Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown: S8E1 “Winterfell” – Free Riders, Obligations, Disclosure, and Leadership

*SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES, OBVIOUSLY. Don’t listen to this if you haven’t watched the show!*

We’re excited to be back podcasting on the philosophical themes of Game of Thrones, and the first episode of this final season brought great story and good food for thought.

As Jon, Daenerys, and their allies prepare for the northern showdown with the Night King and his dead, they have to face new (and old) questions about leadership, truth, and obligations:

  • Is it better to have many leaders or one strong leader? Which philosophy of leadership is best?
  • Should the Glovers keep faith to their promise to Jon if (at least in their perception) he broke faith with them?
  • Should “free riders” benefitting from Winterfell’s defense be forced to provide for the occupying armies?
  • Does Daenerys have an obligation to tell Jon about her murder of the Tarlys? When must you tell someone an uncomfortable truth?
  • Now that Jon knows he is Aegon Targaryen, would it be more morally responsible to renounce his claim or to take it up?

As always, philosophy has practical tools for answering these challenges with wisdom. We take our crack at these big questions, and we’ll revisit some of them as the season continues.

What about you? Let us know your answers to these questions by tweeting with #GameOfThronesPhilosophy. We’ll read off interesting tweets on the next episode


Ready to dig in? Download the new episode from iTunes or your favorite podcast app. 

You can also listen to this episode (and others!) in the in-browser player below. Want to chime in with your thoughts? Comment on this blog! I’m sure we haven’t said anything controversial AT ALL.

NSFW WARNING: These episodes contain language and themes not appropriate for children and probably not safe for work or your grandmother. In no circumstance should these be heard by the delicate ears of Prince Tommen.

DISCLAIMERS: Despite all evidence to the contrary in this show, I am not a professional philosopher, doctor, climatologist, maester, brother of the Night’s Watch, or financial advisor.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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