Game of Thrones Philosophy Breakdown: S8E4 “The Last of the Starks” – Funerals, Debts, Lovers, and Treason

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


What is the right way to respond to the deaths of others? Should you be more loyal to your family or to your lover? And what explains the power of treason as an idea?

The latest Game of Thrones episode brought us out of the Long Night and back into the war over iron thrones, with all of its moral dilemmas and complexities. From the funeral at Winterfell and Jon’s revelation of his secret to Daenerys’s battle plans and Varys’s treason, the show gave us plenty to talk about:

  • Funerals and debts to the dead: We all feel awkward and unsure at times about how to respond properly when someone dies. Ryan and I explore various ideas around proper responses to death, and we ponder whether the living owe anything to the dead who have “died for us.”
  • Family vs. lover: Jon is caught between loyalty to his family and loyalty to the woman he loves. To whom should his allegiance go first? Is this something philosophy can even help us with?
  • Tyrants: We critique Daenerys’s claimed opposition to tyrants and discuss how Varys (and others “within the system”) ought to go about resisting the evil of their rulers.
  • Treason: Ryan applies a Rational Choice Theory analysis to the age-old idea of treason, and we muse on how it has fallen out of fashion in the modern world. I propose a new two-way idea of treason for those who believe in governments.

This week we’re polling the audience about a new pair of questions – ones that seem to be at the heart of the conflict of the remainder of this show: Does Daenerys’s plan to burn King’s Landing make her as bad as Cersei? And does Jon have a moral obligation to stop her?

Let us know by tweeting with the hashtag #GameOfThronesPhilosophy, or just leave a comment on this post! We’d love to involve your thoughts in this great conversation before this story ends.


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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