Like cramming fistfuls of metaphysical crayons back into their tiny box, the Island on "Lost" can barely contain all the colorful epistemologies in its midst. It is a big stew of Philosophy 101's greatest hits: from Sartrean hell-is-other-people existentialism to Rousseauian empathy ("pitié"), Hobbesian brutality to Hume's rationalism, from the cold calculus of Millsian utilitarianism and Darwinist survival-of-the-fittest to the reassurance of Aquinas's God. You could drive yourself crazy thinking about characters with names like Hugo, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, and Burke, or wondering why so many seem to be bystanders in the backgrounds of one another's lives-or, in one case, actually secretly related to each another. It's like the Monty Python sketch, "International Philosophy," in which Greek and German philosophers battle it out on the soccer field (Socrates's winning goal is contested by Hegel as not being an "a priori reality"). Back on "Lost" Philosophy Island, the implications are just as absurd: After all, if everything is imbued with meaning, then how meaningful is any one thing?
One can't disagree with any of that. And yet one of the qualities I find most endearing about the show is how oftentimes these references are delivered with a wink. As I've said before, I think most of the literary allusions are red herrings. But that's all part of the fun. It's like a scavenger hunt within the show. That the show is consistently exciting while taking the form of a collage of ideas philosophical, literary, religious and pop cultural is a testament to the skillful writing. By the way, we haven't discussed the season premiere yet, have we?