Stephen Speicher

300 (2007)

Rate this movie   58 votes

  1. 1. Artistic Merit

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  2. 2. Sense of Life, or Personal Value

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201 posts in this topic

This debate is getting heated on both sides, so as moderator I'm going to ask that everyone tone down the discussion. Let's have a more calm focus on ideas, rather than writing in a frustrated tone and/or focusing on personalities "in this venue." This is especially important now; THE FORUM may not receive as close attention from moderators while Stephen is in the hospital, so it is all the more crucial to not let things get out of hand.

I will err on the side of deletion in making sure this happens, so I hope that everyone will correspondingly err on the side of benevolence.

(f you have questions about this, contact me privately. Thanks.)

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This debate is getting heated on both sides, so as moderator I'm going to ask that everyone tone down the discussion. Let's have a more calm focus on ideas, rather than writing in a frustrated tone and/or focusing on personalities "in this venue." This is especially important now; THE FORUM may not receive as close attention from moderators while Stephen is in the hospital, so it is all the more crucial to not let things get out of hand.

I will err on the side of deletion in making sure this happens, so I hope that everyone will correspondingly err on the side of benevolence.

(f you have questions about this, contact me privately. Thanks.)

As a matter of information/clarity, the particular phrase, "in this venue" was intended entirely as a factual delimitation: to point out that the vocal majority here certainly seems to be very passionately in favor of this film -- yet I did not want to assume that this was the case in every Objectivist venue, as my knowledge about and interest in others (aside from HBL, which I know pretty well) has been / is quite limited.

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I've haven't been following all the posts here, but I've found the discussions that I have read to be quite interesting and challenging. However, since there have been so many posts in this thread, I have chosen not to agree or disagree with the few posts that I have read, out of fear of context-dropping or missing information already stated. Nor am I sure whether my view has been previously expressed here. I will offer my opinion of the movie, knowing full well that, as Stephen has said elsewhere, it is almost impossible to get agreement on evaluation of movies among Objectivists.

I saw the movie yesterday and loved it. It went way beyond my expectations from all of the hype and advertisements. The movie is NOT about historical accuracy with ancient Sparta or the Persian invasion. Nor is historical accuracy a background for the movie. (If you want that, see the original 1962 movie The 300 Spartans.) There have been many movies which take current events and project them into some future, and then create realistic stories about certain elements or moral ideas of modern society. Most good science fiction movies do this; Atlas Shrugged does this. And there have been fictional-historical movies that evaluate or show the moral-cultural ideas of past societies, how people coped within that context, and ask us to evaluate those societies. And, of course, there are movies and books that use current events as background for fictional stories about the society within which we live.

What I found unique about 300 was that current political and moral issues were placed in a historical event in order to show the historical conflict from a modern context. As I saw the movie, the meaning was “how to formulate our moral-political context when fighting today’s enemies of freedom by demonstrating how the Spartans would have used our modern ideas when fighting the Persians.” By using Sparta, which is symbolic for its militarism, rather than Athens, which is symbolic for its democracy, as the city of context the movie is making a call to us that we must use military means to defeat current enemies of freedom and not the wishy-washy negotiations that many advocate. (I’m not saying that this is what the director’s intentions were. I have no idea what they were. However, this is what was shown in the movie, in my opinion.)

These are the issues I saw demonstrated in the movie:

We must fight for freedom and rights at all costs. We must train and teach our children that the defense of freedom requires the defeat of our enemies who threaten our society. We must be willing to die to defend our freedom and our rights. We must be willing to humiliate the enemy. The enemy of freedom is a monster (symbolized by the monsters in the movie, both human and animal). The enemy can be defeated by a few who have the moral courage and certainty of their rightness. We must choose our leaders by their ability to defeat evil (symbolized by the boy who kills the wolf) and not those who will betray us by political pragmatism, words and deception (symbolized by the man who rapes the queen and is later killed by her.) Do not be intimidated by the size or words of one’s enemies (symbolized by Xerxes size and tone of voice).

As to the esthetic classification of 300, I would have to say that it is Romantic symbolism, as defined and contrasted with Romantic Realism by Rand.

Specifically, The Fountainhead represents a form that has always been extremely successful in novels, on the stage and on the screen, but which has become very rare because it's the most difficult of all forms: Romantic Realism. The method of romantic realism is to make life more beautiful and interesting than it actually is, yet give it all the reality, and even a more convincing reality than that of our everyday existence. Life, not as it is, but as it could be and should be.
If I were to classify Night of January 16th in conventional literary terms, I would say that it represents, not Romantic Realism, but Romantic Symbolism. For those acquainted with Objectivist aesthetics, I can name a more precise classification: Night of January 16th is not a philosophical, but a sense, of-life play.

A sense of life is a preconceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously int[e]grated appraisal of man's relationship to existence. I emphasize this last because it is a man's attitude toward life that constitutes the core and motor of his subconscious philosophy. Every work of fiction (and wider: every work of art) is the product and expression of its author's sense of life. But it may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum. Night of January 16th is a pure, untranslated abstraction.

This means that its events are not to be taken literally; they dramatize certain fundamental psychological characteristics, deliberately isolated and emphasized in order to convey a single abstraction: the characters' attitude toward life. The events serve to feature the motives of the characters' actions, regardless of the particular forms of action—i.e., the motives, not their specific concretization. The events feature the confrontation of two extremes, two opposite ways of facing existence: passionate self-assertiveness, self-confidence, ambition, audacity, independence—versus conventionality, servility, envy, hatred, power-lust.

Indeed, this is exactly what 300 does.

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As to the esthetic classification of 300, I would have to say that it is Romantic symbolism, as defined and contrasted with Romantic Realism by Rand.
The events serve to feature the motives of the characters' actions, regardless of the particular forms of action—i.e., the motives, not their specific concretization.
I have to disagree with the characterization of "300" as "Romantic Symbolism." The above sentence of Miss Rand's is the fundamental identification of the meaning of the term. A further explanation of that meaning, however, provided in her very next sentences, was not included.
I do not think, nor did I think when I wrote this play, that a swindler is a heroic character or that a respectable banker is a villain. But for the purpose of dramatizing the conflict of independence versus conformity, a criminal - a social outcast - can be an eloquent symbol.

In other words, Miss Rand clearly identifies 'symbolism' in the context of Romantic art as a divorce between motive and action, with a focus on motive regardless of action. The reason for this split is to highlight the sense of life of characters regardless of - indeed, in spite of - the morality of their actions. In this case, Miss Rand chose to focus upon and highlight independence, despite the fact that the existential form that independence took was immoral.

As Miss Rand states in the first part of her quote, a work of art "may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum." The former is a qualification of 'Romantic Realism', the latter is a qualification of 'Romantic Symbolism'. And it is precisely the former which has led so many here (including myself) to praise "300". To suggest the film is only the latter is to discard the explicitly stated facts in the film which led to this praise.

Put simply, "300" does not present a divorce between the conceptual and the emotional. It does not divide thought (motive) from action. It presents a brilliant marriage between them. As such, it is the expression of the artist's sense of life on both the philosophic and the emotional level. This places it quite firmly outside the realm of 'Romantic Symbolism'.

In other words, the fact that x character 'symbolizes' x motive/virtue/whatever is not what makes a work of art 'Romantic Symbolism', just as the fact that x character is 'realistic' because he is a reproduction of a real person is not what makes a work of art 'Romantic Realism'.

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I have to disagree with the characterization of "300" as "Romantic Symbolism." The above sentence of Miss Rand's is the fundamental identification of the meaning of the term. A further explanation of that meaning, however, provided in her very next sentences, was not included.

In other words, Miss Rand clearly identifies 'symbolism' in the context of Romantic art as a divorce between motive and action, with a focus on motive regardless of action. The reason for this split is to highlight the sense of life of characters regardless of - indeed, in spite of - the morality of their actions. In this case, Miss Rand chose to focus upon and highlight independence, despite the fact that the existential form that independence took was immoral.

As Miss Rand states in the first part of her quote, a work of art "may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum." The former is a qualification of 'Romantic Realism', the latter is a qualification of 'Romantic Symbolism'. And it is precisely the former which has led so many here (including myself) to praise "300". To suggest the film is only the latter is to discard the explicitly stated facts in the film which led to this praise.

Put simply, "300" does not present a divorce between the conceptual and the emotional. It does not divide thought (motive) from action. It presents a brilliant marriage between them. As such, it is the expression of the artist's sense of life on both the philosophic and the emotional level. This places it quite firmly outside the realm of 'Romantic Symbolism'.

In other words, the fact that x character 'symbolizes' x motive/virtue/whatever is not what makes a work of art 'Romantic Symbolism', just as the fact that x character is 'realistic' because he is a reproduction of a real person is not what makes a work of art 'Romantic Realism'.

I disagree with you. Perhaps you missed this sentence in my quote of Rand. "But it may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum. Night of January 16th is a pure, untranslated abstraction." (my bold) The "it" refers to the work of fiction that may be Romantic Symobolism.

I don't understand where you get the interpretation "'symbolism' in the context of Romantic art as a divorce between motive and action, with a focus on motive regardless of action" from. That is not implied in any way from what she states. She states that her story does not project idea characters, not that the form cannot have such projection.

I don't see how you can say that the content of the ideas such as rights and freedom discussed by the Spartans has any concrete meaning in their society other than in a sense of life context meaning independence from foreign domination. I don't see how anything that the Spartans talk about can be interpreted literally. There is nothing in the movie that shows what freedom really means to the Spartans in their everyday lives. What difference does it make to a poor citizen of Sparta to be ruled by the King of Sparta or the King of Persia?

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Perhaps you missed this sentence in my quote of Rand. "But it may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum. Night of January 16th is a pure, untranslated abstraction."
I specifically quoted that passage as support for my position. Therefore I am uncertain how one could entertain the notion that the sentence was "missed".
The "it" refers to the work of fiction that may be Romantic Symobolism.
This is completely false. The full quote is:
Every work of fiction (and wider: every work of art) is the product and expression of its author's sense of life. But it may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum.
In other words, the "it" being referenced here is "every work of fiction (and wider: every work of art)" not merely fiction that is Romantic Symbolism. In other words, the "it" refers to all art, be it naturalism, romanticism, and even Romantic Realism. Further, Miss Rand states there are two ways an artist may express his sense of life in "it" - either by expressing it in philosophical terms or solely as an "abstract emotional sum". As Miss Rand states, "Night of January 16th" is the latter. It is "pure untranslated abstraction" (as opposed to a work which has been "translated" - translated into "philosophic terms"). It is the fact of a work's "pure untranslated abstraction" which makes it symbolism - which distinguishes that work of art from other categories, such as realism.

And it is the fact that "300" does translate the artist's expression of his sense of life into explicit philosophic terms which necessarily places this film outside the category of Romantic Symbolism.

I don't see how you can say that the content of the ideas such as rights and freedom discussed by the Spartans has any concrete meaning in their society other than in a sense of life context meaning independence from foreign domination.
I have provided ample reason over numerous posts to identify that meaning. So have others. If those reasons have not convinced, I do not know what additional facts will. As such, I will simply have to state - for all the reasons previously identified, this premise is in error.

However, I will point out that, whatever one's philosophic appraisal of the explicit conceptual terms used by the artist to express his sense of life, that appraisal does not somehow blank out the fact that he indeed used them. The artist's sense of life was indeed translated into philosophic terms (as most here have explicitly praised the film for doing). That fact - and that fact alone - bars "300" from validly being classified as Romantic Symbolism.

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---------

And it is the fact that "300" does translate the artist's expression of his sense of life into explicit philosophic terms which necessarily places this film outside the category of Romantic Symbolism.

I have provided ample reason over numerous posts to identify that meaning. So have others. If those reasons have not convinced, I do not know what additional facts will. As such, I will simply have to state - for all the reasons previously identified, this premise is in error.

-----

As usual, I guess I'll have to agree to disagree with you. I just don't see things the way you do on this issue. What explicit philosophy is there in this movie? Any tribe in the history of mankind will fight against being taken over by another tribe. I don't see any philosophy qua Sparta or Persia at all in this movie. The few ideas talked about are almost totally anachronistic.

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Getting off the topic of the proper classification of this work of art for a moment, I would like to turn to the 'disappointment' expressed about the film. And I would like address that issue by asking a question:

If you were the King of Sparta and were confronted with his moral dilemma, what would you have done differently?

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As usual, I guess I'll have to agree to disagree with you. I just don't see things the way you do on this issue. What explicit philosophy is there in this movie? Any tribe in the history of mankind will fight against being taken over by another tribe. I don't see any philosophy qua Sparta or Persia at all in this movie. The few ideas talked about are almost totally anachronistic.
You claim this movie is devoid of any explicit presentation, let alone concretization of a philosophy (be it one you agree with or disagree with)? Then you are correct, we will have to agree to disagree - for our grasp of the facts is so at odds that there is no foundation upon which to base a rational conversation.

As to the specific assertion about 'any tribe' etc., that argument has already been made and addressed. Instead of repeating the response to it, I will simply refer one back to it.

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As usual, I guess I'll have to agree to disagree with you. I just don't see things the way you do on this issue. What explicit philosophy is there in this movie? Any tribe in the history of mankind will fight against being taken over by another tribe. I don't see any philosophy qua Sparta or Persia at all in this movie. The few ideas talked about are almost totally anachronistic.

Paul, as I wrote earlier in this thread, of course people through history have tried to fight off their invaders, but that in no way makes them fighters for liberty. Such a banal defensive impulse against foreign foes is almost inevitable in every people out there, as even many animals will fight for their home, or whatever. Does that make them the fighters for liberty? No. That latter kind of fight requires a certain choice, a certain set of values, a fight not only against something, but also for something. This the Spartans were historically the first in to achieve, and also the most persistent amongst the Greeks to protect. Again, if we keep referring to history, it is Athenians who said: "rightness of action is only an issue between equals; the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" (Thuc. xvii). Spartans were the first to fight for liberty as properly understood (through instructions of Lycurgus), and the first to do what they believed was necessary for its preservation. It is true that 300 makes other historical omissions (small, or artistically necessary, in my opinion), but the liberty aspect in the movie is historically spot on, and deserves to figure so prominently, for it played the same role in Greek histories.

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This may add a little levity to the discussion.

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Paul, as I wrote earlier in this thread, of course people through history have tried to fight off their invaders, but that in no way makes them fighters for liberty. Such a banal defensive impulse against foreign foes is almost inevitable in every people out there, as even many animals will fight for their home, or whatever. Does that make them the fighters for liberty? No. That latter kind of fight requires a certain choice, a certain set of values, a fight not only against something, but also for something.

I agree, which was exactly what I was implying when I asked the rhetorical question. Many people constantly bring up the issue that the Jews were the first to fight for freedom when they sought to escape Egypt. After being led around the desert for 40 years by Moses, what is the first thing they do? Kill all the people who occupy the land they want.

This the Spartans were historically the first in to achieve, and also the most persistent amongst the Greeks to protect. Again, if we keep referring to history, it is Athenians who said: "rightness of action is only an issue between equals; the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" (Thuc. xvii). Spartans were the first to fight for liberty as properly understood (through instructions of Lycurgus), and the first to do what they believed was necessary for its preservation. It is true that 300 makes other historical omissions (small, or artistically necessary, in my opinion), but the liberty aspect in the movie is historically spot on, and deserves to figure so prominently, for it played the same role in Greek histories.

Two points here. First, the movie was in no way presented as accurately representing history. So I don't think that issue is relevant. Second, given the state of modern education within the last 100 years (including my own education), I doubt that what you claim Sparta's real history to represent will be known by very many people who are not actively involved in studying history. I have never heard Sparta described in the manner you refer and I have never read anything that so describes Sparta. So, qua movie, whether there is historical accuracy or not, it is irrelevant to the evaluation of the movie. 300 is not a documentary. The movie does not "make life more beautiful and interesting than it actually is, yet give it all the reality, and even a more convincing reality than that of our everyday existence. Life, not as it is, but as it could be and should be." Sparta's public image is one of military authority. When I watched the movie, it was clear to me that the "events are not to be taken literally; they dramatize certain fundamental psychological characteristics, deliberately isolated and emphasized in order to convey a single abstraction: the characters' attitude toward life." The movie dramatized "...events featur[ing] the confrontation of two extremes, two opposite ways of facing existence: passionate self-assertiveness, self-confidence, ambition, audacity, independence—versus conventionality, servility, envy, hatred, power-lust." If you were walking home from work and were suddenly surrounded by 15 muggers with spears who demanded that you pay them tribute, would you really say to them, "up yours. Tonight I dine in hell?"

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Paul, years ago, when I was much younger and living in New York, when walking late at night past an alley in mid-town, I suddenly found myself on the ground, with shoes striking into my ribs. I had been tripped and pushed from behind. I was up in a flash, with a great yelling roar, slashing with my fists, like a whirling dervish, finally driving the muggers away. Now, that's not "15 muggers with spears", but still, it is great not to surrender, even when you are out-numbered. Rather, especially then.

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MAJOR, MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW

"Now, as then, a beast approaches. Patient and confident. Savoring the meal to come. This beast is made of men and horses; swords and spears; an army of slaves, vast beyond imagining, ready to devour tiny Greece. Ready to snuff out the world's one hope for reason and justice."

"First, you fight with your head." "Then, you fight with your heart." "Do not forget today's lesson: respect and honor."

"Before you speak Persian, know that in Sparta, everyone - even a King's messenger - is held accountable for the words of his voice."

"You bring me crowns and heads of conquered kings to my city's steps. You insult my queen. You threaten my people with slavery and death. Oh, I've chosen my words carefully Persian. Perhaps you should have done the same." "This is blasphemy. This is madness." "Madness? THIS IS SPARTA!"

"We must consult the Oracle. Trust the gods Leonidas." "I'd prefer you trusted your reason."

"Diseased old mystics. Worthless relics of a time before Sparta's ascent from darkness. Remnants of a senseless tradition."

"No Spartan - man or woman - slave or King - is above the law."

"What must a King do to save his world if the very laws he is sworn to protect force him to do nothing?" "It is not a question of what a Spartan citizen should do, nor a husband, nor a king. Instead ask yourself - what should a free man do?"

"Spartan!" "Yes my lady?" "Come back with your shield - or on it." "Yes my lady."

"We march. For our lands. For our families. For our freedom."

"Our ancestors built this wall, using ancient ancient stones from the bosom of Greece herself. And, with a little Spartan help, your Persian scouts supplied the mortar."

"Go. Run along and tell your Xerxes he faces free men here, not slaves." "No. Not slaves. Your women will be slaves. Your sons, your daughters, your elders will be slaves. But not you. By noon this day, you will be dead men."

"Imagine what horrible fate awaits my enemies, when I would kill any of my own men for victory." "And I would die for any one of mine."

"You Greeks take pride in your logic. I suggest you apply it."

"You have many slaves, Xerxes, but few warriors. It wont be long before they fear my spears more than your whips."

"I am a generous god. I can make you rich beyond all measure. I will make you warlord of all Greece. You will carry my battle standard into the heart of Europa. Your Athenian rivals will kneel at your feet - if you but will kneel at mine."

"The world will never know you existed!" "The world will know free men stood against a tyrant. That few stood against many. And before this battle is over, that even a god-king can bleed."

"Embrace me as your king and as your god." "Yes." "Lead my soldiers through the hidden path and behind the cursed Spartans and your joys will be endless." "Yes, I want it all: wealth, women, and one more thing. I want a uniform." "Done. You will find I am kind. Unlike cruel Leonidas, who demanded that you stand, I require only that you kneel. "

"I can see it - the two of us standing together: me politician, you warrior, our voices as one. But why would I want to do that?" "It proves you care for a king who right now fights for the very water we drink."

"Your husband fights for his land - and his love."

"There is no glory to be had now. Only retreat, or surrender, or death." "That's an easy choice for us, Arcadian. Spartans never retreat! Spartans never surrender! Go spread the word. Let every Greek assembled know the truth of this. Let each among them search his own soul. And while you are at it - search your own."

"A new age is begun! An age of freedom! And all will know that 300 Spartans gave their last breath to defend it!

"...300 families that bleed for our rights and for the very principles this room is built upon."

"Send the army for the preservation of liberty. Send it for justice. Send it for law and order. Send it for reason. But most importantly, send our army for hope. Hope that a King and his men have not been wasted to the pages of history; that their courage bonds us together; that we are made stronger by their actions; and that your choices today reflect their bravery."

"The Persians will not stop until the only shelter we will find are rubble and chaos."

"This chamber needs no history lesson my queen." "Then what lesson would you like learn? Shall I begin to enumerate all of them? Honor. Duty. Glory"

"Think Leonidas. Use your reason! Think of your men. I beg you."

"You fight for your lands. Keep them. You fight for Sparta. She will be more wealthy and more powerful than ever before. You fight for your kingship. You will be proclaimed warlord for all Greece, answerable only to the one, true master of the world. Leonidas, your victory will be complete - if you but lay down your arms and kneel to holy Xerxes."

"My Queen! My wife! My love!"

"Remember us. As simple an order as a king can give. Remember WHY we died. For he did not wish tribute, for song, monuments, for poems of war and valor. His wish was simple. Remember us, he said to me. That was his hope. That any free soul that comes across that place, in all the countless centuries yet to be, may all our voices whisper to you from the ageless stones - Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here, by Spartan law we lie."

"And so my king died. And my brothers died. Barely a year ago. Long I pondered my king's cryptic talk of victory. But time has proven him wise. For, from free Greek to free Greek, the word was spread - that bold Leonidas and his 300, so far from home, laid down their lives, not just for Sparta but for all Greece and the PROMISE this country holds!

Now, here on this ragged patch of earth called Plataea, Persian swords face obliteration. Just there the barbarians huddle, sheer terror gripping tight their hearts, with icy fingers, knowing full well what merciless horrors they suffered at the swords and spears of 300. Yet they stare now across the plain at TEN THOUSAND Spartans, commanding thirty thousand free Greeks! [Cheer] The enemy outnumbers us a PAULTRY 3 to 1! Good odds for any Greek.

This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine!"

--

And the argument is all of that cannot be considered the artist having translated his sense of life into conceptual, ie philosophic, terms? That there are no express philosophic themes to the film at all? That there is no concretization of any expressed philosophic position?

The argument is that none of the above - none of those thoughts nor the concrete actions taken in accord with them - serve to make life more beautiful and interesting than it actually is? That those things are not given a reality? That life has not been breathed into them? That they certainly are not more convincing than our everyday existence?

The argument is that these 300 are just some guys doing what men have done throughout most of history - pummeling each other for no good reason (certainly no good philosophic reason)?

The argument is that one should definitely not take these 'non-philosophic' ideas literally - ie that, in comparable context, one should not act as the men in this film act? The argument is that those actions and these men do not represent the valid concrete embodiment of a philosophic ideal?

The argument is that the film merely touches you with some emotions you should feel? That that is all there is to it? That there is nothing more to it than that?

I would state that any serious presentation of these arguments means the presenter failed to grasp the entire film - it's concrete content and it's abstract themes. As such, I would have to disagree with that presenter's arguments in the strongest of terms possible.

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If you were walking home from work and were suddenly surrounded by 15 muggers with spears who demanded that you pay them tribute, would you really say to them, "up yours. Tonight I dine in hell?"
If the alternative was fight them or face the destruction of my most cherished values? In other words, if the alternative was fight and possibly die but secure the safety of my loved ones - as was Leonidas' alternatives? YOU BETCHA.

Are you saying that you would let those highest values be destroyed rather than fight to preserve them? Perhaps that is our ultimate source of disagreement.

This raises a very good question for anyone who cares to answer it: faced with Leonidas' choice, what exactly would you do? Myself, I certainly hope I would have the courage to do exactly what he did.

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Those are two fine posts, Brian.

For those who enjoyed "300" I offer the following short poem, which I wrote after watching the movie.

The Advantage

They had numbers on their side,

Numbers of incompetents,

Numbers of fools,

Numbers of kneelers,

Numbers of sycophants,

Numbers of fakers,

Numbers of gods.

I stood alone.

I was free.

I was a man.

It wasn't really fair;

They didn't have a chance in Hell.

__________________________________

Brian Faulkner

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Paul, years ago, when I was much younger and living in New York, when walking late at night past an alley in mid-town, I suddenly found myself on the ground, with shoes striking into my ribs. I had been tripped and pushed from behind. I was up in a flash, with a great yelling roar, slashing with my fists, like a whirling dervish, finally driving the muggers away. Now, that's not "15 muggers with spears", but still, it is great not to surrender, even when you are out-numbered. Rather, especially then.

I had a friend who, many years ago, entered the train station to come home after midnight. Someone approached him and demanded the bag he was carrying. His immediate reaction was to back away and say no. Before he knew what happened, he was stabbed so many times that it was a near miracle he survived. So, all I can say about anecdotal evidences is: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But a principle it isn't.

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If you were walking home from work and were suddenly surrounded by 15 muggers with spears who demanded that you pay them tribute, would you really say to them, "up yours. Tonight I dine in hell?"
This raises a very good question for anyone who cares to answer it: faced with Leonidas' choice, what exactly would you do? Myself, I certainly hope I would have the courage to do exactly what he did.

I would first like to answer Paul's question with a yes. When I was in college in the 80's 3 friends of mine and I got into a brawl with 50 fraternity brothers. We beat the snot out of them and left them lying on the ground (nobody was fatally harmed). Although I did walk away with a lot of bruises, bite marks and more that I noticed the following day.

I would also like to answer Brian's question with a yes. I can not allow myself to imagen living life as a coward nor a slave, to anyone.

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If the alternative was fight them or face the destruction of my most cherished values? In other words, if the alternative was fight and possibly die but secure the safety of my loved ones - as was Leonidas' alternatives? YOU BETCHA.

Are you saying that you would let those highest values be destroyed rather than fight to preserve them? Perhaps that is our ultimate source of disagreement.

This raises a very good question for anyone who cares to answer it: faced with Leonidas' choice, what exactly would you do? Myself, I certainly hope I would have the courage to do exactly what he did.

Leonidas initially did not make the choice with the expectation of losing or being killed. He would have been pretty stupid to send 300 men against 300,000 or 3,000,000 (what ever the real number was), I don't care what value he was supposedly defending. He fully expected the rest of the Spartan military to follow him into battle. Anyone who goes into battle to defend a value with the expectation of dying would be a fool. One fights with the expectation of killing the enemy. When he chose to stay and fight but told the Athenians to withdraw to fight later on, that was a strategic decision made with the expectation that the Greeks would later unite to fight and defeat the Persians. I believe that Leonidas would definitely have acted differently had he a realistic expectation of loosing the war. I don't think he was foolhardy. He was not the type to fight for its own sake. Leonidas' wife gave herself to her enemy without a fight when it served her purposes to speak to the chamber of politicians. "Spartans don't retreat" was hardly the view of those back in Sparta who debated whether to send troops to support Leonidas.

If I expected to die defending my highest value without defeating the enemy, I would change my strategy.

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I had a friend who, many years ago, entered the train station to come home after midnight. Someone approached him and demanded the bag he was carrying. His immediate reaction was to back away and say no. Before he knew what happened, he was stabbed so many times that it was a near miracle he survived. So, all I can say about anecdotal evidences is: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But a principle it isn't.
I would say this post confuses the validity of a principle with the success or failure of one's attempt to practice that principle. I would simply point out that the fact one practices a valid principle does not guarantee the success of one's actions. Therefore the conclusion of the post is a non-sequitor.

I would also note that the principle presented in the film is not the one implied (but never explicitly identified) in the question. It is not 'Fight anyone who confronts you, regardless of context'. That is a commandment, not a principle (the difference between them being regard for context - one has it, one does not). That is why I refused to answer the question as presented and instead answered a properly reformulated question. Put simply, because it is formulated without regard to context, the original question is invalid.

That such a question was posed as supposedly representative of one of the principles and themes of the film is further support for my conclusion that the concrete content and abstract themes of the film were missed in their entirety.

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Brian Smith: Bravo! Excellent post. I believe you've made the definitive statement on 300. Did you get those quotes from the graphic novel?

B Royce: Wonderful poem!

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Leonidas initially did not make the choice with the expectation of losing or being killed.
Actually he made the choice knowing full well that he could lose and/or be killed. In other words, Leonidas knew full well that his success was not at all guaranteed. But Leonidas was faced with a terrible alternative: submit to slavery or fight against the enslaver. Put in more fundamental terms, the alternative he faced was death of his soul (and thus the ability to value) or risk death defending his soul and all it valued. In the concrete terms of the movie, the alternative he faced was to become the deformed hunchback and 'live' - or fight to maintain his soul, even if it meant dying. The fact that the odds against him changed as events progressed did not change the nature of the alternative he faced. The alternative remained regardless. And Leonidas chose to be true to himself - to his principles. He chose to be a man, not a monster, to the very end.

Put simply, he chose to die as a man rather than live as a monster (thus the line to the traitor I quoted previously).

Anyone who goes into battle to defend a value with the expectation of dying would be a fool.

Obviously we differ over our choice between the given alternatives. As I suspected, that is our more fundamental difference here.

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Those are two fine posts, Brian.

For those who enjoyed "300" I offer the following short poem, which I wrote after watching the movie.

Thanks. And that was a very nice tribute to the spirit embodied by the 300. :angry:

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Actually he made the choice knowing full well that he could lose and/or be killed. In other words, Leonidas knew full well that his success was not at all guaranteed. -----------

I just wish you'd stop changing the words I write to suit your own points. Consider this my final response to you.

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Brian Smith: Bravo! Excellent post. I believe you've made the definitive statement on 300. Did you get those quotes from the graphic novel?

B Royce: Wonderful poem!

Thank you, jordanz.

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