Jim A.

Bad premises can kill you

7 posts in this topic

WARNING: Plot spoilers for the films Oliver!, Gallipoli, Patch Adams and The Nun's Story.

I'm interested in finding out if anyone has discovered, in novels, plays or films outside of the work of Ayn Rand, illustrations of the fact that a bad idea--a false premise--can put your life in danger or even kill you.

So far, I can only think of examples from the movies:

--In the film musical Oliver! (1968), Bill Sykes' wife Nancy, who is dominated and often physically abused by him, sings the song "As Long as He Needs Me". That idea gets her killed. When she crosses the line and does something he would forbid, he kills her.

--In the film Gallipoli (1981), one of the lead characters meets his fate at the battle of Gallipoli during World War I because of an idea: that being a man and a patriot only means putting one's physical life on the line. He does so, fatally.

--In the film, Patch Adams (1998), the idea of self-sacrifice ultimately results in the death of a medical student who deems it her duty to help anyone, no matter what their "affliction". (It is true that the idea of self-sacrifice as the good is never explicitly stated.)

--In the film, The Nun's Story (1959, with Audrey Hepburn), the twin ideas of self-sacrifice and forgiveness end the life of a nun serving in the Belgian Congo in a particularly shocking scene. (Once again, the argument for self-sacrifice is not explicitly delineated.)

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Frankenstein is an example. Dr. Frankenstein had a false premise about his goals and what he was doing only to discover that it was far from what he had imagined.

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I'm interested in finding out if anyone has discovered, in novels, plays or films outside of the work of Ayn Rand, illustrations of the fact that a bad idea--a false premise--can put your life in danger or even kill you.

It strikes me as obvious that this would have to always be true.

Given that life on earth is the Objectivist standard of value, if a given idea or premise puts a human life in danger or kills someone, then by that standard it is a bad idea or a false premise. Thus, it is bad because it is anti-life rather than anti-life because it is bad.

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To Lucrius:

Interesting that you bring up Frankenstein.

One thing that struck me in that novel was how often Dr. Frankenstein would be in a very dark and depressed mood--because of what he saw happening with his monster--and then would take a walk in the woods or some other outdoor environment--and would then feel himself in a much brighter mood, a lifted spirit. The thought in the back of my mind was: "My goodness--you mean this guy is totally dependent on environmental factors to determine what emotional state he is in? How could he stand being in such a precarious psychological state? What if it's raining terribly outside? Does he just sit and wait until the sun comes out three or four days later before he can take a walk, clear his head and feel better?" Seems to me he is operating on the premise of: "My happiness is hopeless without the right accidental conditions. I don't determine it."

To Betsy:

You are absolutely right. I agree with you.

I just think it's rather discouraging how few films (and novels) show the deadliness of false ideas. It seems there should be many more. I'd like to find out if there are.

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A bad idea, or false premise, isn't the same thing as self-sacrifice. I like how you find good examples of the self-sacrifice being fulfilled with the natural consequences.

What about true examples of bad premises leading to their natural, and terrible, consequences?

Grizzly Man was the first that came to mind. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_Man

Perhaps some similarities to some aspects of the thread on body language and dogs.

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You need to define what makes a premise "bad". Once you do that, it will answer your question.

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