People sometimes ask me what I think of video games. I think that, in moderation, they’re a fine source of the kind of passive entertainment we all need little doses of in our lives. But for me personally, I rarely play video games because there’s just too much other stuff I’d rather do instead.
There is one notable exception to my ambivalence towards video games, however. A game which I played for hours with thorough enjoyment and zero regret: Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s a video game that’s more immersive and story-like than most others, and even gets you reflecting on the existential layers of life.
Here to discuss those deeper layers of Red Dead Redemption 2 with me is Patrick Stokes, a professor of philosophy and fellow fan of the game. We combine two of my favorite things — Red Dead Redemption 2 and the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard — in a conversation on the existential themes you can find in the game like nostalgia, freedom, choice and consequences, and the certain uncertainty of death.
Resources Related to the Episode
- AoM Podcast #790: Kierkegaard on the Present (Passionless) Age
- AoM Podcast #635: The Existentialist’s Survival Guide
- “Art for Trying Times: How a Philosopher Found Solace Playing Red Dead Redemption 2″ by Patrick Stokes
- Digital Souls: A Philosophy of Online Death by Patrick Stokes
- “A Special Way of Being Afraid” — Kathy Behrendt on the fear of non-existence in death
- A Very Easy Death by Simone De Beauvoir
- Photo of Lewis Powell — conspirator in the Lincoln assassination
- “The Ruin” poem
- Kierkegaard quote on living life forwards
- Mimesis as Make-Believe by Kendall Walton
- The Ethical Demand by Knud Ejler Løgstrup
- Patrick’s articles on New Philosopher
Connect With Patrick Stokes
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. People sometimes ask me what I think of video games. I think that, in moderation, they’re a fine source of the kind of passive entertainment we all need little doses of in our lives. But for me personally, I rarely play video games because there’s just too much other stuff I’d rather do instead. There is one notable exception to my ambivalence towards video games, however, a game which I played for hours with thorough enjoyment and zero regret. Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s a video game that’s more immersive and story-like than most others and even gets you reflecting on the existential layers of life. Here to discuss those deeper layers of Red Dead Redemption 2 with me is Patrick Stokes, a professor of philosophy and a fellow fan of the game. We combine two of my favorite things, Red Dead Redemption 2 and the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard in a conversation on the existential themes you can find in the game like nostalgia, freedom, choice and consequences, and the certain uncertainty of death. After the show is over, check out our show notes at aom.is/rdr2.
All right. Patrick Stokes, welcome to the show.
Patrick Stokes: Thanks for having me.
Brett McKay: So you are a professor of philosophy who specializes in continental philosophy, existential philosophy, particularly the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard. How did you make the Dane with awesome hair the subject of your academic career?
Patrick Stokes: He did have awesome hair. That is one thing we know. I think there’s four drawings from life that we have of Kierkegaard. He never sat for a photo. He didn’t quite live long enough for that, but yeah, he did have absolutely magnificent hair and had the good sense to die at the age of 42 before that started to go south on him. So yeah, I got into Kierkegaard actually as an undergrad, which sounds like a really pretentious thing to say, but I sort of got to university not really knowing anything about philosophy, discovered it more or less by accident, and got really taken by existentialism, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre. And that then led me to Kierkegaard actually, sort of looking at the footnotes to Sartre where he talks a bit about Kierkegaard. And he’s just intriguingly weird. He’s a weird philosopher in many ways because he’s an odd sort of guy. He never actually held down a job or anything like that. He lived off his father’s inheritance. He published all these books that were published under fake names, although the names weren’t really meant to hide who was behind them all. They were there to sort of try and make you as a reader stop and think about, well, hang on, where do I stand in relation to this?
Do I really wanna believe a guy with a name like Hilarious Bookbinder or John of Silence? How am I gonna relate myself to these wacky sorts of synonymous names? And I just sort of got into him because he’s got this really kind of existential urgency to him almost, right? When you’re reading philosophy, I mean, and this is actually, and Kierkegaard knows this, this is one of the attractions of philosophy is you can abstract yourself, right? You can just sort of lose yourself in pure abstract ideas and all your problems and whatever else sort of melt away. What Kierkegaard’s really good at doing is calling you back to the fact that now, hang on, you’re a living, breathing, mortal human being sitting here reading this work right now. And he’s not afraid to say to you, “Hey, is reading this book the best use of your time? Is thinking about this stuff the best use of your time or should you be doing something else right now?” That’s one of the things I think is kind of wonderful and at the same time slightly terrifying about Kierkegaard is that you can always hear the clock ticking in the background.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s why I like him because he writes, it’s funny, he’s sarcastic. And I’ve said this on other podcasts, we did a podcast with Jacob Haaland about the present age.
Patrick Stokes: Awesome, yeah, Jack’s great.
Brett McKay: Yeah, and we just talked, one of the things I said there is whenever I read Kierkegaard, I feel like he’s grabbing me by the lapels and he’s just asking me, he’s like, “Do you really believe what you say you believe? That’s how I feel.” I’m like, oh man, I don’t know. Do I? Do I really want to will one thing? Am I willing one thing? I don’t know. And you feel discombobulated afterwards.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, and yeah, and he can be genuinely laugh out loud, funny. He can be heartbreaking. Some philosophers can write and some can’t, right? And if you can’t write as a philosopher, that’s not necessarily the end of the world because you’re not actually trying to write poetry. You’re not trying to write something for fun necessarily. But Kierkegaard considered himself fundamentally a kind of poet. He never actually, or maybe once or twice he sort of briefly mentions himself as a philosopher, but he always says, look, fundamentally, I’m not a philosopher. I’m a kind of poet.
Brett McKay: So besides being a continental philosopher, you’re also a fan of one of my all time favorite video games. It’s Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s part of a series. There’s Red Dead Redemption 1. Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s so funny. I’m not a gamer. Like I don’t play video. I’ll play Fortnite with my kids every now and then. But when Red Dead Redemption 2 came out, like I, every night I was like, it was like I was reading a book. I’m gonna go spend 30 minutes and it’s funny. I talked to other men my age, same thing. They’re like, “Oh man, that game is amazing. I’m not a gamer, but that was awesome”. Another funny story, I have a friend who’s an anesthesiologist and he was doing work on this. He was an older gentleman, probably late ’60s, early ’70s. And he was there when this gentleman woke up from his surgery. And the guy was like, “Oh man, I just had the most amazing dream”. And my friend Chris was like, “Oh, wow, tell me about it”. And this old, this guy, you know, 70 year old guy just looked at him and was like, “Have you ever played the game Red Dead Redemption 2?”
And he was like, “I was on my horse.” And I think it’s just funny that this game has so much impact on grown men. I’m curious, how did a continental philosopher end up being a fan of a third person shooter video game set in the American wild West?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, well I’m in the same boat, Brett. I’m not a gamer really. I’ve never had a game console at all. That was always the thing that the cool kids had that I got to occasionally go around to their house and play when I was growing up, but I never sort of managed to have one for myself. But what happened was COVID happened and I’m based in Melbourne, Australia, where we had one of the longest lockdowns, not entirely all in one hit. It was in a few different chunks of lockdown, but we had really, really, I think it was 260 something days in lockdown. And just before the first one of those hit, I’m like, “Well, if this is gonna happen, I’m gonna go out and get a console”. I went for the Xbox rather than the PlayStation. I’m still not entirely sure why, but anyway, got that set up. And of course you get like the subscription thing where you can download a set number of games for free at any given time, not for free because you pay a subscription at any time. And to my surprise, Red Dead Redemption 2 was there and I’d heard about it.
I knew it had really sort of really gushy reviews of how great it was. And I thought, “Yeah, I’ll give it a crack.” And the result as you say is you get, as you say, absolutely sucked into it for a very, very long period of time because there’s something like 60 hours or so of gameplay, depending how you actually play it. And it does, as you say, you sort of alluded to there, in some respects, it’s almost wrong to call it a game because while there are obviously game mechanics holding the whole thing together, in some respects it’s more like watching a story or being led through a story. You’ve got some control over it, but it is really, really strong narrative. And I mean, it’s beautifully, beautifully done. It is so just aesthetically beautiful and the performances are actually really astonishing. It’s so well acted. So as soon as I started playing it, it’s that first scene where they’re up in the mountains and characters dying. I remember going, “Wow, this is not at all what I expected and just being completely sucked in”. And it probably helped, of course. This was happening during, as I say, the start of lockdown.
So it’s a period where we’re thinking about death, we’re thinking about things like isolation. And I just finished writing a book which was about dead people online. And so I was very much kind of in that space of thinking about the way in which death and the past are mediated through digital spaces to us. So it was just a really amazing confluence of things that all happened at once.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I think you’re right. It’s a beautifully done game. And for me, you do have the game stuff, the mashing buttons and shooting people. But for me, I don’t know if this is the same for you, but when I’ve talked to other people, it’s been the same. That mash buttons didn’t kill people, that was just to move the story along so I could see the cut scenes and follow these characters. So that’s how I played it.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you can play other things that are as well sort of put together. I play a bit of Sniper Elite sometimes, which again, really beautiful, well done, but couldn’t really care less about the story, particularly to the extent that it even exists. Whereas this is really narratively well made, well constructed and just incredibly engaging and emotionally engaging. I had my next door neighbor played it through and then he, I was like, “I’m not gonna spoil anything for you. I’m not gonna spoil anything”. And then every so often I just get messages from him going, “Oh my God, oh my God, this thing has happened”. He’s just like so emotionally thrown around by it. And I think that’s a really common reaction to it.
Brett McKay: It’s the only video game that’s made me cry.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, same. I think, yeah, it’s just, it is really quite just deeply moving.
Brett McKay: Okay. So we’re gonna talk about this. What I love about this, that you’re a philosopher and you love Red Dead Redemption 2, is that when I was playing this game, I was thinking, man, there’s so many philosophical themes in this thing. Why, there’s gotta be some philosopher or some philosophy students who’s written about this. And I Googled it and I found you. So I wanna talk about those philosophical themes. So it’s very existential, which I think is, I think might be one of the other reasons why it’s called to you. So for those who haven’t played the game or it’s been a while since you played it, let’s do spoiler alerts. We’re going to be talking about, I think part of the story here. So if you haven’t played the game you want to, you should probably stop listening and go play the game. But big picture, like what’s the plot of Red Dead Redemption 2?
Patrick Stokes: Sure. It’s a prequel to the earlier game, Red Dead Redemption, which I still haven’t played actually. I have played Red Dead Revolver, which is the really old one, but I haven’t actually played the other one.
But it’s a prequel to that and it’s set in 1899. So you’ve got the Van der Linde gang built around the very charismatic figure of Dutch Van der Linde, who have all been sort of held around him for a very long period of time. You play as the character Arthur Morgan, who for most of the game in the epilogue you’re playing as John Marston, but you play as Arthur Morgan, who has been part of the gang since he was a child, or was a very young adolescent. And so he’s kind of, this has been his whole life. And you’ve got this gang who are all very disparate people. They all come from very different backgrounds, different sort of cultural and linguistic backgrounds and so on, but who have been held together by this sort of gang ethos for a very, very long time. And there’s this layering in the whole thing about lost time, is probably the best way I would put it, that it’s a gang of people in 1899. So they’re living really on the cusp of the death of the Old West, right? Their whole way of life is receding from them. And they feel out of time.
They feel out of joint with the world. The world just doesn’t want them anymore. There’s no place for their sort of lifestyle anymore in the world. And so they’re already kind of yearning for a past that’s already kind of behind them. And the past is really present in the game. But of course we’re playing this game from the 21st century. And so we’re kind of looking at them as these characters who are already themselves long in the past. Of course, they’re also fictional. And that’s something the game does just phenomenally well in so many ways. Don’t you notice how many photos there are in the game?
Brett McKay: Lots of photos when you start the game up. It’s just like these Derek types or tin photos like developing.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, exactly right. And they’ve all got dates and places on them, right? So places that never really existed. But there are these images that are already, if you like, records of the past in the game world. And that’s I think this is really profound and everyone in the game sort of got photos of deceased loved ones or people are always stopping to take photos. You can go and get your photo taken in a like a photographer’s studio. You can, there’s one where you actually have, one side quest where you have to go out and photograph, kill and photograph a whole bunch of gunslingers or sometimes they’re alive, I think. But so there’s this kind of obsession almost in the game with the way in which the past is present and visibly present.
And there’s always these ways in which the past is constantly interfering and interrupting in the present in this game. There’s this whole thing about just layered time is probably the best way I can put it that is incredibly smart and incredibly engaging and at its best, yeah, really moving.
Brett McKay: And I wanna talk more about that, flesh that out. But before I do, let’s talk about this. So we had the gang’s leader, Dutch Van der Linde. He’s very bombastic. He’s larger than life. And he’s a philosopher from the get go. He’s always talking to this group of outlaws, but he calls them their family. It’s like these are the people he’s taking care of. He’s kind of expounding philosophically to them. How would you describe Dutch Van der Linde’s philosophy?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, it’s interesting because it’s in some ways kind of pseudo philosophy almost, right? So he has a whole bunch of big ideas, Dutch, and they hold together a particular kind of vision that he’s got. I would also say too, he’s a brilliantly, brilliantly rendered character. Benjamin Byron Davis, who plays him, just has done an absolutely iconic job with the acting and embodying that figure. And what’s captivating about the character in some ways is that he’s the central figure of the group. He’s got this real kind of charisma to him, but he also represents a kind of soteriology, right, which is a fancy word for saying salvation, right? He’s basically always promising them that he has a plan, and that’s the thing he says over and over again is, “I have a plan.” And everyone’s got to go along with the plan, keep the faith, keep doing what we’re doing. This is gonna be the one more big job. And after a while, this melds into the idea that the whole gang, having, if you like, almost exhausted their time in their own world, will escape to Tahiti, right? And Tahiti becomes the afterlife. Tahiti becomes this paradisiacal state of salvation that the gang will get to, and you just need to keep faith and do this one bit last job and we’ll get there.
And that’s incredibly powerful, and it’s really effective at organizing people. He’s almost a cult leader in some ways. But then, of course, what ends up happening is there’s something incredibly self-serving about his whole attitude to all this stuff. And over time, his actions start to become more and more disconnected from the kind of moral identity and moral purpose that he’s always sort of projected for the gang. So he starts doing things that the gang wouldn’t necessarily do, like killing civilians and killing people out of revenge or in particularly sort of cruel ways. And so over time, Arthur comes to sort of question Dutch’s character and also starts to question his judgment because he keeps making worse and worse decisions. And then after a while, he starts doing things that are actively almost betraying certain members of the gang, at which point it becomes clear that fundamentally Dutch is not out to lead his flock into salvation. He’s really just out for himself.
Brett McKay: I think that’s a great way to describe it. It’s a pseudo-philosophy. Like, he talks philosophically, but when you look at it, there’s really nothing there.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, which is kind of easy enough to do. And if you’re good at doing it, you can make a pretty decent living out of it. But he’s got that classic sort of air of the pseudo-intellectual who maybe knows a few things. He’s maybe read a few things here and there. He’s well read, but his ideas don’t necessarily have what Kierkegaard, just to bring it back to Kierkegaard, would call a life view. I think the Danish is Lilsundskålse. That is an integrated view of himself that holds the whole thing together. And that’s why over time, as things change, his actions start to become inconsistent. His judgment starts to go off because he doesn’t have that life view that holds the whole thing together in a stable way over time.
Brett McKay: We come back to this idea of them trying to get back to this idyllic state. Like that’s a common theme when you’re traveling to different missions, the characters talk to each other and they just constantly talking about, “Well, we just got to get back to the way things were”. And it made me kind of think of Kierkegaard. I don’t know if maybe you talked about any of this because he’s like a Christian philosopher. Did Kierkegaard ever talk about our longing for returning to Eden? Did that, was that ever a theme he ever talked about?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, there’s a couple of passing references where he says there’s always this desire to go back to a kind of primordial garden, if you like. He does mention that, but there’s also some really interesting stuff in Kierkegaard about the idea of returning to a kind of a second immediacy or a second childhood, going back to the past in a way. But he says that’s not the same thing as just, well, going back to a second childhood is not the same thing as having never grown up. Right? So you can never really go back to a state of what he calls immediacy before you’ve started to think things through, before you’ve started to think critically, you can never really go back to that. But you can maybe get to a stage beyond where you are now where what was there in the past or what was best of the past is somehow taken up into that. And that does seem like maybe that’s where the game is almost directing you, is you can’t go back to the way things were. And we as the viewer and as the player know that you can’t go back to that past.
We know that for two reasons. One, because we’re sitting here in the 21st century and we know that the old West doesn’t come back. And secondly, because we know what happens in Red Dead Redemption, the original game, we know what happens 11 years later. So that’s a really powerful thing. Again, a little bit spoilery, but we know which of the characters we’re looking at is dead. We know which ones have actually died in the intervening years. And which ones haven’t too. So there’s a sense in which the idea that these characters have that they can get back to the past, they can get back to a great way that things used to be. We know that that’s not gonna happen. We know that’s a fool’s errand. And so the question then is, well, what kind of redemption, what kind of salvation is available to these characters? Where can they go that won’t be the way things were, but that will somehow complete that story for them in a satisfying way?
Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about one of those characters who I think figures it out. And that’s Arthur Morgan. He’s the protagonist. He’s the character that you play. And I’m gonna say he’s one of my all time favorite fictional characters. I’m talking including books, movies. He’s up there with Augustus McCrae from Lonesome Dove as one of my favorite characters. I think part of it, Roger Clark, the actor who portrayed Arthur just did a really great job. The acting was top notch. What would you say about, so Dutch van der Linde had this kind of pseudo philosophy about this. We’re going to get to this golden place where things were back to the way they were and it’s amazing. How would you describe Arthur Morgan’s philosophy?
Patrick Stokes: Well, Arthur, I think is an interesting character because in some ways he does have a sort of a life view. He does have a good sense of himself, but it becomes more and more kind of, more and more intention with the world around him and with the people around him. But he also in some interesting respects lacks certain kinds of insight. There’s a really interesting moment there, a really pivotal moment, which we might even talk about shortly, but there’s this moment where one character sort of says to him, “You don’t really know yourself because you’re actually happiest when you’re helping people. You’re happiest when you’re actually doing these good things. You think of yourself as this nasty, hardened criminal.” And he has done horrendous things, “But that’s not actually who you really kind of are.” Now in existentialism, of course, and with the caveat that there’s no real kind of like, you know, there’s no set of principles you have to sign up to to be an existentialist. There’s no one good definition of what existentialism is. Existentialists tend to be very suspicious of the idea that you have a true self or a real self underneath because fundamentally what you are is what you do.
And so in that sense, Arthur’s right that the people he’s killed and the things he’s stolen, that’s him. But the other things he does too, the ways in which he helps people, the ways in which he makes good moral choices a lot of the time, the way in which he goes back to save people at great risk to himself, those too, are who he is and those too feed into him. And this is why it’s so interesting, of course, that you have an honor system in the game where basically the decisions you make will not only affect your kind of honor status, but they’ll also affect what happens in the game up to and including the way in which the character ends. So that’s actually quite a really, from a philosophy perspective, it’s a really interesting mechanic. It’s a really kind of cool thing that these irreversible decisions happen based upon the sort of moral choices you make in the moment.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I want to flesh out the honor system. I think that’s a really interesting dynamic of the game. But going back to Arthur’s philosophy and his worldview, I think it’s interesting throughout the story when people ask him like straight up like, “What do you believe?” He’s like, “I don’t believe in anything or I don’t know what I believe in.” And I think that, yeah, you’re talking about that nun. He was having that conversation with the nun and he basically said, “I don’t know who I am or something.” And she said, “Well, yeah, that’s the problem. You don’t know who you are.” And it reminded me of Kierkegaard. Like the self, is the self relating to the self. And I think Arthur wasn’t really relating to himself completely.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. And I mean, that’s, she echoes in some ways what the character Judge Williams says in Kierkegaard book, Either/Or, who says to his young aesthetic friend, you know, “You’re not even really a person. You’re just a bunch of stuff that happens.” It’s kind of roughly what he says, you know, because you don’t have that organizing principle that holds you together. I think that Arthur actually does. I think Arthur does have a kind of a life view. He does have an understanding of himself. It’s just that it’s not always clear to himself. There’s an element there of almost self-deception. There’s an element of what Sartre would call bad faith, not bad faith in the sense of being deceptive, but just in the sense of identifying with one aspect of yourself. “I’m a member of Dutch Vandalins gang. I do all these things,” and thereby denying the other aspects of yourself. I help people. I do all these other things and I have the capacity to do that. And yeah, that scene with the nun is so kind of pivotal and not only pivotal, it’s so well acted. It’s so beautifully done. And in some respects is almost the sort of emotional turning point of the game.
Brett McKay: We’ll talk more about it because we got to lead up to it because the reason why it’s so poignant is because something happens to Arthur that makes it all the more poignant. But yeah, but I think the reason I think a lot of people like Arthur Morgan is that they can relate to him so much. I think a lot of us think, “Well, look at my life, look at the things I’ve done. They’re terrible.” But then we don’t look at the good we’ve done. And for some reason, I don’t know if we have a blind spot for the good things we do. We just focus on all the bad stuff.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, sure. There’s a kind of perfectionism that can happen there, right? Where we end up just so kind of focused on wanting to do things perfectly or, you know, wanting people to see us in a certain kind of way that we ignore all the things that probably do count in our favor already. There’s a story actually that one night Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher Wittgenstein, basically called his friend over and just sat down and started reciting a list of all the bad things he’d done and all his faults. And she said to him, “Good God, Ludwig, what, do you want to be perfect? And he looked at her completely nonplussed and said, “Off course I do, don’t you”? I thought that was kind of, that’s an interesting sort of way of looking at it, that, you know, perfection is not possible for humans. And yet, that is somehow built into our kind of expectation of the world that we will be perfect, we will get everything we want. And if anything is suboptimal, that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
Brett McKay: So you mentioned choice plays a big role in Red Dead Redemption 2. Tell us about that. Like what, how does choice play in the game mechanics and in the, in pushing the story forward?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. So you can basically do a whole bunch of absolutely horrendous things if you want to, right? If you want to, you can just run around shooting people, cheating people. You can continue to extort people. There’s a few missions there where you’re acting as a debt collector. You can, if you want, let some people off or you can absolutely force them to pay you or you can beat people up. You can do all these things. But what happens over time is that you start to get higher or lower honor depending on the way in which you’ve acted and the sort of choices you’ve made. And also certain kinds of story things branch off in different ways as a result. And over time, the sort of interactions you have with other people are partly determined by your honor quotient.
Now some of that is actually about perception, I think. So basically the idea is that, well, if you’ve built up a bad reputation, people are going to treat you differently than if you built up a good reputation. But it’s also about this almost, again, satirological idea that if you’re a good person, you’ll go to one kind of ending. And if you’re a bad person, you’ll go to another kind of ending. And I don’t want to spoil the ending just yet because I know we’re going to come to that in a moment. But how the story ends for Arthur Morgan will depend upon what sort of choices you’ve made up to that moment, which again, is a really interesting thing. Can I ask, did you get the good ending or the bad ending when you played it?
Brett McKay: The good ending. And I’ve played it twice. Yeah, it was interesting. And this is kind of interesting. And maybe it says something about me. So the first time I played, I just did good. So that’s just my natural inclination. I’m going to be the good guy. But the second time when I was prepping for this episode, I thought maybe I’ll play it bad. But then when that first choice came, when it was like, do you kill this guy or do you let him go? I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill the guy. I had to let him go. And I was like, “I’m not an Ubermensch.” That’s what my conclusion was.
Patrick Stokes: I saw an interview with Benjamin Byron Davis who plays Dutch and he said he can’t black hat it. He just can’t make himself do it. He’s just like, “No, I’ve got to play the good version”. So I didn’t even know actually until I finished afterwards that there was actually a bad ending you can get as a result of making unpleasant decisions. But yeah, I just can’t bring myself to do it, which says something about the power of immersion in games, the way in which you are actually kind of immersed in this world, or at least particularly in some kind of games, right? You get sucked in in a way where very often in games you end up doing absolutely horrendous things, because the game mechanics force you to, or they reward you for doing so. And we tell ourselves, “Oh yeah, well, that’s okay. It’s just a game. It doesn’t really sort of matter”. But then when you find yourself with genuine choices like this, you do actually get a conscience kick in and you do actually choose the good over the bad, which is really kind of intriguing.
Brett McKay: No, I think it’s, whenever I play Red Dead Redemption 2 or even any, like another immersive video game is Grand Theft Auto, which Rockstar Games made both of these games. I played Grand Theft Auto. I can never get into it because basically you’re just doing horrendous things all the time. With Red Dead Redemption 2, yeah, like the choice means like, okay, there’s some instances where you have to like kill people that you probably don’t want to. That’s kind of an interesting thing. That’s part of Arthur Morgan’s story development. There’s lots of choices and you have the option to do the good thing, but there are certain parts of the game where because of the people he’s around, particularly this guy named Micah, who’s just a terrible, terrible person, Arthur has to do bad stuff. And that made me think about the role of friendship and friends and the influence they have on you. Sometimes, you know, like I think Aristotle would have something to say about this. Like, yeah, if you, you walk around with a bunch of outlaws who are doing terrible things, you might end up making yourself do terrible things.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah I mean for Aristotle, that’s kind of the core of friendship is, you know, that or the highest level of friendship is not there just entertaining each other, but is actually trying to make each other better sort of people. And yeah, in that sense, you could say some of the people that, that Arthur’s around are not good for him in that respect or are not his friends in that respect. Mind you, I don’t think Micah’s ever really his friend.
Brett McKay: No.
Patrick Stokes: You know, Micah’s always kind of unpleasant sort of character. Played by the same guy, actually not long ago played LA Noire, which is like about 10, 12 years old now.
Brett McKay: That’s another great game.
Patrick Stokes: Great game.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. Yeah. But same guy, Micah’s the same guy who plays the dodgy psychiatrist in that one.
Brett McKay: Oh, man.
Patrick Stokes: But yeah, almost unrecognizable. But it’s interesting, yeah, that you get these kind of moral choices that you’re thrown into. And there are, as you say, points in the game where you have to kill people that you think, “Did I really have to kill that guy? He’s not, you know, if I’m stabbing an unsuspecting stable hand.”
Brett McKay: Yeah, right. That’s…
Patrick Stokes: You know, you feel kind of like, “Oh, gee, I don’t know. But it’s an interesting thing because it does actually throw you out of the straightforward kind of, “Yay, I’m doing this”, that games normally require you to have, which is really interesting. Because I mean, the thing with game mechanics and the way in which they force you to do things that if you did them in real life would be horrendous is that in some respects, games are actually kind of like porn in that they invite you to endorse what’s going on on screen, right? Insofar as you’re meant to enjoy it, you’re meant to be sort of endorsing what’s going on. Games like this can make you sort of go, “Oh, yeah, I have to do this thing for the mechanics, but I really don’t want to”. And that tension is really interesting to me. The idea that there’s this tension between what I have to do to win the game and what I as an actual real flesh and blood person would choose to do in the same sort of situation. That disconnects is really interesting.
Brett McKay: We’re going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsors.
And now back to the show. I think this idea of choice in the game is a good way, maybe, maybe you can’t get too deep with this, but might be a good way to explain Kierkegaard’s idea, the concept of anxiety. Because I think choice played a big role in that, right?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, for sure. And anxiety for Kierkegaard is similar to what anguish is for Sartre or angst is for Heidegger. This idea that there’s a feeling of being free, right? And you think, “Oh, yeah, being free is great. It’s wonderful. You’re unconstrained”. But freedom also entails responsibility. You have to choose what to do, right? So Sartre talks about if your alarm clock goes off in the morning, you are in fact free to turn it off and keep sleeping or to get up and go to work. But that’s not how we experience it. We experience it as, “Oh, there’s the alarm clock. I have to get up. I have to go to work. I’ve got to do this stuff now.” Instead, he calls these guardrails against anxiety, if you like…
They’re like these things we put in place to force ourselves to believe that we have to act in a certain way because that takes the responsibility of freedom off us. And it’s an interesting thing that philosophers of the existentialist tradition are always regarded as almost philosophers of radical freedom. And a lot of the philosophers who came after them who were really critical of them said, yeah, they’ve totally overblown how free human beings are. But at the same time, those philosophers are all like, “Freedom is not always nice. Freedom is actually a really unpleasant situation to be in”. It’s probably better than the alternative. And indeed, there is no alternative. According to Sartre, you have to be free. It’s not an option not to be free. But freedom is strenuous. Freedom is constant responsibility for everything you do. And that’s not always great.
Brett McKay: How do you think the guys in Red Dead Redemption 2 handle it? They’re outlaws. Conceivably, they live outside the law. They are free. But maybe Dutch, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he kind of fooled himself thinking he was really free, but he wasn’t.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. You could say that in some ways their freedom ends up kind of entrapping them in an interesting sort of way because they’re trying to live outside of the structures of polite society. But of course, the world catches up with them. And that’s a big part of what’s going on in this. So they rob a train belonging to an extremely wealthy business guy, and he sends the Pinkertons after them. And so their whole world sort of gets encroached upon. So the idea that they have this freedom, well, they’re not free from consequences. They’re not free from the results of their actions. And you could say, well, that’s true of everyone, right? Nobody actually has kind of freedom from consequence. Nobody has a freedom that doesn’t entail bad things can happen as a result of that freedom. And the idea that just living free without a care in the world and without any kind of commitments or responsibilities isn’t really true because the world just ensnares you in that way.
Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s a common, this whole story is driven, they’re just constantly doing these missions to get money. They say, if we just get a little bit more money, we’ll finally be able to make this Tahiti thing happen. And of course, it never works out that way. The snare gets tighter and tighter around them.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. And also just contingency happens, right? I mean, one of the things that’s kind of cool about the game is even though it’s got a really nice narrative structure to it, it’s also very good about the fact that just totally random stuff happens that throws your plans out or whatever. So I mean, there’s one whole chapter where they end up, the whole landscape is fictionalized, I should say this. It’s set in the US, but it happens in fictional states that clearly represent real parts of the American geography, but they’re not actually real states. And at one point, their ship is caught in a storm and they end up in what’s clearly meant to be Cuba. They don’t call it Cuba, but it’s meant to be somewhere like Cuba. And so there’s this idea that just radical contingency can happen. Things get in the way and you end up literally shipwrecked.
Brett McKay: Yeah. I remember when that, part of that, when that happened in the story, I was like, this is so random. It was like, I’m on a tropical island. And the missions there are just bizarre too. I mean, it was fun, but it was kind of off, it was off the beaten path.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. And it’s interesting too, the way you get thrown into this stuff in a kind of, you know, in media res, right? You’re thrown right into the middle of it. You wake up and you’re on a beach and you’re like, “I have no idea what the hell’s going on here. I don’t know what I’m meant to do”. I don’t know what the sort of, you know, so of course what you do in a game is you start looking for all things that you recognize from the earlier game mechanics. You work out what to do that way. It’s sort of walking around looking for stuff, but it’s really well done the way it does that, that it throws you into that. The other thing it does really well too is the way some of the characters die. You have some deaths that are kind of scripted, sort of deaths where somebody dies in a way. That makes a certain kind of narrative sense, but then you have other characters who are just walking along and suddenly get their head blown off.
Brett McKay: Yeah. That’s the one in what? Of roads? Like they’re…
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. Sean. What’s his name?
Brett McKay: Sean O’Brien.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah.
Brett McKay: Sean O’Brien.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. Sean O’Brien, the Irish character who just suddenly gets shot dead in the middle of night and you’re not expecting it at all. I remember my wife was in the room when that happened, actually, and we both just had this like involuntary jump reaction. It was like, “Ah!” And she wasn’t even playing the game. She was like, “Oh God, what happened there?” But it’s interesting that there’s this quote from DuBuois that I really like, which is at the end of her book, which is a whole book describing her mother’s death. At the very end of that book, there’s this paragraph where she says, “Everyone’s death is an accident for them.” That is for everyone, their death is this totally contingent random thing that just appears out of nowhere. Now, even if there’s already a lead up to it or whatever else, what she means is there’s a sense in which death is this unwelcome alien visitor that just disrupts our lives. And sometimes in Red Dead Redemption, that’s how death appears. It just emerges out of nowhere in these sudden shocking kind of ways.
Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about Arthur Morgan. He gets a tuberculosis diagnosis in the game. And what’s interesting, the way they did the mechanics on this or the story was, it was really good. Because I remember when you start, you’re playing it and then at a certain point in the game, you start noticing Arthur coughing just like a little bit, not much. And I remember when that first happened, I thought, “Oh, I should get some medicine because maybe it’ll make me feel better”. I had no clue that he had tuberculosis. But then it gets progressively worse. And then there’s the point where he gets the TB diagnosis. Like you find, you actually, oh man, this guy’s got to, he’s going to die. How does that TB diagnosis change Arthur Morgan? And then how can his experience knowing he’s going to die teach us about, you know, Kierkegaard’s idea of the certain uncertainty of death?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah, it’s interesting. It really puts this amazing note of finitude in the game, which is really quite sort of powerful. And I mean, firstly, it’s an amazingly brave choice because TB is such a common way to die in that era. I think there’s something like, you know, a fifth or whatever of all humans who have ever lived probably died of TB. Kierkegaard actually died of a form of tuberculosis. He died not the lung version like Arthur has, but he died of what’s called Pott disease, which is like a basically tuberculosis that gets into the spinal column. And you know, so it’s a very, very common sort of thing. So it’s also kind of interesting in that it’s suddenly introduce you into the narrative this really profound awareness of finitude. And that’s already there in the game, right? Because we know that this world is running out. We know that the way of life these people live is running out. But suddenly you as the main character, your time is also running out. And you’re not going to outlive the characters around you or not all of them, which is really kind of intriguing. And it does create this real sort of focus almost that there’s, you know, your time is actually coming to an end.
You’ve got to do these things, but you’re going to get progressively weaker as you go along, less capable of doing it. And that’s kind of, you know, really interesting. And yeah, you mentioned Kierkegaard on what he calls certain uncertainty. That is, he says that the thing about death is that every single one of us is going to die, but exactly when it can happen is completely open-ended, right? You could die in the next five minutes. You could die, you know, 50 years from now. It’s totally open-ended. And you know, therefore you can’t simply buy into the sort of, you know, live every moment as if it’s your last thing. What you have to do is the even more complicated thing of living every moment as if it’s both your last and the first in a long life to come. So making every second count, but making every second count in a way where it could go either way. Now, in the case of Arthur though, he’s got this sort of end point that’s looming. Of course, he could die anytime between now and then, and that’s just the nature of Arthur’s existence.
But there is something to be said for what Kierkegaard says about death being the schoolmaster of earnestness, that death isn’t about wondering about what the afterlife is gonna be like, but is about concentrating you on how you live here and now in the mortal moments given to you. And I think that’s an interesting thing in a game that, as I say, has like 60-something hours of scripted gameplay, you do, I think, end up really counting your moments once that TB diagnosis has happened, that you know this is actually gonna come to an end, and it’s gonna come to an end before too much longer, which is, yeah, really, really poignant and really powerful.
And then there’s that moment with the nun that you mentioned where he says to the nun, it’s, again, a pivotal moment for the character, I don’t think he says this anywhere else, he says, “I’m scared.” And that’s kind of this really amazingly honest, raw confrontation with death that he’s sort of always been putting off up to that point.
Brett McKay: Yeah. What do you think he’s afraid of? Is he afraid of dying itself and not existing? Is he afraid of what’s gonna happen to the people that he cares about? What is it about death that made Arthur Morgan afraid of it?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. There’s at least three different ways in which we fear death. So there’s, as you say… There’s the death… The fear of what will happen to my survivors who will carry out my projects, that sort of thing. I’ve elsewhere referred to it as a who will feed my goldfish fear of death. Then there’s this fear of non-existence as such. So the fear of just not, there being nothing it’s like to be me anymore. Kathy Behrens, who’s a Canadian philosopher, has done some really good work on that. And then there’s also, I guess, the fear of what comes after death, which is real enough for many people. But then we know from Arthur, he doesn’t think there’s anything there, and he… But although there’s that… He does actually say. What is it he says, that, “I’m assuming hell will be extremely unpleasant, and if it’s not, I’ll feel like I’ve been sold a bill of goods.” So, yeah, there’s this interesting sort of attitude to the possibility of damnation where I don’t… None of the characters really seem to believe it, but it’s kinda there in the background.
Brett McKay: So, okay. Death can make… Is like the school of earnestness. And it seems like Arthur, he becomes earnest after he gets his TB diagnosis. I think this is the redemption part. This is where Red Dead Redemption becomes Red Dead Redemption, is he realizes the Tahiti thing, they’re never going back to the way things were. And I guess there’s a moment he just decides, I gotta make the best of what I got right now.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. And again, that scene with the nun, I think is so kind of pivotal there, because she basically says to him, You have to take a risk and take a risk on love, because he’s… She says, “Every time I see you, you’re happiest when you’re doing,” whatever, essentially loving sort of things. And that moment, where she says, “Take a risk that love is possible,” that interestingly actually kind of reminds me of another Danish philosopher, a guy called KE Løgstrup, a 20th century Danish philosopher, who talks about things like trust and mercy and sincerity as what he calls sovereign expressions of life. They’re not things that we do necessarily. They’re things that life almost imposes on us. And we can either allow them to operate, allow trust to work in the world and open things up, allow sincerity to work in the world, or we can kinda get in their way and spoil them. And that, in a way, is kind of almost what she’s saying to Arthur, is just give the goodness that you are aware of in the world, give that a chance. Give love a chance to sort of express itself in the world and do some good things, which involves him taking a risk. It involves him taking, again, to use some Kierkagaardian language, a leap.
Brett McKay: And then that leap was, he turned against Dutch, and he was gonna help out John Marston, who picks up Red Dead Redemption 1. In that story, I think it’s called… I call it like Arthur’s last ride, where he gets the key from Abigail for the money that Dutch has been hoarding. And he says, “I gotta go. There’s one more thing I gotta do.” And it just… It destroys me every time I watch it. He gets on his horse, he put on the hat, it’s just done… Cinematically, it’s done fantastic. And there’s this song, it’s very soulful, it’s like, that’s the way it is. And he’s just riding on his horse, and you… He starts hearing voices from his past, the story that you’ve just played through of him… People just saying, “You’re a good man,” or, “You gotta try to do the good thing.” And you could tell, this… That’s the part that destroys me. That’s when I started crying like a baby. It’s like, this guy, he’s trying to redeem himself at this point.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. It’s really overwhelming. And it’s, yeah, again, this idea that there’s all this stuff that makes up a life, and at death, and we know he’s riding to death, we know that whatever happens next, he’s not gonna survive it. That’s just clear from the narrative trajectory of the thing. As he’s riding there, you do get that sense, which I think is really kind of pervasive of death as being the thing that fixes whatever you were, that when you die, that’s the end of possibility, that whatever you were, that’s fixed at that moment. And that’s all the stuff that he’s carrying with him to his death, is these things he’s done. And look at that, he is actually a good guy. He has actually done good things. There is a redemptive, as you say, possibility there.
Brett McKay: And then it gets even more redemptive at the… I mean, it’s just… It’s sadder at the end. If you do the good ending, there’s this scene where Arthur has this final battle with Micah, and then Dutch shows up, and Arthur’s just… He’s got… You can tell he’s… The guy’s about to die of tuberculosis. And there’s this scene where Arthur’s on the ground, he’s looking up at Dutch, and he says, “I gave you everything. I gave you everything I had.” And this line where he just says, “I tried. I tried. That’s all I can say. I tried.” And for some reason, that’s another thing, I just… It broke me when he’s this beaten down guy just saying, “I just tried.” I don’t know what it is about… Is there any existential… Is there a reason… Do existential philosophers have something there that can explain why that hits you so hard?
Patrick Stokes: I think because that’s all anyone can do. [chuckle] There’s a sense in which… There’s some sense in which every life’s a failure. Every life leaves something undone or leaves something unfinished. But all you can do is say that you did your best, so to speak. And, yeah, that is, I think, a sort of a powerful moment. But also, as I say, the fact that it’s a narrativizing of the life at death. And so it’s a summing up of everything that there is and this sense of, well, that’s it. There’s nothing more. Just whatever happens now, you are whatever you were, and you don’t get a do-over, you don’t get to go back and replay some things. And, yes, okay, you can actually just restart the game if you want, but it’s an awfully long way to go. I had a student a few years ago, actually, who was doing a thesis on permadeath in games, the way in which in some games, the game mechanics are such that if you die, that’s it, you can’t play the game anymore. It’s not very popular, for obvious reasons, but it’s an option. And it does neatly sort of symbolize the fact that death is actually a one and done thing, that once it’s over, it’s over. And I think that is one of the things that makes that scene so powerful.
Brett McKay: So you’ve written a lot about the themes of nostalgia and loss in Red Dead Redemption 2. We’ve kinda been talking about that, how just the past is very pervasive in this game. There’s pictures, the characters are always talking about the past. How else did you see this idea of nostalgia and loss appear in the game?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. I think there’s this interesting kind of, as I say, double nostalgia in it, almost, that on the one hand, these characters are living in a world that’s already haunted by loss and already haunted by death and by the dead. The dead are really present in this game. And yet, there’s also a sense for us in which these characters, if they had lived, would now be dead. And so I’m kind of reminded here, actually of Roland Barthes talks about this, this famous photo of Lewis Powell, who is one of the conspirators in the, at the Lincoln assassination plot, who was captured alive. And there’s this very famous photo of him sitting in shackles on the deck of a Union ironclad ship and staring directly into the camera. It’s a really powerful sort of photo. And Roland Barthes talks about this in his book, Camera Lucida. And he says, “What’s powerful about this is, at least in part, the fact that we have a sense he is going to die and he has already died. We know this is a man who’s waiting to die, but also we know that he’s, for us, long dead.” And that kind of layering, if you like, as I say, makes… Gives a certain kind of poignance to these moments.
But there’s also just, as I say, the fact that these characters are all longing for a past that’s already irrecoverable to them, that’s already gone. I’ve said at one point that it’s kind of like the old elegiac poems that you get in, say, the Old English, like the Beowulf type Old English poetry corpus. There’s a poem called The Wanderer, which has this whole passage where it’s like, “Where is the horse and where is the rider?” which Tolkien then picks up and uses. Remember that line gets used in The Two Towers. There’s this sense of looking at the world and going, “Oh, man, well, where did everyone go”? What’s going on? And it’s actually quite nice when you see that in the Old English poems, things like… There’s a poem called, or known to us, as The Ruin, where the poet is clearly standing in what we would now recognize as the old Roman baths in Bath in England, and saying, “Look at all these stones, look at all these pools. What happened to the people who made it? They’ve all gone. A thousand years have passed and they’re all disappeared.” And of course for us, that poet has also disappeared. That poet’s world is also gone. And that’s the sort of thing that sort of, as I say, double poignancy that I think is so well done in Red Dead Redemption, that you’ve got characters who are already lost pining for something else, which is already lost.
Brett McKay: And there’s a few characters who have some, maybe a bit of awareness about this pining. Like John Marston had this line where he said something like, “We’ve been talking about the good old days, and maybe they weren’t as good as we remembered. And we weren’t the people that we said we were either.” And I thought that was really a very… Some great self-awareness.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. One of the things that I really like about Kierkegaard is that he’s so attuned to the human capacity for self-deception. He’s so attuned to the way we tell flattering stories about ourselves, about… And partly that’s telling stories about the past, that the past, because we narrativize the past. You have to to make sense of it. To make sense of anything, you have to narrativize it. But to tell a narrative, you have to cut detail out. You have to trim things in a way that serves the narrative. If you don’t, then you just get a massive, unintelligible detail. And so there’s always a sense of falsification involved in the way we tell the past, because we have to tell it as a story, rather than simply living it as it’s happening.
Brett McKay: What’s that famous quote there from Kierkegaard that everyone likes to in Instagram quote. It’s like, “We make… You only live backwards,” or what was that? How does it go?
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. The full quote is something like, “Philosophy is perfectly correct when it says that life can only be understood backwards, but then it misses out the next, the corollary that life has to be lived forwards.” And that then gets distilled into, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it has to be lived forwards.” So it’s a reposter Hegel. But it’s a nice pithy though… Particularly in the sort of distilled version, it’s a nice pithy little quote. I actually saw it once on… When we lived in Denmark, I saw it on the… Printed on the debit cards of a Danish bank. So it’s such… Seems like an interesting attitude to money, guys, but okay.
Brett McKay: Yeah. Well, I think… Yeah. I think Arthur finally realized that, in that last ride, he’s just like, “I gotta… I’m moving to this thing. This is it. That’s all I can do.”
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. That’s it. All you can do is just whatever’s in front of you. I mean, you can’t… [chuckle] Yeah. You can’t go backwards.
Brett McKay: So as a philosopher, I’m curious, what do you make of playing video games in general, and a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 in particular?
Patrick Stokes: Red Dead Redemption 2 is very particular, which is an interesting thing. There’s so much about it that I think is kinda unique. But it’s really interesting that we spend so much of our lives on screens and so much of our lives mediated through screens, and they become transparent to us. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, we… As I say, getting through the pandemic, we had to become more transparent to each other through screens because it was the only way you could have contact with people. So we got used to video calling, we got used to mediated ways of communication, which were already there, but suddenly, they were much more kind of present in our lives ’cause a lot of the time it was the only way you could communicate with people. With games, it’s really kinda fascinating because you get this breakdown between passively watching fiction, like, say, watching a movie or whatever, and actively engaging with people online the way that… Well, the way you and I are right now. And there’s something… It creates this interesting kind of in between world.
Kendall Walton actually talks about this, as he says, that playing is basically as if. It’s basically saying, “Well, we’re gonna do these things as if we’re really doing this”. And that’s a… It’s make-believe. And make-believe is actually a really powerful kind of way of engaging things, because it’s you, but it’s also you doing things that you somehow never did. And that’s kind of philosophically. I find that really kind of intriguing, the sort of fact that it’s you, but not you, that you are doing these things and yet you’re not doing these things. So, yeah, you mentioned Grand Theft Auto. You’re doing things you would never do. And yet, in a sense, you’re kinda doing them. So I find the ontology of that just really tantalizingly ambiguous.
Brett McKay: It is weird. Plato talked a lot about… He was really concerned about art and how you gotta be careful with art because we are mimetic animals. We like to mimic things. And he said, “Well, if your art, you’re doing is really crappy, it’s gonna turn you into a crappy person.” And video games, I feel like, just takes it to the next level ’cause you’re doing it, but not doing it. And so I’m always, when I’m playing, I’m like, “What is this doing to my soul? What would Plato say about this”? Red Dead Redemption, I felt like there’s parts of it I’m like, That didn’t feel good. But there’s… Most of it, I just felt good. Grand Theft Auto, I felt awful, so I had to stop playing.
Patrick Stokes: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s the interesting thing, though. You’re still doing pretty awful things sometimes in Red Dead Redemption, but it creates that distance. And something like Grand Theft Auto maybe doesn’t create that distance in the same sort of way. So, yeah, you torture somebody, but then you walk away and do a big soliloquy about, “Oh, torture is bad and it never works”. That doesn’t get you out of the fact that you just did this thing for however long. Whereas with something like Red Dead Redemption, you are, I think, and this is again a Kierkagaardian thought, I guess, but you’re thrown back upon yourself as the agent, as the person doing this stuff. You’re forced to sort of think, Where do I stand in relation to this? What would I do? How would I live? And what kinda choices would I make? And that kind of reflective dimension, I think, is really powerful and can be, at its best, really transformative.
Brett McKay: Well, Patrick, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about your work?
Patrick Stokes: I spend way too much time on Twitter. You can also find me at patrickstokes.com. And if you wanna read any of my stuff, it often turns up in New Philosopher or I’ll sometimes produce radio documentaries for ABC Radio National here in Australia, which you can listen to as podcasts.
Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Patrick Stokes, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Patrick Stokes: Thanks very much, Brett.
Brett McKay: My guest today is Patrick Stokes. He’s a professor of philosophy and the author of his recent book, Digital Souls, a Philosophy of Online Death. It’s available on amazon.com. You can find more information about Patrick’s work at his website, patrickstokes.com. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/rdr2, where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM Podcast. Make sure to check out our website at artofmanliness.com, where you can find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles written over the years about pretty much anything you can think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad free episodes of the AOM Podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to stitcherpremium.com, sign up, use code manliness at checkout for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android iOS, and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM Podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate it if you’d take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think could get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, [0:54:41.9] ____ listen to AOM Podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.