A Portrait Of Insanity

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Consider the following excerpts from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton:

The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. 

Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable MARK of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction.

Such is the madman of experience; he is commonly a reasoner, frequently a successful reasoner. 

The madman is the man who has lost everything excepts his reason. 

Thanos, the brainchild of Jim Starlin in the Marvel comics and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is the personification of these ideas about madness. He is a nuanced madman: cruel with a twisted sense of compassion, a logical thinker who reaches intellectually compelling yet abhorrent conclusions. He is not irrational; he is rational – make that super rational. This was demonstrated in Avengers: Infinity War (2018 from Disney Marvel, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo), and it was perhaps the aspect of the movie with which I was most impressed.

I have often heard the phrase, “that’s subjective,” stated to refute opinions and arguments. The simplistic implication of this is that objective thinking is right and that subjective thinking is wrong. This is misleading. Taken alone, each of them is wrong. Objectivity places some very necessary constraints on subjectivity while subjectivity informs objectivity. Objectivity relies on logic, and the potential weakness of logic is that it must be based on a premise. If the premise is wrong, logic, even perfect logic, built upon this foundation can produce atrocities.

Hitler and his minions demonstrated this with their Final Solution. The Holocaust was the creative, logical product of one of the most advanced scientific civilizations of its time. The destruction by Thanos of 50 percent of an interplanetary population is a final solution writ large. The justification: overpopulation, suffering, and ecological imbalance (solved very logically by mercy killing on an incomprehensible scale). A big picture which ignores individuals is the product of ignorant objectivity uninformed by a subjective understanding of the worth of an individual. Such numerical morality plagues policy making in real life as well as in fantasy.

Subjectivity informs the premise on which logic is based, and to ignore this is madness. I look forward to this week’s release of  Avengers: Endgame.

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8 thoughts on “A Portrait Of Insanity”

  1. Ah, so you’re not retired?

    I am seeing Avengers: Endgame tomorrow! I cannot wait to see what journey I will embark on. I’ve been rewatching many MCU movies over the weeks and I have gained a new found perspective on Infinity War even after its one year release. You boil down perfectly what makes Thanos such an impressive villain, likely Marvel’s best and how subjectivity is not the default wrong answer. Bravo.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get what you’re doing with revisiting the movies, and I’m about to do a little “background research” myself. I got burned out on blogging for a good while, but I’ve decided to jump back in when I get an idea I’m interested in writing about. I probably won’t post as frequently due to other obligations, but I’m planning on staying in the game. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Oneta. Yes, we’ve been busy traveling to see children and grandchildren since we retired. I was a bit burned out with posting so I took about nine months off. I’ll probably be posting less frequently, but I intend to keep it up as I get ideas. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

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