Integrity in Woody Allen's
AEON J. SKOBLE
Towards the end of Woody Allen's 1979 film Manhattan, Allen's character Isaac chastises his friend Yale (Michael Murphy): “you're too easy on yourself, don't you see that? You know, that's your problem, that's your whole problem. You rationalize everything. You're not honest with yourself.”1
Isaac is referring here not only to the justifications Yale offers Isaac for his otherwise unjustifiable actions, but also to the sorts of self-deceptions he engages in which allow the actions to proceed. Isaac can be taken as making a more general claim, of course, about people's self-deceptions and rationalizations. Having integrity, or fidelity to one's own principles, seems to require both that we act in certain ways and that we think in certain ways, for if we allow ourselves too much latitude in “rationalization,” we will have no reliable guide to action. Since integrity is major theme of Manhattan, this chapter will examine the ways in which that film treats it, as a vehicle for some philosophical reflection on the nature and value of integrity.
We would be well advised to distinguish integrity from mere consistency, as well as from stubbornness, although both of those seem to reside in the same general vicinity as integrity.2
2 For a related discussion, see Robert A. Epperson's “Seinfeld and the Moral
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Publication information: Book title: Woody Allen and Philosophy: You Mean My Whole Fallacy Is Wrong?. Contributors: Mark T. Conard - Editor, Aeon J. Skoble - Editor. Publisher: Open Court. Place of publication: Chicago. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 24.
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