Reading House MD and Philosophy [Part 2]

The following two sets of notes are from the third and the forth essays on House and Philosophy, dealing with Nietzsche’s superman and Moral Luck theory respectively. If you’d rather check out my notes on the first two essays, head over here. Otherwise, continue on. I tend to make brief notes that remind me of specific ideas, which might be a bit difficult to follow for someone who hasn’t read the text. But they contain main points like definitions and their relation to the show that I hope are a little more legible and easier to comprehend.

Is there a superman in the house? A Nietzschean point of view.

  1. Man is something that needs to be overcome. Abermensch – antithesis to stagnation. A superman, self-assured with a will to overcome conformity and constricting custom and morality.
  2. Man is a rope tied between beast and Abermensch. No one presently meets the criteria to be one. Nietzsche suggested that some had come close: Napoleon, Goethe, Jesus, Caesar, Shakespeare.
  3. Self-denial, the self imposed material restraints is really one’s attempt to preserve life, to fight for existence.
  4. House is not depicted as having or wanting the usual emblems of material success. He doesn’t have a conscious denial of consumer goods, only a lack of interest in them.
  5. Only discipline, attended by great pain has brought forth all elevation of humanity. The pain that plagues House might be divine punishment for being elevated above other physicians, not unlike Prometheus or Oedipus.
  6. His arrogance and abusive behaviour might not align perfectly with Abermensch, but his strong will, absence of resentment, and disregard for conformity do.

House and Moral Luck.

  1. Control Principal – we cannot blame someone for something that is not their fault or if it is beyond their control. However, we blame others more when actions cause serious harm than when these actions, through luck, cause no consequences (ie. Drunk driver who kills vs. Drunk driver who get home without incidents).
  2. Problem of moral luck – the paradox that we are only responsible only for what we control, and yet also for the things beyond our control.
  3. House sides with the opinion that there is always a right and a wrong. Just because you don’t know what the right answer is, or have no way of knowing, it doesn’t make it okay. Control Principal is wrong.
  4. Agent-regret – regret that we feel after some action of ours has led, in some way, to consequences that we wish had been otherwise. It is tied to our past actions.
  5. Agent-regret is different from remorse, which is how we feel when we do something we wish we had done differently.
  6. For House, continuing to act like good doctor is more important than feeling a certain amount of guilt for a failed diagnosis. Guilt is irrelevant.
  7. The consent form transfers blame from doctor to the signee, unless the doctor is negligent. The problem with informed consent is that it is hard to determine what reasonable standards are in disclosing risks to the patient. What if the patient is not able to make a clear decision?
  8. It makes more sense to make moral assessments of persons in terms of their actions, rather than considering the actions themselves in isolation.
  9. We must do the best we can, and be reasonably prepared to accept, and take responsibility for, dire consequences.

I was intrigued by the idea of pain as punishment proposed in the Abermensch essay. I never really thought of House’s disability that way, but it really makes sense from the speculative point of view. Several episodes of the show were dedicated to the source of House’s pain, some even claiming that it might be purely emotional. His puzzle-solving was even attributed to be one of the cures, while also studying the relationship between his pain and love life. Has House become so great that he must pay with some sort of calamity? I tend to slightly disagree with the statement that House does not care for material rewards. He is pretty vain about his very material possessions that he does care for, like his cane or his motorcycle. It’s just that the eccentric doctor is just that – eccentric; therefore, his material obsession are borderline unusual.

One comment

  1. […] installment of my brief notes on House and Philosophy. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2, if you’d like. This time the essays try to correlate House to a broader concept, be it […]

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