Speed Reads

The McConnaisance

Is the philosophy in True Detective any good?

Facebook/True Detective

Perhaps the most divisive aspect of HBO's police procedural True Detective is the philosophical musings of detective Rust Cohle, a moody brooder of uncanny sleuthing ability played by Matthew McConaughey. "I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in human evolution," Cohle says in an early episode, to give you an example of the nihilistic tinge of his outlook.

Critics, at best, have been ambivalent about True Detective's philosophical component, which has also received its fair share of mockery. A friend once succinctly parroted Cohle's views on religion as: "Religion is the opiate of the masses, bro."

But perhaps Cohle's philosophical worldview, as written by show creator Nic Pizzolatto, is more sophisticated than we think. That's the claim made by Jon Baskin at The Point, who describes the show's central premise as: "What if Nietzsche were a police officer in present-day New Orleans?"

Now, one might certainly disagree with [Cohle's] ideas — not only do they conflict with common sense, and with our common experience of the world, they are also subject to serious philosophical objections. However to dismiss them as shallow or nonsensical is not only irresponsible, it risks completely missing the challenge the show poses to us in the form of Rust's character. [The Point]

For fans of the show, it's an interesting and pretty convincing essay. I would just posit that perhaps people have trouble taking Cohle seriously because he's played by a guy whose most famous movie line is this: "That's what I like about these high school girls; I get older, they stay the same age."