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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:56 pm 
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Okay, so I've been mulling over this for a while and figured I'd get some other perspectives on this because it's sort of doing my head in. Now let's see if I can explain this without muddling it.

When Rorschach experiences his transformation in chapter six, I got to thinking "what is the real difference between this Rorschach, and the pre-Blair Roche Rorschach?" He's more ruthless, less bound by doubt or guilt, less merciful. Because he no longer views himself as another fallible being, but an incorruptible conduit for his own brand of vengeful justice. But the catalyst for this change was the realization that there is no intrinsic morality. That the universe is godless, absurd, and "morally blank". He's free to be Rorschach completely and without regret because of the realization that the only moral code by which he can be judged is his own. No questioning of "is this right, what I'm doing" because if he thinks it's right, it is.

Now this is where it gets kind of messy. Keep in mind that these are my own philosophical extrapolations, and so if you disagree with anything I say here, please say so!

In a universe in which humans have no purpose or destination, people can respond with apathy or escapism. Apathy would be accepting that there is no reason for anything, and so living without any ultimate goal. Essentially, it's recognizing that no matter what we do, we will never accomplish anything that matters--never go anywhere. It's standing still. Escapism would be constructing our own purpose. In spite of the knowledge that that purpose only exists in our own mind, and ultimately accomplishes nothing, we do it because we are driven to do something. It's like realizing that we are Nowhere. And no matter which direction we set off in, we will never get anwhere. But we build our own path to Nowhere anyway just because it's something to do. We are compelled even while realizing it is pointless.

So Rorschach chooses the latter. He doesn't want to live in a world where there is no morality. Even while recognizing that that is in fact reality, he chooses to impose his personal morality on the world. It's his path to Nowhere. It's him rebelling against the universe. It's his refusal to stand still and wait for death.

So what I'm trying to do here is reconcile his nihilism as demonstrated in chapter six ("Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever and we are alone. Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves, go into oblivion. There is nothing else. Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose.") with his moral absolutism apparent in such statements as "there is good and there is evil, and evil must be punished."

So what I'm asking is... can Rorschach really be classified as a moral absolutist, given that he gained his current identity in a moment where he realizes that morals don't exist? Or does this just make him a moral absolutist of a different ilk from the more common view that morals are absolute because they are set in stone by an outside force or diety?

Am I making sense? Just wanted to open some discussion here. Apologies if this has already been covered somewhere else.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:03 am 
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This is also, I think, the reason why Rorschach is able to hold an admiration and respect for the Comedian in spite of Blake's blatant lack of morality. They've looked into the same abyss, so to speak, and even though they've reacted in different ways (forged different paths), they are looking at the universe with the same eyes.

I'll shut up now.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:25 am 
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Whatever else may be concluded from your questions, the portrayal of an observer "standing still" is rooted in the symbols of Doctor Manhattan's segment of the novel. At the end of the book, there is a contrast with that and the film 'The Day the Earth Stood Still', but that also has no apparent relation to the perspective of Rorschach or the Comedian.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:34 am 
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Good point! Manhattan would be representative of the apathetic approach. Although I would say that he is also to some extent forging a purpose in aesthetics because of his obsession with the elegance of science.

ETA: Then again, he's not trying to impose his aesthetics on the rest of humanity like Rorschach attempts with his morality. So I guess I was wrong there. Also, the reference to The Earth Stood Still is interesting... An alien force attempting to "save the world" as opposed to Manhattan who doesn't give a damn. Where exactly does the reference occur?


Last edited by crackinthefloor on Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:42 am 
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I think your instincts are good, but redefining terms like 'apathetic' and 'escapist' can lead to complication and confusion. Of course, Blake created his own mythology, and without it, I doubt Moore would have been able to write 'Watchmen'.
There's a theory that when a writer works from an aesthetic, only camp can be produced. In that sense, writing from one perspective or theme produces propaganda, but including many such views in one work results in true art. I don't know if that's true. It's just an interesting idea that I heard.

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crackinthefloor wrote:
Also, the reference to The Earth Stood Still is interesting... An alien force attempting to "save the world" as opposed to Manhattan who doesn't give a damn. Where exactly does the reference occur?


Odd, that you would remember the plot of that film, but not its place in the novel. Anyhoo, it's playing at the 'Utopia' (exclamation mark) theater, which is seen during the review of the squid's devastation.

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Last edited by behemoth on Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:48 am 
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behemoth wrote:
There's a theory that when a writer works from an aesthetic, only camp can be produced. In that sense, writing from one perspective or theme produces propaganda, but including many such views in one work results in true art. I don't know if that's true. It's just an interesting idea that I heard.


I like that.

As for the redefining of terms... it's hard not to get lost in semantics in philosophical discussions. It does tend to overly-complicate things, so sorry about that. :roll:


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:56 am 
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behemoth wrote:
Odd, that you would remember the plot of that film, but not its place in the novel. Anyhoo, it's playing at the 'Utopia' (exclamation mark) theater, which is seen during the review of the squid's devastation.


The plot was fresh in my mind from having seen the remake last week. :) And I'm not sure how I missed that! One of the reasons I love Watchmen so much is that it seems no matter how far I dissect it, I never get to the bottom. Little references like that are the best.

ETA: Wow. Just looked it up and the sign only takes up approximately half the page. *headdesk*

Question though: Where does Veidt fit in? Is he looking at the same empty universe as the Comedian and Rorschach? Unlike Rorschach, he believes that he can truly make a difference. As in, they are both trying to reshape the world into their own vision, but Veidt believes he can actually succeed, whereas Rorschach does not. What's his perspective here?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:19 am 
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To Rorschach, his ideals are not a pastime there to fill the void. He very much believes that there should be a right and a wrong, even if he recognizes that they may no longer be present in society. Thus, he has resigned himself to being the last standard bearer of his nostalgic, glossed-over view of how society was, and ought to be again one day.

The thing to remember about Rorschach is this:

He can never be the perfect embodiment of his ideals. The experiences in his life that drove him into burying himself into the identity of Rorschach are the same ones that will forever cloud his perceptions of right and wrong. This is particularly noticeable in his attitudes towards prostitutes, and how he handles encountering other "minor" infractions (his landlady, Moloch's pills, etc.). By embracing the traumatic incidents in his life and living through them, he cannot help being affected by them as Rorschach. The same fuel that drives him is the same fuel that dooms his ever becoming the perfectly neutral personification that he's always striving to be.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 1:34 am 
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EmPiiRe x wrote:
To Rorschach, his ideals are not a pastime there to fill the void. He very much believes that there should be a right and a wrong, even if he recognizes that they may no longer be present in society. Thus, he has resigned himself to being the last standard bearer of his nostalgic, glossed-over view of how society was, and ought to be again one day.


True! I'd forgotten to factor in the "nostalgia" bit. But that leads me to wonder whether he believes it ever really existed. Is he trying to restore a lost ideal? Or is he trying to bring a myth to life? (Awkward wording.) Oooh then again I think you're right. Like his admiration for Truman carried from his childhood--he doesn't separate Truman the ideal from Truman the reality. Then perhaps it's not the realization that the universe is empty, godless, and purposeless; but instead is the realization that that god is dead and purpose lost. The loss of morality, rather than its nonexistence. Thanks! More brainfood!

ETA: Or maybe not. Maybe it doesn't matter if it never existed. It ought to have existed in his eyes, and so he chooses loyalty to the concept. In other words, it's not so much his acceptance of a meaningless existence, as his rage against it. His inability to accept it.

Quote:
The same fuel that drives him is the same fuel that dooms his ever becoming the perfectly neutral personification that he's always striving to be.


What a conundrum! No matter how much he wants to believe he's buried Walter, he is after all only human.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:19 am 
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I don't believe that Rorschach is nihilistic as mentioned in the original post. At all times, both pre and post his experience in the Roche case he always beleived in something...

What the Roche case did in my opinion was strip away any human, Walter Kovacs response to his fixed ethical code, and leave only the avenging Rorschach behind. His stance changes somewhat from his belief in punishment but some form of habilitation (otherwise why leave the criminals to be arrested and sent to jail?), to a far more personal response of pure retribution.

This goes to a more strident belief in manichean or Randian objectivism, that there are only good and evil which are absolutes, and that our responses must be dicated in terms of our response to these absolute values.

I don't agree with the comment
Quote:
To Rorschach, his ideals are not a pastime there to fill the void. He very much believes that there should be a right and a wrong, even if he recognizes that they may no longer be present in society. Thus, he has resigned himself to being the last standard bearer of his nostalgic, glossed-over view of how society was, and ought to be again one day.

because I think that regardless of whether or not he sees them as present in society at that time, he has an absolutle view of what good and evil are. I think before he became "Rorscach" and was still to some degree Walter, he saw himself as the last standard bearer for his nostalgic view of society, after his transformation, he no longer cared about society, hence his "I'll look down on them and whisper, No." comment.

By the time he has become Rorschach he is only interested in punishing evil, and has no real alternative as to what he really wants. He still has the nostalgic view of the world, he just cannot see that the world will ever become that.

Rorschach has become even more extreme in his views and now sees things with crystal clarity, it is either good or evil, according his own ethical perceptions, and must be dealt with accordingly. He has no plan of how to change things, no view as to how he can improve matters, he is simply an agent of retribution against those who have sinned.

Most objectivist philospohy suffers from the same issues, that of the inability to change from one frame of reference to another, because of the absolutism that is inherent in their world view. Another issue for objectivism is what frame of reference can you use to define "good" and "evil" except from experience and comparison? All our experience is subjective, therefore any conclusions we draw about the ethical or moral value of something will always be subjective. We can agree on what most people perceive as obvious moral choices, but even here in my opinion ethics and morals are always situational and never fixed. When is justifiable homicide justifiable? Are there any circumstances in which the law can be broken for the greater good? Are there ever any exceptions to absolutist moral values?

Rorschach's problem is that he cleaves to a philosophy that is so rigid that there is no room for interpretation, no room for exceptions, no room for personal judgement. This will always lead to contradictions and moral checkmates, like the one he finds himself in at Karnak. And thus his philosophy is shown to be flawed and incomplete.

The answer to the OP's question is yes, he really does believe in moral absolutes, and that is his tragic flaw. He cannot see that his philosophy is flawed and incomplete and cannot live any other way, he is in moral checkmate, and his only solution to his dilemma is suicide by Manhattan......

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:21 pm 
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Quote:
The Day the Earth Stood Still

crackinthefloor wrote:
The plot was fresh in my mind from having seen the remake last week.

My condolences.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:08 pm 
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Quote:
because I think that regardless of whether or not he sees them as present in society at that time, he has an absolutle view of what good and evil are. I think before he became "Rorscach" and was still to some degree Walter, he saw himself as the last standard bearer for his nostalgic view of society, after his transformation, he no longer cared about society, hence his "I'll look down on them and whisper, No." comment.

By the time he has become Rorschach he is only interested in punishing evil, and has no real alternative as to what he really wants. He still has the nostalgic view of the world, he just cannot see that the world will ever become that.

Rorschach has become even more extreme in his views and now sees things with crystal clarity, it is either good or evil, according his own ethical perceptions, and must be dealt with accordingly. He has no plan of how to change things, no view as to how he can improve matters, he is simply an agent of retribution against those who have sinned.


Okay, this makes sense. It's not about fighting for good any more, it's just about punishing evil. Kind of what I was saying about him vs Veidt: Veidt believes he can fix the world, Rorschach does not. But point taken - he's not interested in change. Just revenge.

I would, however still stand by the nihilism underlying the moral surface. His quote in chapter six (mentioned above) being my primary evidence. Otherwise, what is the trigger that strips away Walter's inhibitions? He's able to be Rorschach without hesitation because he no longer has to wonder if what he is doing is "right". His realization that the only "right" in the world is the one he carves out himself. He wants to punish what seems evil to him because there is nothing to stop him but himself. I guess what I'm trying to say is that from the outside he acts as a moral absolutist - unwilling to compromise even at Karnak as you said. But his ability to become a moral absolutist stems from an amoral epiphany. How would you explain his admiration for the Comedian?

behemoth wrote:
Quote:
The Day the Earth Stood Still

crackinthefloor wrote:
The plot was fresh in my mind from having seen the remake last week.

My condolences.


Other than John Cleese's five minute segment, it was pretty vomit-inducing. :( The original was good though.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:24 am 
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crackinthefloor wrote:
I would, however still stand by the nihilism underlying the moral surface. His quote in chapter six (mentioned above) being my primary evidence. Otherwise, what is the trigger that strips away Walter's inhibitions? He's able to be Rorschach without hesitation because he no longer has to wonder if what he is doing is "right". His realization that the only "right" in the world is the one he carves out himself. He wants to punish what seems evil to him because there is nothing to stop him but himself.


Nihilism is a belief in nothing, not just no belief in a deity, but also no moral or ethical code either, that's why I would argue that Walter/Rorschach is not a nihilist. He always has belief in an ethical code both before and after the Roche case. Seeing the dogs eating the femur, Walter just snaps, and after that moment his focus changes and I would argue that his views don't really change at all, its his response to those he perceives as evil changes. He becomes the agent of retribution or avenger that he wasn't before his epiphany. Its more that he realises that there is no moral code other than the one he cleaves to, and this justifies to himself that he can act in any manner he sees fit, according to his own ethical views.

crackinthefloor wrote:
I guess what I'm trying to say is that from the outside he acts as a moral absolutist - unwilling to compromise even at Karnak as you said. But his ability to become a moral absolutist stems from an amoral epiphany. How would you explain his admiration for the Comedian?


In my opinion, he sees the Comedian as a kindred spirit, both of them understanding the world from a particular view point, both have chosen their own response to a morally blank world which is something that Rorschach can relate to. Also Blake worked for the government, which Walter as we know from his writing about his father has respect for, and believed that his father worked for Truman, and thus for the government. In some ways the Comedian could be seen by Rorschach as a father figure type, transferring his positive feelings for his father across to another older man who shares his world view and also works for the government, it could be seen as Rorschach in his own twisted way reaching out to one of the few people he feels he could admire and respect.

I would also challenge the assumption that his epiphany is amoral. I disagree, it stems from a very moral place, even if his response to the horrors that he saw were extreme, it was a reaction to the evil that he saw. In my opinion, it was more that he comes to the realisation that the only moral or ethical code there is, is a personal one. We choose the morality or ethics that we will live our lives by, and Rorschach jumps to the conclusion (not without some justification given the circles that he tends to move in) that he is the only moral force in the world, or one of the very very few, and therefore this gives him license to react to evil in the way that he does because he feels that no one except him can judge his actions. This to me comes across very clearly when he is telling his story to Dr Long.

Dr Long's reaction clearly shows that Rorschach has hit a nerve as the explanation comes to an end, with his staring at the inkblot realising that the only order or rationalisation for anything is simply that which we choose to impose upon it.

Whilst I am not a believer or follower of Randian objectivism or manichean philosophy, I can relate to Rorschach's belief that there is no moral code or ethical system inherent in the world save that which we choose to impose ourselves.

It is only us that kills the children, it is only us that rape and murder. Its not society, its not our childhood, its not anything else other than the choices we make. Whilst our family, society, our childhood may help shape who we become, we still have the choice as to whether or not to agree with those influences and follow them. They do not blindly lead us into evil, those are choices we as people make, and we are always judged by our actions and the results of those actions.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 4:51 am 
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It's easy to pigeonhole Rorschach has somewhat naive (I'm not saying anybody has, just saying), and to look at him as burying his head in the sand. But he is very much aware of the inherent ambiguity in life and in society. Thus, the idea of the transplanting your own outlook or worldview onto it comes into play. Life is the neutral ink blot, and it is up to each man to read his own fate into those pictures (to paraphrase Moore). Life, on its own, is meaningless. He very much believes this, but that is only half of the equation to him. He still believes that there is a right and a wrong way to interpret that neutral ink blot, and to behave.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:21 pm 
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From where I see I can only conclude that he wanted to.

Clearly OP has failed to distinguish moral consistency from moral absolutism. While consistency is the inherent nature of said moral standard.

Let's just say that Rory has expelled context factors - positive and negative - from making his own moral decisions, after the Blair Roache incident. Then the nihilist solution for this would be: to adapt and survive, to alter moral standard at certain point at one's own will, and consequently, causing moral inconsistency. And Rory decided to uphold a certain moral standard, which is (at least supposed to be) consistent, disregard of its context, thus moral absolutism.


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