Breaking Bad: Marx and Epicureans

Breaking Bad: Marx and Epicureans

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​Walter White exaggerates and pushes some of the Marx's and the Epicureans view of life to an extreme which along the way destroys his family, causes harm to others and at the end even kills him. Karl Marx's philosophy was to bring the full potential of each persons ability(2) and for that person to do that job. The Epicureans had a view that being freed of fear along with that pleasure would bring the greatest good. (1) Walter finds great pleasure in making his meth, he also does so with his greatest intent to be the best that he can be. Walt in compasses these views of the Marx's and the Epicureans. But he does so in a most deranged way, a way that neither conforms to the overall view or practices of these two philosophies. Walt changed significantly throughout the show. In these changes, there were actions, these actions had consequences. These consequences left Walts family and Jesse shattered, many people ending up blended up in barrels and many more killed.
​Walt was a genius when it came to chemistry, others recognized this, on the contrary, Walt only saw his genius when he looked at his Nobel prize he once helped win. His full potential was trapped deep inside a timid middle age man that was unambitious. He was too weak to stand up to his wife and contempt to teach high school chemistry even though he had been co creator of a now multi billion dollar science corporation, Gray Matter. Instead of him his son looked up to Hank, Walts brother in law because Hank lived an exciting life as part of the DEA task force. Hank saw action, locked up bad guys and carried a weapon. But Walts full potential was there, eager to get out. Alongside was his massive ego unknown to him until the day he was rushed to the ER.
You've got mustard on your shirt, Walt replied disconcerting with a monotone voice to the doctor. Walt had just heard he had lung cancer but it would be weeks before his family even knew. Walt would emerge a new person before JR, Marie and Hank found out. Walt would be reborn unto a new life of manipulation, crime, and cold hearted murder in these short weeks.
​Marx believed that work affirms oneself. Marx said peoples abilities and to be able to work at those abilities brings fulfillment.

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That fulfillment are people at their highest human function and that will bring happiness. (513) When Walt was teaching high school Chemistry we see that he does not have any fulfillment at all. Marx would say Walt's work is external to his life and not Walt's expression of life itself. While Walt is a good teacher, we see that he is also bored at teaching high school chemistry because it is beneath him. He has no one to engage in intellectually. There is no fulfillment, no satisfaction. Walts work was slowly drudging on, day by day, month by month, his work was a cancer itself. With his diagnoses that all changed.
​ His yearning for fulfillment arrives slowly at first. Early one morning Walt is contemplating his cancer in his backyard flicking matches into his unused pool. He calls up Hank wanting to go on a ride a long that was offered to him earlier. The ride along is thrilling and and this would ignite the match that lit the fuel of his human function. Walt realizes that he could save his family by cooking meth and meets his former student, Jesse that would help make it happen.
​From the very beginning of Walt and Jesses partnership there are many problems and both face hard circumstances that might have derailed the whole thing. But it did not because of Walt's determination. Walt is determined because for the first time in a very long time he his working at something that does bring him fulfillment. This fulfillment comes slowly at first then escalates, then over extends into the realm of destroying the very thing he set out to serve, his family. As time goes on Walt gets the ability to perfect his craft even more. He is given a super lab to create the best meth New Mexico has ever seen or tasted. He is finally getting the full satisfaction that he had unknowingly been craving since his departure from Gray Matter. He gets the recognition for his work through Jesse, Gus, Madrigal and his Wife Skyler(Even though she does not approve). But Walt is not fully satisfied. He does not realize that his own ego will eventually bring him down along with his works. Walt continues to demand and crave more and more. At the train heist, Walt puts Jesse in danger of almost getting run over by the train because Walt demands perfection from his work. Walt ends up being caught because he does not want to lose the money he has earned by his works. When Walt is about to turn himself in after going into hiding, there is an interview discrediting Walts role at Grey Matter that pulls him back in to show to himself and the world that Elliott and Gretchen were wrong about him.
Marx says that we are productive, active and creative by nature. The things we create are not merely just the things themselves but indeed they are an extension of ourselves. (513) Walt transforms himself into Hiesenberg. Hiesenberg is the master manipulator, something else besides chemistry that Walter is a genius of and turns out his wife is as well. Hiesenberg is an extension of Walt and Walt's meth empire. This is a creative aspect of Walter. His manipulation is not like his chemistry in which he has had many years of experience, but he does have the natural talent to manipulate anyone he came into contact with. The manipulation starts out slow but really picks up pace when he is against odds with Gus. And it skyrockets after Gus's defeat The way Walt manipulates Jesse is devilishly inspiring. The way Walt got Jesse into believing Gus was the villain responsible for poisoning Brock. The way he manipulated Jesse into thinking he(Walt) was sorry for the loss of the boy who got killed when the train heist happened. Hiesnbergs manipulation did not stop with Jesse, everyone from Skyler to Hank to Jr. to Marie all got duped by the great Hiesenberg. This of course comes back on Walt after he has it all. Its only after he looks at the massive one hundred plus million dollars in the storage unit he realizes the full impact that Hiesenberg had.
​"I have spent my whole life scared, frightened of things that could happen, might happen, might not happen, 50-years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at three in the morning. But you know what? Ever since my diagnosis, I sleep just fine. What I came to realize is that fear, that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So, get up, get out in the real world and you kick that bastard as hard you can right in the teeth." – Walter White ”(3) The Epicureans believed that people would be able to free themselves if they were free of fear. Walt captures this essence of the freedom from fear, crushes it with his fist, then adds fercury fulminate to really take freedom of fear to another level. This serves Walt very well on many occasions such as facing Tuco for the first time and facing Gus numerous times. His freedom of fear from his cancer serves him to live his life. What he does with his new life is evil but that freedom that he has is important non the less. Epicureans thought that above all else for there to be happiness you would first need to get rid of fear. Epicureans wanted the end result to be happiness because that would lead to a good life. With happiness was the prescription for pleasure. (200/201) Walt certainly did take pleasure into cooking his famous blue meth. The meticulous ways Walt cooked from the start setting out the safety equipment to how he cooked even while working with Jesse out of a home brew run a way meth lab gave Walt pleasure. Walt cooked not only because he was a genius at it but because he also loved chemistry. When he went to the superlab for the first time, he was like a kid in a toy store amazed at all the shiny new lab equipment. "I did it for me, I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really … alive.” (4)
Walt also took great pleasure in his ego and power. For a lot of the series Walt enjoyed manipulating people, seeing his enemies die and knowing that he built an empire brought magnificent satisfaction to himself.
​But this sort of pleasure does not correspond with the Epicureans whole philosophy. They believed that happiness also involved friendship (205) They also believed in that pleasure should not come in vain. (206) and that there are a classification of desires that Walt did not follow. (204) Friendship to the Epicureans was one of the highest "blessings" one could get. They very much believed in a society where people did get along, (1) would serve well. Walt does not share these philosophies except too little too late at the end of his life. He realizes at the end that his relationship with Skyler with his son and with Jesse are important after all.
​Walt shows us what can be capable when we are in a dire situation to live. It is many times only when we are faced with certain death that we truly want to fulfill our most gifted talents. We are not afraid to go all out in reaching our own desires and live up to our own potential. In these times we must also be aware that what we do could cause harm to people we love. There is a balancing act needed. We ought to do the best we can at what we are good at and what brings ourselves pleasure. But to also make sure it does not cause harm to others, especially ones we love. For if we cause the ones we love harm, we cause ourselves harm as well.



Works Cited

1.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicureanism
2.http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/
3. http://www.imdb.com/list/WsJlLTTu9ys/#1
4. http://www.religionnews.com/2013/10/04/analysis-breaking-bad-finale-great-good/
Melchart
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