Who Knew the Zombie Apocalypse Would Be This… Boring?

WHEN AMC ANNOUNCED that they were going to produce a companion series to their ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead to air in late summer, 2015, I was more than excited. I was in a state of absolute squee.

Fans of The Walking Dead speculated about the companion series’ title, characters, and plot – Where would the show take place? Would the two series be connected? Would fans be treated to twice the amount of Daryl Dixon?

daryl's got a bow

After months of internet rumors and fan speculation, AMC revealed that the companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, would air (in the U.S.), starting in August of 2015.

The only hope The Walking Dead fans held dear was the hope that Fear the Walking Dead be as good as (hopefully better than) the original series.

Well…….

Ok, I know that The Walking Dead isn’t the greatest show on television.

To be completely honest, the show is more entertaining than it is good.

say TWD sucks again

However, being the incurable zombie junkie that I am, I was a fan of Fear the Walking Dead before a single episode had ever aired.

But then, something happened.

I watched the show.

Some folks have complained about inexplicably stupid things that the characters do or about the show’s lack of zombies or even griped about the slow as shit and boring as fuck pace of Fear the Walking Dead.

rick's coma

To be fair to those who are disappointed, these are perfectly justifiable complaints about the show.

And there are some people who just plain don’t like the show.

I’m not one of those people.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I’m actually enjoying Fear the Walking Dead.

Perhaps even more than I like the original series.

Am i the only one who likes fear the walking dead

Yes

However, enjoying Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t mean that I have nothing to complain about.

I do.

More than a few things.


Watching the show, I noticed that there was something bothering me. Something was nagging at my inner philosopher. There just aren’t any good people on the show. I mean, no morally good people.

Wait a minute – I realize that not everyone is familiar with or has watched Fear the Walking Dead. Allow me to take a moment to briefly describe the show’s plot:

Fear the Walking Dead, a companion series to The Walking Dead, follows the lives of high school guidance counselor, Madison Clark and her children, above average teenage daughter, Alicia, and heroin addicted son, Nick her boyfriend and high school English teacher, Travis Manawa, Travis’ ex-wife, Liza Ortiz, their son Chris, and the Salazar family, headed by Daniel, a barber immigrated from El Salvador, and Daniel’s wife, Griselda, and daughter, Ofelia, as they struggle to survive a zombie outbreak in East Los Angeles.

WITH ALL OF THESE COMPELLING CHARACTERS AND NEW LOCATION, WHO KNEW THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WOULD BE THIS… BORING?

WITH ALL OF THESE COMPELLING CHARACTERS AND NEW LOCATION, WHO KNEW THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WOULD BE THIS… BORING?

As I said before, my problem with the show really has nothing to do with the series’ slow pace or lack of zombies. My problem is purely philosophical.

In a show where the audience is expected to root for the characters to survive, the show’s writers have made it difficult for the audience to conjure up an appropriate amount to like for any character to be morally worthy of being rooted for.

In The Walking Dead, there are morally good characters (e.g. Beth, Amy, Sophia, Dale and T Dog). The audience sees that they are good people and we root for them to make it through the zombie apocalypse alive. The audience feels a loss when they die.

That’s because we are upset when bad things happen to good characters.

sophia

The Walking Dead also has definitively morally bad characters (Shane, Dave and Tony, The Governor, Randall, Gareth, Joe, and so on).

These characters are clearly morally corrupted people and their actions reflect their moral aptitude: Shane attempts to kill Rick, The Governor kills his own people, and Gareth is a cannibal. These characters are bad people and we, the audience, are not expected to sympathize with these characters or to condone the bad things that they do.

walkingdeadgovernormeme42

We see that Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors are faced with doing either good or morally bad acts, and we see the characters struggle with the consequences of what they do. Rick showing mercy to Andrew the inmate ultimately results in the death of his wife Lori. Rick, in turn, becomes less willing to extend good will and mercy to others. We see what happens when Rick’s new ethic is taken to the extreme with Gareth and the survivors at Terminus, who live by the motto “You’re either the butcher or the cattle”.

Despite the fact that morally ambiguous characters (everyone else) in The Walking Dead often shift their moral position, they still remain sympathetic and relatable to the audience.

carl's ambigiuty
On Fear the Walking Dead, when we are introduced to the character Travis Manawa, we see that Travis is a good man.

How do we know that Travis is good? He’s a schoolteacher.

Likewise, Travis’ girlfriend, Madison Clark, is a good woman.

Because she’s a high school guidance counselor.

…and no one not good would ever do that.

Madison is such a good person that, when a student tells her that the dead are coming back to life and attacking the living, she insists that the government would inform the public if there was a real threat to the public.

We’re also introduced to Madison’s heroin-addicted son, Nick, who is so deep in his addiction that he can’t tell if he actually witnessed his undead girlfriend eating another person or if he ingested some bad junk.


Does anyone even call heroin “junk” anymore?

Although Nick is a drug addict (a trait usually associated with bad people), we’re assured he’s a good kid who has misfortune of having a very bad habit.


The characters of Fear the Walking Dead are supposed to be good people. And for the first couple of episodes I believed that they are.
I don’t feel that way anymore.

Ok. I know. The Walking Dead is, at it’s core, a morality play. The show has characters that are either morally good or morally bad people. We like Rick Grimes because he is a GOOD man. We dislike Gareth, Joe and the Claimers, and Randall because they are BAD people.

That is what makes the show enjoyable.

The problem with Fear the Waling Dead is that it’s completely devoid of morally good people.

Well, maybe except for Tobias.

You see, the problem with this show is that watching it I got a big case of the feels – the moral feels. I’m feeling all sorts of stuff that I shouldn’t feel about a TV show filled with characters I’m supposed to identify with, like, the entire show seems to be comprised of characters you’d least want to be around (you) if society is overrun with flesh-eating hordes of the undead and civilization goes to hell in a hand basket.

Morally speaking, Fear the Walking Dead is a study in –

Wait a minute, you say. You say you’ve seen the show and you see nothing morally wrong about what any of the characters do. The world has fallen apart and the characters are simply doing what they need to do to survive. Moral ambiguity, even the capacity to do what is morally wrong, is a necessity in The Walking Dead universe. And, that would be a reasonable thing to think if not for the fact that the walking dead hadn’t already told us that

Lori Grimes on doing the wrong thing:

If the overriding ethical principle in The Walking Dead is that humanity must retain it’s morality, even when the world ends, then it is reasonable to assume that the moral message would hold in the Fear the Walking Dead as well.

Six episodes into the series’ run, and I’ve already developed a level of disdain for characters that the average viewer takes at least three seasons to develop.

… and this on show supposedly full of morally good people.


One character who has quickly emerged as a fan favorite is Daniel Salazar.

salazar

Daniel (played by Ruben Blades), is a barbershop owner who gives Travis, his son, and ex-wife shelter during a riot. When we meet Daniel and his family, Daniel initially refuses to provide shelter to Travis and his family. Daniel lets them in only after his wife, Griselda, insists that he open his doors to people in need.

The fact that Daniel is a fan favorite is kind of troubling.

Daniel Salazar tortures a man to get information about “Cobalt”, a military plan to exterminate all beings, dead and living, in Los Angeles, and unleashes a horde of zombies upon a military outpost (and unsuspecting neighbors) just to rescue two people – one of whom was already dead.

R.I.P. Griselda  (spoiler alert)

R.I.P. Griselda Salazar
(spoiler alert)

The seemingly fan-approved actions of Daniel Salazar makes me morally uncomfortable.

Really morally uncomfortable.

I mean, really. Is Fear the Walking Dead telling me that torture is a good thing?

INSTEAD OF RIPPING THE GUY’S SKIN OFF COULDN’T DANIEL HAVE JUST ASKED NICELY OR SOMETHING?

INSTEAD OF RIPPING THE GUY’S SKIN OFF COULDN’T DANIEL HAVE JUST ASKED NICELY OR SOMETHING?

Now, that can’t be right. Even the CIA admits that torture doesn’t work (see: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/torture-it-didnt-work-then-it-doesnt-work-now-9923288.html). The philosophical problem with engaging in acts like torture, as that old utilitarian chestnut of intended outcomes tells us, is that inflicting pain as a means of obtaining accurate information sometimes doesn’t yield correct information, and that means we don’t get the right outcome we want.

The next morning the city is not under attack. So, was the soldier Daniel Salazar tortured lying about “Cobalt” ? Did the soldier give Daniel inaccurate information? Sure, we can say that Daniel and his cohorts may have prevented the military from enacting “Cobalt”.

But at what cost?

Did they truly know that “Cobalt” was going to happen?

If the CIA report is correct, and the tortured soldier lied or provided Daniel Salazar with inaccurate information about “Cobalt”, Daniel Salazar unleashed a horde of flesh eating zombies on his defenseless neighbors – for no good reason.

Daniel Salazar’s actions can’t be morally justified.

Can it?

After watching the six episode inaugural season of Fear the Walking Dead, it seems that the moral message of the show is this: if you’re a good person you won’t live long.

the good people die

To survive in the Fear the Walking Dead universe you have to abandon your morality, something that characters like Daniel Salazar do all too easily. Daniel articulates the series’ moral philosophy with the subtlety of a crossbow bolt to the cranium when he states that good people die.

COME ON, WE ALL KNOW TOBIAS IS DEAD… OR UNDEAD

COME ON, WE ALL KNOW TOBIAS IS DEAD… OR UNDEAD

In one scene, when a soldier challenges Travis to shoot a zombie trapped in a doughnut shop (Oops, walker. No, skinbag. Wait, her name is Kimberly),Travis is unable to shoot the zombie. He later lets the soldier that Daniel is tortured free (of course to disastrous results). Travis is incapable (unwilling) to shoot a zombified neighbor. Daniel is so disappointed by Travis’ good guy-ism that it leads Daniel to observe that Travis Manawa is

Daniel Reaction Weak
I made a short list of a few more things that I found morally troublesome about Fear the Walking Dead:

  • Ofelia Salazar seduces a young National Guardsman (who later is tortured by her father, Daniel) for the purpose of obtaining drugs for her mother’s injured foot.
  • Madison Clark’s indifference to Daniel torturing the soldier.
  • Speaking of indifference – the characters’ indifference to unleashing thousands of the undead on their neighbors (Ofelia states that she doesn’t care about the neighbors because they didn’t help her when she needed help).

Keep in mind that the neighbors are good people – the kind of good people that Daniel Salazar says are going to die.

  • And speaking of other good people – Nick Clark’s newly acquired friend, Victor Strand, refuses to help others escape from holding cells when Daniel Salazar unleashes zombies on the military outpost/detention camp.
YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THIS GUY, RIGHT?

YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THIS GUY, RIGHT?

Speaking of Nick Clark…

  • Madison’s son, Nick, a heroin addict, steals a morphine drip from a dying neighbor.

In case you missed it, Nick totally stuck a dying man’s morphine drip into his foot so that he can get high.

morphine foot

Stealing is wrong, especially stealing from a dying man.

Remember, these are the actions of characters we’re supposed to like.

If you think about it, the “bad” guys (the military) really aren’t that bad.

The military doesn’t seem to be abusing or taking advantage of anyone. They’ve swept and cleared certain areas of the city and erected defensive perimeters around safe zones. They locked thousands of zombies in a sports arena, keeping the undead away from people. They’ve provided food, medical assistance, and electricity so people in the safe zones can maintain a sense of normalcy while the military risks their lives to sweep the undead from Los Angeles.

THERE GO THOSE HORRIBLE MILITARY DUDES, RISKING THEIR LIVES TRYING TO KILL ZOMBIES

THERE GO THOSE HORRIBLE MILITARY DUDES, RISKING THEIR LIVES TRYING TO KILL ZOMBIES

At worst, they’ve got a bit of an attitude.

Maybe it’s because they’re a little fatigued from non-stop patrols and worrying about their families.

 SURE, THIS GUY IS AN A-HOLE BUT DOES THAT JUSTIFY UNLEASHING A HORDE OF THE UNDEAD ON HIS SOLDIERS?

SURE, THIS GUY IS AN A-HOLE BUT DOES THAT JUSTIFY UNLEASHING A HORDE OF THE UNDEAD ON HIS SOLDIERS?

They’re rude but that’s no (morally justifiable) reason to massacre them.

Likewise, Dr. Exner wasn’t an evil doctor who snatched Nick away from his family. She was a good doctor who actually attempted to treat people and put them down humanely to prevent them from turning and infecting others after they died.

Did she deserve to have a mass of flesh eaters turned on her? Probably not.

THERE ARE FATES WORSE THAN SOMEONE SHOOTING YOU IN THE HEAD WITH ONE OF THOSE COMPRESSED AIR GUN THINGIES  THEY USE TO KILL COWS. WELL, UNLESS YOU’RE IN “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”

THERE ARE FATES WORSE THAN SOMEONE SHOOTING YOU IN THE HEAD WITH ONE OF THOSE COMPRESSED AIR GUN THINGIES THEY USE TO KILL COWS. WELL, UNLESS YOU’RE IN “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”

Alright. I know all of this sounds like nitpicking. It very much is. Am I mischaracterizing some characters for the sake of a blog post? Most likely. I know that Travis, Madison, their families and the Salazar family aren’t all bad and the military isn’t all good.

It’s perfectly reasonable to argue that there are legitimate ethical reasons for why all of the characters do what they do.

I can’t think of any that would justify Daniel Salazar’s actions, but you can try to convince me that there are a few morally justifiable reasons.

Despite my moral qualms, I like the show. It’s got zombies and there’s blood and guts and stuff. I’ll keep watching even if I find the characters morally reprehensible. A TV show doesn’t have to have morally sympathetic characters to be philosophical. Even a morally bankrupt character is philosophically intriguing, if only to point out how many times the character violates the Categorical Imperative or how a character’s actions prove that utilitarianism is the worst ethical theory ever.

In the end, I guess I’ll just have to keep in mind that if I awake from a drug-induced stupor to find the world overrun by the undead, when Daniel Salazar shows up, I’ll probably end up sprinting into the blades of a helicopter.

All About That Shane

WELL, ZOMBIE FANS it looks like another season of The Walking Dead is drawing to a close. It’ll be a whole half year until the adventures of former sheriff’s deputy, Rick Grimes, and his fellow survivors will return like a walker to entertain us with more, gruesome zombie killings and plot holed plotlines that will make a sane man scream like a madman at his TV.

PICTURED: A COUPLE WATCHING THE EPISODE WHERE OFFICER DAWN KILLS BETH. THE MAN IS UPSET THAT DAWN ATTEMPTED TO DOUBLE-CROSS RICK’S GROUP. HIS GIRLFRIEND IS PLEASED THAT THE CHANCE OF BETH HOOKING UP WITH DARYL DIXON HAS JUST DROPPED TO NIL

PICTURED: A COUPLE WATCHING THE EPISODE WHERE OFFICER DAWN KILLS BETH. THE MAN IS UPSET THAT DAWN ATTEMPTED TO DOUBLE-CROSS RICK’S GROUP. HIS GIRLFRIEND IS PLEASED THAT THE CHANCE OF BETH HOOKING UP WITH DARYL DIXON HAS JUST DROPPED TO NIL

Like many popular television shows, fans of The Walking Dead have created their own fan theories and in-jokes about the show: The Black Highlander Theory*, the mind-numbing stupidity of the show’s female characters… and the one sign that a character is certainly going to die – the moral compass.

don't be black

There’s been a number of characters on The Walking Dead who have occupied the position of the moral center of the group: Dale, Hershel, T-Dog, Bob, Tyreese, Glenn…

THE MORAL COMPASS’ LOOK OF MORAL OUTRAGE (AKA: DALE FACE). IT IS ALSO AN EXPRESSION THAT GUARANTEES A CHARACTER IS DOOMED TO DIE

THE MORAL COMPASS’ LOOK OF MORAL OUTRAGE (AKA: DALE FACE). IT IS ALSO AN EXPRESSION THAT GUARANTEES A CHARACTER IS DOOMED TO DIE

It’s worth noting that all of these characters are dead.

Oh wait,

Except Glenn.

Oh no….

Glenn

Although it’s a bit of an in-joke among fans of the show, the inevitable death of the moral center does present a bit of an ethical problem in the world of The Walking Dead. If the group’s moral center has a habit of dying, then we can assume that those who remain are the not-so-good people. In the Season 3 episode “Clear”, Rick Grimes’ long-lost friend, Morgan Jones, tells Rick that the good people die first.

morgan GIF

In a zombie-infested world where people must fight to survive and those who are prone to performing acts of goodness will be the first to go, we know that bad people population will explode at an exponential rate. But think about it, in a world where the only occupation you have is surviving to see the next day, how not so good is a person, really?

We can re-evaluate anyone’s seeming bad acts as good acts if, as Obi-Wan Kenobi tells us, we see truths from a certain point of view.

A certain relative point of view.

kenobi

The Walking Dead has had its share of bad guys (Dr. Jenner, The Governor, Claimer Joe, Gareth, Officer Dawn Lerner…) But there’s one bad guy that though he’s been called evil, if we re-evaluate him from “a certain point of view” may be the most moral character in the show’s five seasons: Shane Walsh.

SHANE WALSH: THE SEXIEST WIFE-STEALING, BEST FRIEND ATTEMPTED MURDERING PSYCHOPATH ON TELEVISION

SHANE WALSH: THE SEXIEST WIFE-STEALING, BEST FRIEND ATTEMPTED MURDERING PSYCHOPATH ON TELEVISION

He’s not going to win Miss Congeniality, but what Shane lacks in social graces he makes up for in his single-minded moral consistency. And that’s what’s important when discussing morality, isn’t it?

SHANE IS INITIALLY INTRODUCED AS RICK GRIMES’ SIDEKICK. HE IS A HAN SOLO TO RICK’S LUKE SKYWALKER - THE SCOUNDREL TO RICK’S HERO. AN EDGIER STEVE MC QUEEN TYPE TO RICK’S WHITE HAT GARY COOPER

SHANE IS INITIALLY INTRODUCED AS RICK GRIMES’ SIDEKICK. HE IS A HAN SOLO TO RICK’S LUKE SKYWALKER – THE SCOUNDREL TO RICK’S HERO. AN EDGIER STEVE MC QUEEN TYPE TO RICK’S WHITE HAT GARY COOPER

Unlike Rick, who is often criticized for his inconsistency** Shane is suffers from no moral ambiguity. He is totally morally consistent. Although his actions appear contradictory, Shane has a singular goal: to save Lori and Carl Grimes.

….and to eventually steal them both away from Rick.

shane friendzoned

The reason why Shane is actually a morally good person is because his motives are actually not all that bad.

Ok. I know. Shane wanted to steal Rick’s wife from him but think about it this way: Shane’s desire to keep Lori Grimes for himself actually saved the group.

We know that Shane is willing to violate moral rules, however, Shane is also willing to do whatever it takes to survive – which makes him, in a way, a very moral person.

Although it seems like the morally incorrect thing to do:

  • Shane defends a battered woman when her husband smacks her by beating the tarnation out of the guy.
  • Shane makes the right call when he leads the group to kill the walkers in Hershel’s barn.
  • He’s ultimately right in his decision to “cut loses” and discontinue the search for Sophia. Shane says that the group is needlessly risking their lives to search for Sophia who is more than likely dead (Shane is right about Sophia and Daryl is nearly mortally injured when he is thrown from a horse and impaled on an arrow).
  • Shane makes the right call in shooting Otis to save the life of Carl. He reasons that Otis did not belong in the world of the dead (He‘s right).
  • Shane even makes the right decision when he informs Lori that her husband is dead. Shane knew the Lori would not have left her husband behind if she suspected that there was a chance that he was alive. If Lori had stayed she and Carl would have likely died (In a flashback scene we see Shane attempt to save Rick while Rick is in a coma in the hospital when the facility is overrun by the undead. So contrary to what Lori thought, Shane didn’t abandon Rick. ).
  • Even Andrea observes that Shane has done more to protect the group than Rick. Andrea says Shane is willing to make the tough (moral) choices that others can’t (or won’t).
 SHANE’S SINGLE ACT OF PURE EVIL WAS THE MURDER OF THE PRISONER RANDALL. SHANE TAKES RANDALL INTO THE WOODS AND KILLS HIM AND THEN FAKES RANDALL’S ESCAPE TO LURE RICK INTO THE WOODS TO KILL HIM. SHANE USES RANDALL WTHOUT REGARD FOR THE PRISONER’S LIFE. THAT WAS DEFINITELY NO BUENO

SHANE’S SINGLE ACT OF PURE EVIL WAS THE MURDER OF THE PRISONER RANDALL. SHANE TAKES RANDALL INTO THE WOODS AND KILLS HIM AND THEN FAKES RANDALL’S ESCAPE TO LURE RICK INTO THE WOODS TO KILL HIM. SHANE USES RANDALL WTHOUT REGARD FOR THE PRISONER’S LIFE. THAT WAS DEFINITELY NO BUENO

Ultimately, even Shane’s bad intentions or “evil” (or self-interest if you think about it) sometimes has good outcomes. Although he’s selfishly focused on his own interests (Lori and Carl), by extension Shane’s selfish acts saves the lies of the group. Optimally, we want people to act on good intentions, but do intentions truly matter when the outcome is good?

John Stuart Mill writes:

the creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

So if you think about it Shane is kind of a utilitarian.

Shane’s only rule is protect Lori and Carl at all costs.

… so maybe Shane’s a rule utilitarian.

Rule utilitarianism, as defined by Wikipedia is:

Rule utilitarianism is a form of utilitarianism that says an action is right as it conforms to a rule that leads to the greatest good, or that “the rightness or wrongness of a particular action is a function of the correctness of the rule of which it is an instance”

THIS CHART SHOWS SHANE’S ACTIONS ARE PERFECTLY OK

THIS CHART SHOWS SHANE’S ACTIONS ARE PERFECTLY OK

Ok, I know what you’re saying. Shane is a bad guy. He did bad things. He didn’t have to kill Otis or the walkers in Hershel’s barn. And Shane definitely played his bad guy card when he attempted to kill Rick. I admit it. It’s difficult to successfully argue that Shane Walsh is not just a good guy, but a guy whose moral aptitude is worth praising.

someone forgot to pack shane's morality

Rick Grimes may be the focus of the show, but Shane by far is the more morally interesting character. Shane leaves the viewer asking “would I do that?”. We get angry at Shane because we know that we’re also capable of going to extremes to protect the ones we love.

Sure, Shane does a lot of bad things: he sleeps with his best friend’s wife, points his gun at anyone who disagrees with him, attempts to rape his best friend’s wife after she refuses his advances… but we’re all putting Shane Walsh on our fantasy zombie hunting team because we know Shane is willing to do anything, ANYTHING to protect the people that he loves.

And that seems like a pretty good thing to do.
* If you’re curious about The Walking Dead and the Black Highlander Theory check out:

http://www.walkingdeadforums.com/tv-series/walking-dead-producer-dismisses-black-highlander-theory-spoilers/

** For a list of Rick Grimes’ inconsistencies: http://www.wired.com/2013/11/walking-dead-recap-indifference/

SOURCES:
John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_utilitarianism

It’s Gotta Be the Head

The new half-season of The Walking Dead starts in about a week.

I’m pretty excited about it. So excited that I’m writing another blog post about the show.

Yeah, I know. I write about this show a lot.

 

oh my god i need help

 

Writing about The Walking Dead (other than writing an episode review) may seem like a stupid pointless unphilosophical thing for a philosopher to do.

Yeah. Immanuel Kant would probably say something like that.

How do you say stupid in German?

 

german for poop

 

 

I’m pretty sure that means something else…
But here’s the reason why I do: I think the show is very philosophical.

 

are you on crack GIF

 

Ok, listen. This is how The Walking Dead is philosophical: Have you ever thought about whether a zombie is actually alive or dead? I mean really thought about it.

 

THE ANSWER SHOULD BE OBVIOUS BUT IT’S NOT

THE ANSWER SHOULD BE OBVIOUS BUT IT’S NOT

 

Sure, you can ask a scientist. But seriously, what’s a scientist going to tell you? A scientist is going to ask you if the zombie is breathing or if it’s decayed or if it has any measurable brain activity.

Something like that.

But you can much more fun if you ask a philosopher.

 

PHILOSOPHY IS FUN!

PHILOSOPHY IS FUN!

 

A philosopher will tell you all about metaphysics and ethics. And talk to you all about philosophers like Rene Descartes, or David Chalmers, John Searle, or Richard Rorty.

Sounds pretty exciting already, huh?

 

DOESN’T DAVID CHALMERS LOOK LIKE AN EXCITING GUY?

DOESN’T DAVID CHALMERS LOOK LIKE AN EXCITING GUY?

 

The reason why we would ask something like, “Is a zombie actually living or dead?” is this: Wait – let me ask you a question first.

When someone on a TV show is arrested what’s the first thing they say to the arresting officer?
Right.

The perp invariably will declare that they have rights.

 

THERE’S A 47% PERCENT CHANCE THAT AT SOME POINT DURING THIS CONFRONTATION THE INDIVIDUAL WHO IS NOT COP WILL DECLARE THAT HE HAS RIGHTS

THERE’S A 47% PERCENT CHANCE THAT AT SOME POINT DURING THIS CONFRONTATION THE INDIVIDUAL WHO IS NOT COP WILL DECLARE THAT HE HAS RIGHTS

 

But what kind of people have rights? I mean, what does a person have to be to have rights?

Living, right?

Living people have rights.

A person who is alive can declare he has rights. A dead person can not.

 

IT’S OBVIOUS THAT THIS GUY IS ALIVE. …. I THINK.

IT’S OBVIOUS THAT THIS GUY IS ALIVE. …. I THINK.

 

But what about the rights of the undead?

 

Do the dead even have rights?
First, I’m not getting all new agey on this. I’m not talking about life after death or whether beings exist in an alternate plain of existence. These (can be but) aren’t really typical philosophical topics. I’m talking about our general definition of what death means.

Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary (13th edition) defines clinical death as:
Permanent cessation of all vital functions. [defined by]
1) total irreversible cessation of cerebral function of the
respiratory system, spontaneous function of the circulatory
system. 2) the final and irreversible cessation of perceptible
heartbeat and respiration.

 

 

This describes a zombie perfectly.

 

To make things clear, here’s a definition of zombie (as defined by Urban Dictionary):

Zombie: The Walking Dead. Scientific name Homo Coprophagus Somnambulus

A deceased human being who has partially returned to life due to undeterminable causes… In its near-mindless state, it grasps no remains of emotion, personality, or sensation of pain… Circulatory, respiratory, and digestive system are unaffected by reanimation…

 

ACTUAL ZOMBIE BRAIN SCAN…. OR OF A REGULAR VIEWER OF REALITY TV

ACTUAL ZOMBIE BRAIN SCAN…. OR OF A REGULAR VIEWER OF REALITY TV

 

I think it’s safe to assume that we can all agree that a zombie is definitely dead. In horror films the undead are mowed down without a second thought. They must be exterminated before they infect or consume the living.

This is because the living have rights that the dead do not. Namely, the living have a right to life.

Our rights are intrinsically linked to the idea of interests.
The Israeli moral and political philosopher Joseph Raz describes rights like this:

X has a right if and only if X can have rights and, other things being equal, an aspect of X’s well-being (his interest) is a sufficient reason for holding some other person(s) to be under a duty….

In short, our rights involve not only the well being (interests) of others, but also our well being.

It is in the interest of every human being to live as long and as safely as possible. Therefore humans have a right to life.

 

i_like_being_alive_by_sebreg-d5rktpp

 

But here’s the catch – in a zombie apocalypse the undead inevitably will outnumber the living.

 

THIS GRAPH SHOWS THE RATIO OF LIVING TO UNDEAD DURING A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

THIS GRAPH SHOWS THE RATIO OF LIVING TO UNDEAD DURING A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

 

Alright. Let me tell you something.

You may have noticed it already, but whenever a philosopher talks about stuff like rights they’re talking about politics, or as professional philosophers like to call it, political philosophy.

 

Political philosophy is:

… the study of topics such as politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law, and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why (or even if) they are needed, what, if anything, makes a government legitimate, what rights and freedoms it should protect and why, what form it should take and why, what the law is, and what duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any, and when it may be legitimately overthrown, if ever.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

 

Remember we were talking about interests awhile back? Well, it’s not just political philosophers who chat about interests. Moral philosophers (also known as ethicists) write about interests, too.

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER IS QUITE WELL-KNOWN FOR WRITING ABOUT “RATIONAL SELF INTEREST”

THIS PHILOSOPHER IS QUITE WELL-KNOWN FOR WRITING ABOUT “RATIONAL SELF INTEREST”

 
Political philosophers may speak the language of rights and freedoms, but at the heart of every law, policy, or political argument is a question of ethics.

 

ethics everywhere

 
So – the zombie apocalypse has begun. News reports say the nation is overrun by hordes of the undead.

 

night of the living dead

 
You’ve locked yourself and your loved ones behind closed doors. You’ve boarded up your windows. You’ve hoarded an ample supply of toilet paper and armed yourself with your weapon of choice.

 

HE’S NO DARYL DIXON BUT IT’S AS CLOSE AS YOU’RE GONNA GET IN THE REAL WORLD

HE’S NO DARYL DIXON BUT IT’S AS CLOSE AS YOU’RE GONNA GET IN THE REAL WORLD

 

Several of your neighbors have decided to form a posse to hunt down and destroy the revenant menace. You want to join them but you’re a philosopher. You have to think about things first.

You ask yourself, is participating in the mass destruction of the undead really the right thing to do?

As a philosopher, you know that when you act you’re not just required to consider your own interests but the interests of others as well.

be sensitive

 

According to the website Dangerous Universe, during the first year of a zombie outbreak, the zombie population would surpass the remaining population of living people.

 

zombie population

 

Now, if having rights is all about having our interests served, whose interests are being served in a world populated by the undead? More to the point: whose interests should be served during the zombie apocalypse? Can the living morally justify killing the dead?

We’re told that the undead are no longer our friends, family and neighbors, but should that matter? Do the reanimated have no rights that the living are bound to respect?

 

THERE’S A 47% PERCENT CHANCE THAT AT SOME POINT DURING THIS CONFRONTATION THE INDIVIDUAL WHO IS NOT ALIVE WILL DECLARE THAT HE HAS RIGHTS

THERE’S A 47% PERCENT CHANCE THAT AT SOME POINT DURING THIS CONFRONTATION THE INDIVIDUAL WHO IS NOT ALIVE WILL DECLARE THAT HE HAS RIGHTS

 

Perhaps the correct question isn’t is participating in the mass destruction of the undead really the right thing to do? but rather, should the living give their lives to respect the rights of the dead?

Utilitarian ethics tell us that an act is morally permissible if the intended outcome results in the greatest good for the greatest number (The Greatest Happiness Principle).

 

THIS IS A UTILITARIAN CALCULUS

THIS IS A UTILITARIAN CALCULUS

 

In a zombie apocalypse the dead outnumber the living.

During the first year, anyway.

If the dead outnumber the living might we argue that according to the Greatest Happiness Principle the interests of the deceased take precedence over the interests of the living?

It would be unwise for a mortal to assume that the fact that the undead can’t articulate their interests infers that they don’t have them. It’s undeniable that zombies, despite being dead, have interests. They clearly want human flesh (or brains, depending on what zombie movie/TV series you’re watching).

 

tarman

 

If our ethics tell us that the only morally permissible acts are the acts that secure the greatest good for the greatest number and the dead outnumber the living, isn’t the happiness achieved if the dead are allowed to consume the living?

Now would be a good time for a …..

 

thought experiment

 

Let’s say, in the real world, cockroaches outnumber humans, and we’re not bound to respect their interests. That’s right. Simple numbers do not determine whose interests count over another. We wouldn’t say the fact that cockroaches outnumber humans means that we are morally obligated to place their needs before our own.

The fact that this:

 

cockroach GIF

 

Outnumbers this:

 

human GIF

 

Is not enough to declare one group’s rights should be achieved at the expense of the other.
Especially if those rights includes consuming the other group.

 

So – we must choose different criteria for having one’s interests count. How do we do that? How we determine whose interests count without running the risk of being arbitrary or speciesist?*

 

Before we define our new criteria, watch this scene from the horror-comedy zombie film, Return of the Living Dead (1985):

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, did you watch the movie clip?

In the clip, a zombie describes the state of being dead as painful and says that eating brains is the only way to relieve the pain of being dead (it’s worth noting that the zombies in the Return of the Living Dead films can articulate their interests, which is eating brains).

 

MERLE LOOKS LIKE HE’S FEELING BETTER ALREADY

MERLE LOOKS LIKE HE’S FEELING BETTER ALREADY

 

So, the zombie’s want to decrease physical pain gives us reason to make the argument that a zombie has at least one interest.

 

zombie protest

 

It’s been established that the living dead outnumber the living. It is also the fate of all men to die, and according to zombies death is painful. Ending the pain of death is actually in the interest of every being that is dead or eventually will be dead. And if the consumption of brains (or human flesh, depending on the movie) is the only thing that stops the pain, then the only moral thing to do is to permit the dead to eat the brains (or flesh) of the living.

Now, I know you’re raising an objection to my utilitarian logic.

Bullocks, you say.

Zombies are dangerous. Zombies eat people.
Well, as any fan of The Walking Dead knows, the undead can be subdued simply by removing their arms and lower jaw, thus rendering the once-threatening revenant harmless.

The character Michonne has employed this successful method not only once but twice.

michonne's pets

 

 

michonne's pets 2

 

 

As has the character Andrea:

 

 

andrea's pet

 
Wrangling zombies is all really quite simple**

 
Let’s look at it this way: what if being a zombie wasn’t dead, but suffering from a mental illness that makes them attack and eat other living people. If zombies were not dead but living individuals overcome by a compulsive behavior, we wouldn’t hesitate to declare that despite their mental illness, zombies have rights we are bound to respect. Even those individuals who are most dangerous to society would not be immediately done away with. This is because they retain rights because that every human is entitled to by virtue of being human – a being with interests that we are morally obligated to respect.

 

download (6)

 

So when “good guy” Rick Grimes slays the undead the audience may cheer for him, but he really is an evil man carrying out an evil deed. Rick Grimes (or any other zombie hunter) has no moral authority to impede on the rights of the undead.

 

RICK GRIMES IS GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY - OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED WHEN YOU GO AROUND SLAUGHTERING ZOMBIES LIKE THEY DON’T MATTER

RICK GRIMES IS GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY – OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED WHEN YOU GO AROUND SLAUGHTERING ZOMBIES LIKE THEY DON’T MATTER

 

Even if a person is not mentally “all there” or lacks measurable brain activity, or lacks the ability to articulate their interests, we can‘t morally justify killing them – even if they‘re icky or stinky or want our brains or can’t be reasoned with.

Or perhaps even if they’re dead.

 

 

Any other ethical reason we have for killing zombies boils down to some arbitrary quality like the aesthetics of the undead.

 

We want to kill zombies merely because they rate high on the “eww!” scale.
eww-o-meter
However nasty a zombie may be, a zombie’s “eww” factor doesn’t allow us to neglect a zombie’s interests.

The mere act of finding a zombie unpleasant smelling or to look at or just because it wants to eat your brains are hardly justifiable reasons for committing genocide.

 
Even if you’re Rick Grimes.

 

 

 

 
*speciesism is defined as the human assumption that humans are superior to other animals and therefore entitled to use, abuse, or exploit non-human animals as we see fit.
It’s not unreasonable to assume that many of the living would adopt a speciesist position towards the undead.

** According to utilitarianism the Greatest Happiness Principle requires us to consider the happiness of everyone who stands to be affected by a particular act. “Everyone” also includes zombies. If removing a zombie’s jaw and restraining it is as (or more) effective as killing it, then our utilitarian calculus suggests that we may be morally obligated to remove and restrain instead of kill.

 

SOURCES:
Adam Swift. Political Philosophy: A Beginner’s Guide for Students and Politicians. Second Edition. 2007 [2006]. Malden, MA: Polity Press p. 143.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Zombie

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_philosophy

http://www.dangerousuniverse.com/du/2013/how-many-zombies-are-there-in-the-world-of-the-walking-dead/

My Other Brother Daryl

I used to think it was kind of cheesy whenever I would hear someone claim that the lyrics from a song or a character from a book or a movie changed their life.

 

With a world filled with so many real-life heroes and heroines, to say that your life changed after watching an episode of Mob Wives seems a bit trivial.

 

Although I will say that I was more than a little bit moved after watching Cloverfield.

 

 

THOSE PARASITES, MAN.

THOSE PARASITES, MAN.

 

 

Even if one has never experienced something as profound as being permanently changed by the lyrics of “Girls, Girls, Girls“, one can recognize that watching the “life” of a character from a TV show or a movie can be philosophically interesting.

 

One character I find philosophically interesting is the character Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus on AMC’s hit horror-drama, The Walking Dead.

 

 

keep calm and love daryl dixon

Fans of the show like Daryl Dixon because he is a badass.

 

 

the zombie died

 
I like Daryl Dixon because he discovers the meaning of life.

 

Or rather, that Daryl Dixon discovers the meaning of his life.

 

 

  DARYL DIXON. BADASS LEVEL: SEXIEST HILLBILLY IN GEORGIA.


 DARYL DIXON. BADASS LEVEL: SEXIEST HILLBILLY IN GEORGIA.

 

 

Ok, I know I’ve written about The Walking Dead more than a few times already. And I know that some people think that the show is nothing more than inane television. They are befuddled by the fact that ANYONE can enjoy a show with characters that are straight from the TV clichés handbook. They are even more perplexed by the fact that the show is not only the highest basic cable drama on television, but and that anyone would look for, much less find “deeper” meaning in the soap opera-like plots and hammy (sometimes borderline unintentionally comical) acting.

 

There’s a reason why Mad Men wins the big awards and The Walking Dead isn’t even nominated.

 

 

YEP. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY EVERYONE LOVES MAD MEN.

YEP. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY EVERYONE LOVES MAD MEN.

 

 

 

Some people even question the judgment of people who express a fondness for former sheriff’s deputy, Rick Grimes, and his band of survivors.

 

And to that, I say,

 

 

haters

 

 

 

Many TV show characters have a following, but Daryl Dixon may be the only character in television history whose fans have threatened an uprising if the character is removed from the show.

 

 

If-Daryl-dies-we-riot

 

 
Daryl Dixon is initially introduced in season one as the delinquent younger brother of the racist, sexist, Heisenberg-using Merle Dixon (played by Michael Rooker). Daryl’s entrance is as memorable as his character: he emerges from the woods, crossbow in hand, grimy from head to toe, a bounty of dead squirrels strung around his neck. Daryl doesn’t care about anything or for anyone other than his brother.

 

Daryl Dixon angrily expresses his contempt (angrily contempt, is that redundant?) for the group when he’s told that his brother (Merle) was chained to a roof and left behind in zombie-infested Atlanta. And when the camp is invaded by the undead, Daryl declares that the reason why the camp was attacked is because the group has reaped what it sowed.

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CHAIN MERLE DIXON TO A PIPE…. AT LEAST ACCORDING TO HIS BROTHER.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CHAIN MERLE DIXON TO A PIPE…. AT LEAST ACCORDING TO HIS BROTHER.

 

 
Consequently, Daryl agrees to accompany Rick back to Atlanta not to retrieve a valuable bag of guns that Rick left behind in the city, but to find his brother Merle.

 

 

UNFORTUNATELY FOR DARYL, THIS IS WHAT HE FINDS IN ATLANTA.

UNFORTUNATELY FOR DARYL, THIS IS WHAT HE FINDS IN ATLANTA.

 

 
Although Daryl proves he’s handy with a crossbow, without his brother or a defined and/or useful skill (other than brooding and squirrel hunting) Daryl’s place in the group is unclear.

 

 

THIS IS THE ONLY EXPRESSION DARYL DIXON HAD ALL OF SEASON ONE.

THIS IS THE ONLY EXPRESSION DARYL DIXON HAD ALL OF SEASON ONE.

 

 

In the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, everyone’s role is clearly defined:
Rick Grimes is the leader of the group (undeniably). Rick’s former partner and best friend, Shane Walsh, is Rick’s second in command. Glenn is to go-to guy. Old man Dale is the voice of reason. T-Dog is the lone black guy. Carl Grimes is the incorrigible child. Andrea is the useless chick. And Rick’s wife Lori – let’s not talk about Lori.

 

 

ALL I'M GONNA SAY IS THAT JANET WEISS ISN’T THE ONLY CHARACTER THAT PEOPLE YELL “SLUT” WHEN SHE APPEARS ON SCREEN.

ALL I’M GONNA SAY IS THAT JANET WEISS ISN’T THE ONLY CHARACTER THAT PEOPLE YELL “SLUT” WHEN SHE APPEARS ON SCREEN.

 

 

lori grimes, slut

 

 

 

See?

 

Nearly every character in the group has a place to fill; a purpose. Daryl does not. He’s just a crossbow carrying, squirrel-hunting, brother-of-a-racist hick who knows choke holds are illegal.

Sure, Daryl Dixon is a fan favorite, a total badass, and can survive in the woods, but he lacks a reason for being where or who he is.

That has “easily expendable” written all over it.
Daryl Dixon is a The Walking Dead redshirt.

 

 

death had a near-daryl experience

 

 

 

Seriously, though. Daryl tells Rick and Shane that choke holds are illegal.

After Shane chokes him.

Cops aren’t supposed to put people in choke holds.
Because they’re cops.

 

choke hold's illegal

 
The meaningless existence of Daryl Dixon seems destined to be Dixon’s fate until the first episode of the show’s second season. In the season 2 opener “What Lies Ahead” something extraordinary happens – a character goes missing.

A child. Sophia Peletier.

 

THIS IS A WONDERFUL THING FOR DARYL DIXON.

 

 

WHO KNEW THAT A MISSING CHILD WOULD BRING ABOUT SUCH FORTUITOUS CONSEQUENCES?

WHO KNEW THAT A MISSING CHILD WOULD BRING ABOUT SUCH FORTUITOUS CONSEQUENCES?

 
Wait a minute. I have to go forward a bit for this to make any sense.

BACK TO THE ‘82

BACK TO THE ‘82

 

 

Ok. So in season four, the group is attacked by The Governor and they’re forced to flee the prison. Daryl and Beth Greene (the one who sings) find themselves alone (together) and – wait –

Damn. Now I gotta explain that.

 

Ok… Rick Grimes and his group find sanctuary at an abandoned prison. They’re able to clear out the undead (they’re never called zombies on the show) and make a safe place for themselves. But then this dude called “The Governor” shows up.

He’s a pretty bad guy.

 

How do you know The Governor is bad? He’s got an eye patch.

 

EYE PATCH = EVIL

EYE PATCH = EVIL

 

 

Long story short (too late) The Governor and Rick’s group can’t find a way to make nice-nice during the zombie apocalypse (this should be an easy thing to do, right?) and the opposing groups soon turn to war.

 

 

Then this happens:

 

 

Hershel beheading

 

 

 

And then this happens:

 

OK, I KNOW THIS IS A STILL FROM SEASON 3. BOTH OF THE GOVERNOR’S ATTACKS ON THE PRISON INVOLVE BLOWING UP THINGS, SO THIS PICTURE IS STILL TOTALLY APPROPRIATE TO USE.

OK, I KNOW THIS IS A STILL FROM SEASON 3. BOTH OF THE GOVERNOR’S ATTACKS ON THE PRISON INVOLVE BLOWING UP THINGS, SO THIS PICTURE IS STILL TOTALLY APPROPRIATE TO USE.

 

 

 

 

So this happens:

 

 

beth and daryl

 

 

Now, the natural inclination for any The Walking Dead fan on the prospect of an entire episode devoted to Beth Greene (she’s the one who sings) would be to avoid that episode at all costs. That would make sense if you watch the show solely for a weekly fix of blood, guts, and badassery. But remember, there are things more important than watching a character shoot a crossbow and kick ass.

 

norman reedus obsession meme

 

 

Namely, that The Walking Dead is also a philosophical show.

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO THINKS HEISENBERG HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO THINKS HEISENBERG HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

 

 

You see, the search for little Sophia allows Daryl to find his purpose.

 

That’s philosophical.

 

It’s Daryl who leads search for young Sophia and is the most dedicated to finding the lost girl.

 

Well, I guess the girl’s mother would be the most dedicated to finding Sophia.

 

Daryl is thrown off a horse, impaled on one of his own crossbow bolts, gnawed on by a zombie (luckily it was only biting on Daryl’s boot), and is grazed on the side of the head by a bullet when Andrea mistakenly assumes that Daryl is a zombie and attempts to shoot him in the head.

ANDREA REALLY IS THE USELESS CHICK, MAN.

ANDREA REALLY IS THE USELESS CHICK, MAN.

 

 
Daryl helps Andrea to find a reason for living. He supplies T-Dog with antibiotics after T-Dog’s wound is infected. Daryl saves Glenn from a simplified Randall. And let’s not forget that it’s Daryl who steps forward to put down Dale after Dale is attacked by a zombie.
I’m not even going to say spoiler alert.

 IF YOU DON’T KNOW THIS HAPPENED BY NOW (IF NEWS THAT DALE IS DEAD IS A “SPOILER”) DON’T EVEN BOTHER TO WATCH THE SHOW.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THIS HAPPENED BY NOW (IF NEWS THAT DALE IS DEAD IS A “SPOILER”) DON’T EVEN BOTHER TO WATCH THE SHOW.

 

 
Daryl consoles the grieving Carol Peletier by delivering her a Cherokee rose and telling her the tale of grieving mothers on the Trail of Tears.

 

 

daryl on merle

 

 
When Rick kills Shane by stabbing Shane in the chest, Daryl steps forward to occupy the newly-vacant position as Rick’s new right-hand man. When Daryl is nearly fatally injured and hallucinates a vision of his missing brother Merle, he rejects “Merle’s” allegation that the group rejects Daryl and has no use for him.

 

 

DIXON BROTHERS

 

 

Of course we know that Daryl is actually arguing with himself.

daryl's hallucination

THAT DUDE MUST HAVE FALLEN HARD TO SEE MERLE.

 

 

Daryl’s steadfast devotion to find Sophia shows the audience that Daryl not only cares for the group (Sophia, anyway), but more importantly, that he no longer is just Merle Dixon’s little brother. Daryl starts to forge a place for himself in the group.

 

panties dropping

 
In a world where Beth Greene attempts suicide because she finds life in a land full of the undead not worth living (Beth specifically uses the word “pointless”), the zombie apocalypse gives Daryl the opportunity to establish himself as a useful and trustworthy member of the group; a member with an essential role as protector, provider, multi-weapons specialist, tracker, and trusted confidant. By the end of season four, Daryl Dixon is not at all like he was when he was introduced at the outset of the show. Daryl has a purpose.

 

And through a purpose, Daryl Dixon’s life has meaning.

 

 

daryl's purpose

 

 

Daryl confesses to Beth that in the pre-apocalypse, he hadn’t done anything with his life other than follow behind his older brother Merle. Daryl’s life, other than his devotion to Merle, lacked engagement in any other significant activity – activities that, for most people, make our lives meaningful.

 
(Sidenote: the whole scene where Daryl confesses to Beth is a little weird. Beth is supposed to be about seventeen years old or so. That’s fine and dandy until you ask “how old is Daryl?” The actor who plays Daryl Dixon, Norman Reedus, is in his mid-forties. The way Beth extracts info from Daryl is while playing a variation of Truth or Dare (just truth, no dare). The whole situation is kind of creepy (and not just because they play the game while swigging moonshine). The situation gets downright odd when Daryl tells Beth not only has he never been arrested (ok, fine), but he also gives the impression that he’s never done a few OTHER things, as well. Yes, THAT. Are the viewers expected to believe that Daryl Dixon is THAT inexperienced? Is his character supposed to be closer to the fictional Beth Greene’s age and not the actual age of Norman Reedus? Does anyone know? )

 

 

 

JUST HOW OLD IS THIS DARYL DIXON, ANYWAY?

JUST HOW OLD IS THIS DARYL DIXON, ANYWAY?

 

 

The philosopher Susan Wolf says that a meaningful life is a life that a person is “actively engaged” in “projects of worth”. Active engagement, according to Wolf, is any activity that a person is “gripped, excited, involved” in.

 

 

Wolf writes:

To be actively engaged in something is not always pleasant in the ordinary sense of the word. Activities in which people are actively engaged frequently involve stress, danger, exertion or sorrow… However, there is something good about the feeling of engagement: one feels (typically without thinking about it) especially alive.

 

 

 

I KNOW IT'S NOT A PICTURE OF DARYL DIXON BUT THERE AREN'T ANY SCREENSHOTS OF DARYL DIXON CONTEMPLATING THE MEANING OF LIFE.

I KNOW IT’S NOT A PICTURE OF DARYL DIXON BUT THERE AREN’T ANY SCREENSHOTS OF DARYL DIXON CONTEMPLATING THE MEANING OF LIFE.

 
Life in the zombie apocalypse may be a life that is, as Hobbes described in Leviathan, “nasty, brutish, and short”, but it is in this world that Daryl Dixon finds his meaning in life. Daryl Dixon is actively engaged in protecting the lives of his fellow survivors. He is a man that others look to with admiration and for guidance (like the unfortunate patient zero Patrick). The world may suck and Daryl himself may not be aware of it, but Daryl Dixon’s life is not nothing; it‘s not meaningless. He’s done plenty with his life.

 

And not just hunting squirrels with his crossbow.

 

Well, if anything, this is the purpose of Daryl Dixon existence:

 

 

daryl is for the ladies

 

 

This is it. Right, ladies?

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
Susan Wolf. “Meaning In Life”. The Meaning of Life: A Reader. 2008. Eds. E.D. Klemke and Steven M. Cahn. NY: Oxford University Press. 232-3.

Of Mice and Mika

Ask this philosopher what her favorite TV show is.

Go ahead. Ask.

Ok then, I’ll tell you. My favorite TV show is The Walking Dead.
You know, the one with the zombies.

Although it’s (just) a show about zombies, The Walking Dead is basic cable’s highest rated scripted drama.

It’s been on for four seasons. Here are each of the season’s posters:

 

TWD poster season 1

 

 

TWD poster season 2

 

 

 

TWD poster season 3

 

 

TWD poster season 4

 

 

 

 

Oh yeah, this is the poster for the second half of season 4.

 

 

TW poster season 4 #2

 

 
All of the posters have the character Rick Grimes on it. He’s the star of the show.

Rick does stuff and things.

 

 

tumblr_inline_mk7hkl38JM1qz4rgp

 

 
So far, season 4 has been kinda slow.

 

 

 

 RICK’S FARMING MAKES SEASON 2 LOOK ACTION PACKED

RICK’S FARMING MAKES SEASON 2 LOOK ACTION PACKED

Although season 4 has been a bit on the slow side, no matter how boring a season of The Walking Dead gets, you can guarantee a season will include a few things:

 

  • Plenty of zombie blood and guts
  • A likable bad guy
  • Soap opera-esque dialogue (except for Michonne. She barely says anything)
  • The T-Dog Effect*
  • The constant fangirl threats of “If Daryl dies, we riot”

 

if daryl dies we riot

 

 
And Rick Grimes totally eye F-ing the camera.

 

 

eye F

The Walking Dead is certainly tainted with zombie-flavored melodrama, but a little known fact is that the show is packed with philosophy – if you decide to look for it.

 
That is, if you can get past visuals like this:

 

 

dale

 

 
Or this:

 

 

zombie eating

 

 

Or this:

 

 

merle zombie

 

 
A recent philosophically-packed episode had something to do with the death of the character Lizzie Samuels.

 

 

 THIS IS LIZZIE SAMUELS

THIS IS LIZZIE SAMUELS

 

What makes the death of Lizzie philosophically significant isn’t just the fact that Lizzie is a child, but also the utilitarian justification for her killing.

 

That’s right, I said killing.

 

Someone intentionally kills Lizzie Samuels.

 

That person is Carol.

 

That’s right. Carol.

 

The same person who killed David and Tyreese’s girlfriend Karen, Carol.

 

THREE FOR THREE

THREE FOR THREE

 

This is what happens:
In The Walking Dead season 4 episode titled “The Grove”, Carol, Tyreese, baby Judith (Grimes), and the Samuels sisters, Lizzie and her younger sister Mika, find an abandoned farm. Once there the group decides to – you know, nevermind. Long story short (too late) Carol and Tyreese discover that there is something seriously wrong with the eldest Samuels sister Lizzie.

 

Lizzie Samuels is a psychopath.

 

lizzie messed up

 

 
Lizzie expresses an unnatural fondness for zombies (or “walkers”) that endangers the lives of the small group. Lizzie believes that zombies are not dangerous and that zombies are her friends.

 

Wait. It gets worse.

 

Not only does Lizzie believe that flesh-eating zombies are capable of sustaining friendships, she believes that becoming a zombie isn’t such a bad thing.

 

Oh – before I forget – before Carol, Tyreese, Judith, Mika, and Lizzie found the farm they were are a prison. Someone at the prison was feeding rats to the zombies and eviscerating small animals. That person was Lizzie.

Lizzie also named the zombies.
She became quite fond of one she named “Nick”.

 

This, as you may see, is a problem.

 
I think it might be the right time for a list.

 

THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH LIZZIE SAMUELS:

 

  • Lizzie freaks out when she discovers that someone has “killed” Nick.
  • Lizzie violently admonishes Carol when Carol kills a zombie (Lizzie claims she was merely playing with the potentially dangerous flesh eater).
  • Lizzie fails to (re)kill a zombie when a revenant threatens the lives of Lizzie, Mika, and Judith.
  • Lizzie expresses reluctance to kill any zombie (she does not, however, have any difficulty killing the living).
  • While “protecting” Rick Grimes’ infant daughter Judith, Lizzie attempts to smother the child.
  • And lastly, Lizzie kills her sister Mika.

 

It’s okay, Lizzie says. Her sister will come back.

 

lizzie says her sister will come back

 

 
Oh yeah, after killing Mika, Lizzie intends to kill Judith.

 

lizzie's babysitting service

 

 

 

Carol and Tyreese conclude that Lizzie must be dealt with. But how? Lizzie is a child and any extreme method of dealing with the child must be considered very carefully.

The options are as follows:

 

  • Abandon Lizzie and let her fend for herself (this would be cruel)
  • Watch Lizzie at all times to make sure that she doesn’t have the chance to harm anyone else (impractical)
  • Attempt to reason with Lizzie (impossible given Lizzie’s mental state)
  • Physically restrain Lizzie to prevent her from killing more people (cruel and impractical)
  • Kill Lizzie

 

Carol reluctantly concludes that the only way to effectively deal with Lizzie is to kill the child.

 

Of course Carol finds this morally troubling.

Carol’s moral predicament is not unlike the classic Trolley Problem.

 

The Trolley Problem goes like this: a trolley filled with passengers is heading down a stretch of track that – well, something is wrong with the track: a bridge is not extended, a section of track is missing, whatever. However, you can save the lives of the passengers on the trolley of you divert the train to another track. The problem is, there is someone or some people (like five or so) on the other track. Now, do you send the trolley down the track with the five people, lower the bridge, etc. knowing that doing so will kill the people on the other track? Would you save the lives of others by intentionally ending the life of another person?

 

You know, this explains the problem much better than I can:

 

 

 

 

 
Although Lizzie killed her sister, she is unaware of what she’s done – her actions are not malicious. In fact, Lizzie’s intention was good. She believed that, by becoming a walker, her sister was in a better place.

 

Carol decides to kill the one person to protect the lives of the rest of the group because doing so is the only feasible option. Carol has to stop Lizzie from being a threat to others. Lizzie doesn’t realize that the “walkers” are dangerous. She kills her sister Mika in hopes that she will resurrect. She attempted to smother Rick Grimes’ infant daughter Judith.

 

Lizzie’s death parallels the death of Lennie in the Steinbeck novella Of Mice and Men. In Steinbeck’s story, George kills his mentally handicapped companion Lennie after Lennie accidentally kills the wife of a fellow farmhand. Like Lizzie, Lennie did not realize that he had done something wrong.

 

George kills his friend to protect him from a worse fate (a lynch mob). Similarly, Carol kills Lizzie to save others from a worse fate – even to save Lizzie from herself. The motivation to do the greater good (for the greatest number of people) is the basis of utilitarian ethics. Carol’s motivation is to protect the others in the group.

 

John Stuart Mill writes in Utilitarianism:

Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness*

 
The utilitarian goal of providing the greatest good for the greatest number or conducting one’s actions according to the Vulcan principle “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”, is what ultimately leads to Carol’s dreadful decision.

 

 

trolley problem bear

 
This situation is also kind of like the end of the movie The Cabin in the Woods.

 

When whatsherface had to kill whatever his name before sunrise or else the gods will kill everyone on Earth – that’s a Trolley Problem.

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON'T LET THE TROLLEY RUN OVER ONE GUY TO SAVE THE LIVES OF OTHERS

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T LET THE TROLLEY RUN OVER ONE GUY TO SAVE THE LIVES OF OTHERS

 

 
You see, utilitarianism is based on results. An act is right or wrong (morally) if the expected outcome produces the best result or increases the happiness of the people as a whole. Once we decide which act will result in the greatest good for the greatest number, we are morally obligated to do that act. Lizzie was clearly a danger to others. There was no way to convince her that the walkers were dangerous or to stop her from killing another member of the group. Therefore, as the Trolley Problem dictates, one life must be sacrificed to save the lives of the greatest number.

 

So, barring no other viable option, Carol is morally obligated to kill Lizzie.
Carol ultimately takes the girl to a patch of flowers where she kills the girl as quickly and humanely as possible.

She shoots the girl in the back of the head.

 

 

look at the flowers

 
Obviously the problem with utilitarianism is that doing the morally right thing doesn’t always make us feel better.

 

 

At the close of the episode the group may be safer, but we know that Carol and Tyresse are far from being happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Happiness may or may not include emotional happiness. Happiness may also be defined as physical well-being or safety. The fact that killing Lizzie did not make Carol or Tyreese emotionally happy is secondary to the fact that Lizzie’s death made the remaining members of the group safer.

 

 

* For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, the T-Dog Effect goes something like this: every time a new African-American male character is introduced, an already-existing African-American male character dies. This is the T-Dog Effect:

 

 

funny-Walking-Dead-black-characters

 

The effect has generated humorous memes such as this:

 

 

y twd no keep a black character

 

 

And this:

 

t-dog reached season 3

 

 

And this:

 

 

twd new black guy

 
However, the simultaneous existence of African-American male characters Tyreese and Bob Stookey have proven that the T-Dog effect does not hold. The T-Dog Effect is more of an urban myth (or joke) amongst The Walking Dead fans than a (fictional) reality.

 

 

SOURCES:

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005. [1861]. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. p. 8

Oh, Carol!

Zombies.

They’re in, you know.

When you’ve gotten to the point you’re using zombies to sell cell phone plans, you know society is in pretty bad shape.

 

 

You don’t have to ask around, but I think it’s entirely safe to say that zombies are probably the least appealing monster in the movie monster kingdom.

It’s not that the zombie’s least appealing status is undeserved. There are plenty of reasons to dislike them. Zombies aren’t at all like well-cultured, romantic, erudite Vampires. They’re not mischievous like your local poltergeist.  They’re not powerful and all biblical like demons. And they’re not beastly manifestations of man’s repressed id like a werewolf.

 

Nope. That’s not a zombie.

 

Zombies are smelly, rotting, people-chomping, mindless bags of flesh.

If a zombie finds you, it will not bid you good morning or offer you its seat on the bus. A zombie will tear you apart and eat you.

Zombies don’t sparkle. They don’t talk to you through the TV. They don’t look like David Naughton. Zombies look like this:

 

The-Walking-Dead2

 

You can’t get rid of a zombie with sunlight. Or by driving a stake through its heart. Or with love. You can’t hire a priest to perform an exorcism.

The only way to get rid of a zombie is to do this:

 

dawn-of-the-dead-head-explosion

 

Even killing a zombie is pretty gross.

It’s a wonder why zombies are so popular these days.

 

Wait a minute. That movie Warm Bodies. They cured zombies with love, didn’t they?

Twilight + dead hipster = Warm Bodies

Twilight + dead hipster = Warm Bodies

 

If you ask me, Warm Bodies movie is the Nightmare on Elm Street 2 of zombie films.

It’s an ok movie, but… I think they aimed for the wrong audience.

But then, we’ve dealt with running zombies, haven’t we?

 

For the last time, zombies do not run!

For the last time, zombies do not run!

 

It is a well-established fact that you have to kill the brain to kill the ghoul. But zombie brain bashing might get a little messy.

Some people might be put off by that. Squeamish types, you know.

However, there is one thing about zombies that isn’t too gross zombies are fantastically ethical monsters.

You can discuss matters of ethics using zombies, that is.

Luckily for us, the AMC television network has made discussing zombies fairly easy.

Yes. I’m talking about The Walking Dead.

 

2ND AMENDMENT. HELL YEAH!

2ND AMENDMENT. HELL YEAH!

 

In the season 4 episode “Indifference”,  Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) kicks fellow zombie apocalypse survivor, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), out of the group for killing two people who are sick with a deadly strain of the flu. Rick tells Carol that the two might have lived (Carol hadn’t given them a chance to get well), and that Carol had no right to decide who lives and who dies. Carol tells Rick that her justification for killing the two sick people is that she was trying to prevent anyone else from getting sick; that she was protecting the group.

If we look at Carol’s actions through our ethics glasses, we see that Carol’s reasoning is based on the utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. John Stuart Mill wrote in Utilitarianism:

The creed which accepts [utility] as the foundation of morals, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

Carol believes that she has done the right thing. And by killing two people, she believes that she will prevent the deaths of the several dozen living people in the camp. Carol argues the two were terminal, and it’s not wrong if you kill someone who is terminally ill. Carol tells Rick that she ended their suffering, and by hastening their deaths, she saved them from a very painful death of drowning in their own blood.

If a couple of people die so that others may live, Carol reasons, so be it. She tells Rick that she “stepped up” and did something when no one else (including Rick) was willing or able to do what had to be done.

DON’T LET THE MILD MANNERED DEMEANOR FOOL YOU. COUGH ONCE AND CAROL WILL PUT A KNIFE THROUGH YOUR BRAIN.

DON’T LET THE MILD MANNERED DEMEANOR FOOL YOU. COUGH ONCE AND CAROL WILL PUT A KNIFE THROUGH YOUR BRAIN.

 

If we judge Carol’s actions based strictly on the Greatest Happiness Principle, Carol appears to have done the right thing.

Of course, there’s a problem.

Vulcan logic might work well for Mr.Spock, but when people in the real world use the Vulcan logic dictate that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (…or the one)”, things don’t always work out well.

The problem with utilitarian ethics is that utilitarian-based decisions are often based on speculation. Our actions are based on what we estimate will be the best outcome. Unfortunately, we know, despite our best guesses, that speculation is sometimes wrong.

How do we determine what “the needs” are, and more importantly, how can we definitively know what is the best solution for satisfying those needs?

The answer is we can’t.

The reason why is simple: we can’t know all things. That is, humans lack the ability to foresee all possible outcomes. So all the utilitarian is really stuck with is good intentions and a hope that things turn out for the best.

So, we can assume that we’re doing the right thing so long as out intentions are good, right? If Carol meant to do the right thing, she’s in the moral clear….. Right?

Nope.

We might think that what matters (when we act) is that our intention is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, but according to utilitarianism, intentions don’t matter. An act is morally permissible if the act actually produces the greatest good for the greatest number. You might be driven by the best of intentions, but if your actions fail to produce real world good outcomes or makes the situation worse, you’ve done something wrong.

Carol did something wrong.

Listen, there’s no denying that Carol’s argument is appealing. She meant well and she did what she thought was the best thing to do. It’d be tough to argue that anyone shouldn’t do what they think is best. And several killings on The Walking Dead  were committed (justified) in the interest of the Greatest Happiness Principle (Otis, Dave, Tony, Randall, Shane, Big Tiny, Tomas, Andrew, and Hershel’s leg). However, Rick concludes Carol’s utilitarian-based argument doesn’t hold.*

Of course, as Rick surely must have been thinking to himself, the problem with Carol’s argument is that her rationalization for killing the infected is based on speculation. Carol perceived the pair as an immediate threat and determined that the only way to deal with the immediate threat was to kill whoever was infected with the flu. Rick counters Carol’s argument, stating that there was a chance, however small, that the two might have recovered from their illness. We know that even the most virulent strain of flu (like the 1918 Spanish influenza upon which The Walking Dead flu is based) is not 100 percent fatal.

 

what ever you do. do. not. cough.

 

Utilitarian ethics tells us that if there is another, equally acceptable or better solution, we are obligated to either consider other options or not act as we had intended. In short, if there was a chance that the pair might not have died, Carol was morally obligated to NOT kill them.

Carol’s miscalculated utilitarian ethics led her to commit an act that ultimately was not only morally wrong, but showed that Carol was liable to act without fully considering other possible outcomes. Carol went for the immediate, not best solution. Carol’s impulsive act made her a threat to the (overall) safety of the group. This is why Rick is perfectly justified when he kicks Carol out of the group.

By removing Carol from the group, Rick did the greatest good for the greatest number.

 

Oops. Carol's bad.

Oops. Carol’s bad.

 

Carol argues that she was trying to save the group, but ultimately her effort did not work. Other people were infected with the flu and died. AND to make matters much worse for Carol, Tyreese, the boyfriend of one of Carol’s victims, has pledged to kill whoever killed his girlfriend.

Carol not only failed to save anyone, but by killing people, she put her own life in double jeopardy if the flu doesn’t kill her, Tyreese will.

 

Carol isn’t a well-intentioned hero. She’s nothing more than a common murderer.

AND

let’s not forget that because of her actions Carol was kicked out of the group and left to fend for herself in a world populated by smelly, rotting, people-chomping, mindless bags of flesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I speculate that Carol’s reasoning might have been more on the side of rule utilitarianism that simple utilitarianism (or act utilitarianism).  I think Carol might have followed a rule utilitarian position as described by JCC Smart:

“generally, he argues consequences are not relevant at all when we are deciding what to do in a particular case. In general, they are relevant only in deciding what rules are good reasons for acting in a certain way in particular cases”

Carol might have believed that in any circumstance where there is an immediate threat to the group, one must eliminate the threat (the rule). However, as a rule utilitarian, she might have not actually acted on her principle until this particular set of circumstances.

 

 

 

Sources:

John Stuart Mill. “Utilitarianism”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 571

Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings. 5th edition. Ed. Louis P. Pojman. (Wadsworth) 2007. p. 208.

On the Unlikely But Probable Existence of Gettier Truths

Generally speaking, it’s good not to lie to people.

Most people aren’t very good at it and if you make a habit out of lying to people you’re likely to end up getting caught in a web of your own lies. Your lies, as the Blue Fairy would say, become as plain as the nose on your face.

THAT BLUE FAIRY REALLY KNEW WHAT SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT

THAT BLUE FAIRY REALLY KNEW WHAT SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT

Lying isn’t just wrong according to the Bible (which is bad enough as it is) but if you’re a fan of Immanuel Kant the act of lying is a big no-no.

To quote Kant from his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, “lying is no bueno.”

Of course, as with anything else we’re not supposed to do, like premarital sex, serial arson, or liking Nickleback on Facebook, an admonition to not do something has never stopped anyone from doing anything in the real or make-believe world. And rrally, if you watch enough TV you might think that lying is the necessary evil glue that binds fictional universes together.

…or at least habitual lying makes Don Draper sexy.

LIES AS MUCH AS PINOCCHIO. BUT LOOKS CONSIDERABLY BETTER DOING IT

LIES AS MUCH AS PINOCCHIO. BUT LOOKS CONSIDERABLY BETTER DOING IT

In fact, when a fictional character lies it often reveals a greater truth. Even if the liar has no idea that’s what they just did.

If you make it your mission to become an observer of fictional liars and fictitious lies, you’ll soon discover that after binge watching three seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead, basic cable’s ratings powerhouse, the show (ostensibly) about zombies, is a veritable Whack-A-Mole Ô of primetime lying. After spending approximately one and a half days of my life watching zombie chow-downs and survivor shenanigans, I compiled this short list of lies (in no particular order):

  • Lori lies to Shane about who is the father of her baby.
  • Morgan lies to himself into thinking that he will be able to shoot his reanimated wife.
  • Shane lies to everybody about what really happened to Otis.
  • Guillermo lies to Rick about his “ferocious” dogs.
  • Shane is lying to himself about his “love” for Lori (it’s so obvious).
  • Daryl lies to that vato dude about what happened to the guy who pissed him off (Nobody pissed him off. It was actually Merle’s severed hand).
  • The governor lies to the people of Woodbury about what really happened to the National Guardsmen.
  • Shane lies to Lori about Rick’s “death” (Wait. That may have not been a lie as much as it was wishful thinking. Or a mistake. Whatever).
  • Randall lies about merely watching the two girls getting gang-raped in front of their father (we all know that Randall is a shifty slime ball who probably fully participated in the girls’ rape).
  • Randall lies to Carl that he is a good guy.
  • Jim lies to Jacqui when she discovers that he’s been bitten by a walker.
  • The Governor lies to the people of Woodbury about what kind of person he really is.
  • Glenn lies to Merle about who is at the prison.
  • The Governor lies about what happened to the helicopter pilot.
  • Maggie (initially) lies to Glenn about her attraction to him.
  • Shane lies to Dale when Dale catches Shane pointing his gut at Rick.
  • Axel lies about why he is in prison.
  • The Governor lies to Andrea about his true intentions after his “truce” with Rick.
  • Tomas lies to Rick when he “accidentally” takes a swipe at Rick’s head (Tomas tells Rick “shit happens”. Rick agrees with Tomas and then cleaves him in the head with a machete).
  • Milton (unsuccessfully) lies to the Governor about not knowing about Andrea’s trip the prison.
  • Milton (unsuccessfully) lies to the Governor about not knowing who burned the walkers in the pit.
  • Andrea lies to Michonne when she denies that she chose sex with the Governor over their friendship.
  • Rick fails to inform the group that they are all infected with the zombie virus (this is a lie of omission, but a lie nonetheless).
  • Shane lies to Rick about “banging” a high school P.E. coach (we all know Shane was lying).
  • Shane lies to Rick about playing nice-nice after their fight  (after they failed to successfully abandon Randall).
  • Shane lies to Rick so he can lure Rick into the woods so he can kill him.
  • Shane lies to Carol about his sympathies for Carol after Sophia’s funeral.
  • Shane lies to Randall to lure him into the woods so he can kill him.

My God, Shane does a lot of lying.

Shane is not as big a liar as Don Draper. But then, what fictional character is?

For those who are inclined to view their television through an ethical lens, Shane Walsh demonstrates why Kant tells us that lying is wrong. Namely, that lying violates the Categorical Imperative. Kant tells us that before we perform any act, that:

I only ask myself: Can I will that my maxim become a universal law? If not, it must be rejected, not because of any disadvantage accruing to myself, or even to others, but because it cannot enter as a principle into a possible enactment of universal law, and reason extorts me from an immediate respect for such legislation.

Kant also says that we cannot treat others as mere means to our ends. Kant writes:

… every rational being exists as a end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In his actions, whether they are directed towards himself or toward other rational beings, he must always be regarded at the same time as an end… Man, however, is not a thing, and thus not something to be used merely as a means; he must always be regarded as an end in himself.

You see, Kant tells us that lying (Kant calls “false promises”) is morally wrong because no matter how well-intended our intentions may be, telling lies inevitably leads to some greater moral evil. Kant writes:

Would I be content that my maxim of extricating myself from difficulty by a false promise should hold as a universal law for myself as well as for others? And I could say to myself that everyone may make a false promise… Immediately I see that I could will the lie but not a universal law to lie. For with such a law there would be no promises at all, inasmuch as it would be futile to make a pretense of my intention in regard to future actions to those who would not believe this pretense… Thus my maxim would necessarily destroy itself as soon as it was made a universal law.

In short, Kant says if everybody lies, then no one would believe anyone.

And for all his lies, this is how Shane ends up:

shane walsh as a zombie

Kant would call that retributive justice.

Shane Walsh is an example of what happens when someone lies. Despite the fact the Shane believed his intentions were good, the consequences of Shane’s lies proved that even the best intentioned lie can have disastrous effects. People can get hurt.

And if you are Randall or Otis, people get killed.

… well actually, if you’re Otis, Shane will shoot you in the kneecap, leave you to the zombies, and then lie to everyone about how you really died.

OTIS SAW HIS LIFE FLASH BEFORE HIS EYES... NO, WAIT -- IT'S JUST THE MUZZLE OF SHANE'S GUN

OTIS SAW HIS LIFE FLASH BEFORE HIS EYES… NO, WAIT — IT’S JUST THE MUZZLE OF SHANE’S GUN

A funny thing about lies.

Even though Kant tells us that all lies are inevitably bad, sometimes when someone lies something weird happens: in the middle of the lie is the truth.

Not just a kind of truth, but THE TRUTH.

The kind of truth-telling lie that reveals how sinister someone truly is.

In the season three (episode three) “Arrow On the Doorpost”,  Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and The Governor (David Morrissey) meet to discuss terms for a treaty following an attack on The Governor’s stronghold in Woodbury.

Wait, this is out of context:

You see, this dude, Merle Dixon, kidnapped two of Rick’s friends, Glenn and Maggie, and so Rick and a few of his people went to Woodbury to rescue them and well, let’s say things went badly enough to require a cease fire between the two survivalist factions.

Ok. So, the meeting between Rick and The Governor pretty much goes nowhere (although Rick agrees to one condition for a peaceful settlement: he agrees hand over one of his men (actually it was a woman) in exchange for peace). But when each man returns to his camp, The Governor and Rick do the exact same thing: they lie.

The Governor tells Andrea wait

Ok, Andrea used to be in Rick’s group, but she was separated from the group when Hershel’s farm (I’m not explaining, just follow along) is overrun by the living dead. Andrea is rescued by Michonne, the nearly-mute, katana-wielding, dreadlocked, badass, who, while she was in Woodbury, got suspicious of The Governor’s motives and skipped town.

Oh yeah, when she returned to Woodbury, she stuck her katana through the skull of  Penny, The Governor’s zombified daughter.

… and she also stabbed out The Governor’s eye.

Folks, if you aren’t watching this TV show, you should be.

Get the plot so far?

Ok. So, The Governor tells Andrea that he and Rick have agreed to let bygones be bygones and as long as Rick’s people stay on their side, things between both groups will be hunky dory. But, when out of earshot of Andrea, The Governor tells his men his real plan that he intends to kill Rick, Michonne, and everyone else in Rick’s group.

We expect The Governor to lie because he’s a bad guy. He does not let the audience down.

But, when Rick returns to his group he tells his fellow survivors that The Governor intends to kill everyone in Rick’s group.

The Governor did not tell Rick this.

But by lying, Rick reveals The Governor’s true intentions.

THE LONGER THIS GUY LIVES THE MORE THAT GOUGED-OUT EYE IS WELL-DESERVED

THE LONGER THIS GUY LIVES THE MORE THAT GOUGED-OUT EYE IS WELL-DESERVED

Rick does lie, but in a strange way, Rick tells something like a Gettier truth: he’s right about The Governor.

But only accidentally so.*

 

This all makes me wonder: was Rick aware that he was telling his group the truth?

Or was it Rick’s intention to get his people gunned-up to kill The Governor no matter what settlement the two men had reached regarding the attack on Woodbury? Although it would tickle my philosophical soul pink to see it, I’m thinking that a deep, philosophical analysis of Rick Grimes’ motivations isn’t going to be had anytime soon.

Well, not since Andrea died, anyway.

I get the feeling she was the only character who had any idea who Edmund Gettier was.

Oops. Spoiler alert.

 

 

 

* For more information on misapplying the concept of Gettier problems, see my previous post “99 Problems and Gettier Ain’t One”.

 

 

Sources: Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 1997 [1785]. Second edition. Trans. Lewis White Beck. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. pp. 19, 45-6

Life Is Brutish, Undead, and Short: On Hobbes’ State of Nature and The Walking Dead

The-Walking-Dead2

Any George A. Romero fan will tell you that zombie movies aren’t just about zombies.

Sure, Romero’s zombies are gross and nasty, and there’s plenty of blood, gore and scares.

Hence the appeal.

Sparkly vampires might get the ‘tween crowds all worked up and kissing their posters of shimmering, brooding, pout-lipped blood-suckers on their walls

Go Team Edward!

– but for some folks (in particular those folks who like a little bit of thinking served alongside their horror) zombies are definitely they way to go.

Wait, are the Twilight films even considered horror? Horrible yes, but are they horror?

Good Lord, I hope not.

If you look (not even so) closely, Romero’s zombies are always about something – civil unrest, consumerism, militarism, bureaucracy, or the war on terror…

and the sorry fact that there will always be some idiot who won’t put down his camera long enough to save his own life.

Of course, Romero’s zombie films aren’t the only place you’ll find zombie symbolism. In Max Brooks’ best-selling novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, the undead represent a global crisis: viral pandemics, environmental disasters, terrorism, economic collapse…

You name the crisis, zombies can be it.

This could be part of the reason why zombies, despite their utter grossness, are a pop culture favorite. And the ratings success of AMC’s The Walking Dead has proved that audiences are more than willing to watch a weekly television show about a world full of cannibalistic revenants. Ostensibly, the show is about a group of survivors in a zombie plague. And that works just fine – undead flesh eaters are fun to watch. But if you look a little bit closer, you’ll see that The Walking Dead, like the zombie films of George A. Romero, is actually about something.

If you ask me, I think The Walking Dead is really about the state of nature.

Although David Hume writes that the state of nature is purely hypothetical (the state of nature never actually existed at any time in human history), and writes, “‘tis utterly impossible for men to remain any considerable time in that savage condition, which precedes society…”, the state of nature is meant to explore the origin of natural law and the social contract.

In political philosophy the state of nature precedes the political community and leads to the social contract. John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Hobbes all wrote about the state of nature.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of the “state of nature”, you’ve probably heard the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) famous quote in wrote in Leviathan (1651) that in the state of nature, life is “brutish, nasty, and short.”

This is what Hobbes had to say about the state of nature:

In such condition, there is no place for industry… no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea… no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (emphasis added)

Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan, writes that the state of nature is the “natural condition of mankind.” Nature, according to Hobbes, has made all men equal “in the faculties of the body, and mind” and even though one person may be quicker or stronger than the other, Hobbes writes “the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others…”

In the state of nature, Hobbes states, each man is left to define his own rules. Hobbes says human nature positions people to fight each other and with no authority to intervene or prevent violence human “society” is nothing more than a war of “all against all”. Hobbes writes, since self-preservation is supreme, our benevolence towards others is limited, and people are easily offended and quick to fight. Since each person operates according to their own law, our actions are influenced only by our own interests and we treat others not according to how we want to be treated, but according on how we decide to treat them. Thomas Hobbes says people are left to master others “by force or wiles… all the men he can.”

Hobbes states that the need for self-preservation is so essential that in order to save our own lives people agree to band together for mutual protection and to appoint a ruler to maintain social order. We leave the state of nature (where people possess maximum freedom) and agree to mutually binding rules. This is the social contract.

According to social contract theory, we agree that the law may restrict our freedom in order to preserve or promote freedom. For example, we agree to laws that restrict people from murdering each other in the interest of preserving the public’s right to live in peace without fear of their lives being cut short through act of violence.

Try as they might, these zombies will never enter into the social contract.

Try as they might, these zombies will never enter into the social contract.

Although it is entirely possible that the state of nature never existed, it might under the right circumstances.

– like a zombie apocalypse.

Unlike the hypothetical state of nature, where Hobbes tells us the urge for self-preservation leads us out of the state of nature and into the social contract, during the zombie apocalypse, the zombie plague infects people back into the state of nature. The zombie symbolizes untamed human nature. It is driven only by base drives; the need to consume and devour everything and everyone in its path. A zombie does not think, it does not reason. It has no desire to create or participate in civilization. Zombies do not create art. They will never participate in the social contract. Zombies will kill you without even thinking about it.

That’s because a zombie can’t think about it.

It is an all-out war between the living and the dead.

There is constant fear of violent death. And as young Sophia Peletier learns, life during the zombie apocalypse is indeed “Nasty, brutish and short”.

Alas, poor Sophia. Oh look, her shirt has a rainbow!

Alas, poor Sophia. Oh look, her shirt has a rainbow!

After watching a few episodes of The Walking Dead, it’s fairy easy to figure out that The Walking Dead isn’t merely a zombie TV show, but a morality play wherein the main characters, led by former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, struggle to hold on to what is left of their humanity following the collapse of civilized society. Civilization in The Walking Dead has returned to a state resembling Hobbes’ state of nature. Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, states that he wanted:

[to see] … how living in a world like this twists and turns things around to where morals get twisted and people’s actions that they would think are morally wrong end up being the right thing to do. And just showing how miserable it would be to live in this world.

However, in the world of The Walking Dead, it is not only the dead who threaten the survivors, but the living do as well. The series’ tagline for the third season was “fear the living”. Without law or fear of punishment, no one is trustworthy. The living are as dangerous, if not more threatening than the undead.

Given the state of lawlessness and incivility in Robert Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse, surely Kirkman was channeling Hobbes’ state of nature war of all against all when he created The Walking Dead. It remains to be seen how civilized the civilized enclave of Woodbury will remain in the aftermath of the attack/rescue mission by Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors in which the Governor (of Woodbury) lost and eye and his daughter is re-killed. By all signs, the traumatic events have caused the Governor to let go of his grip on what remained of his humanity.

Does this mean that there is no hope for these characters to emerge from the state of nature?

I wonder how much deeper into the state of nature the characters of The Walking Dead will go?

My guess is that The Governor won’t be reading any John Rawls the second half of season three.

My guess is that The Governor won’t be reading any John Rawls the second half of season three.

SOURCES:

1. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hobbes-moral/
2. Thomas Hobbes Leviathan. 1985 [1651]. NY: Penguin Books. 184
3. David Hume A Treatise of Human Nature. 2000, 2005 [1739]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Bk. 3, Pt. 2, sec. 2)
4. “Making of The Walking Dead”. The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season. Anchor Bay Entertainment. 2011.

We Do Not Kill the Living… Except… : On the Shifting Morality of Rick Grimes on AMC’s The Walking Dead

If it’s not obvious by now, I’m obsessed with a fan of The Walking Dead.

Actually, I’m pretty much a fan of anything to do with zombies (one notable exception being George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead. Sorry. I love Romero’s movies but that one was just awful). So, if you want to invite me over for dinner and a movie, you’d better be sure that the movie has something to do with reanimated corpses and flesh eating.

Any fan or even non-fan of the show knows there’s a great deal of ballyhoo over AMC’s unlikely hit chronicling a small band of zombie plague survivors as they fight for survival amid the zombie apocalypse (aka ZA), and that the series has become the highest rated basic cable television show in TV history. And as sure as Trioxin 245 re-animates dead flesh, the show’s popularity has incited what can only be described as “haters”. If you think about it, it’s fairly easy to deride  a TV show that not only is based on the ridiculous premise of society being overrun by flesh eating revenants, but also plays out less like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and more like an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. However, for reasons that even the most enthusiastic The Walking Dead fan can’t quite explain, millions of television viewers tune in every week to see the high drama (and maybe a zombie kill or two), post-apocalyptic world of former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes and his fellow ZA survivors.

Ok, there’s a good reason to think of The Walking Dead as nothing more than soap operatic or as a mere B-movie zombie flick delivered in weekly installments, but those who are philosophically inclined might have noticed amid the 3-way love triangles and Carl Grimes’ incessant annoyingness, something afoot going on  namely, that hidden within the throngs of shambling draugurs, The Walking Dead also gives its fans something philosophical to chew on.

One of those things is the shifting morality of former deputy sheriff Rick Grimes.

When we’re introduced to Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), a deputy sheriff from BFE, Georgia, in the series’ debut episode “Days Gone Bye”, Rick is initially presented as an honest, hard-working, small-town sheriff who sternly reminds a fellow (albeit inept) deputy to make sure the safety of his gun is off before getting shot by a fleeing robbery suspect. When we see Rick Grimes we should be thinking this:

This is Sheriff Andy Taylor as played by Andy Griffith on “The Andy Griffith show”.

Even though we’ve seen Rick on screen for barely five minutes, when his is shot and slips into a coma, we worry about him. We want him to make it through ok. When Rick awakens from his coma (after an unspecified amount of time) to find the world has been overrun by the living dead, we know that he will survive

Because after all, he is Rick Grimes.

As viewers, we like Rick Grimes. We like Rick because despite the fact that he has no idea what is happening around him, Rick  slips into badass mode and quickly assumes the role of the hero. Rick (barely fully recovered from emerging from a coma, mind you) helps Morgan Jones and his son Duane find a hot shower and load up on guns at the abandoned sheriff’s office. Next, Rick helps a group of survivors escape a department store in Atlanta, and even attempts to return back to the city to rescue a member of the group (the abrasive, sexist, homophobic, and racist Merle Dixon) who is chained to a pipe on the store’s roof and left behind. Although members of the group argue that Merle is not worth saving, Rick feels that it is his duty to return to the city to get Merle. Rick tells the others that no living being deserves to be chained to a roof and left to die. Rick’s absolutist morality dictates that he is obligated to save Merle Dixon, even if it means that his own life is on the line; even if he dies in the attempt, Rick feels that he must fulfill his duty to others despite the consequences.

At this point, Rick’s morality is deontological. That is, Rick Grimes is following the moral principles of Deontological Ethics. Deontological ethics, most notably associated with the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804), is the ethical theory that holds that the morality of an action is judged according to one’s adherence to universally binding rules, duties or obligations to oneself and others. For the deontologist, the consequences of an act do not matter as much as the intentions behind an act. Kant wrote:

Do what is right, though the world may perish

Rick’s uniform symbolizes law and order; an absolutist (deontological) morality. And it is clear that Rick, who sports his sheriffs’ uniform well into season 2*, is strongly rooted in a clear sense of right and wrong. He does what is right despite the fact that the world has ended. Rick’s strong and unwavering sense of right and wrong suggests that according to Rick’s Kantian ethics, neglecting his duty to save others is morally wrong even if the person he‘s saving is a morally reprehensible sexist, racist, homophobe.

Kant states that we act from a good will when we follow the Categorical Imperative. The categorical imperative consists of two primary formulations:

Formulation One: Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law.

Formulation Two: Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.

Rick sees Merle as an end in himself, a person who, despite his flaws, deserves to be treated in a humane way.

We know that Rick Grimes is not only a man who acts in an ethically correct manner, he’s a Good  (capital G) man. Rick believes that it is wrong to leave Merle Dixon chained and abandoned on a rooftop. When Rick tells his wife Lori about the generous acts of Morgan Jones and his son Duane, he explains to her that he is obligated to repay their act of generosity through doing good for others. And when a fellow survivor (Jim) is bitten by a zombie, Rick clearly lays down a deontologically-inspired universal edict when he tells the others who want to kill Jim before he dies and turns into one of the undead, “we do not kill the living!”

It’s worth noting Rick says it while holding a gun to a man’s head.

And even when Rick is re-killing the dead, he does so with a sense of compassion.

Rick Grimes is such a good guy, he apologizes to this zombie before he shoots her in the head.

From all appearances, Rick Grimes is a zombie slaying, Kantian badass but there’s a problem he doesn’t stay that way.

…it all has something to do with a guy named Shane Walsh.

Shane Walsh (played by Jon Bernthal), Rick’s former partner and wife stealer best friend, operates by a different set of ethics. Although Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh are partners in upholding the law as sworn sheriff’s deputies, it’s clear that their moral compasses are pointed in different directions. Unlike Rick, whose morality is deeply rooted in deontological obligations and duty, Shane’s morality rests on a different standard of right and wrong: consequences. Shane’s morality does not ask what is my moral obligation to others. But instead Shane’s morality asks, what do I have to do to stay alive?  And more often than not, the answer to Shane’s moral question is whatever it takes, by any means necessary. Shane’s ethics are pragmatic; in that Shane, as pragmatic philosophers suggest, determines what actions are morally correct based on whether an action works.

So, when Shane beats the ever-loving crap out of Ed Peletier, the abusive husband of Carol Peletier (while threatening to beat Ed to death, even though Ed posed no danger to Shane), Shane justifies his actions by believing that beating Ed contributes to group cohesion. When Shane breaks the lock on Hershel’s barn and re-kills all the zombies inside, he is doing it, not to crush Hershel’s hope of finding a zombie cure, but to save the group from danger. When Shane shoots Otis, repeatedly challenges Rick’s authority and leadership abilities, breaks the prisoner Randall’s neck, or even justifies his adulterous relationship with Rick’s wife Lori, Shane reasons, although he might not have done the popular thing (aka right thing to do), that his actions were ultimately justified in that what he did produced positive results.*

Shane Walsh solves his moral dilemmas like this:

… and like this

… and like this

… and like this

… and like this

* I suppose it can be argued that Shane Walsh’s ethics are not so much pragmatic as he is an act utilitarian. Either theory works.

Although Rick initially rejects Shane’s necessary evil in an evil world-based morality. Rick’s deontological ethical standpoint does not hold up for long (at least not past season 2). Rick Grimes is forced to kill Shane after Shane plots to kill Rick in an attempt to steal Lori and Carl from his former partner.

Shane eventually ends up like this:

I’m thinking Shane was really regretting trying to kill Rick.

Although by killing Shane, Rick is free to resume his deontological ethical ways, he does not. Instead of sticking to his Kantian guns, Rick assumes Shane’s pragmatic/act utilitarian ethical view. Rick’s new morality, which is pragmatic at best (ambiguous at worst) reflects the new world A world without distinctions. A world of contradictions, where beings are alive and dead and one must do whatever it takes to survive.

When Rick puts away his badge at Hershel’s farm, it signals that Rick has abandoned his absolutist morality. And by mid-second season, Rick violates his universal declaration that we do not kill the living when he shoots and kills two living men in a bar (by season 3, Rick’s kill count is up to five). When Rick kills Shane, we not only realize that Rick has put aside his own morality, but we realize that the kind of absolutist morality of Immanuel Kant belongs in the old world where absolutes like good and bad, right and wrong, and living and dead exist. In a world filled with the undead, absolutes no longer apply.

By the end of season 2, Rick Grimes is a morally changed man. He is no longer willing to adhere to the rules of the former world. Rick will do whatever it takes and by any means necessary to survive, even if doing so means that he has to (intentionally) hurt others to do so.

As The Walking Dead continues, we will see how the shifting morality of Rick Grimes plays out. Rick’s group of survivors has yet to encounter morally challenged Governor of Woodbury. And Rick’s mental breakdown following the death of his wife most assuredly will affect his moral position in future episodes. Although we’re only halfway through season 3, I have the feeling that in the future, Rick Grimes is going to be solving most of his problems like this:

SOURCES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

Doubletapping Socrates: On How The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes IS the Philosopher-King

Halloween was a few days ago.

I had completely intended to write up few spooky-themed posts, but as nature has a way of making its own horror show, my plan was thwarted by an unusually strong bout of food poisoning.

I’m fine now.

But, had I been able to write before Halloween (instead of spending a week hovering over a… well, you know), this is what I would have posted:

For those who are unfamiliar with this image or the AMC Network television show The Walking Dead, this slightly rugged, gun-pointing fellow is Rick Grimes. Rick Grimes is a  sheriff’s deputy who awakes from a coma to find the world overrun by hordes (in the show they’re called “herds’) of flesh-eating zombies.

Rick played by the British actor Andrew Lincoln.

I mention this only because the show takes place in Georgia and Rick Grimes isn’t English.

I must say he fakes the accent rather well.

Anyway, the reason why Rick is such a big deal (besides the fact that he carries a gun) is because Rick is what we call a H-E-R-O. The famous writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell describes what a hero does as follows:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

We like Rick because he is a hero. Rick is not only smart and capable, he is also loyal, not only to his wife Lori and son (the ever-annoying Carl), but to the other survivors who are looking to Rick’s abilities and leadership to guide them through the zombie apocalypse. Rick steps up to the plate when no one else is either willing or capable of doing so. It’s No doubt that, when zombie movie enthusiasts pick their fantasy zombie killing team, Rick Grimes is at the top of the list.

It’s a good enough reason to appreciate Rick Grimes for his action hero qualities, but there’s another reason why we should like Rick — moreover, there’s a reason why the philosophically inclined should like Rick Grimes — Rick Grimes is positively philosophic.

….at least that’s what I think after reading Plato’s Republic.

Most political philosophers will tell you that Plato’s Republic is the greatest and most influential political work ever written. Written around 380 BCE, Plato’s political treatise asks (and answers) the question “what is justice?”, but more importantly, Plato (through the character of Socrates) asks how does the state achieve justice?  Through the characters, Plato examines different ways of answering the question (what is justice). Through Socrates, Plato argues that the just state is one where the people value and are guided by reason and virtue. Socrates argues that when a person is acting in a virtuous manner, society (as a whole) benefits. Acting virtuously enhances the soul — and a good soul, according to Socrates, is the soul of a philosopher.* Socrates argues that we must be taught to obey the laws and to do good. When we are introduced to the character Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead, we see that Rick is a police officer, the guardians and enforcers of the law (it is worth noting that, in Plato’s Republic, the just city also includes a class of guardians who are charged with keeping order in the city).

In fact, Rick’s coma-inducing injury (he’s shot) happens while Rick is attempting to apprehend suspects following a police chase.

Even after Rick awakens to find the world full of walking dead people (aka “walkers”, “geeks”, and “biters”), he does not abandon his sense of upholding the law. When Rick goes back to the police station to retrieve firearms, he puts on a clean police uniform, badge, and hat. We see that although though the world has gone to seed and lawlessness, Rick believes that the fact that civilization has disappeared does not give people the right to act uncivilized. He repeatedly cautions others to keep their heads and not to let their emotions dictate their actions. When the potentially threatening (and definitely shady) Randall must be dealt with, Rick tries to reason his way to the best solution for dealing with Randall, even though Rick’s best friend, former partner, and nemesis Shane Walsh wants to take Randall out back and snap the poor, doomed boy’s neck.

Speaking of Shane Walsh….

Just as ever hero has his nemesis, Rick Grimes has his. Rick’s is his former partner and wife Lori’s I-thought-my-husband-was-dead-so-I-started-banging-the-nearest-guy-with-dropped-trousers lover, the late and then late again, Shane Walsh (played by Jon Bernthal). Now, I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking that action heroes are the only people out there with arch nemesis but that assumption is incorrect. Like Rick Grimes, Socrates also has an adversary. Socrates’ nemesis is named Thrasymachus.

This is what Thrasymachus looked like:

Socrates and Rick Grimes have the souls of philosophers. They believe that reason, controlled emotions, and a sense of justice should guide our actions. According to the philosopher, right and wrong are not matters of opinion or taste, but perpetual and universal standards to which everyone should be held.

This is the way that philosophers should think.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates’ theory of justice is challenged by the sophist Thrasymachus (see above). As a sophist, Thrasymachus believes that rhetoric and persuasion (not well-reasoned logical arguments) are the prefered method of argumentation. Thrasymachus, whose name (in Greek) means “rash fighter” is depicted as intemperate and arrogant. He lacks virtue and believes that might makes right. Thrasymachus attempts to win his argument with Socrates by force rather than by logic. Thrasymachus is willing to do anything, including personal attacks on Socrates, to win the argument. In a verbal confrontation with Socrates, when Thrasymachus feels that he cannot defeat the philosopher’s logic, he aims his attack not at Socrates’ argument, but at Socrates himself:

Thrasymachus: “Tell me Socrates, have you a nurse?”

Socrates: “Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather be answering?”

Thrasymachus: “Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose.”

In many ways Shane is like Thrasymachus. Shane is often guided more by his emotions than by reason. He believes (and more importantly acts like) might makes right. Shane never fails to remind Rick that his thinking man’s demeanor is unfit for a world filled with zombies and that Shane’s re-kill first, ask questions later philosophy is. Unlike Thrasymachus, who kept his attack of Socrates at the verbal level, the conflict between Rick Grimes’ Socratic and Shane’s Thrasymachean dispositions finally result in a physical confrontation between the two men.

Here are a few of Shane’s (other) Thrasymachean qualities:

  • When fellow survivor Carol Pelletier’s husband, Ed Pelletier, slaps his wife, Shane promptly beats Ed senseless (while telling Ed that he is going to beat him to death, no less).
  • When Lori tells Shane that their relationship is permanently over, Shane attempts to force himself on her.
  • While in the woods looking for “walkers” Shane aims his gun at Rick (however, it’s not clear whether Shane intended to shoot Rick or not).
  • Shane repeatedly engages in ad hominem (personal) attacks on Rick and his leadership style (but often has to admit that Rick makes the right decision).
  • Shane believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he is the one to protect Rick’s wife and son (and unborn baby that may or may not be his).
  • When Randall is captured and brought back to the survivors’ farm, unlike Rick, who wants to reason his way to a proper punishment, Shane immediately concludes that the right and only choice is to kill Randall. Shane is so convinced that he’s right that when the group leaves Randall without supervision, Shane takes Randall out into the woods and kills him.
  • And, in an attempt to wrest the leadership of the group from Rick, Shane tricks Rick into looking for an escaped Randall with the intention of killing Rick. He fails to do so.

Shane’s failed attempt at unseating the philosophical Rick Grimes results in the Thrasymachean Shane Walsh winding up like this:

I’m pretty sure Shane has seen better days

…and Rick still gets the chick.

 

Oh wait, she just died.

 

* Socrates’ thinking on the soul of the philosopher (aka Socratic virtue) goes a little like this: through reason and controlling our emotions we attain wisdom –> wise people possess virtuous qualities such as courageousness and temperance –> when we are temperate we attain internal/intellectual harmony –> things that are in harmony function according to purpose (i.e. as they should) –> when things function as they should this leads to a good soul –> philosophers (esp. philosopher-kings) possess good souls.