V Becoming Jesse James: Breaking Bad’s Challenge to Philosophy

Hatred: Walter White Is Doing It All Wrong

Kevin Guilfoy

Hatred is an underrated virtue, and rightly so. No other virtue can go as tragically wrong when taken to the slightest excess. Walter White is a hate- filled person. Still, we sympathize with several of Walt’s hateful and vindictive actions. Of the remainder, we are appalled by most, but amused by some others because, despite their fictional nature, they would be excessive in real life. This makes Walter White a perfect object for a study of hatred.

There are many different kinds of hate and there is a prima facie intellectual case against all of them. Simple hate is just an intense aversion to something. One can hate cloudy days, broccoli, or an annoying person without wishing harm on them. Simple hatred can become excessive and, even when moderate, can be a little weird. Moral hatred is a strong aversion to a person based on their proclaimed values, accompanied by a wish for our values to somehow triumph over theirs. At its best, this is what we feel for the self-identified Nazi. Unfortunately, we can also feel moral hatred for anyone with different values. I have little to say about these forms of hatred. Simple hatred is mostly harmless. Moral hatred is not a dominant theme in Breaking Bad, yet vindictive hatred is.1 This species of hatred is aimed at a person in revenge for some action that has injured, harmed, or degraded a victim. This hatred brings with it a desire for vindictive malice. I shall argue that vindictive hate, under the right conditions, is virtuous. Walt gives us several virtuous examples of vindictive hatred. But hate is also dangerous. Walt’s hate turns to resentment and fuels his lust for power. He takes this virtue to amazing excess. Still, until he destroys everything he loves, we find ourselves sympathizing and rooting for Walt.

K. Guilfoy (H)

Carroll University, Waukesha, WI, USA © The Author(s) 2017

K.S. Decker et al. (eds.), Philosophy and Breaking Bad, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40343-4_14

 
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