The Danger of the Partially Examined Life - Bojack Horseman

The Danger of the Partially Examined Life - Bojack Horseman

September 4, 20182 min read

Bojack Horseman, now in its fifth season, is an adult animated comedy-drama series created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg. Alongside having a satirical take on current events and politics, the series offers a character that deals with depression, trauma, addiction, self-destructive behavior, and the human experience.

Dr. Kris Phillips, assistant professor of philosophy at Southern Utah University, recognizes that despite Bojack’s relaxed facade, he engages in self-reflection more often than most of us care to.

“Bojack’s self-reflective behaviors are deeply flawed. Both depressed and a substance abuser, Bojack engages in alcohol and drug-induced escapism to avoid confronting how unstable his life is. Everyday-Bojack thinks that fame and recognition are the indicators of a life worth living, but tripping-Bojack knows that he would be much better off living simply.”

From the perspective of Apology, in which Socrates argues that the “unexamined life is not worth living,” Dr. Phillips seeks to answer two questions: What is the unexamined life? And why is it not worth living?

“In his claim, Socrates makes no judgments regarding the pleasure and happiness that one might achieve through examining, only that an examined life has some potential to be worthy of pursuing. There is a danger in conflating a life that is happy and fulfilled, and a life that is good enough to be lived. It could be that Bojack, through self-reflection, has a life that is worthy of being lived but does not have a life that is happy. There is an important distinction between happiness and worthiness. A genuinely happy life would be a worthy one, but a worthy life might not be a happy one.”

“Perhaps Bojack’s life is worth living because he is continuing to be self-reflective, but he is unworthy of happiness because he doesn’t follow through. Bojack’s belief that he isn’t a good person is consistent with the possibility that his life is still worth living. Bojack might be reflective enough to pursue a life not entirely devoid of worth, but not sufficiently reflective to actually understand and do the things which would make him truly flourish.”

Dr. Phillips is a co-editor of Arrested Development and Philosophy, and has published on the history of neuroscience; his primary research interests lie in early modern philosophy. He enjoys working directly with students on research projects, Bojack Horseman and the Danger of the Partially Examined Life was published with SUU Alumna, Tessa Brunnenmeyer.


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