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The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood

The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood

Richard T. McClelland
Brian B. Clayton
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 274
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  • Book Info
    The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood
    Book Description:

    Famous for his masculine swagger and gritty roles, American cultural icon Clint Eastwood has virtually defined the archetype of the tough lawman. Beginning with his first on-screen appearance in the television series Rawhide (1959--1965) and solidified by his portrayal of the "Man with No Name" in Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy (1964--1966), he rocketed to stardom and soon became one of the most recognizable actors in Hollywood. The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood examines the philosophy and psychology behind this versatile and controversial figure, exploring his roles as actor, musician, and director.

    Led by editors Richard T. McClelland and Brian B. Clayton, the contributors to this timely volume discuss a variety of topics. They explore Eastwood's arresting critique and revision of the traditional western in films such as Unforgiven (1992), as well as his attitudes toward violence and the associated concept of masculinity from the Dirty Harry movies (starting in 1971) to Gran Torino (2008). The essays also chart a shift in Eastwood's thinking about the value of so-called rugged individualism, an element of many of his early films, already questioned in Play Misty for Me (1971) and decisively rejected in Million Dollar Baby (2004).

    Clint Eastwood has proven to be a dynamic actor, a perceptive and daring director, as well as an intriguing public figure. Examining subjects such as the role of civil morality and community in his work, his use of themes of self-reliance and religious awareness, and his cinematic sensibility, The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood will provide readers with a deeper sense of Eastwood as an artist and illuminate the philosophical conflicts and resolutions that drive his films.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4264-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Eastwood as Philosopher
    (pp. 1-12)
    Richard T. McClelland and Brian B. Clayton

    It is easy to forget that philosophy has not always been practiced as it commonly is today. Most philosophers working today (and over the last couple of centuries) have been academics, usually in universities. There they teach, do research, write for publication, gather to present at professional meetings, and the like. Professional journals and monograph series are often sponsored by university departments, and conferences of all kinds commonly convene on university campuses worldwide. Most philosophers these days possess advanced degrees from universities (though increasingly such degrees do not ensure employment in academic positions). Considered in terms of these traditions of...

  4. From Solitary Individualism to Post-Christian Stoic Existentialism: Quests for Community, Moral Agency, and Transcendence in the Films of Clint Eastwood
    (pp. 13-40)
    David H. Calhoun

    The characters in Clint Eastwood’s films are famously associated with rugged individualism and violent directness. The films early in Eastwood’s popular success, such as the spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, theDirty Harryseries, and films such asHang ’Em High(1968) andKelly’s Heroes(1970)—notably, films that Eastwood did not himself direct—highlight characters that are solitary, brutal, and resourceful. These Eastwood characters are loners, even when they team up with others, as when Eastwood’s Schaffer is the sole American in a British special-ops team inWhere Eagles Dare(1968); masters of their circumstances, even when facing...

  5. Hereafter and the Problems of Evil: Clint Eastwood as Practical Philosopher
    (pp. 41-60)
    Brian B. Clayton

    Clint Eastwood’sHereafter(2010) begins peacefully enough: we hear Bruce Forman playing on acoustic guitar the film’s simple musical theme, composed by Clint Eastwood—a theme that is then joined by the sound of waves gently washing up on a shoreline. The sights are equally peaceful and tranquil: the camera first pans to show us a beautiful tropical beach filled with families and vacationers before it moves to the interior of a suite in a luxury seaside hotel. There we first see Marie Lelay (Cécile de France) as she gets out of bed and awakens her companion Didier (Thierry Neuvic)...

  6. The Smile and the Spit: The Motivational Polarity and Self-Reliance Portrayed in The Outlaw Josey Wales and the Dollars Trilogy
    (pp. 61-76)
    James R. Couch

    The characters of Josey Wales and “The Man with No Name,” like magnets, have the power of attraction as well as repulsion. Not only did the cigar chewing, unshaven face of the Man with No Name deliver barbs of divisive wit and foreboding scowls, but smiles indicating solidarity and humor. These traits are similarly found in Wales. Yet, even adding the further similarities of verbal adroitness, cleverness, vigilance, and certainly the mastery of the gun, the central characters of the trilogy,A Fistful of Dollars(1964),For a Few Dollars More(1965),The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly(1966),...

  7. The Representation of Justice in Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter
    (pp. 77-94)
    Erin E. Flynn

    A defining feature of the Western is that the civil order it depicts lacks developed institutions, particularly political institutions. Sometimes this absence has to do with questions about the legitimacy or desirability of the direction in which the civil order is headed in so many Westerns: toward the institutions of lawmaking, of political action, representation, and organization. At the very least, in the matter at hand in certain Westerns, the political is depicted as at best irrelevant, at worst corrupting. Or so I shall argue in what follows.

    There is another feature of such Westerns, which I believe functions as...

  8. Bad Men at Play: On the Banality of Goodness in Unforgiven
    (pp. 95-110)
    Richard Gilmore

    Clint Eastwood is not obviously a philosopher. There are, however, two parallel traditions of Western philosophy, both of which can be said to originate with Plato. One tradition, associated with the middle and later works of Plato, is the idea of philosophy as the pursuit of knowledge, which becomes for Plato knowledge of the Forms. There is another tradition, another idea of what philosophy is about, in the earlier, so-called Socratic works of Plato. The idea of philosophy in those earlier works is of philosophy as a kind of wisdom, specifically, the wisdom to understand that we do not always...

  9. Aristotle, Eastwood, Friendship, and Death
    (pp. 111-130)
    Jason Grinnell

    Much of Clint Eastwood’s work displays the complexities of friendship. Friends are vital to a good, flourishing life, but being a good friend can pose difficult challenges. In particular, friendship can make us confront our own deepest commitments and values. The manner in which we confront those challenges is what makes true friendship possible, and perhaps all too rare. Two films in particular,Million Dollar Baby(2004) andGran Torino(2008), illustrate a broadly Aristotelian perspective on friendship, but also explore some of the tensions within Aristotle’s view.

    For Aristotle, the most complete friendship is that of “character-friends” who value...

  10. Giving up the Gun: Violence in the Films of Clint Eastwood
    (pp. 131-156)
    Karen D. Hoffman

    The early films of Clint Eastwood’s career feature him portraying heavily armed cowboys and officers of the law who do not hesitate to use weapons to defend themselves and others. Such characters meet violence with violence and are defined by their proficiency with their guns. As Eastwood’s career unfolds, his films begin to evince more concerns about the use of violence and its impact not just on those who are on the receiving end but also on the agents wielding the weapons. In films likeUnforgiven(1992), which Eastwood also directed, he depicts a character who initially appears to have...

  11. Eastwood, Romance, Tragedy
    (pp. 157-174)
    Deborah Knight and George McKnight

    A significant group of Clint Eastwood’s films fall within what we call, following Northrop Frye’sAnatomy of Criticism,the master genre of romance.¹ WithMystic River(2003), Eastwood’s films turn away from the genre of romance toward a focus on the tragic and on the master genre of tragedy. In this chapter we will examine the trajectory of Eastwood’s films from romance to tragedy, focusing in particular on how both romance and tragedy are concretized by films that fall within familiar cinematic genres, such as the Western and the police procedural. We will examine how the generic form of Eastwood’s...

  12. The Use of Silence in Hereafter: A Study in Neurocinematics
    (pp. 175-190)
    Richard T. McClelland

    Hereafter,directed by Clint Eastwood and released in the fall of 2010, is variously described as a supernatural drama or even “a spiritual thriller.”¹ It raises a number of issues of interest to philosophers, most especially about the epistemic status of so-called near-death experiences, as well as attitudes toward death and the possibility of survival. Some of these issues are dealt with elsewhere in this volume (in McFarland’s essay and in my own other essay). They are not, however, the focus of the present essay. Instead, I want to look at a very unusual feature of this film: its use...

  13. The Mortal Hero: Two Inductions on the Meaning of Loss
    (pp. 191-212)
    Richard T. McClelland

    The Buddha is reputed to have said that “all life is suffering,” or perhaps that “the meaning of life is suffering.” And there is little doubt that he was largely correct, for it is difficult to even imagine a realistic form of human life that does not entail some degree and kind of suffering. And, of course, for many of us, life has been or is likely to be filled with suffering.¹ The vast majority of humans who have ever lived have probably suffered more or less continuously throughout their lives in one form or another: hunger, cold, anxiety, disease,...

  14. Eastwood’s Dream: The Philosophy of Absence in Hereafter
    (pp. 213-228)
    Douglas McFarland

    Hereafter(2010) begins with a relentless and indifferent surge of destruction and death. A tsunami sweeps over the landscape of a tropical resort, and the near-death experience of a vacationing journalist (Cécile de France) provides the ostensible thematic context for the film. Her narrative parallels and eventually converges with those of a San Francisco psychic (Matt Damon) and a boy whose twin brother (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren) was killed when he was hit by a truck. The existence and characteristics of a life after death will prove of less importance, however, than the profound sense of abandonment that death...

  15. Desperate Times Call for Existential Heroes: Eastwood’s Gran Torino and Camus’s The Plague
    (pp. 229-248)
    Jennifer L. McMahon

    Albert Camus’s novelThe Plague(1947) depicts a town under siege. It describes the Algerian city of Oran as its inhabitants confront a devastating outbreak of the bubonic plague. Though their scourge is different, the occupants of Highland Park, Michigan, the setting of Clint Eastwood’sGran Torino(2008), are likewise under assault. Whereas the citizens of Oran face death at the hands of an impersonal microbe, the residents of Highland Park confront the more palpable threat of gang violence. Though different in many respects,The PlagueandGran Torinoinvite comparison by virtue of the fact that both works depict...

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 249-250)
  17. List of Contributors
    (pp. 251-254)
  18. Index
    (pp. 255-264)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)