Midnights combines the strongest elements of all previous Eras and mixes into a coherent and consistent album about the end of early adulthood and the impossible demands of gendered expectations.
I'm damned if I do give a damn what people say
No deal The 1950s shit they want from me
I just wanna stay in that lavender haze
Brake, Elizabeth (2010). Minimal marriage: What political liberalism implies for marriage law. Ethics 120 (2):302-337. (here)
Brake argues that existing legal approaches to marriage and other adult caring relationships are illiberal. In part, Brake criticizes these institutions on the grounds that "many of these entitlements appear to reflect an assumption of a “traditional” single breadwinner model, in which one spouse depends on the other for health insurance and income." Instead, Brake rejects the 1950's shit people seem to want from relationships, and defends an account of "minimal marriage." Brake writes,
"Minimal marriage does not require that individuals exchange marital rights reciprocally and in complete bundles: it allows their disaggregation to support the numerous relationships, or adult care networks, which people may have. Minimal marriage would allow a person to exchange all her marital rights reciprocally with one other person or distribute them through her adult care network."
On this view, people needn't choose between "a one-night or a wife" but would, ideally, have access to a range of legally recognized relationship-oriented benefits that were more closely tied to the distinctive rationales behind the existing bundle of marriage-related benefits.
Did you hear my covert narcissism
I disguise as altruism
Like some kind of congressman? (A tale as old as time)
I wake up screaming from dreaming
One day, I'll watch as you're leaving
And life will lose all its meaning (For the last time)
Annas, Julia. "Plato and Aristotle on friendship and altruism." Mind 86, no. 344 (1977): 532-554. (link)
Fun fact: there's a lot of political psychology about how men in politics are in it for themselves and women in politics are in it for common good related reasons.
You're On Your Own Kid
I looked around in a blood-soaked gown
And I saw something they can't take away
'Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned
Everything you lose is a step you take
So, make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it
You've got no reason to be afraid
Clark, Samuel (2018). Narrative, Self-Realization, and the Shape of a Life. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (2):371-385. (link)
Is it better if your life has the structure of a good story?
He wanted it comfortable,
I wanted that pain
He wanted a bride,
I was making my own name
Chasing that fame,
He stayed the same
Chambers, Clare (2017). Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defense of the Marriage-Free State. Oxford University Press. (here)
To what extent is heterosexual marriage conceptually linked to the gendered division of labor and women's exclusion from the workforce?
Did you ever have someone kiss you in a crowded room
And every single one of your friends was makin' fun of you
But fifteen seconds later, thеy were clappin' too?
Then what did you do?
Lisa Feldman Barrett, How Emotions are Made (Mariner, 2018) (link)
Barrett proposes an exercise: Think of an experience with a distinctive phenomenology, for which you have no single conceptual label. Examples: the feeling when you leave your hometown for the last time; the feeling when you see someone across the room and can tell that they're having the same thought as you, etc. The idea is that your concepts limit your capacity for experience; expanding your concepts also enlarges your range of feelings. Is Taylor's "just a question" also a good question?
Ladies always rise above
Ladies know what people want
Someone sweet and kind and fun
The lady simply had enough
Amia Srinivasan, "The Aptness of Anger," The Journal of Political Philosophy 26:2 (2018) (link)
If fitting but non-instrumentally valuable anger can be a good idea, can affective vigilantism also be a good idea?
And when I meet the band
They ask, "Do you have a man?"
I could still say, "I don't remember"
Jenkins, Carrie. "The rules of flirtation." The Philosophers' Magazine 36 (2006): 37-40. (here)
Reading 1: Taylor's reply ironically plays on the media's attention to her relationships. "You tell me, do I have a man? What are they even saying now about me? I don't remember."
Reading 2: Taylor retains the fame and status to effectively parry the suggestion that relational facts about her are relevant at all. She can still say she doesn't remember because her pop stardom doesn't depend on trifling gossip.
It only feels this raw right now
Lost in the labyrinth of my mind
Sturgeon, Nicholas L. (1974). Altruism, solipsism, and the objectivity of reasons. Philosophical Review 83 (3):374-402. (here)
Can a kind of self-absorption be rationally justified, while still avoiding accusations of solipsism?
And I keep my side of the street clean
You wouldn't know what I mean
Goodman, Charles. "Understandings of Karma." A Mirror is For Reflection: Understanding Buddhist Ethics (2017): 131. (link)
Carpenter, Amber D. "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?“And None of Us Deserving the Cruelty or the Grace”: Buddhism and the Problem of Evil." In Philosophy's Big Questions, pp. 164-204. Columbia University Press, 2021. (link)
In contrast to the classical Indian conception of Karma, Goodman describes and defends a conception of Karma, which is probabilistic, rather than deterministic. On this view, good action is rewarded within the timeline of a single life, meaning that Taylor and her enemies are both more likely to experience Karma within their own lives.
On the other hand, Carpenter argues that traditional understandings of Karma are incompatible with moral instruction in the Buddhist tradition, which advises acceptance, loving-kindness, and letting go of old grudges (cf. Daylight)
On the way home
I wrote a poem
You say, "What a mind"
This happens all the time
Alfred Archer and Catherine M. Robb, "Being a Celebrity: Alienation, Integrity, and the Uncanny," Journal of the American Philosophical Association (2022) (link)
Are the lines above a compliment? Is there something disconcerting about them?
No one wanted to play with me as a little kid
So I've been scheming like a criminal ever since
To make them love me and make it seem effortless
This is the first time I've felt the need to confess
And I swear
I'm only cryptic and Machiavellian
'Cause I care
Marsili, Neri. "Lying, speech acts, and commitment." Synthese 199, no. 1-2 (2021): 3245-3269. (here)
Is the bridge in this song strategic or sincere?
The Great War
And maybe it's the past that's talking
Screaming from the crypt
Telling me to punish you for things you never did
So I justified it
McMahan, Jeff. "Climate change, war, and the non-identity problem." Journal of Moral Philosophy 18, no. 3 (2020): 211-238. (here)
Is it appropriate to blame previous generations for today's hardships, if none of us would exist today if not for their actions in the past?
Bigger than the Whole Sky
You were bigger than the whole sky
You were more than just a short time
And I've got a lot to pine about
I've got a lot to live without
I'm never gonna meet
What could've been, would've been
What should've been you
Harman, Elizabeth. "Creation ethics: The moral status of early fetuses and the ethics of abortion." Philosophy & Public Affairs 28, no. 4 (1999): 310-324. (here)
"It might be objected that we cannot really love something, such as an early fetus, that we know so little about. I do claim that we can love early fetuses; I claim that this is very common. While our love for early fetuses cannot reach the depth and complexity of our love for persons, it is real love directed at a particular individual. The couple knows that there is a living being in the womb of the pregnant woman, and they have attitudes toward that being. They are not merely anticipating loving their future child. The fact that the fetus is itself the beginning of their child is reason to love it now." (Harman 315)
You know there's many different ways that you can kill the one you love
The slowest way is never loving them enough
Liao, S. Matthew. "The idea of a duty to love." J. Value Inquiry 40 (2006) (here)
I like to think this is the couple from Tolerate it, one year later.
Would’ve, Should’ve, Could’ve
All I used to do was pray
Would've, could've, should've
If you'd never looked my way
I would've stayed on my knees
And I damn sure never would've danced with the devil
Arroyo, Christopher. "Natural Goodness, Sex, and the Perverted Faculty Argument." Philosophy 97, no. 1 (2022): 115-142. (here)
This song is the spiritual prequel to False God.
Dear reader, burn all the files
Desert all your past lives
And if you don't recognize yourself
That means you did it right
Doody, Ryan. "If There Are No Diachronic Norms of Rationality, Why Does It Seem Like There Are?." Res Philosophica 96, no. 2 (2019): 141-173. (link)
"Our intuitions about the rationality of someone’s diachronic behavior, then, might not merely track whether her behavior is sensible from her perspective, but also the extent to which it would be easy to predict her behavior." (Doody, p. 167)
Is the bridge in Mastermind sincere or ironic?
What is really keeping Taylor up: Love, anger, fame, or something else?
How does what you feel at midnight relate to your deep self?
Is it good to feel our past self's affectively charged attitudes again?
How different is karma from revenge?
Is Midnights a case for appreciating intrinsic values or leaning in to the quest for positional goods? Is there anything to say one way or the other?