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The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood

edited by Richard T. McClelland and Brian B. Clayton

Publication Year: 2014

Famous for his masculine swagger and gritty roles, American cultural icon Clint Eastwood has virtually defined the archetype of the tough lawman. Beginning with his first on-screen appearance in the television series Rawhide (1959--1965) and solidified by his portrayal of the "Man with No Name" in Sergio Leone's "Dollars" trilogy (1964--1966), he rocketed to stardom and soon became one of the most recognizable actors in Hollywood. The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood examines the philosophy and psychology behind this versatile and controversial figure, exploring his roles as actor, musician, and director.

Led by editors Richard T. McClelland and Brian B. Clayton, the contributors to this timely volume discuss a variety of topics. They explore Eastwood's arresting critique and revision of the traditional western in films such as Unforgiven (1992), as well as his attitudes toward violence and the associated concept of masculinity from the Dirty Harry movies (starting in 1971) to Gran Torino (2008). The essays also chart a shift in Eastwood's thinking about the value of so-called rugged individualism, an element of many of his early films, already questioned in Play Misty for Me (1971) and decisively rejected in Million Dollar Baby (2004).

Clint Eastwood has proven to be a dynamic actor, a perceptive and daring director, as well as an intriguing public figure. Examining subjects such as the role of civil morality and community in his work, his use of themes of self-reliance and religious awareness, and his cinematic sensibility, The Philosophy of Clint Eastwood will provide readers with a deeper sense of Eastwood as an artist and illuminate the philosophical conflicts and resolutions that drive his films.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: The Philosophy of Popular Culture


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pp. C-C1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Richard T. McClelland and Brian B. Clayton

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pp. 1-12

It is easy to forget that philosophy has not always been practiced as it commonly is today. Most philosophers working today (and over the last couple of centuries) have been academics, usually in universities. There they teach, do research, write for publication, gather to present at professional meetings, and the like. Professional journals and monograph series are often sponsored...

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From Solitary Individualism to Post-Christian Stoic Existentialism

David H. Calhoun

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pp. 13-40

The characters in Clint Eastwood’s films are famously associated with rugged individualism and violent directness. The films early in Eastwood’s popular success, such as the spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, the Dirty Harry series, and films such as Hang ’Em High (1968) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970)—notably, films that Eastwood did not himself direct—highlight...

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Hereafter and the Problems of Evil

Brian B. Clayton

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pp. 41-60

Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter (2010) begins peacefully enough: we hear Bruce Forman playing on acoustic guitar the film’s simple musical theme, composed by Clint Eastwood—a theme that is then joined by the sound of waves gently washing up on a shoreline. The sights are equally peaceful and tranquil: the camera first pans to show us a beautiful tropical beach filled...

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The Smile and the Spit

James R. Couch

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pp. 61-76

The characters of Josey Wales and “The Man with No Name,” like magnets, have the power of attraction as well as repulsion. Not only did the cigar chewing, unshaven face of the Man with No Name deliver barbs of divisive wit and foreboding scowls, but smiles indicating solidarity and humor. These traits are similarly found in Wales. Yet, even adding the further similarities...

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The Representation of Justice in Eastwood's High Plains Drifter

Erin E. Flynn

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pp. 77-94

A defining feature of the Western is that the civil order it depicts lacks developed institutions, particularly political institutions. Sometimes this absence has to do with questions about the legitimacy or desirability of the direction in which the civil order is headed in so many Westerns: toward the institutions of lawmaking, of political action, representation, and organization. At the very least, in the matter at hand in certain Westerns, the...

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Bad Men at Play

Richard Gilmore

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pp. 95-110

Clint Eastwood is not obviously a philosopher. There are, however, two parallel traditions of Western philosophy, both of which can be said to originate with Plato. One tradition, associated with the middle and later works of Plato, is the idea of philosophy as the pursuit of knowledge, which becomes for Plato knowledge of the Forms. There is another tradition,...

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Aristotle, Eastwood, Friendship, and Death

Jason Grinnell

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pp. 111-130

Much of Clint Eastwood’s work displays the complexities of friendship. Friends are vital to a good, flourishing life, but being a good friend can pose difficult challenges. In particular, friendship can make us confront our own deepest commitments and values. The manner in which we confront those...

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Giving up the Gun

Karen D. Hoffman

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pp. 131-156

The early films of Clint Eastwood’s career feature him portraying heavily armed cowboys and officers of the law who do not hesitate to use weapons to defend themselves and others. Such characters meet violence with violence and are defined by their proficiency with their guns. As Eastwood’s career unfolds, his films begin to evince more concerns about the use of...

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Eastwood, Romance, Tragedy

Deborah Knight and George McKnight

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pp. 157-174

A significant group of Clint Eastwood’s films fall within what we call, following Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, the master genre of romance.1 With Mystic River (2003), Eastwood’s films turn away from the genre of romance toward a focus on the tragic and on the master genre of tragedy. In this chapter we will examine the trajectory of Eastwood’s films from...

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The Use of Silence in Hereafter

Richard T. McClelland

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pp. 175-190

Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood and released in the fall of 2010, is variously described as a supernatural drama or even “a spiritual thriller.”1 It raises a number of issues of interest to philosophers, most especially about the epistemic status of so-called near-death experiences, as well as attitudes toward death and the possibility of survival. Some of these issues are dealt

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The Mortal Hero

Richard T. McClelland

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pp. 191-212

The Buddha is reputed to have said that “all life is suffering,” or perhaps that “the meaning of life is suffering.” And there is little doubt that he was largely correct, for it is difficult to even imagine a realistic form of human life that does not entail some degree and kind of suffering. And, of course, for many...

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Eastwood's Dream

Douglas McFarland

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pp. 213-228

Hereafter (2010) begins with a relentless and indifferent surge of destruction and death. A tsunami sweeps over the landscape of a tropical resort, and the near-death experience of a vacationing journalist (Cécile de France) provides the ostensible thematic context for the film. Her narrative parallels and eventually converges with those of a San Francisco psychic (Matt Damon) and a boy whose twin brother (Frankie McLaren and George McLaren) was...

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Desperate Times Call for Existential Heroes

Jennifer L. McMahon

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pp. 229-248

Albert Camus’s novel The Plague (1947) depicts a town under siege. It describes the Algerian city of Oran as its inhabitants confront a devastating outbreak of the bubonic plague. Though their scourge is different, the occupants of Highland Park, Michigan, the setting of Clint Eastwood’s...

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pp. 249-250

The editors would like to acknowledge the support and helpful advice of the series editor, Mark Conard, who has encouraged us since he first entrusted this project to us in 2009. The assistance of Anne Dean Dotson and Bailey Johnson at the University Press of Kentucky has also been invaluable. Their...


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780813142647
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813142630

Page Count: 274
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: The Philosophy of Popular Culture