Mad Men and the Futility of Wanting

it is not difficult to discern the final thread of meaning from the series finale. What all of those people had in common all along, throughout the entire run of the series, was unspecified desire. They all wanted without knowing precisely what they wanted. Some of them had a better grasp of this than others, and there is perhaps hidden somewhere in the show a character that depicts the “right” relationship to wanting. Maybe it is the final version of Don, who seemingly renounces the material world and now embraces chanting and meditation. Maybe it is his ex-wife, who now goes coolly into death and maybe understands wanting in a way that most of us cannot. Or maybe it is the plucky but uncertain Peggy who now has love in her life. 

Any of them might qualify, perhaps, but the point seems much simpler to me: our lives are structured by wanting. Whether we reject it or embrace it, whether we fulfill our wants or not, we are caught in the ebb and flow of striving and failing. Trying to deny this only leads to more wanting and failing, just as does the embracing of it. 

There is in all of this a sense of great waste: all that time for such a simple message? Years of a television show just to tell us what anyone who examines life ought to see? 

Well, yes. The show communicates The message about as efficiently as life itself communicates it. Don took 40 years to figure it out, but his insight won’t save him from the lesson. Chanting in front of a beach won’t take away the basic dynamic of life. Those of us who are mere viewers are no worse or better off, for we have learned nothing useful here. As Don goes, so go all of us. And what else could a “mere” show be expected to accomplish?


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Dennett on Pinker


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Philosophy’s alleged sickness

Burroughs misunderstands the relationship between the academy and work: it is not corporatists who are making these demands of the academy, but the very job-starved people who fund us. There is no capitalist greed at work here. There are just people wanting gainful employment. Are we philosophers supposed to tell them that they are wrong?


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