Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor
October 28, 2013
In his Politics, Aristotle almost begins by arguing that human beings are, by nature, political animals. And he says that those who live outside the “city” are either beasts or gods. Perhaps what Aristotle is suggesting is that those human beings who think they are gods, that is, self-sufficient, become beasts.
Those who live outside the city think that they need not deliberate about the good and the bad, the just and the unjust, the advantageous and the disadvantageous, just as if they were beasts or gods, neither of whom debate or need to debate these things. The beasts don’t debate them because they cannot but also because they need not: They are governed by their instincts, as it were, which seems for the most part sufficient. Gods don’t debate these things because they are self-sufficient and, hence, need not make choices.
I think that in The Counselor, Cormac McCarthy is suggesting that we Americans - or we moderns or “postmoderns” - are beasts who think we are gods.
A quote: “Human nature demands the city since without the city we cannot be human and reach our telos or end as creatures with logos. If we did not exercise our logos, we would not reach our telos; we would be no more than beasts and, as he says, the worst of beasts, ‘armed’ as we are with the ability to be unjust as well as just.” [p. 124, Athenian Democracy, Arlene Saxonhouse]
In The Counselor, Cameron Diaz’ character, at the end and throughout really, admires the jaguar, the beast, because “there’s no difference between what it is and what it does.” It is “a hunter” and it does not debate its hunting – its killing – for the sake of survival and a kind of “acquisition” – and, perhaps, “satisfaction?” It is a hunter and it hunts. Diaz’ character finds this not only admirable but something to aspire to and to copy. She plays the goddess but is, has become, a beast.
Aristotle also reminds us, early in his Politics, that humans are capable of the basest “impieties,” by which he means incest. Is it “impious” to “fuck a car?” That is, to fuck anything or anyone, without restraint? It would seem so, at least to me.
If then McCarthy’s vision of us is at all accurate, we humans have become beasts, even “the worst of beasts” because we have sought to achieve a god-like self-sufficiency or to become like the gods.