Breaking Bad and Philosophy:
Open Court Popular Culture and Philosophy series
Editor: David Koepsell
AMC's Emmy winning Breaking Bad is being compared to The Sopranos, and has garnered critical acclaim for its portrayal of a cancer-stricken, middle-aged, middle-class chemistry teacher’s drift into the dark world of cooking and selling methamphetamine to support his family. Its characters, situations, and aesthetic raise serious and familiar ethical and philosophical issues. Walt is an everyman pushed to the edge by circumstances, faced with death, and making what most of us would consider the wrong choices -- ripe for deep discussion around the water-cooler, and in this book. We welcome submissions from any philosophical perspective, as well as from theoretically-based interdisciplinary perspectives. Chapters comparing different characters in philosophically relevant ways, or analyzing a single episode in depth are also welcome.
Proposals should be 200-400 words, and should be lively presentations of the topics and questions to be addressed in the full chapter. They should relate in some way to philosophy, and not just literary criticism. Proposals due by November 1, 2009, but earlier is best. Notification of acceptance shortly thereafter. Full chapters of about
4000 words due in early 2010.
Sample topics and Possible themes:
Good Chemistry? -- Walt and Jesse’s partnership and the role of the teacher; Using scientific knowledge for evil? -- the duties of science; Crime and family -- Walt and Hank, two sides of the same coin?; Walt’s dilemma -- Crazy eight and the utility of murder; Walt’s cancer -- do his duties shift with his prognosis?; Murder -- Walt and Jesse’s trail of bodies, active vs. passive responsibility; Heisenberg uncertainty -- alter egos and evil (Saul, and Gus); Fathers
and Children -- Sins of our fathers: Walt, Walt Jr., and Jesse, Don and Jane; Sins and Daughters -- Marie’s kleptomania and Skyler’s cover-up for her boss: equivalences of evil?; Dealers and the DEA -- Jesse’s gang and Hank’s gang, a study in similarities – does might make right?; The Nobel Ego -- Walt and Elliot’s past as prelude and self- sufficiency, is pride justified?; The Right to die? -- Is Walt’s family’s intervention ethical?; I Don’t Like the Drugs but the Drugs Like Me -- addicts and ethics, who can be morally responsible?; Gus vs. Tuco -- crazy insane or insane crazy: good kingpins and bad; The Big Lie, or the chemistry of truth -- lies between spouses, among friends, and in business: ethical considerations; Friendship and
Business -- Combo, Skinny Pete, and Badger, Jesse’s friends or liabilities; Business and Pleasure -- “Never trust a junkie” does Walt care about Jesse too much?; Jane’s Addiction -- Walt, Jesse and Jane’s dangerous triangle and its ethical consequences. Walt’s responsibilities -- how far does Walt’s moral culpability go?; They Just Keep Pulling You Back In -- Can Walt ever leave a life of crime
behind him?; Rotting Foundations -- Walt’s home improvement and its true meaning; Race, Crime, and Stereotypes -- Walt, Jesse, Tuco, and Gus: drug dealing in post-ethnic America?; Born Bad or Drawn That Way? -- is evil within us, or is it just something we do?; Is it all in the chemical cards? – free will and determinism in Breaking Bad; Walt’s chemistry lectures – lessons in life?
TU Delft, NL
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