Red Solo Machete

*Note: this post was originally written October, 2014.

 
Well, philosophy fans, it’s fall.

You know what that means.

That’s right. Fall means it’s the season for Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the smell of crisp autumn air, and the green leaves of summer turning into rustic scenes of brilliant shades of gold, crimson, and brown.

 

 

 

DON’T YOU WANT TO JUMP RIGHT IN TO THIS PICTURE AND RUSTLE UP SOME LEAVES RIGHT NOW?

DON’T YOU WANT TO JUMP RIGHT IN TO THIS PICTURE AND RUSTLE UP SOME LEAVES RIGHT NOW?

 

Unless you live in Australia.

Because it’s spring down there now, isn’t it?

If it is, do they still have pumpkin spice lattes in November?

 

 

 TELL ME YOU DON’T YOU WANT ONE OF THESE RIGHT NOW

TELL ME YOU DON’T YOU WANT ONE OF THESE RIGHT NOW

 

 

I think we’ll all admit that nature’s splendor is great and all, but the beginning of the autumn season can only mean one thing to the horror television fan: the return of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

You know, the zombie show.

 

 

 

 

 
No, not that zombie show.
This zombie show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one with the ratings that regularly beats Sunday Night Football.*
Fans of the show know there’s plenty of things to talk about on The Walking Dead – the TV show versus the graphic novels, the show’s black guy rule, how much Andrea sucks, how much Beth sucks, the hotness of Norman Reedus….

Plenty.

 

Andrea

 

 

With the half season over, it’s time for the regular-viewer’s eyes to turn to things other than hating on Beth Greene and zombie head shot counts (AKA: nitpicking the hell out of the show).

 

 

 

beth haters

 

 

For those fans who are philosophically inclined also like to talk about one topic for

discussion in particular –

 

Guessed it yet?

 

Hint: this blog is about philosophy.

 

 

thinking guy

 

 

You may no know it, but some The Walking Dead fans (ok, maybe just me) like to talk about how the show is all about philosophy.

Really, it is.

 

 

this is going to be fun

 

 
If you have a preference for thinking about television philosophically, I should say that it’s worth mentioning that it’s awfully fun to talk about The Walking Dead and morality.
Well, fun if you’re a philosopher.

 

 

…. And you watch a lot of TV.

 

tyler watches TV

 

 

 

There’s plenty of moral dilemmas to be found in a typical episode/season of The Walking Dead, but the one moral dilemma that seems to rear its undead more often than others is the problem of moral ambiguity.

 

 

the good the bad the morally ambiguous

 

 

Moral ambiguity, as defined by Urban Dictionary, is:

[the] lack of clarity in ethical decision making. that is, when an issue, situation, or questions has moral dimensions or implications, but the decidedly “moral” action to take is unclear, either due to conflicting principles, ethical systems, or situational perspectives.

 

 

images scumbag steve uses UD

 

 

That is to say, moral ambiguity is lack of moral clarity; the line between good and bad actions is blurred.

 

my favorite color is moral ambiguity

 

 

Speaking of blurred lines….

 

MUSIC BREAK!

 

 

 

 

 

Although, given my tastes, moral ambiguity in the zombie apocalypse would sound a little more like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thing is, the problem of moral ambiguity isn’t exclusively a The Walking Dead problem. Moral ambiguity seems to have infected other AMC shows as well – Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Halt and Catch Fire and Hell On Wheels are all afflicted with morally ambiguous characters and situations.

This guy may be the worst of them all.

 

 

 

worst

 

 

The problem, if you will, with moral ambiguity isn’t just a problem for AMC . It’s prevalent in more than quite a few movies and television shows.

 

 

moral ambiguity character chart

 

 

Wait – everyone here knows when I say AMC I mean the television network American Movie Classics, right?

Just saying that so we’re clear.

‘Cause clarity is important when you’re talking philosophically.

 

 

clear_as_crystal

 

 

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: what’s the harm in a little moral ambiguity? After all, life isn’t as cut and dry as we’d like it to be – and sometimes, despite our own moral convictions, a situation calls for us to get our hands a little dirty. To violate our moral principles; to play on both sides of the moral fence.

In a land overrun by undead, morality (and especially moral consistency) takes second place to the act of surviving. We can excuse Rick Grimes when he violates his rule “you don’t kill the living” and we can sympathize with the murderous cannibals at Terminus because these characters do whatever is necessary to do to survive.

 

It seems inevitable that the will to survive leads to some moral ambiguity.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had to eat a another man’s leg to save our own lives.

Wait, just me?

 

oh.

 

 

 

bob-b-que

 

 

At first glance, a non-distinct moral style is more than justified in a zombie apocalypse. After all, when it comes to survival, are you really going to worry about moral consistency?

Yeah, me neither.

But we’re all philosophers here. And you know what philosophers don’t like? Non distinct things. And you know what non distinct things are? Ambiguous. Philosophers hate ambiguity.

And there’s an obvious problem that arises when we fail to clearly define the line between right and wrong. Namely, not clearly defining what is morally right and what is morally wrong makes it difficult to perform morally correct acts.

That is, when our morals are not clear we may fail to do the right thing.

 

 

do the right thing

 

 

Worse yet, if our morals are ambiguous, how can we judge which acts are good or bad?

And worse than that – if right and wrong are not clearly defined how is a TV watcher to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?

The ability to do so may be very important if you find yourself surrounded by a horde of the undead.

Believe it or not, doing so relies on having a clear sense of morality.

 

 

IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS IT HELPS TO BE REALLY SURE OF ONE’S MORAL PRINCIPLES

IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS IT HELPS TO BE REALLY SURE OF ONE’S MORAL PRINCIPLES

 

 

You see, moral ambiguity may be no big deal to television writers or to fictional fellows like Don Draper, Walter White or Shane Walsh, but in the real world, the consequences of moral ambiguity probably won’t make you anyone’s favorite antihero. In the real world, moral ambiguity can lead to such awful things like moral relativism or (gasp!)

 

moral nihilism.

Yeah. You end up morals like this guy:

 

 

old fred

 

 

 

Or (worst case scenario) a total breakdown or rejection of all morality.
Actually, that kind of stuff happens in the fake world, too.

 

 

IT WAS AT THIS MOMENT THAT MILDRED REALIZED THAT HER FAVORITE TV GOOD GUY WASN’T ALL THAT GOOD AND THAT HER LEAST FAVORITE TV BAD GUY ISN’T ALL THAT BAD

IT WAS AT THIS MOMENT THAT MILDRED REALIZED THAT HER FAVORITE TV GOOD GUY WASN’T ALL THAT GOOD AND THAT HER LEAST FAVORITE TV BAD GUY ISN’T ALL THAT BAD

 

 

You see, when a TV show begins to blur the line between good and bad it can become difficult to sustain one’s like for a character – especially if one’s fondness for a particular character is predicated on the belief that the character is good. For instance, Rick Grimes’ shifting morality and his willingness to violate his own moral principles (i.e., “we do not kill the living”) makes it increasingly difficult to discern which side of the moral fence Rick Grimes resides on: is he a good man who does bad things or a bad man who occasionally does good things?

The problem is, we can’t tell. Rick’s morality isn’t static. We can’t pinpoint exactly where Rick Grimes’ morality (or any of the other characters in The Walking Dead) falls on the morality scale. It’s ambiguous. The characters of The Walking Dead aren’t guided by a ethical code as much as they are dictated by expediency.

That often makes the characters act inconsistently.

And inconsistency causes trouble.

Moral trouble.

Moral ambiguity trouble.

 

 

 

shit happens GIF

 

 

Ok. Let me give a long winded example: As many fans of the show know, Rick kicked Carol out of the group for killing two people, Karen and David; deaths that Carol claimed were necessary to save the rest of the group. Carol believes that although she intentionally killed two people, her actions are morally correct and tells Rick that (morally speaking) her actions are no different than when Rick killed his best friend Shane.

By the way, if you don’t know who Shane is or was, go back to The Walking Dead seasons 1 & 2.

Anyway, Rick is outraged at Carol for killing two people that Rick argues could have recovered from their illness.

An illness that, by the way, when it kills you, you end up looking like this:

 

 

EWWWWW

EWWWWW

 

 

So naturally, Carol thought the solution for that was doing this:

 

 

karen and david burned

PRETTY DANGED EFFICIENT OF CAROL, IF YOU ASK ME

 

 

 

 

Rick’s moral outrage (because Rick suddenly has a clear sense of morality) seems to be rooted in his season 1 declaration “we do not kill the living”. Rick declares that no living person is to be killed even if that person poses a potential risk to the group.

 

 

 REMEMBER WHEN THIS GUY ACTUALLY HAD A SENSE OF MORALITY?

REMEMBER WHEN THIS GUY ACTUALLY HAD A SENSE OF MORALITY?

 

 

 

Of course Rick’s moral outrage would have made sense if we were still in season 1.

That was back when Rick had a clear and distinct moral view.

 

 

BACK IN SEASON 1 RICK POINTED A GUN TO YOUR HEAD BECAUSE YOU WERE A BAD GUY

BACK IN SEASON 1 RICK POINTED A GUN TO YOUR HEAD BECAUSE YOU WERE A BAD GUY

 

 

But something has happened to Rick that the fact that Rick takes offense to Carol’s actions should strike us a little odd. The thing is this: by the time Carol kills Karen and David, Rick’s morals are no longer distinct as we would (or the writers would ) like (us) to believe.

In fact, by season 4, Rick has developed a nasty habit of killing living people.

 

This is a pretty easy thing to if your morals are ambiguous.

 

Because TV. That’s why.

 

 

 

IF ONLY HAD RANDALL POPPED UP IN SEASON 1 “WE DO NOT KILL THE LIVING” RICK WOULD HAVE WELCOMED HIM INTO THE GROUP....POOR RANDALL

IF ONLY HAD RANDALL POPPED UP IN SEASON 1 “WE DO NOT KILL THE LIVING” RICK WOULD HAVE WELCOMED HIM INTO THE GROUP….POOR RANDALL

 

 

Seriously, the reason why Rick Grimes is so willing to kill the living is because Rick’s ethics are no longer grounded in the distinction between the moral rules dictating what is morally good and what is morally bad. Ok, remember when Rick told the racist (and soon-to-be mono-handed) redneck Merle Dixon that distinctions among races no longer exist; there are no more black and white people; only the living and the dead?

 

Well, like race, in a world populated by the living dead, morals are no longer distinct. Good guys like Rick do bad things and bad guys like The Governor do good things. So much so that it’s hard to tell who is good and who is evil.

 

 

WOULD A TRULY BAD GUY PROVIDE  A SUPPLY OF COOL DRINKS AND RED SOLO CUPS? NOPE.

WOULD A TRULY BAD GUY PROVIDE A SUPPLY OF COOL DRINKS AND RED SOLO CUPS? NOPE.

 

 

We are supposed to be morally offended at Claimer Joe’s ethic of teaching a liar a lesson “all the way”, but we commend Joe for doing the right thing and defending Daryl against Claimer Len’s false accusations. That makes Joe a good guy, right? But then, when Joe and the Claimers threaten to kill Rick and rape Carl and Michonne, Joe is a bad guy again.

Kind of confusing if you let it get to you.

Here’s the thing, though: we’re supposed to think that Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors are good people (certainly better than the cannibals at Terminus or at Phillip Blake’s (aka the Governor) who ruthlessly turns his weapon on his own people), but how can we think that Rick or his actions are good when we see Rick and his group massacre (a bad thing) the survivors of Terminus? Or when Rick’s loosely-rooted morality enables him to kill the living like this:

 

 

rick kills shane

 

 

 

And like this

 

 

rick shooting dave

 

 

And like this

 

 

dead tony

 

 

And like this

 

 

rick slicing tomas

 

 

And like this

 

 

 

rick kills guy in bathroom

 

 

And like this

 

 

rick kills joe

 

 

And like this

 

 

dead gareth

 

 

And finally, in the season 5 mid-season finale, like this

 

 

rick kills ofc. bob

 

 

 

Mind you, Rick kills the cannibal (by necessity) Gareth even as Gareth begs for his life.

 

Now, some folks may have no problem with Rick Grimes’ actions. They still believe that he’s a good guy. But think about it: can we to simply shrug off Rick’s actions because we think he’s doing what is best for his group; because his actions are in service to the greater good?

Because all those other bad guys – they’re trying to serve the greater good, too.

Even Officer Dawn Lerner says so.

 

 

dawn GIF

 

 

This got me thinking; Is Rick really more morally certain (i.e. morally right) than the Governor? More certain than the cannibals at Terminus? Than Joe and the Claimers? Or more morally certain than Eugene Porter who lied to save his own life?

Can we tell?

 

mullet of lies

 

 

Ok, I know. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve got this all You’re thinking the problem on The Walking Dead isn’t moral ambiguity. Well, for starters, you’re probably right.

The appearance of moral ambiguity on The Walking Dead may not be that Rick Grimes has succumbed to Walter White syndrome; it may be nothing more than the product of sloppy writing.

Gee, I hope not.

 

 

knocks_breaking_bad

 

 

After all, Rick Grimes isn’t very much like Don Draper or Walter White. However, any fan of the show is bound to notice that there has been a noticeable moral shift in Rick Grimes. Rick’s moral certainty seems less assured now than it did at the beginning of the series. It’s clear that Rick is more than willing to cross the moral line, even in situations when it seems that Rick is clearly doing the wrong thing.

It is exactly in the space between moral certainty and moral nihilism that we see Rick Grimes headed towards. It’s why we find – ok, why some of us find – Rick Grimes such a compelling television character.

 

 

 

 

Someone explain to me how killing one of the “good” cops benefits the situation, again?

 

 

 

In the end, whether Rick’s moral shift is television’s finest example of rule utilitarianism or some other ethical theory (or bad writing), the manifestation of moral flexibility (or moral degradation) to the point of moral ambiguity is worth thinking about – not just in the fictional world of a zombie apocalypse, but in the real world where we often feel that we can no longer easily navigate what is morally right versus what is the morally wrong thing to do.

But I’m sure that by the next half season Rick will be fully morally functional and none of this will make any sense whatsoever.

 

…. If it doesn’t make sense already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:
* http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2014/11/12/why-the-nfl-is-losing-the-sunday-night-primetime-tv-battle-to-the-walking-dead/

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=moral%20ambiguity

 

 

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.

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.