Stranger Things and Objectivism

Posted by rbroberg 4 years, 9 months ago to Movies
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The Stranger Things television series features a place called the Upside Down. The Upside Down is "another dimension" that can be described as physically and spiritually lower than the world which we inhabit in our normal lives. It is an underworld containing creatures that are connected through a common goal that is manifested in a hive physiology or virus pathology controlled by an evil, menacing central intelligence.

While this is not the only show to reference a hostile underworld seeking to control our good, rational plane of existence, it is clearly more interesting than your average zombie apocalypse screenplay. The reason is, to my Objectivist sensibility and personal love of science fiction, this series presents a fantastic realm of darkness, hive mentality, viral malady, etc. that feels so familiar to anyone fighting the irrational in man. The plot is familiar in the sense that the goal of the people involved is to destroy the source of the "hive" or the "brain" behind the evil of the Upside Down.

Objectivists fight the irrational in man: the fears, the jealousies, the stultification, the self-hate, the self-contradiction, the dishonesties, the injustice, and the dependence on some secularized Kantian concept of god. Did the TV series have all these anti-virtues in mind when describing the "shadow monster" that controls the Upside Down? We can't be sure, but we can interpret according to our concepts.

While I agree this is a a fictional concept, strictly speaking, I also posit that it is interesting. It is interesting in that the other world is not some heavenly realm of spiritual awe, but one of disturbing dysfunction and disease. Here is where I attempt to integrate my observations:

The other worldly philosophies of the world stem from Plato and reaching a high water mark in modern Hegelian philosophy. This lineage traveled through Christianity and ultimately into secular thinking through Kant and into the dialectic. Marx shares this lineage. Interestingly, the fear of Russia is prevalent in the current series, which is historically set in the 1980's. I believe that eventually these philosophies will decide their own destructions.

I honestly believe that even in the most fantastic of the man-made concepts, there are effects, effects caused by our philosophic past. So when I look at Stranger Things and watch a story about a small town - microcosmal humanity - learning to cope with and fight an insidious underworld of monsters controlled by an evil intelligence, I just start to get that warm, fuzzy feeling. How about you?

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  • Posted by $ blarman 4 years, 9 months ago
    I've also heard fascinating things about the show. If it's on Netflix (my only current source of TV) I'll check it out.

    Minor quibble, but Christianity inherited its views of good/evil from Judaism, which predates anything Greek. (Judaism goes back arguably to 2000 years BC or more depending on how one views things). It's a mistake made by many who see the Greeks as the root of all philosophy. Trace the history, however, and the two don't start to mingle until several centuries after Christianity's introduction.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 9 months ago
      I agree that Christianity inherited some views on good versus evil from Judaism, but I would also note Judaism was not and is not a static system of thought or of much static at all. At the time Christianity was developing, I would obviously agree Judaism of that time influenced its concepts. At the same time, I would have to point out that Greeks and Jews first interactions occurred after the Babylonian exile some 500 to 600 years BCE. Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic period occurred some 300 years BCE. The was great confluence in some segments of Jewish life with the Greeks in that period. Thus, to say that Christianity, which could not have been born prior to the the Common Era, was not influenced by the Greeks - even partially - could be a mistake. Furthermore, the origins of Christianity are vague. Those who wrote its doctrines, while part of Jewish sectarian movements, were undoubtedly influenced by differences from Judaism, else how could they be categorized as "sectarian"? While this observation does not explicitly provide evidence to Greek influence, it does indicate that Christianity, in its inception, was a product of the time in which it was conceived.
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      • Posted by $ blarman 4 years, 8 months ago
        A few salient points:

        1) What we call Judaism actually goes back at least to Abraham - it didn't start after any of the number of captivities (Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian/Persian, Roman, etc.). That puts it at around 2000 BC or more - more than 1200 years before the Greeks even started warring between themselves as city-states following the fall of the Myceneans.

        2) Judaism included the original Ten Commandments. I'm not sure what you mean by "static system of thought", but it is very clear that Judaism had a very original philosophy - especially when compared to the other nations of the time. It is also interesting to note that the nation of Israel (following their escape from Egypt) was ruled by a system of judges - a very natural rights concept - for hundreds of years before they crowned a king in response to popular demand.

        3) Christianity holds itself as a fulfillment of Judaism, not a new philosophy. Jewish tradition held as its highest principle the anticipation of a "savior" - a god-like figure who would come to free Israel from oppression. An examination (or even cursory conversation with any devout Jew today) regarding their most holy feast of Passover (or the rites of the Temple) confirms this. Christianity was born from those who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was this "savior" and that the oppression He freed them from was the spiritual oppression of sin. Most of the traditional Jewish leadership was looking for a military leader like Joshua or King David who would lead them to overthrow the chains of the Roman Empire (such as the Maccabbeans or any number of other rebellions of various successes) and re-establish their political independence.

        4) The worst critics of the original Christian church were the Jewish leaders themselves. They didn't want to accept Jesus' (purely spiritual) claims and actively worked with the Romans to kill and imprison any claiming to be Christians (starting with Christ Himself) - the majority of which were converted Jews. Why? Because as the Jews accepted Christ's claims, it undercut the traditional authority of the Jewish leadership and denied (or so they thought) the notion of a politically independent nation over which they aspired to rule.

        5) An interesting interaction between the Greeks and Paul on Mars' Hill confirms the notion that Greek thought was eschewed by the Christians just as the Greeks of Athens rejected Christianity.

        Again, the notion that Christianity or Judaism originated from Greek thought is simply not born out of historical fact.
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      • Posted by ewv 4 years, 8 months ago
        Your original summary description of the philosophical trend was correct as written. The response appealing to pre-philosophical ancient Jews is a diversion that does not address what you wrote, and his assertion that the Greeks were not the beginning of philosophy is patently false. Obviously, primitive beliefs throughout the eastern Mediterranean predating Greek philosophy had also influenced the early Greeks including the Platonist mystics from the beginning. The essential difference was that Greeks were the beginning of philosophy as the first to address general questions -- regardless of their answers -- in a philosophically self-conscious, systematic, unifying manner.

        The first major integrator was Plato. Greek philosophy culminated in the individualistic, pro-reason philosophy of Aristotle before collapsing into neo-Platonism. The neo-Platonists, who reversed the the Greek emphasis on reason, had an enormous influence within early Christianity. It cast in philosophical terms the primitive, pre-philosophy beliefs of the Jesus sect, which started as one of thousands of mystery cults and wound up dominating thought in the Western world in the long night of the Christian era. The impact from Plato and Aristotle as the two polar opposites has resulted in characterizing philosophy ever since as a duel between Plato and Aristotle. The philosophies set the fate of their own followers, and our fate depends on which side we embrace.
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  • Posted by Watcher55 4 years, 9 months ago
    Interesting analysis, thanks. Have only watched the first couple of the second series so far, and I can't say it generates "warm fuzzy feelings" yet, but you might have added another dimension (!) to the viewing now.
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 9 months ago
    I do not watch broadcast television, so I have no context for this. We do enjoy some series that we found from recommendations or discovery. We get disks because digital streaming violates our household security protocols.

    Speaking of Objectivism, I would be looking for your explanation of plot, theme, and plot-theme according to the theory of aesthetics found in The Romantic Manifesto.
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  • Posted by $ Abaco 4 years, 9 months ago
    Never heard of it. Will check it out!

    The last show that grabbed my fancy was a few years ago with the first season of "Manhattan". Since then I only watch golf...
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  • Posted by LibertyBelle 4 years, 9 months ago
    The world we inhabit is already low enough. Still, if the television networks had not gone digital, maybe I would watch it (though not on cable; I was not even getting cable at that time, as I could not afford it).
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