Re: RARA-AVIS: Greco-Roman philosophy and hardboiled ethics

Date: 31 Aug 2005

I will through a random tangent in here.

I once read a compare and contrast on western ethical philosophy and eastern, or specifically confucian (sp?) ethical philosophy. The point of the comparison was that western ethics were generally absolute. You do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. This is fine as long as the people around you have more or less the same notion of ethics and follow them. It breaks down if the people around you are just plain corrupt. (Can you say Enron?) By contrast, Confuscious took into account the possibility that the people around you were corrupt. I believe this stems from the fact that the government of his day was corrupt.

Perhaps a modern day example of this. I read a recent news article where China was discussing a policy of having it's official announce publicly whether or not they had mistresses. The reasoning was that in order to have a mistress you have to be taking in some coin somewhere. So if a minister has too many or spends lavishly on his mistress, it's reasonable to conclude that he is pretty heavily on the take.

This would never even be discussed on Capitol Hill.

Confucian thought might lend itself well to Hard Boiled, but I think it is too optomistic to be properly noir.

Does anyone know of such a blend of genres?


-------------- Original message ---------------------- From: William Denton <> > I've been doing a bit of reading lately about Stoicism and other schools > of philosophical thought from back in Greek and Roman times. We've often > talked about how crime writing, and hardboiled writing in particular, is > concerned with moral behaviour, and I see lots of parallels. Some writers > and characters could be matched up with closely with Stoicism or Cynicism > or others, I think, and if some of you know your ancient philosophy then I > hope you can supply more examples. > > George Pelecanos's books in particular deal with how to be a good person > in a world filled with vice and temptation and crime, and his people do > the best they can, trying to live honourable lives and not worrying what > other people think, and behaving in such a way that their children can > learn by example. Pelecanos does that explicitly. On the other hand, > something like Kent Harrington's DARK RIDE (about which more next week > when it's Kent Harrington Month) shows prime examples of a) how not to > raise a child and b) how not to behave. I certainly don't mean it's a > didactic book, but if you wanted to show how moral failings lead to > trouble, then any noir book is jammed with examples. Not that that's why > we read them. (Or do we?) > > Sam Spade was, he said, mostly concerned about who killed his partner > because that's what people expected him to do. Custom said that when a > detective's partner was killed, the remaining detective had better solve > the case, or else it was bad for business. Some schools of thought said > custom was important, but others would say one's internal morals > outweighed that. Spade's morals and his behaviour are a specially > interesting case, and I'd have to reread the end of THE MALTESE FALCON to > remind myself of details before I say more. > > I know little about classical philosophy, but the related treatments of > morals there and in hardboiled and noir writing really struck me. It's > also another point that illustrates the depth this kind of writing can > have--not that we need that proven, but there are folks who think all > crime writing is superficial by its nature. > > Bill > -- > William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : > > > > > RARA-AVIS home page: > > Yahoo! Groups Links > > > > > >

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