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Ethics at the Cinema$
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Ward E. Jones and Samantha Vice

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320398

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320398.001.0001

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The Third Man

The Third Man

Ethics, Aesthetics, Irony

(p.285) 14 The Third Man
Ethics at the Cinema

Deborah Knight (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Noël Carroll claims that The Third Man allows us to clarify our understanding of the ethical commitments of friendship. Was it right for Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) to side with the police in trying to bring Holly’s great friend, Harry Lime (Orson Wells) to justice? I take issue with Carroll’s use of The Third Man as an illustration of clarificationism. I argue in particular that The Third Man is not best thought of as a thought experiment intended to refute a postion that Carroll dubs the Forster Maxim, after E.M. Forster’s pre-World War Two remarks about whether to support one’s friends or one’s nation. Instead, the most rewarding way of thinking about the film’s ethical implications must highlight its extremely self-conscious aesthetics and its essentially ironic perspective.

Keywords:   The Third Man, Noël Carroll, clarificationism, film noir, E.M. Forster, friendship, irony, thought experiments, Vienna

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