: fomenting internal conflict between the Mane 6 and indeed all of Equestria, instead of simply going around destroying everything and enslaving everypony.

Trixie: master of BS

Who is the greatest villain we've encountered so far in two seasons of MLP: FiM? Princess Luna? Well, she did threaten to stop the sun from rising on two occasions, but she only does so out of a misguided desire for love; she didn't exactly set out to destroy Equestria. Besides, as DGD pointed out to me, the most dastardly thing she does in the first two episodes is cut off one half of a dandy dragon's mustache. Gilda? She's a jerk. Trixie? Well, besides her "Great and Powerful" traveling show BS, she didn't exactly pose too much of a threat to peace. Oh, yeah, she can sometimes inspire overzealous fans, such as Snips and Snails, from inadvertently bringing on a Ursa Minor attack. Queen Chrysalis? Well, she did come close to taking over Equestria and emptying it out of all love. But let's face it; Chrysalis only made it that far due to Princess Luna choosing a bad time to oversleep.

Discord: Enemy of friendship and sower of conflict 

Discord, on the other hoof, seems to be the biggest threat to the harmony of Equestria in "The Return of Harmony" episodes, for he seeks nothing more than to bring chaos, discord between the ponies. Instead of directly fighting the Mane 6, he turns the ponies against each other. The Elements of Harmony begin to break up before our very eyes, while Discord simply kicks back on a lawn chair watching the fireworks fly. Even Twilight, the element of friendship, briefly considers never seeing her friends again. Discord wants, in other words, the complete opposite of friendship, enmity, to prevail throughout the ponyland.

The Elements of Disharmony

As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre tells us, for Aristotle (and his teacher Plato), the greatest evil than can befall any society, whether Athens or Equestria, is conflict:

Aristotle's belief in the unity of the virtues is one of the few parts of his moral philosophy which he inherits directly from Plato. As with Plato, the belief is one aspect of an hostility to and denial of conflict either within the life of the individual good man or in that of the good city. Both Plato and Aristotle treat conflict as an evil and Aristotle treats it as an eliminable evil. The virtues are all in harmony with each other and the harmony of individuals is reproduced in the harmony of the state. Civil war is the worst of evils. -- Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, 3rd ed., 157

I should add that Aristotle considers friendship to be one of most, if the not the most, important virtues for the harmony of society, for a society united in the pursuit of the common good. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Equestria, once free of Discord, fits the good society as envisioned by the Philosopher, assuming he could get past the whole talking horse thing. Or as the Ponysopher Twilight Sparkle tells us, "I'll tell you what we've learned Discord. We've learned that friendship isn't always easy. But there's no doubt it's worth fighting for."

The harmonius society as it might appear to Plato and Aristotle

The harmonious society ponified