Alexander Supertramp and Rousseau

Imagen1In the film Into The Wild, Christopher McCandles, adopts the name “Alex Supertramp” to fully reject the society he grew up in, as he literally goes “Into the Wild”. For those who haven’t watched the film or read the book, I highly recommend it; based on a true story, we follow Christopher’s journey to the wildest reaches of Alaska as he abandons his previous life to obtain a profound understanding of his life and the world around him.  After reading Rousseau’s “Second Discourse On Inequality”, I can’t help but notice a similarity between the two books. Rousseau, just like Alex (we will call him by that name from now on, as he preferred to go by it throughout his journey) believes that society is heading on the wrong direction. They both dream of simpler times, where humans and nature were one with each other, they dream of a man that likes to help others out of compassion, they dream of a man that is separated from society, and most importantly, knows and is at peace with himself. Not only that, but there seems to be similarities with both of our character’s, they both left their hometown to reflect on life for a long time: Alexander left for two years, and Rousseau left for 20 (based on Crawford’s lecture). Two times ten equals twenty, you see, similar.

The journey of Alexander Supertramp can be seen as an illustration of the consequences and the evolution of a man that is leaving civilization to become a “natural man”. Although the film speaks mostly about the values of being true and free, it speaks too about the deprivation of human nature to society, dedicating whole sequences to the repulsive facets of modern civilization. However, what I believe is one of the most interesting features of this film it’s the way we can approach it almost as an allegorization of Rousseau’s ideas on the development of man, from civilization to the state of nature.

When Alexander Supertramp visits the city after travelling almost a year on his own, Sean Penn (yes, Sean Penn is the director of this film) decides to present us to the city with a montage of low-angle shots Imagen3of the city’s buildings, exagerating the size of what is (according to Rousseau) the source of all evil. Imagen2We can’t help but sympathize with Alex’s character as he tries to assimilate, after being more than a year away from civilization, the sheer size of these iron giants, built through, and by, the inequality amongst men. Alex’s dirty appearance alienaties him from the orderly architecture of the city, the straight lines of the buildings slanting towards the center, encapsulating Alex in a small prison where “amour propre” rules all. He is made to walk alone in this foreign land he is no longer accustomed to. Penn’s use of subject-centered wide shots isolate our subject; his voice over is caught off and replaced with the chaotic sounds of city life; Alex hasn’t been with as many people as he is now, yet he clearly has never felt more alone. Man’s loss for natural compassion seen as Alex asks for the time, and a man dressed in a suit, flinches and reevaluates doing so. Here we see more of an illustration of Hobbe’s natural state ruled by fear, one of the many reasons why Rousseau’s philosophy sound more appealing. When it comes to this scene in relation to Rousseau, I believe, he felt the same way when he was looking at his society, alone, almost paranoid of becoming like one of them, self-isolating himself. He has seen the beauty of man in his natural state, yet he feels extremely conflicted by the fact that  “man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains”.

I’m getting too excited by this post, so I’m gonna cut down on my film analysis and jump straight ahead into the conclusion. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** You have been warned, there are spoilers ahead, do not read any further, it’s a great film, with a great ending, don’t let me ruin it for you.  I SAID STOP READING, FOR REALZ. PLZ Ok, so if you have seen the film you know that Alex’s journey ends with his death, at the very end he realizes one of the most, if not the most, beautiful messages from the film: “Love is only real when shared”. His death, exemplifies that in the end, society has developed for a reason. One of the things that makes us different to animals, is our capability for self-improvement, our ability to alter the environment to our needs, and Alex needed this aspect from society to survive. One thing lead to another and he dies, reminding us that society is there for a reason and we need it.

The point I think I am making with the film, is that Alex’s happiest moments (those that lasted the longest at least) were not in Alaska, but the journey there. Alex, still had some sort of contact with society, but it was a way of living similar to the one that Rousseau defends and finds as the ideal one: nascent society.Imagen4 In his journey, he had both of the most important factors that make up man in the state of nature: pity and perfectibility. Without the need to take care of property, Alex travels, meets and helps people, fulfilling himself spiritually, furthermore, improving. In conclusion (I am running out of space), “Into the Wild”, provides an illustration of three stages in human development through the journey of one person, accentuating Rousseau’s poetic and romantic approach to the beauty of man in his state of nature.

Honest Bruno (speaks honestly): I could have made an entire essay on the subject, but like…maybe later, this is just a blog post. Sorry for the jumps between argument and argument…heh.

Hobbes Essay Outline

Thesis statement: Oedipus King actually does not illustrate a failed ruler but evaluates the performance of not only a succesful sovereign, but an ideal one , which is none other than the very divine power that envelopes Thebes throughout the play.

Point 1: matching features of Hobbes’ ideal sovereign to characteristics of the divine power acting in Oedipus King

Paragraph 1: The greek gods are instituted by the subjects, instituted through faith. The same way as Hobbes describes in Leviathan: “that to whatsoever man, or assembly of men, shall be given by the major part the right to present the person of them all[…] authorize all the actions and judgements of that man, or assembly of men, […]to the end to live peaceably amongst themselves”. A common agreement from the citizens to be the god subjects, something that can be seen serveral times through prayers in Oedipus king.

Paragraph 2: The plague and the prayers illustrate two fundamental aspects of the sovereign. Greek gods can achieve these aspects because they have omnipotent absolute power unlike Oedipus, thus the citizens of Thebes will always fall back to prayers of the gods, and consider there true ruler the gods and not oedipus.

Paragraph 3: I speak about the methods the greek gods use to keep control of the state. I compare the Leviathan’s method in instilling fear to the god’s use of oracles and prophecies to punish Oedipus. And how there nature allows them to be so powerful that their methods are absolutely effective.

Point 2: On Liverty of Subjects and How it applies to Oedipus King

Paragraph 4: I argue that the greek gods are Hobbes ideal ruler because their power is so massive that they will always be in control of  a state and they will always be able to have it stable.

Paragraph 5: I connect this paragraph to the previous one, that although such ultimate power may seem unreasonably onmipotent, Hobbes form of liberty can still be transferred to the state in Oedipus King. Those making the similarities between the two stronger and thus proving that one equals the other.

Point 3: Assigning Oedipus a new role under this perspective

Paragraph 6: I continue to make similarities between the two states stronger, and thus showing that by having an ideal sovereign you are also creating Hobbes ideal state. To do this I reattach the missing piece, Oedipus, which seems to be without a role in the state as he no longer is a sovereign. Using Hobbes model for a state we make Oedipus fit in, and thus justify even more the punishment given to him by the gods.


What’s up with that myth, Plato?

Unlike Plato, I believe being honest is important. I decided to bring up the Myth of Er in Friday’s discussion because I was writing an essay on the subject; I got stuck, so instead of doing the thinking myself I just brought my question to the discussion so you guys could do the work for me. You are probably angry at me right now, Plato´s dishonesty seems a little bit more understandable now. However,  my honesty is not the subject of today’s blog post, any complaints you have on this matter can be sent to this e-mail: And if I really enfuriated you by what I have just said, you might need some counselling; I would sit down and talk it out with you, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t go well for me.

Ok, where was I? Oh yeah, Plato. I have several issues with Plato’s use of a myth to end his book. Plato throughout his book gives the impression that he is arguing in favour of the pursue of the just life, using both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards as evidence to support his arguments, especially focusing on the intrinsic ones. Then he goes on and rants about the cycle of reincarnation of souls (crazy unappealing stuff), this in my opinion seems slightly contradictory, why would you speak about the rewards obtained from the practice of something and then just say: “Hey guys I forgot to tell you, those rewards well, they only last 1000 years…you see that reward you have right there, well, eventually someday, you will have to forget about it and start again.” And all the souls be like: “Oh ok Plato that would have been nice to know before, you know, made us read your 300, and something, page rant, but I guess if we won this reward once we can do it all over again”, and Plato be like “Oh yeah, about that. Its not that simple, you see, I like to tell lies, only noble ones though and…” and the souls be interrupting like “For Zeus sake, Plato! Get to the point, we have stuff to do, you know, in the real world” and Plato would finally move on and say “When you get to choose a new life, we give you a random selection of lots to choose from, and well, its pretty hard to choose the right life. In fact, it is very likely that you will choose wrongly and become a tyrant. Unless, you are a philosopher, like me, of course. Even if you practice justice, and do your duty, only philosophical souls, like mine, are trained to make the right choices. You plebs are eternally doomed to be part of an infinite cycle of interchangeable goods and evils. Unlike me, who will have a super smooth road between the heavens and the earths”. And the souls tired of his B.S would flip him off and leave his cave by saying: “You’re a d*ck Plato (censorhip is important, I’m trying to keep this post PG 13). No wonder Socrates, your only friend, drank that hemlock.”.

Moving on, I also noticed that these rewards only exclusive to philosophers are pretty faulty for philosophers themselves. Plato states that that the situation can get prettty dangerous up there, even for a philosopher. If by mere chance a philosopher gets to be the last one to pick from the lot, he might not always be able to choose the philosophers life but he might have to conform himself with a normal life that practices justice: “through habit but without philosophy”.

Now I will interrupt completely this train of thought, to keep this thing concise. I was about to write a bunch of philosophers cursing at Plato, but I kept deviating and sometimes I just have to finish what I was talking about…this is just a note for all of you people that thought that cutting the train of thought like that was weird. Ok, so uhmmmm, oh yeah, after talking with you guys I realized that the intrinsic reward in justice that seems to be communicated in the myth, is actaully a misplaced interpretation from our part, and Plato actually believes that the intrinsic reward is this choice itself. The ability to make these choices,  even if faced with bad souls to choose from; th true beauty of justice is performing your duty and always choosing best from what you have. To be in order with themselves, by doing that which you were born to do, that is what you do best, despite the dangers you may be faced with the appetites that might be presented to you.