Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Philosophy of The X-Files

The Philosophy of The X-Files

Edited by Dean A. Kowalski
Foreword by William B. Davis
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: REV - Revised, 2
Pages: 314
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of The X-Files
    Book Description:

    In The Philosophy of The X-Files, Dean A. Kowalski has gathered a remarkable cast of contributors to shed light on the philosophical mysteries of the television show The X-Files. With sections devoted to the show's credos, such as "The Truth Is Out There," individual characters, and specific episodes, The Philosophy of The X-Files illuminates the philosophical assumptions and presuppositions of the show as well as presents discussions through the show to help the reader better understand philosophy and philosophical inquiry.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3634-9
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    William B. Davis

    This book by its nature raises many questions, not least of which is why an actor would be asked to write the foreword to a book of philosophy. An even better question is, Why would an actor jump at the chance?

    Well, this actor, while playing the Cigarette Smoking Man ("CSM" to many) onThe X-Files, puzzled over many questions raised by the show, such as conspiracy theory, skepticism and credulity, aliens and the paranormal, and the nature of evil itself. And this actor may be unique, given his degree in philosophy and his reading of evolutionary biology and skeptical...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Introduction: Mulder, Scully, Plato, Aristotle, and Dawkins
    (pp. 1-14)
    Dean A. Kowalski

    ThatThe X-Filesis such a natural choice for a book like this is not for the reason you might initially think. It’s not that it was “metaphysical” in the sense that it was about extraterrestrials and various otherworldly topics that no one could ever really prove true or false. This reminds me of all the times I would find a new bookstore, eagerly throw the doors open, and march straight back to its Metaphysics section, merely to be disappointed—again—at finding only volumes on the healing power of white crystals and how-to books about tarot card reading (once,...

  7. Part I: The Credos

    • The Truth Is Out There: Abduction, Aliens, and Alienation
      (pp. 17-36)
      Mark C. E. Peterson

      Each episode ofThe X-Filesinvariably begins by reminding its viewers that “the truth is out there:” This banner, this motto, the show’s central epistemic and ontological axiom, conceals a jaw-droppingly awful pun. The pun has two parts. Part one: The truth “out there;” the truth from which we are alienated, is that there are aliens. That’s bad enough, but the second part is worse and begins like this: Mulder overcomes his alienation by questioning not only the official denial that aliens exist but also the official mind-set that defines which explanations are permitted and which explanations are crazy. Officially...

    • Freedom and Worldviews in The X-Files
      (pp. 37-54)
      V. Alan White

      Certainly one of the major reasonsThe X-Filesgarnered such a loyal following is the intricate chemistry that developed over the course of the series between agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. In the beginning that chemistry took the form of a radical titration of Mulder’s fuming passion to prove that paranormal events exist against the cool skepticism of Scully’s devotion to reason and science. In the end the two achieved something more like a covalence of these same elements with a common and complementary vision of a considerably more complex world than either originally conceived. In between, they discovered...

    • Postdemocratic Society and the Truth Out There
      (pp. 55-76)
      Richard Flannery and David Louzecky

      Do we live in a “postdemocratic” society, a society of illusions where only the gullible believe in anything except their own interests and where the powerful make policy decisions in secret?The X-Filesraises that possibility in almost every episode. It is our contention that Fox Mulder and Dana Scully both passionately reject this idea. “The truth is out there,” and we need it. The problem is finding it, and finding the evidence that will be convincing. Our two detectives illustrate different approaches to solving the truth problem, Scully the orthodox and Mulder the knight-errant, but the search unites them,...

    • Some Philosophical Reflections on “Trust No One”
      (pp. 77-92)
      Richard M. Edwards and Dean A. Kowalski

      The credo “Trust no one” was firmly established in both the mythos and the ethos ofThe X-Filestelevision series in episode 23, “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” which aired on May 13, 1994, as part of the first season ofThe X-Files. Mulder and a skeptical Scully are advised by the government insider and Mulder’s secretive guide, Deep Throat (DT, played by Jerry Hardin), to “trust no one.” All of the previous episodes contained the tag line “The Truth Is Out There” in the opening credits. “The Erlenmeyer Flask” introduced a new tag line, “Trust No One.” While this piece of...

    • “I Want to Believe”: William James and The X-Files
      (pp. 93-108)
      Keith Dromm

      In philosophy, there is likely no more important difference than that between believing in something with justification and believing in something for no or insufficient reasons. According to many philosophers, even though a belief is true, if the believer doesn’t have good reasons for holding it, then not only does the belief not count as knowledge, it should never have been adopted.¹ In his classic essay “The Ethics of Belief,” the nineteenth-century mathematician and philosopher of science W. K. Clifford (1845-1879) argued for such an attitude toward unjustified belief. He wrote there that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for...

  8. Part II: The Characters

    • Ancient X-Files: Mulder and Plato’s Sokratic Dialogues
      (pp. 111-125)
      William M. Schneider

      It is November 12, 1997, and FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder has just returned to his apartment from Trinity Hospital after receiving news that his partner of four years, Special Agent Dana Scully, is a living miracle. Literally overnight, her terminal cancer has gone into remission. But a shadow of guilt still haunts Mulder. He has difficulty accepting, or even fathoming, the fact that his quest for the truth has put Scully’s life in such jeopardy. As he sits at his desk, his mind wanders from Scully to the other woman bound up with his life of searching, his sister,...

    • Scully as Pragmatist Feminist: “truths” Are Out There
      (pp. 126-141)
      Erin McKenna

      At the start ofThe X-FilesScully is the obvious opposite of Mulder. The traditional dualisms of reason/emotion, objective/subjective, and scientific (hard) knowledge / felt (soft) knowledge (among others) are clear. The typical male/female dualism, however, is interestingly reversed between the two characters. Throughout the series the writers play with the tensions within Scully, and Mulder as well. They also begin to challenge the dualistic structure itself. It seems as if we were supposed to come to see that the strength is in the complementary nature of the opposites (a kind of Rousseau-style marriage without the radical inequality).¹ However, over...

    • Moral Musings on a Cigarette Smoking Man
      (pp. 142-158)
      Timothy Dunn and Joseph J. Foy

      In a series filled with intriguing and enigmatic characters, the Cigarette Smoking Man (CSM) is surely one of the most fascinating. From his initial appearance in "Pilot," in which he is first seen lurking in the background as Dana Scully is assigned to work on the X-Files, to his almost mythical demise in the series finale "The Truth," the CSM is shrouded in mystery. He is a man of many nicknames (Smoking Man, CIA Man, Captain, Old Smokey) and aliases (C. G. B. Spender, Mr. Hunt, Mr. Bloodworth). He is allegedly responsible for numerous historical events, from the assassinations of...

    • Walter Skinner: The X-Files’ Unsung Hero
      (pp. 159-173)
      S. Evan Kreider

      FellowX-Filesfans sometimes ask me, “Who’s your favorite character: Mulder or Scully?” To this, I cheekily reply, “Neither.” To be perfectly frank, I’ve never felt that either one of them exhibits much personal character. Mulder strikes me as self-centered, obsessive, and immature, while Scully seems cold, passive, and inconsistent in her beliefs (though I’m quite sure I’ll be hearing from fans of Mulder and Scully about why I am so very wrong about this). I would argue that if anyone on the show is truly worthy of admiration, it is their boss, Assistant Director Walter Skinner. In particular, Skinner...

    • Science and the Mystery of Consciousness: A Dialogue between Mulder and Scully
      (pp. 174-186)
      Gordon Barnes

      Mulder: That’s the difference between you and me, Scully. I think there are limits to what science can explain. Not everything can be reduced to the physical, chemical, and biological dimensions of reality. Not everything can be reduced to the physical, chemical, and biological dimensions of reality. Not everything can be modeled in the current paradigms of the natural sciences, which exist solely for the purpose of predicting and controlling a universe that is much larger and more complex than our limited human minds will ever comprehend. That’s my view. But not you. You think that science can explain everything....

  9. Part III: The Episodes

    • “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” Reprised 2009
      (pp. 189-208)
      Dean A. Kowalski

      Darin Morgan’sX-Filesepisodes are wickedly clever. “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” is no exception. Clyde Bruckman (Peter Boyle) has captured what Mulder so elusively seeks-the truth out there-at least a part of it. The St. Paul, Minnesota, resident cannot foretell next week’s winning lottery ticket numbers, but he can foresee how people will die. In telling his tale through Bruckman, Morgan may be poking fun at those who take soothsayers too seriously. After all, recall Scully’s reaction to seeing “the Stupendous Yappi’ (Jaap Broeker) on a late-night commercial and, more important, the various fortunetellers’ inabilities to discern that Puppet (Stu...

    • The Many Tales of “Jose Chung”
      (pp. 209-229)
      Dean A. Kowalski and S. Evan Kreider

      In his last known piece of writing forThe X-Files, an uncredited rewrite of “Quagmire,” Darin Morgan again questions Mulder’s incessant pursuit of “the truth out there,” Chapter 10 (per episode DVD) bears his distinctive clever exchanges between Mulder and Scully. While they are marooned on a rock in Heuvelman’s Lake, Scully compares Mulder’s quest for an “intangible” truth “out there” to Ahab’s search for the white whale. She laments to her partner, “It’s the truth or a white whale. What difference does it make? I mean, both obsessions are impossible to capture, and trying to do so will only...

    • Feelings and Fictions: Exploring Emotion and Belief in Fight the Future
      (pp. 230-240)
      Christopher R. Trogan

      Film has enormous power to affect our emotions. Sometimes, as in documentary, our emotions are targeted via the intellect. More often than not, however, our emotions are provoked directly through the fictional presentation of characters and events.The X-FilesmovieFight the Futuredemonstrates the ways in which film as an aesthetic medium can induce a plethora of feelings and emotions—from skepticism to belief and anxiety to relief—in order to put forth a series of propositions for intellectual consideration. While any Single episode inThe X-Filesalso induces emotions in order to carry out such ends, the feature-length...

    • I Want to Believe ... But Now What?
      (pp. 241-261)
      Dean A. Kowalski and S. Evan Kreider

      Most X-Philes remember the final scene of the series finale. Mulder and Scully, pursued by the FBI (or at least shadowy factions within it), take refuge in a motel room. The scene is blocked Similarly to the motel scene in “Pilot,” in which Mulder first tells Scully about Samantha. In a way, then, their circle is complete, but Chris Carter, once again, has left us hanging. Yes, Mulder and Scully are together. Yes, they speak of hope, however ephemeral, for the future. But we simply don’t know what the future holds, except that December 22, 2012, looms ominously on its...

  10. Appendix A: The X-Files Mythology
    (pp. 262-264)
    Joseph J. Foy
  11. Appendix B: The X-Files Debriefed
    (pp. 265-282)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 283-286)
  13. Index
    (pp. 287-293)