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@LOST: “What Makes Life Worth Living?”

December 10, 2010

No other show in history has incorporated as much philosophical references, moral and ethical questionings, and insight on “What Life is Worth Living” as the show LOST.  LOST, overall is a great show for incorporating science, religion, philosophy, mystery, relationships, and struggle all in one.  For those fanatics out there, LOSTtruly makes the characters and the audience wonder, what makes life worth living?

“This show is about people who are metaphorically lost in their lives, who get on an airplane, and crash on an island, and become physically lost on the planet Earth. And once they are able to metaphorically find themselves in their lives again, they will be able to physically find themselves in the world again. When you look at the entire show, that’s what it will look like. That’s what it’s always been about.” – Damon Lindelof, Lost C0-creator.

For all of you who have been living under a rock for the past 5 years, LOST lays down a scenario of what happens when people are removed from society, and thrown into a hostile, foreign environment following a bizarre  airplane crash.  The show follows the lives of these characters as they live in this “State of Nature”.  What sort of laws and organization the survivors create illustrate the concept of the “Social Contract Thoery”. Lets look at how some of the information we have learned in Poli Sci. 101 helps us look deeper in the lives of their LOST counter-parts.

John Locke

“Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do”

John Locke is know as the man of faith on the show, as he feels a certain connection between himself and The Island.  He believes that everyone has come to The Island with a purpose, and for some higher reason.  Like the philosopher pushes for political and personal liberty in a civic context, and he acts for the greater good of the “commonwealth”.

The philosopher was known as an Empiricist, whom believed that knowledge comes from experience, and believed in Tabula Rasa – that individuals are born with a “blank” slate.  This is consistent with the character’s idea that everyone was brought to the island for a reason, and that The Island has given the survivors a chance to start over.

Both characters show a dedication to faith.  The philosopher says that we can’t do anything we want, and that we shouldn’t mess with God’s intentions.  The character is the single survivor that is against leaving The Island – he believes they were brought there for a reason.

Finally, Locke’s token saying on the show was “Don’t Tell Me What I Can’t Do”.  As being having his life constricted to a wheelchair before coming to The Island  and as being a man of faith, the character did not like it when people told him that he was not allowed to do something.  The philosopher epitomizes this saying as he opposes unjust governments that place limits on the rights of Life, Liberty and Property.


Jack Shephard

“If we can’t live together, we are going to die alone.”


On the show, Jack is known as the man of science.  As a doctor, he quickly assumes the role of “Savior” and “Guardian” of the group as he gains the trust of all of the survivors.  Jack serves as protector of the group, and in season 6, when he discovers that he was brought to The Island for a purpose, he assumes the duty of “Protector” of the island (after Jacob, the previous protector has been killed).  For this, and Jack’s last name being similar to “Shepherd” he is seen as being the LOST’s equivalent of Jesus, “the savior”.

However, on the show, philosophically, Jack and John Locke were known to have separate beliefs from each other.  Jack’s belief on survival is very similar to that of Jean-Jaques Rousseau, in which to maintain order and uphold rights, that the social contract create a new social being, greater that the individual some of its parts – the greater will. In the show, Jack, as the “guardian” takes responsibility to make sure that the survivors stay together.  Even when the Oceanic 6 leave The Island, he knows that the rest are still stranded,  and thus the returnees must unite and return to the island to save them.

Jack’s token saying, supported Rousseau’s belief in a society where everyone works together :”If we can’t live together, we are going to die alone.”

Juliet Burke

“If I never meet you, then I never have to lose you”

Juliet came to be known as the loyal and strong female tamer of the wild Sawyer.   The philosopher, Edmund Burke never trusted “grand plans” for radical changes in society.  He believed that political/social organization evolved slowly over time, and that immediate revolution only inhibits progress (ie the French Rev.).

On the show, Juliet is a very humble character, but her beliefs are similar to those of Edmund’s.  When Juliet and Sawyer find themselves stuck in the 1970s, the two accept the status quo, and live their lives to the fullest.  However, when the Oceanic 6 return to The Island in their time period, she know’s this disruption of order will be the end of her, Sawyer, and the life she enjoyed living.  During “The Incident”, Burke, like the philosopher, at first opposes the idea of setting off the nuclear bomb to restore the time line, as this complete upheaval will ruin what she and Sawyer have.  Despite trying to flee on a submarine, she notices the way Sawyer looks at Kate (his former love), and realizes that everything is lost.

Like the philosopher, Juliet turns to the past for knowledge and reason.  She knows if the bomb is detonated and they can change the past, then Oceanic 815 never crashes, and she never has to meet – and inevitably lose Sawyer. She detonates the bomb – ironically, this complete upheaval of social order causes her death.

The Man in Black / The Smoke Monster / John Locke Impersonator

Fear of the Sovereign, Fear of Death


The Man in Black, possessing John Locke’s body in season 6, ironically shares similar ideas to the philosopher Locke’s “rival” – Thomas Hobbes.  Thomas Hobbes’ social contract is one that is based off of fear – the people surrender there rights out of fear to the Sovereign, in order to receive protection in the state of nature.  This is the exact same role that FLOCKE (fake Locke,or the Man in Black) has in the beginning of the final season.  Possessing the immortal powers as being the smoke monster, he proposes an ultimatum to the remaining survivors on the Island: to join his camp (as opposed to his rival Jacob’s camp) and receive his protection, or be subject to death by his own doing.  Here the Man in Black acts as the sovereign that Hobbes describes in his interpretation of the social contract.


The characters of LOST have been modeled after philosophers of the past, however the conflicts of death, power, and social relationships are considered “recurring events/themes”  of The Island.  The rise and fall of the societies that have lived on the island give light onto how the philosophers fought for their beliefs – and how conflict on government will always remain.


What Makes Life Worth Living?

If you have been able to make it through this article, you are either a) a faithful LOST fan, or b) interested in what makes life worth living.  Despite being a show of many themes, I will give LOST respect where it is due – it is an amazing story of life, and what makes life meaningful.  In the end, LOST was simply about the characters, thats what it had been from the start.  LOST spotlights a group of people who have been brought together by fate.  Before the crash and life on The Island, these people were all flawed in some way, and were missing something in their life.  Despite trying to escape the island throughout the entirety of the show, by the end they understand that the their experiences on the island were meant to be.  Whatever fate The Island brought them, The Island gave people the chance to form bonds with each other.  Through struggle and heartbreak, they realized that the relationships they made and realizations they had on The Island were worth it.  So what makes life worth living?  The experiences and relationships you form along the way.

“The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.”


  1. Satenig permalink
    December 11, 2010 1:57 AM

    Great blog! I love the analogies between the characters on the show and real life philosophers.
    I myself am an avid LOST fan, so I loved reading this blog because it explains some of the views on life that a few of the main characters held. I believe that what makes life worth living, is how you live it. Great analysis!

  2. Lorig Stepanian permalink
    December 11, 2010 10:36 PM

    This is very profound.

  3. tungyat permalink
    December 16, 2010 12:14 PM

    This is a great blog, you clearly put a lot of effort and thought into this! I think it’s great how you analyzed each character’s motives with respect to different political theories proposed by political figures we learnt about in class, as we can see how the characters interact in a manner that we can predict using their dogmas and beliefs.

  4. rlwulf permalink
    January 20, 2011 12:10 AM

    I find all the parallels you discuss to be incredibly insightful. I had known that there were references to books, such as Through The Looking Glass, but to have all of the philosophical concepts that are embedded into the plot of Lost every enlightening. Moreover, the way you explore the different philosophical into a deeper level rather than simply stating the representations. I personally need to finish the finally so I had to skim the parts that gave anything away, but I’ve definitely become inspired to go back and finish the show as well as re-watch some previous episodes to find the symbolism!

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