Re: RARA-AVIS: Hardboiled and Existentialism

Date: 18 May 2005

Jim wrote:

"And while he may not cite any specific theologicial or philosophical standard to support his position, the way he expresses himself ("When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it.") suggests that he believes not only that he's doing what he's supposed to be doing, but that he's doing what he believes is EXPECTED of him. So, by extension, he must believe that some larger philosophical standard, or at least some societal expectation, undergirds his position, even if he's not capable of expressing it."

Spade is quite capable of expressing exactly why he turns Brigid over. That's not the whole speech. "Supposed to" is only the first on a long list of reasons, followed by:

"Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it's bad business to let the killer get away with it."

As has already been mentioned, that's professionalism. I suppose it could be argued that he's bowing to societal expectations here, but only due to simple economic self-interest.

"It's bad all around -- bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere."

Okay, there he recognizes a reason beyond himself, but it's still professionalism, based at least as much on materialism as morality.

"Third, I'm a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go."

Definitely essentialism, if not existentialism.

"Fourth, no matter what I wanted to do now it would be absolutely impossible for me to let you go without having myself dragged to the gallows with the others."

Practical self-preservation -- recognizing social consequences and acting on that knowledge is not the same as morality.

"Next, I've no reason in God's world to think I can trust you and if I did this and got away with it you'd have something on me that you could use whenever you happened to want to. That's five of them. The sixth would be that, since I've got something on you, I couldn't be sure you wouldn't decide to shoot a hole in me some day."

Very practical concerns based on self interest.

"Seventh, I don't even like the idea of thinking that there might be one chance in a hundred that you'd played me or a sucker. And eighth -- but that's enough."

Self-image, no one would know but the two of them.

"All those on one side. Maybe some of them are unimportant. I won't argue about that. But look at the number of them."

That is a whole lot of reasons, and "Because it's right" is not one of them.

"Now on the other side we've got what? All we've got is the fact that maybe you love me and maybe I love you."

I love that "the fact that maybe." Spade does not trade in abstracts like love, truth and morality.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 May 2005 EDT