The overall point of this essay isn't hugely useful, to be perfectly honest. Essentially, McMahon argues that House, like Sartre, believes that "Hell is other people." Other people are irritating and obnoxious because they 1) distract us from our self-absorbed lives in which we are completely living within our experiences, 2) others can be competitors for resources necessary to life, can inhibit our necessary activities, and can kill us, 3) experiences with others lead them to objectify us, remind us that we are limited by our bodies and will one day die (18-20). Yet we need others, both to interact with and to take care of us, as is depicted in House's care for others who would otherwise die. We also are said to need each other socially, we prefer to be in this hell that is other people, even though they are so damn irritating.
Anyway, I'm more interested in specific sections of this essay. In particular, the author explains Sartre's "bad faith" as "varied efforts that individuals take to escape disturbing aspects of the human condition" (24). It is to deny the existence of some element of oneself, one's being. It is, when of necessity making a choice (and what isn't a choice?), excusing your will from the equation- "I cannot drop out of school because it would disappoint my mother." Really, it is your decision, even in religious matters- "I cannot kill because God prohibits it."
Now, the author of this essay extends the idea to House's chronic pain. The idea that he believes he has no choice but to take Vicodin and be misanthropic because of his pain, but really it is his decision (24). This is complete bullshit. I don't even care if my response is unscholarly because this philosophy-writer (I won't even give her the title philosopher, I am so angry) has absolutely no understanding of what long-term terrible pain is. It is not a decision to be in pain-- this is uncontrollable. The Vicodin is not a solution to pain. I'm not sure where this perception comes from-- Vicodin merely lessens the intensity of the pain, if effective, and there are extremely unpleasant side effects in many cases. Yes, he is deciding to take pain medication, but it is literally an alternative to dying. It is impossible to live with terrible pain that will not end-- suicide would become a necessity, not a choice. And how can one have control over one's emotions? What a mind-elevating thought! I will control my depression with just my mind- hurrah! Very Tom Cruise-ian. I really hope that people in general do not feel this way about pain.
McMahon also mentions an episode entitles "One Day, One Room" in which House ends up providing care for a rape victim after she specifically asks for him following their meeting during his clinic hours. That House would agree to this, I think, demonstrates empathy, which the author completely ignores. Perhaps he literally understands her pain. I would like to argue that chronic pain sufferers have more empathy, and I think that House shows this nicely. Sure, he isn't sunny, but he obsesses over his patients and dead colleagues. I will need to consider this further.
Goldblatt's "Is There a Superman in the House?: A Nietzschean Point of View."
Goldblatt argues that House may be Nietzsche's Übermensch, as explained in Thus Spoke Zarasthura, "an extraordinary individual who transcends the limits of traditional moralityto live purely by the will to power" (Kemerling). Well, House certainly lives outside of the rules of traditional morality. He straight out says "humanity is overrated" after all. He doesn't bureaucratically flaunt the rules as one of the world's leading diagnosticians, he simply ignores that the rules exist. I would argue that he only gets away with it because of his status, by which he achieves power in the hospital setting, but then this isn't a cultural studies essay.
In any case, the real juice of the essay comes from the section called "Pain," in which it is suggested that House's chronic pain is what allows him to be so accomplished and Übermensch-y, "via focus and intensity" (36). I really doubt that the pain allows for any more focus; pain generally acts as a pretty good distraction from anything that isn't the reality of the aching now. In any case, Silk and Stern consider Prometheus and Oedipus as original models for the Übermensch (36)-- in what ways does pain contribute to Übermensch-ianism (okay, I may be stretching the neologisms a bit). Prometheus daily had (and still has, according to the myth- as eternity continues even still) his liver eaten by an eagle and Oedipus presumably had swollen feet and ankles. House's genius as a diagnostician is attributed to his pain, as is the greatness of Prometheus and Oedipus.
Again, annoyances. Goldblatt straight out says that House's pain may be psychosomatic. There is evidence in the series, but that annoys me as well. In the episode "Three Stories" we see his leg-- the muscle is completely gone. There is real pain and a real physical cause. Real pain can be alleviated by non-medical relief methods, and this, I think, is too often ignored. Why is meditation not seen as a legitimate means by which to deal with the reality of chronic pain?
Furthermore, House's pain is referred to as a "flaw" (37). I'm not sure what Goldblatt's definition of flaw is, but I find it insanely irksome used in this context. The idea is that House would be perfect, if not for his pain. Why do all of these authors assume that he is only a jerk because of pain-- the wider implication is that all chronic pain sufferers are misanthropic, which simply isn't true. Many of us are lovely people (okay, I've lost the logic, but you know what I mean). We are not deeply flawed or broken-- we simply are and are chronic pain sufferers. Oh, if only I was up on my Derrida, I could get into signifiers and signified. Another time...
Dryden's "House and Moral Luck"
This article really wasn't helpful at all, so there's no point summarizing it. I thought there was something to mention, but nope. In any case, this essay was really interesting-- the idea of consequence defining the degree of an offense. And the "magic bullet" that is the consent form. ... So... anyway...
Cline, Austin. "Bad Faith & Fallenness: Themes and Ideas in Existential Thought." About.com. 2010. 29 July 2010 http://atheism.about.com/od/existentialistthemes/a/badfaith.htm
Dryden, Jane. "House and Moral Luck." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 39-51.
Goldblatt, David. "Is There a Superman in the House?: A Nietzschean Point of View." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 30-38.
Jacoby, Henry. "Selfish, Base Animals Crawling Across the Earth: House and the Meaning of Life." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 5-16.
Kemerling, Garth. "Ubermensch." Philosophical Dictionary. 2002. 29 July 2010
McMahon, Jennifer L. "House and Sartre: 'Hell is Other People'." House and Philosophy: Everybody Lies. Ed. Henry Jacoby. Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Series Ed. William Irwin. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. 17-29.