Lost references several influential philosophers, particularly when naming its characters and episodes. This encourages viewers not only to appreciate the show as a character-based drama, but to acknowledge the universal philosophical questions that drove it.

Episode title references[]

Tabula Rasa[]

Tabula Rasa, the 3rd episode of Season 1, literally translates to "blank slate". The philosophical idea of a blank slate--that people are born without ideas and that their ideas are shaped by their experiences--was first proposed by Aristotle, but later popularized in the works of John Locke. The theme of tabula rasa could be applied to many of the Oceanic 815 survivors who were able to obtain a fresh start on the Island.

Notably, in the episode of Tabula Rasa, Kate's recent status as a runaway convict is detailed. The Island is a chance for her to obtain a blank slate, shedding her skin and becoming someone not defined by her past. There are several examples tabula rasa explicitly stressed in the dialogue. Firstly, in Kate's flashback: Ray Mullen tells Kate: "Everyone deserves a fresh start." Secondly, toward the end of the episode Jack Shephard thematically reiterates: "We should all be able to start over" when discussing Kate's past.

The Greater Good[]

The Greater Good, the 21st episode of Season 1, is a philosophical topic that has been discussed throughout history. It focuses on the central question of moral correctness: is the thing that is best for everyone morally right? In this episode, Sayid is forced to choose between saving thousands from a terrorist attack or protecting his friend. The concept of general good was the focus of the writings of David Hume and Jeremy Bentham.

Character name references[]

Character Philosopher
Mikhail Bakunin Mikhail Bakunin Bakunin, Mikhail
Locke-mini Jeremy Bentham Bentham, Jeremy
Edmund Edmund Burke Burke, Edmund
Campbell Brother Campbell Campbell, Joseph
Boone-mini Boone Carlyle Carlyle, Thomas
Charlotte headshot Dr. Charlotte Staples Lewis Lewis, Clive Staples
Locke dad Anthony Cooper Cooper, Anthony
(Wikipedia, 1st Earl and Wikipedia, 3rd Earl)
Eloise-mini Eloise Hawking Hawking, Stephen
Desmond-mini Desmond David Hume Hume, David
Kelvin-mini Kelvin Inman Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, William
Daniel faraday lost Daniel Faraday Faraday, Michael
Locke-mini John Locke Locke, John
Karl-mini Karl Martin Marx, Karl
Mini-Danielle Danielle Rousseau Rousseau, Jean-Jacques
Shannon-mini Shannon Rutherford Rutherford, Samuel

Further details are listed in the sections below. (Richard Alpert) Richard Alpert (born April 6, 1931), also known as Baba Ram Dass, is a contemporary spiritual teacher who wrote the 1971 bestseller Be Here Now. He is well known for his personal and professional association with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s. He is also known for his travels to India and his relationship with the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba.

Austin, John[]

(Kate Austen namesake ?) (1790 - 1859), (Legal Philosopher) John Austin was a legal positivist[2] in the tradition of his mentor, Jeremy Bentham. He was a legal philosopher whose left a long list of published works on the subjects of legal philosophy and jurisprudence. He was a professor of Jurisprudence at the University College London.

The essence of his beliefs were:

  • "the law is command issued by the uncommanded commander--the sovereign;"
  • "such commands are backed by threats; and"
  • "a sovereign is one who is habitually obeyed"[3])

He further developed the idea of legal positivism ,[4] which essentially states that law should not dependent upon moral value judgments, while Legal Realists [5]assert that that law should include metaphysics or moral evaluation of legal text. This is in opposition to the Legal Positivists who believe the law should be taken quite literally.

Bakunin, Mikhail[]

Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) was a well-known Russian revolutionary and anarchist philosopher.

  • He "rejected governing systems in every name and shape", every authority figure, including God, or a sovereign. Bakunin denied the religious conception of "free will", while he advocated a materialist explanation of natural phenomena, as a revolutionary he had faith in the ability of people to freely shape the world and society around them. [6]
  • Bakunin believed that the proper form of social organization is that of free association between individuals and between communities. Thus, "The freedom of all is essential to my freedom." [7]
  • Bakunin was also a famous critic of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, particularly Rousseau's ideas on human nature and politics. [8]

Bentham, Jeremy (John Locke's alias)[]


Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was an Utilitarian and Legal Positivist Philosopher. He also introduced the concept of "animal rights," but he was in opposition to the concept of "natural rights." [9]. He believed in separation of church and state, equal rights for women, the abolition of slavery, the abolition of physical punishment (even for children), free trade, usury and the decriminalization of homosexuality.

He was also the designer of a prison called Panopticon [10]. Some people on the Wiki claim that the DHARMA structures on the blast door map are based upon the design of the Panopticon. The Panopticon design entails sequestering the inmates in cells on an outer circular wall with a watching station in the center. This design is said to give guards the power associated with the illusion of being all-seeing, while the prisoners cannot tell whether they are being watched at any given moment or even see other prisoners.

  • It is interesting to note, that like Rousseau, Bentham laid the foundation for the French Revolution. He was connected with leaders of the French Revolution, Mirabeau in particular, but he denounced the revolutionary thought of the time being based in "natural rights." He also decried the violence which started when the Jacobins [11]took power during the French Revolution.
  • He started The University College London, which was the first English university to admit anyone, regardless of race, creed, or political ideology. It mirrored Bentham's philosophy and he helped appoint one of his students, John Austin, as the first Professor of Jurisprudence in 1829.

Burke, Edmund[]

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was an Irish statesman, Member of Parliament, and a leader of the Old Whigs.

  • His major ideas included a defense of the American Revolution and of representative democracy, a critique of the French Revolution and radical social change based on untested theory, and an assertion of the universality of certain moral principles violated by British colonial officials in India.
  • His views on free will are somewhat given by the quote from Reflections on the Revolution in France: "It is better to cherish virtue and humanity by leaving much to free will, even with some loss to the object, than to attempt to make men mere machines and instruments of a political benevolence."

Campbell, Joseph[]

Joseph Campbell circa 1982

Joseph Campbell

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion.

  • A fundamental belief of Campbell's was that all spirituality is a search for the same basic, unknown force from which everything came, within which everything currently exists, and into which everything will return. Although the basic driving force cannot be expressed in words, spiritual rituals and stories refer to the force through the use of "metaphors"—these metaphors being the various stories, deities, and objects of spirituality we see in the world.
  • This belief is functionally similar to the Dao of Daoism, which Campbell wrote about in his work as a mythologist, and which is referenced in the ba gua ringing the DHARMA Initiative logo.
  • His work is vast, covering many aspects of the human experience. His philosophy is often summarized by his phrase: "Follow your bliss." He is quoted as saying, "I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being." He saw this not merely as a mantra, but as a helpful guide to the individual along the hero journey that each of us walks through life: "If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time."
  • The role of the hero figured largely in Campbell's comparative studies. In 1949, his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces introduced Campbell's idea of the monomyth (a word borrowed from James Joyce), outlining some of the archetypal patterns that Campbell recognized. Heroes were important to Campbell because, to him, they conveyed universal truths about one's personal self-discovery and self-transcendence, one's role in society, and the relation between the two. This book not only introduces the concept of the hero's journey to popular thinking, but it also began to popularize the very idea of comparative mythology itself—the study of the human impulse to create stories and images that, though they are clothed in the motifs of a particular time and place, draw nonetheless on universal, eternal themes.
  • These same themes were an integral part of Watership Down, which quotes from The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The author, Richard Adams, credits Campbell with inspiring his career.
  • Season 6 in particular owes a debt to the chapter "The Universal Round": "According to the Stoic doctrine of the cyclic conflagration, all souls are resolved into the world soul or primal fire. When this universal dissolution is concluded, the formation of a new universe begins, and all things repeat themselves, every divinity, every person, playing again his former part."
  • Brother Campbell is the leader of the Eddington Monastery in Scotland. Campbell offered work for a distraught Desmond (who briefly attended this monastery in "Catch-22"). However, one night Campbell discovered Desmond drunk on wine the monastery makes. As a result, he fired him. He gave Desmond one last job -- to load wine into Penny's car, introducing them to each other.
  • With the August 24th release of the Season 6 DVD, disc 5 Bonus Features includes a tribute to Joseph Campbell with many of his quotes featured in A Hero's Journey. This feature shows the journey of the main characters and how each is a hero in their own way.
  • J.J. Abrams, one of the creators and producers of LOST, attended Sarah Lawrence College, where Joseph Campbell taught for 38 years. Though Campbell retired 12 years before Abrams' arrival, his influence on the campus and curriculum, along with an archive of Campbell's lecture notes were most likely an inspiration to Abrams. [1]

Carlyle, Thomas[]

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a Scottish philosopher and writer.

  • Carlyle wrote a book called Heroes and Hero Worship, which discussed the fundamental flaws of heroes, and the challenges with which they must contend. This introduces an interesting paradox in Boone Carlyle's name, which pairs his moniker with that of Daniel Boone, famous archetypal American folk hero. On Lost, Boone is a character that strove in life to be recognized as a hero (earning him Shannon's nickname, "Captain America"), at times unsuccessfully; he also died attempting a heroic act.
  • "Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will."

Cooper, Anthony[]

Anthony Ashley-Cooper 3rd Earl

Anthony Cooper

Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1621-1683) was an English politician who was the mentor and patron of real-life philosopher, John Locke (see below).

  • In addition to sponsoring him in a somewhat paternal relationship, also credits philosopher Locke with saving his life from a medical condition (liver infection) (On Lost, Locke saves Anthony Cooper's life with a kidney transplant).

Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1671-1713), the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury and grandson of the 1st Earl, also has a point of comparison with the character.

  • This Shaftesbury was an eighteenth-century moral philosopher who posited that people are basically good, and that morality is a foundational (if not innate) part of humanity. This Shaftesbury's ethics are in direct contrast to those of Locke's father, who epitomizes Thomas Hobbes's (and Sawyer's) philosophy of self-interest.

De Groot, Hugo[]

Hugo De Groot (lat. Grotius) (1583–1645) was a Dutch novelist, philosopher and jurist.

  • He was involved in the conflict between Dutch merchants, whose main interest was free trade, and the governors, who aimed at forming a modern state. Central figures in the debate were merchant and honorary consul Van Oldenbarneveldt and the baronial governor Prince Moritz. Moritz advocated the creation of a centralized state and the continuation of the war with Spain. The merchants wanted neither a "strong" state nor war, both being perceived as harmful to trade.
  • This argument was mainly carried out as a philosphical dispute on the question whether the Calvinist dogma of predestination ("fate") should be revised in favor of an emphasis on free will.
  • De Groot was supportive of the merchants' positions and in 1604 the Dutch United East Indian Company (VOC) assigned him to produce a jurist expertise, which should justify the capturing of Portuguese ships in Indian waters. Yet, only a part of it was published in 1609 under the title of Mare Liberum (The Free Seas).
  • Mare Liberum's main argument was that water and wind are no product of human labor and therefore cannot be restricted property of someone.
  • De Groot’s personal motto: "Ruit hora." (Time is running away.)
  • De Groot's last words: "By understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing." [12]
  • Date of birth and death contain 4 of the Numbers, 15 and 8, 16 and 4.

Faraday, Daniel[]


Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday (22 September 1791- 25 August 1867) Michael Faraday was an English scientist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics. Faraday also established that magnetism could affect rays of light and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena.His main discoveries include those of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.

  • Both Daniel and Michael grew up in England.
  • While Daniel had extensive training, Michael received no formal training.
  • Both were very accomplished in the field of electromagnetism in physics.

Hume, David[]

495px-David Hume

David Hume

David Hume (1711-1776) was a philosopher of skepticism and, perhaps to a lesser degree, naturalism as well.

  • Like Desmond, David Hume was Scottish.
  • David Hume was heavily influenced by philosopher John Locke (see below).
  • From 1763 to 1765, Hume was Secretary to Lord Hertford in Paris, where he made friends with and, later, fell out with philosopher Rousseau (see below).
  • Unlike Desmond, David Hume had strong views against miracles, which he considered as violations of the laws of nature, and consequently to be of a very low probability of occurring.
  • Wrote about altruistic concern (illustrated by characters such as Jack and Desmond), and its opposition to powers of self-interest (illustrated by characters such as Sawyer).
  • Wrote that free will, in a strange contradiction, actually requires determinism, though it apparently conflicts with it as well.
  • His suggestion was that free will might be accounted for by "a false sensation or seeming experience" (a velleity) which is associated with many of our actions when we perform them. On reflection, we realize that they were necessary and determined all along.
  • Hume is a "Soft Determinist" or a "Compatibilist" which means that he believes that ALL events are causally determined. However, we can still have moral responsibility (which would normally be impossible if the world is completely causally determined). Moral responsibility is the result of the will causing an event. However, the will for Hume is just as causally determined as anything else. If "Flashes Before Your Eyes" was inspired by Hume's philosophy on determinism and free-will, it is vastly distorted. What is presented in the episode is closer to something called Fatalism, which David Hume does not argue for.
  • In his posthumously published essay "On Suicide," Hume firmly advocates that it is neither against the laws of God nor nature for people to end their own lives. This argues that people have complete freedom over their own bodies and what they do to/with them. Using the failsafe in the Swan, Desmond apparently takes this right upon himself in a way that David Hume did not consider - self-sacrifice.
  • Hume is also known for his discussion of The Problem of Induction. The name fits Desmond's role well, since he is compelled by inductive reasoning to continue to push the button. Discussion of Hume and the Problem of Induction
  • Hume was also a sceptic about causation. Simply put, he believed "constant conjunction" was perceptible and understandable, but not "necessary connexion," the idea that there is something over and above conjuction that makes one thing inevitably accompany the other. It is worth noting that induction and causation are both concepts commonly employed in predicting future events, and as Hume was a sceptic about these, he was a sceptic about the certainty of future knowledge.

Lewis, Clive Staples[]

(Clive Staples Lewis) (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963),(Legal Philosopher) commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis and known to his friends and family as Jack, was an Irish-born British novelist, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian and Christian apologist. He is also known for his fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy.

Locke, John[]

John Locke (Philosopher)

John Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) was an Enlightenment philosopher who dealt with the relationship between nature and civilization, later to have great influence on founders of democratic governments. He believed that, in the state of nature, all men had equal rights to punish transgressors; to ensure fair judgment for all, governments were formed to better administer the laws.

  • This philosophy is paralleled by the character of Locke, who embraces both nature and the need for egalitarian organization among the survivors.
  • The episode title, "Tabula Rasa", is a reference to the Latin phrase meaning blank slate, and was a prominent philosophical theory championed by Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and philosopher John Locke. The concept is that the human mind is born into the world like "like a clean tablet on which nothing is written", and therefore that all human knowledge is derived solely from human experience.
  • He also took the view that the truth of determinism was irrelevant. He believed that the defining feature of voluntary behavior was that individuals have the ability to postpone a decision long enough to reflect or deliberate upon the consequences of a choice: "...the will in truth, signifies nothing but a power, or ability, to prefer or choose".
  • The character of Locke also emphasizes the concept of tabula rasa in the episode "...In Translation" when he says in a conversation with Shannon, "Everyone gets a new life on this island, Shannon. Maybe it's time you start yours."
  • It is also important to note that the concept of tabula rasa, as understood by John Locke, emphasies that man "authors his own soul". It contradicts the character of Locke, who has a preoccupation with being the "chosen one", which encompasses fate, destiny and having your future already written for you. This is essentially a Calvinist position, which the historical John Locke did believe in at one point, although his views evolved away from it over the course of his life.
  • He was one of the developers of the social contract theory, which was postulated as an unspoken agreement between individuals and governmental bodies (to give up some of their natural freedoms in exchange for a life of order in their society and unnatural civil rights, as was the case when Jack took a leadership role on the island). Locke in particular believed in the right of rebellion in the case of tyranny, which Juliet suggests to Jack is her motive to betray Ben in her videotape.
  • In his main work Two Treatises of Government (1689) he developed a theory of a civil society ruled by law, in which the purpose of the state is limited to the guarantee and security of private property. This legitimizes Sawyer's behavior, when he defends his stash against stealing (Boone) and sharing (Jack), even though both claim to act for a greater good (cf. Economics).
  • He was supportive of slavery, because the black people from Africa had been defeated in a just war, as he wrote in a note to the governer of Virginia in 1679.
  • In 1693, Locke published a treatise entitled Some Thoughts Concerning Education, addressing the steps to be taken in raising boys. Specifically aimed at the sons of the gentry, Locke advocates against pampering and coddling children. They should be kept away from nursery stories, inured to hardships, instructed in useful pursuits, resulting in a functional and responsible member of society. These themes have obvious parallels in Season 1's parenting conflict between Locke and Michael over what Walt should and shouldn't do while on the island.
  • He also advocated child labor from the age of three and was generally hostile to the poor.
  • The philosopher is also discussed in Bad Twin, wherein character Elio describes him as a "Fascinating guy. 17th century Brit, amazingly advanced. Huge influence on Thomas Jefferson. Locke argued that the highest goal of our intelligence is the careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness...he is saying that the best use of our reason is in learning to be happy."
  • Locke believed that human rationality and the Holy Bible were fully compatible, in particular because the miracles it portrays would lead any rational thinker to conclude the validity of the God depicted therein. On Lost, his namesake uses his own reasoning faculty to come to the conclusion that the Island has a God-like nature because of a miracle which allowed him to regain the use of his legs.
  • The historical Locke was also highly critical of attempts to derive ethics and reason from secular premises, as he believed all men and women should live their lives in service to God. The show's John Locke is critical of Jack Shepherd's secular leadership, instead placing his faith in the will of the Island.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques[]

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) was a Genevan philosopher who had great influence on political science and the socialistic movement.

  • Later credited in The Conquest of Granada as promoting the idea of the "noble savage", which contended that Man, in a natural and wild state, is born innocent and pure until corrupted by society and civilization (though Rousseau did not directly come up with this idea).
  • Society's negative influence on men, in Rousseau's philosophy, centers on its transformation of amour de soi, a positive self-love, into amour-propre, or pride. Amour de soi represents the instinctive human desire for self preservation, combined with the human power of reason. In contrast, amour-propre is artificial and forces man to compare himself to others, thus creating unwarranted fear and allowing men to take pleasure in the pain or weakness of others.
  • The character of Danielle Rousseau herself could be seen as a noble savage, having lived in the wilderness for many years, and now helping the survivors against the Others.
  • Rousseau celebrates his drive to remain inquisitive about the natural world where he is residing as well as the vacillations of the social world from which he feels outcast.
  • Rousseau had five children with Thérèse Levasseur, but abandoned them early in life, claiming that he would have been a poor father and that they would be better off in the orphanage, as opposed to Rousseau, whose daughter was taken away from her.
  • After facing great criticism in Switzerland, Rousseau took refuge with fellow philosopher David Hume in Great Britain. Later, however, he began to see hallucinations and become extremely paranoid, suspecting conspiracies involving "plots against him involving Hume and others" (qtd. Wikipedia), much like the character of Rousseau was at first thought to have been hearing things (like the Whispers).
  • In the Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project alternate reality game, Hans Van Eeghen and Dharmawantsyou.com quote Rousseau, "Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet".

Other direct references[]

  • From the blast door map, Cogito ergo doleo, meaning "I think, therefore I suffer" is a play on René Descartes' (1596–1650), famous phrase, Cogito ergo sum, "I think, therefore I am". While Locke was an influential Empiricist, Descartes was an influential Rationalist, the opposing camp of the Empiricists. He also exercised some influence on the development of governmental schools of thought, and invented early forms of Calculus.
  • In addition to Western philosophy, the story of Lost has many references to Eastern philosophies and ideologies, such as the DHARMA logos, "Namaste" and the number 108. See main article: religion and ideologies.
  • In "Par Avion", Sawyer reads The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, a book based on Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.
  • One of the locations listed on Ben's map to the radio tower is the Pascal Flats, a probable reference to French philosopher Blaise Pascal and/or a play on words referring to Rascal Flatts.
  • Sawyer refers to Daniel as "Plato", one of the founders of western philosophy.
  • References to the "Others" may come from the body of phenomenology of thinkers such as Wendell (1996) Gail Weiss, Julia Kristeva, and similar thinkers who posit that "[othering][13]" of humans with undesireable human characteristics or traits is part of human nature.

Source: http://books.google.com/books?id=fuAss5VI7WoC&lpg=PA180&ots=Pf0jSUcyLf&dq=wendell's%20other%20object%20of%20experience&pg=PA180#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Burrhus Frederic Skinner[]

B. F

Burrhus Frederic Skinner

While B. F. Skinner identified himself as a scientist and psychologist, he wrote what can be considered a work of philosophy in 1972 called Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Skinner is mentioned in the Swan orientation film as one of the inspirations for the ideas of the DHARMA Initiative.

Skinner held that there was no free will or freedom. Skinner's concept of human freedom was a situation where humans did not sense the controls being applied to them and their behavior.

Skinner's other major idea was that there was only one way to change (or improve) humans, and that was to change the environment itself. An echo of this can be seen in the DHARMA Initiative's attempts to change the Valenzetti equation.

Pascal, Blaise[]

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) Blaise Pascal is a French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher. "Pascal Flats" is referenced on Rousseau's map. His life bears some similarity to those of characters on Lost. He was originally a scientist, like Juliet, but later suffered from a paralytic spell, like John Locke. He was left by his beloved sister, like Boone and was married late in his bachelorhood but later divorced, like Jack. After a near death experience, he converted to a non-mainstream sect of Christianity and had a vision, in which he later described was focused on the phrase, "God loves Jacob.

Part of Pascal's philosophy was that it is necessary for people to suffer.

Pascal also pioneered probability theory, which allows the user to predict the future of some events.

Honorius of Autun[]

12th century scholar Honorius Augustodunensis, also known as Honorius of Autun, was a popular Christian theologian and philosopher. His work, De Imagine Mundi, contains a passage that reads:

There lies in the Ocean an island which is called The Lost. In Charm and all kinds of fertility it far surpasses every other land, but it is unknown to men. Now and again it may be found by chance; but if one seeks it, it cannot be found, and therefore it is called The Lost.

  • This would explain why attempts to find the island have been unsuccessful; one can only find it "by chance."
  • "Charm" is a word that has been used historically to refer to magic and other supernatural phenomena.
  • The island would have to "[surpass] every other land" in fertility in order for a previously sterile Jin to conceive with his wife, for a paralyzed Locke to walk again, for a heroin addicted Charlie to break his addiction and obtain a chance for salvation, et cetera.


See also[]