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WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT? 
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Post WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Anton is the embodiment of randomness or chance in human lives as outlined in the books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness. He strikes such a deep chord of terror because he, like any random catastrophic event, takes away the veil of certainty and security in which we imagine we live our lives. This is particularly telling given that our entire history as humans has had a fundamental aim of increasing our security - to protect ourselves from unforeseen catastrophic events. Seen in this sense, he is more terrifying than a psychopathic serial killer; his terror is more fundamental than that.

He is trying to impress on Carson Wells his views on chance, in their motel room discussion. He derides Carson for his 'rule' (or certainty) on getting to his position and favourably contrasts that to his own, (which is his reliance on chance). The book is studded with the effect of random events, and most are primarily the event of meeting Anton, but also the initial finding of the drug money, Anton's car accident etc. In this sense Anton believes he has more integrity than Carson who he knows is motivated only by money. Anton says he is motivated by something else (which I think is his belief in the power of randomness or conversely his extreme antipathy to traditional certainties. Note the way he mocks the old man in the store, for his safe, mediocre life choices.) Anton gets his kicks by relying on chance (the coin toss) to decide the fate of human lives. He stays true to his ideal, by allowing those who call it correctly, to live. He leads 'a simple life'; not interested in Carson's motivations.

Anton knows he is not immune to the negative effects of chance - which helps to explain his calm reaction to the chance car accident he finds himself victim to later in the book.



Sat Aug 16, 2008 1:05 am
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Thank you, Andrew, for this interesting post about randomness and Anton Chigurgh.
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself by writing an introduction in the "Introduce yourself" threads?


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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
I agree with you that Chirgurh represents chance...he certainly sees himself as its vehicle. Chance and fate in the novel seem absolutely intertwined. I'm not really sure there are any real "choices" made in the novel. Chigurh certainly defines what people do as "choice," but the way I read the story, its characters are moving on rails to their ultimate dooms.

This was present in both the movie and the book. Neither focused on the internal conflicts the characters might have had, the soul searching, any intense doubt. There was no hemming and hawing, except by Sherrif Bell of course.

In the book Lewellan thinks about how much shit his brother might be in for what he's done, but it doesn't seem to come with much regret on the page, and it wasn't frontloaded in his decision process(as far as the reader knows there was no decision process). He never castigates himself for leaving that man dying in the truck, and Neither the book nor the movie spends any time on him debating whether or not to go back with water. One second he's sleeping and the next he's in action. Later, he thinks he's thinking about whether or not he's going to intercept Chigurh before he gets to his wife, but his road has already been taking him there. He seems to understand that there's no getting off the road you're on...no u-turns himself. When he talks to the girl he picked up, he waxes that wherever you go to try to make a fresh start, there you are.

My point is what he is going to do is already predetermined. They feel like choices, but the person who is making this decision has already been engineered by genetics and chance...the "choice" has already been made for him.

So, while Chigurh is at once a weapon of chance, he is also a victim of it, he is also a product of it. I think this was illustrated when he was hit by the car, as Andrew already mentioned.

I was never quite sure what Well's code was...certainly an antithesis to Chigurh's, which I would agree, must be that you cannot try to cheat fate, that you must live by its rules and accept what comes. I'm a little wary of this premise because Anton "Lets" himself be captured by the police...and believes that he can extricate himself by a sheer act of will. Act of will sounds like you have control over your own destiny. On the other hand, letting the cop take him may be his way of tossing the coin for himself.

Chigurh thinks of his word as cosmic certainty. If he tells somebody the choices he makes are going to get somebody else killed, then they are, so if somebody decides he's not going to listen, if that somebody decides he is going to take Chigurh on, then he's basically barking at the moon. You can't cheat fate.

But if that is Chigurh, I'm still fuzzy on Wells. Is Wells trying to cheat fate in some way? Is it a moral code that gets in the way of him being an agent of fate...at least the way Chigurh sees it? Is that somehow the same as trying to cheat it? He does definitely try to pay it off...tries to buy himself more time...negotiate with it. That seems like a no-no.



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Sat Nov 27, 2010 3:52 pm
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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Josh, you say that you "agree with you that Chirgurh represents chance" then you proceed to say that its really unalterable fate "moving on rails" that makes decisions. So which is it? I think the characters, and all of us, always have choices. Those choices are determined by a myriad of influences, of which genetics is just one. I couldn't disagree more that Lewellan's or other characters' actions are predetermined. How can the result of a chance event, such as a coin toss, be predetermined?



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Well, I should point out that Chigurh straight up tells Lewellen's girl that the coin toss was already predetermined...that choices had already been made.

"I had no belief in your ability to move the coin to your bidding. How could you? A person's path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning."

There is a certain brand of predeterministic thinking, which I subscribe to in part, that basically suggests that we aren't wholly free thinkers. There is a certain inertia that occurs that propels our actions and the actions that happen to us definitely do alter the course of that inertia, but our choices are kind of an illusion....a sense of choice made up of millions and millions of different determinations that we had no part in. maybe some of those determinations came down to a coin toss in our heads...a choice that was no more a choice than a random whim. Other times the choices we make depend on what we came across that day, a chance deviation that made us look at a dilemma differently. But if we'd made that same decision an hour before, it would have been a different decision.

The question worth asking is, is there ever a time when you have a choice? Maybe there are times when you're on the fence, when things could go either way, you might pick one over the other just because a choice has to be made....like I said, kind of like a coin toss. Other times you know by the time you have to make a choice what you will choose, and you know this because everything that has ever impacted upon you has influenced the way you think, has in essence propelled you into the position you are in right now...If some of those moments were "choices" you made, so be it, but the real choices were already predetermined, and the rest, determined by the current direction of the wind.

Of course you could defy this conversation, go outside and do something you would have never done...jump off the roof...whatever, just to prove that you have free will and choice, but all that would prove is that because of chancing upon this conversation, you were momentarily more open to asserting control over yourself. Maybe the need to do so would be something already hardwired inside, if not genetically, from the experiences and impacts that have propelled you haphazardly in the direction you now travel.

I admit that fate and chance seem contradictory...fate is a predetermined future...being on rails. Chance means that you can go any which way. That means that I blew it when I refered to the characters being on rails. They're more like bullets fired from a gun. The wind can push them...harder objects can slow or splinter them...they can riccochet off of walls, be pulled by gravity...etc. they will react with these elements differently if there is a little scuff on them or if they are longer or shorter to start with...etc. One thing that they can't do is actually decide to change their own direction.

My point about the characters not making choices has alot to do with the pains that seem to have been taken in the writing to avoid putting much emphasis on inner turmoil over their so called decisions. That doesn't mean the inner turmoil doesn't exist. Lewellen probably thought all day about the guy he left out in the truck, but in the end he chose to do something that he was destined to do the whole time. The seed was already there. He was just as destined to leave the guy there in the first place, at that particular moment in time, given what was going through his head. I think in the movie, he wakes up with a jolt, knowing where he was going.

So when I talk about the characters as being fated, I simply mean that they are at the mercy of fate...they will do what they will do because that is their nature, unless something comes along and alters their nature. I guess I use fate to mean the opposite of free will.

Fate is kind of a tricky word this way. I just looked it up and the definition itself didn't really lend itself to my use, and yet "chance" is listed as a synonym

I would be interested in how you see things differently. it is possible I'm off the deep end on this.



Last edited by JoshC on Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Andrew, your original post was back on Aug 16, 2008! Josh recently replied and you actually came back to add more comments more than 2 years later. You would get the award for commitment and follow-through for 2010....if there were such an award! :)



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
"I had no belief in your ability to move the coin to your bidding"
I think you have misread this. I think it's more accurate to say that Chigurh doesn't believe Lewellen's girl can influence the outcome of the coin toss in her favour. He believes that outcome is based purely on chance. He is only saying that her imminent demise (like Wells') is predetermined by living her life according to decisions not grounded in chance. Here I think you're confusing the outcomes of randomness with predeterminism. Chirgurh is really saying that these people's paths are "visible from the beginning" because they do not lead lives determined by chance. Recall how he he scorns Wells' (non-random) decisions that landed him in his predicament. He is effectively scorning the entire human race for believing they can escape the consequences of random events, which is Taleb's argument in 'The Black Swan'. Chirgurh truly believes living your life according to chance is a superior way to live; it will lead to better outcomes. Also recall the old store attendant who escaped with his life, because he gained the benefit of a chance event (toin coss). Chigurh is absolutely and admirably honourable in his commitment to this personal philosophy. Chigurh is the 'Black Swan' event in these people's lives.

You raise the extremely profound issue of whether people actually have choices in their lives or are all our decisions predetermined by a combination of influences such as genes, and upbringing in our respective family and society. I think this is the crux of the argument. It is really a philosophical issue with varying gradations between determinism, fatalism, predestination, God's will at one end of the spectrum and free will at the other end. Motivational gurus like Anthony Robbins would argue passionately that we have free will - it's part of what separates us from the animal world. This ultimately is a personal decision, or dare I say, a personal choice? Or perhaps not - people living in certain parts of the world are socialised to be fatalists. Someone else growing up under the influence of Tony Robbins would believe in free will and the capacity to change their life outcomes for the better. Which do you believe in Josh? However, note that this particular act of belief itself will likely determine your life's outcome.



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Hi Andrew...by the way, thanks for the discussion.

The problem with saying that Chigurh thinks the girl's path is determined simply because she does not live by the tenets of chance, is almost to suggest that Chigurh believes he can manipulate his path simply by living by it. If chance is the soul determiner of events, whether you live by chance or you don't, the same crap is going to happen to you. If you believe otherwise, then how can you be fully embracing chance? Either her path is visible from the beginning, or it is not. Chigurh believes her path was. If he believes her path was, and it led her to this coin toss, then he still believes there is some method to the madness...that there is a predetermined element to it.

Perhaps the difference between Chigurh and Wells is that, whatever the outcome, Chigurh embraces it? He doesn't try to struggle with it, and that makes his code "better." Chigurh has allowed himself to become an instrument of fate, not something outside of it...a conduit, rather than a wrench in the cogs. And fate, according to my premise, is the result of chance. Chance has small affects over the course of time...sometimes, very "seldomly", a person's path changes abruptly, but for the most part that path is like my bullet metaphor.

Lewellan's girl is not given over to chance in this last coin toss, and you don't believe so either, because you believe this is a culmination of bad choices on her part(or at least I think you do...you believe the character's have free will and make choices that have consequences). Her life led to this coin toss, but even the toss seems to have an expected outcome in her case....probably because she has been playing with fire...her fate was to choose a man that would get her into this mess, and eventually that coin was going to catch up with her, and the result was going to be the wrong end. Still, those "choices" she's had weren't neccesarily of the free will variety, and her path never did make a u-turn based on chance.

And neither did the store-keeper's. The coin toss absolutely illustrates how random horror enters into our lives no matter where we try to hide, that living a simple "safe" life at a gas station is not a guarantor of protection...that the old man's whole life has still ended up at some point, at the end of a coin toss...but I think the odds were still in his favor.



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
"The problem with saying that Chigurh thinks the girl's path is determined simply because she does not live by the tenets of chance, is almost to suggest that Chigurh believes he can manipulate his path simply by living by it. If chance is the soul determiner of events, whether you live by chance or you don't, the same crap is going to happen to you."

Chigurh is absolutely correct to believe he can change his path by living his life according to chance. The point is that if you don't, your life will follow a much more predictable path. If you live by chance, the "same crap" will more than likely not happen to you. Chance will likely result in a completely different set of outcomes. The path of Llewellan's girl was predictable or predetermined because she did not live according to chance just like the other characters in the book. Your bullet metaphor is only appropriate for those people not living lives according to chance. However, once they,like Chigurh, start living their lives according to chance, that metaphor is no longer appropriate.

"I think the odds were still in his favor". Josh, this is obviously wrong. The storekeeper's odds of winning the coin toss were 50-50 ; and therefore not in his favour!
"even the toss seems to have an expected outcome in her case". This is also a confused viewpoint. The outcome of the coin toss is entirely a chance event and absolutely not "expected". It could have gone either way!

I agree that Chigurh embraces, or more precisely, accepts the outcomes that randomness results in. However, I think it is incorrect to say fate is the result of chance. You keep returning to this approach which I believe is mistaken. To my mind it is simply a contradiction to say that the outcome of a chance event (a toin coss) is fate. However, this returns us to the philosophical issue of whether people actually have choices in their lives or are all our decisions predetermined by a combination of influences such as genes, and upbringing in our respective family and society. This issue that I raised in my last post you have avoided answering entirely. To repeat, I think this is the crux of the argument. It is really a philosophical issue with varying gradations between determinism, fatalism, predestination, God's will at one end of the spectrum and free will at the other end. Motivational gurus like Anthony Robbins would argue passionately that we have free will - it's part of what separates us from the animal world. This ultimately is a personal decision, or dare I say, a personal choice? Or perhaps not - people living in certain parts of the world are socialised to be fatalists. Someone else growing up under the influence of Tony Robbins would believe in free will and the capacity to change their life outcomes for the better. Which do you believe in Josh? However, note that this particular act of belief itself will likely determine your life's outcome.



Last edited by andrewg on Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Hi again Andrew,

to your last question. On the one hand, it doesn't matter what I believe, because I'm trying to determine what the author is saying here. On the other hand, my familiarity with this sort of philosophy, and the fact that I see some merit to it has probably led me to view the novel through that lense, though I would contend, not without evidence from the text.

I will say that just because I see some truth to this sort of fatalism, it doesn't entirely take us off the hook for our choices. Most people who have embraced this sort of logic will not simply do whatever they feel like doing...they won't abdicate responsibility. First, its a hard idea to embrace, and as a species, I don't think we're so fond of thinking we don't have free will. Second, whatever our mental make-up, this perspective isn't going to overwhelm our sense of self, our morality or our need to struggle with choices.

I believe I should definitely push the envelope of my own capacity. Most of the time I let myself down, though at others I have managed to create a certain amount of inertia for myself. But how I have come to that belief is important. Did I freely decide to believe that one day, or is it the product of my experiences. The point of retreading this is that I can still believe I have a responsibility to be better, I can still be motivated to be that, and at the same time hold the belief that I am where I am, I think how I think, because of many many factors beyond my control.
.........

To the text:

First, I have to give you the coin toss. 50/50 is 50/50. I envisioned a one time deal with the storekeeper, while I was thinking of Lewellan's girl as having to make that coin toss more often. Of course, that doesn't play out in the story. One coin toss per person. It's hard to say whether I knew the coin tosses would end up the way they did when I was first watching the movie(saw it before I read the book), or if it just feels "fateful" after the fact, due to the methodology of the story, but that is the way it feels. The store keeper was going to live, and Lewellan's girl was going to die. There IS a distinct difference between how the coin comes upon both characters. The coin goes to find one, and comes across the other.

I don't believe that Chigurh thinks he can manipulate chance. For him to believe so would be a contortion of what chance represents. If he does think that, events tell him he's wrong when he gets hit by that car.

The incident with the car by the way, is one of the reasons I believe Chigurh is just as much the bullet fired from a gun as the other characters. It illustrates that he can be, probably has been, broken in certain ways by chance, bent and manipulated into the person, or force of nature he is. By the way, the other characters are extensions of that same force, though not willingly so, or aware of being so. Lewellan especially impacts the lives he comes into contact with. He essentially brings the coin with him wherever he goes, until he has to call it himself that last time.



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Post WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Hi Josh, first to your comment "It doesn't matter what I believe...". Well I think it absolutely does matter. One's personal beliefs strongly influence, if not determine entirely, how we interpret the book, which is why I keep on drawing the contrast between the beliefs at opposite ends of the spectrum: predeterminism vs free will. My belief in humans' capacity for free will allows, or leads me, to interpret the book in a way that gives prominence to the influence of chance. Your belief in fate leads you to deny that influence. Your next comment indicates that you agree: "lead me to view the novel through that lense". In effect, you have contradicted yourself in the first paragraph.

Your second paragraph appears to be an attempt to explain decision-making through the prism of fatalism. I'm not sure what you're making here with regard to the book, but I suppose you're trying to answer the philosophical question I raised. Unfortunately, your answer lacks sufficient clarity for me to ascertain which position on the spectrum you're taking. So try again please!

With regard to your third paragraph, I am similarly struggling to understand the point you are making. again because of the lack of clarity.

I agree with the point you make in your fourth paragraph. There is a difference in the way the fate of the two characters is presented. However, I think it is fair and reasonable to allow the writer largesse in setting the mood and allowing the scene to naturally flow. You seem to interpret this flow and mood-setting as evidence of predeterminism. Right here is the source of your misinterpretation. It's just a writer's technique.

I agree with your statement that Chigurh doesn't believe he can manipulate chance. However, he believes chance can change his path. You have missed a crucial point. First, his early capture by a sheriff, does not represent a chance event. He has allowed it to happen. Therefore, the outcome of this capture - going to jail - is an entirely predictable event. What Chigurh is saying, is that through an act of will - free will - he can change that predictable outcome of going to jail. Seen in this light, it dovetails neatly with his philosophy on chance, and that of free will that I've been outlining here.

Finally, your last paragraph is suggesting that you actually think that the force of nature that drives the characters is chance!!!
"broken in certain ways by chance". So chance is driving these characters forward. But you think that chance equals fate, and then we're back to the point I keep raising: the philosophical issue of whether people actually have choices in their lives or are all our decisions predetermined by a combination of influences such as genes, and upbringing in our respective family and society. To repeat, I think this is the crux of the argument. It is really a philosophical issue with varying gradations between determinism, fatalism, predestination, God's will at one end of the spectrum and free will at the other end. Motivational gurus like Anthony Robbins would argue passionately that we have free will - it's part of what separates us from the animal world. This ultimately is a personal decision, or dare I say, a personal choice? Or perhaps not - people living in certain parts of the world are socialised to be fatalists. Someone else growing up under the influence of Tony Robbins would believe in free will and the capacity to change their life outcomes for the better. Which do you believe in Josh? However, note that this particular act of belief itself will likely determine your life's outcome.



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Physics Ends the Free Will Debate

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jint5kjo ... ure=relmfu



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Mate, you're kidding aren't you? How about articulating an argument yourself rather than relying on a url link to someone else's argument?



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
It appears Goethe just joined today and this is his or her very first post. Let's not scare this newcomer off. The video was relevant to the discussion. Goethe may decide to get involved in the discussion. Maybe this is a means of testing the waters.



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Post Re: WHAT DOES ANTON CHIGUR REALLY REPRESENT?
Chris, I'm happy to respond to a written argument but I'm not going to wade into youtube to figure out what Goethe's argument is. This is a forum for the written word isn't it? Goethe, would you mind succintly summarising the argument from youtube in written form please?



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