Some Takeaway From Woody Allen’s ‘Irrational Man’ In Theaters Now

Some Takeaway From Woody Allen’s ‘Irrational Man’ In Theaters Now

Last night I saw Woody Allen’s, 79 anni, movie ‘Irrational Man’ in it he asks the Big Q: can murder be justified on existential grounds?

Joaquin Phoenix plays the part of a brilliant, charismatic gloomy philosophy professor at a small east coast college (Abe Lucas). Professor Lucas overcomes his gloom, finds the will to live lively when conjures the murder a corrupt local family law judge.

“Irrational Man,” on the surface looks to be a lightweight romance, with Emma Stone as a college student in love with her philosophy professor. But it is a dark drama, combining elements of Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Match Point” and “Cassandra’s Dream.”

Below are the existential life lessons Wood Allen explains in his latest film, as follows;

Life potentially is a dangerous activity.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that some people die too soon and some die too late. In ‘Irrational Man’, Abe’s mother dies too soon. Overheard as lunch in a bar, Abe prodded by Jill (Emma Stone) learns about a crooked judge who will not die soon enough.

Abe, who has tried and tried again, finds himself facing a world fraught with suffering. Much of it personal to him.

The existential overview is that we can be in control of a lot in our lives, but not everything, and we leave this world as randomly as we arrive.


Life is full of distractions, many/most meaningless.

Most people do not live healthy or lively but by habit, and drama, gossip, sex, drugs and rock & roll.

Abe arrives at the small New England college on autopilot on the edge of the abyss; mentally and physically impotent.

“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay,” – Simone de Beauvoir


Let us get to Yes!

Death is at any time in our daily lives, that means every day vitally important. So, instead of being depressed about death, embracing life and put as much in it as possible.

Søren Kierkegaard wrote about finding “the idea for which I am willing to live and die”. Fredrich Nietzsche says find a “triumphant, say Yes to life”.

Professor Abe Lucas, with the murder of the judge, found the idea for which he was willing to live, but not to die. His choice reinvigorates him and gives his life intensity.


It is up to us to create our own values, and our own luck.

Max Stirner and Fredrich Nietzsche declared that “God is Dead”. What they meant was that science destroyed the Western world’s Christian-style ethical system, but had not put anything in its place.

So, now that the inherent morals and values in the world are gone, the existentialists say that it is up to each one of us to figure it out for ourselves. Some people still choose religion. I am one of those, as are many people that I know and are close to.  Though I always liked the notion that I am what I think I am.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky raised the Big Q: Without God, is everything is permitted?


If “Yes to Life” involves a heinous felony, then time out.

For the existential philosophers, freedom is meaningless without responsibility.

Woody’s Abe Lucas takes responsibility for his act of premeditated murder and is proud of it, thought he is not willing to be held accountable. Abe’s lover, Jill, says that she is not intelligent enough to argue the point with Abe, but that judge’s murder does not feel good to her.

The Kant’ian approach says that if we choose freedom for ourselves, then we also choose it for other people.

Simone de Beauvoir writes that although other people can be Hell, coexistence is a curse and murder is a mistake. Also, that without God, it is not the case that everything is permitted. Being free is not about doing whatever you like to do.


Being rational or reasonable is not the same as being brilliant

There is research that suggests that professional ethicists are no more ethical than anyone else, they rationalize things better.

In his book Irrational Man, William Barrett writes that, “Brilliant people are often the most dense about their human blind spot, precisely because their intelligence, so clever in other things, conceals it from them.:

Fredrich Nietzsche warns in his writings that instinctive judgments are persuasive but deceptive because they “decide most quickly and pronounce their Yes and No before the understanding can speak.” Meaning “engage your mind before your mouth,”

The “beauty and art” of Abe Lucas’ plan blinds him, but he gives little to no thought about the consequences of his murdering the judge.

Murder becomes Abe Lucas’ act of pride and self confidence. He is proud of how clever, careful, and rational he is, using altruism as an excuse to satisfy his will to kill and craving for a new experience.

Søren Kierkegaard writes that existential choices are made in fear and trembling. Prof. Abe Lucas is excited, not fearful.


Hell is other people.

Abe Lucas is Hell to his lover Jill because she cannot love a murderer. Jill is Hell to Abe because she wants to hold him accountable.

Jean-Paul Sartre postulates, “existence precedes essence.” That means we are creative nothings and free to behave in unpredictable ways. It does not matter how well we know someone, they could turn out to be a murderer. The existentialists suggest that we cannot trust anyone, but not to let that stop us from doing anything because the world only takes on meaning through living lively and loving bravely.

If you like Woody Allen, see this film.

Paul Ebeling



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