Of the ship ‘Alethia’ in ‘The Master’ by Paul Thomas Anderson

I love this post about the references in The Master, from a wonderful website called Aphelis, by Philippe Theophanidis, one of my must-read blogs at the moment.

The following aims at providing a little more references about the name of the ship Freddie (Joaquin Phoenix) clandestinely boards one night while being drunk in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film The Master. It is on this ship that he will meet Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) for the first time. There are no spoilers and little interpretation here, merely references.

In a version of the film’s script available online at The Weinstein Company, here’s how the scene ―from which the stills displayed here belongs― is described:


VARIOUS ANGLES. Freddie makes his way around the docks, looking for something/anything. PLAY OUT.

He comes across a SHIP that’s being readied for voyage. It’s an old cattle TRAWLER that seems converted to some kind of CRUISE SHIP/PRIVATE YACHT-type vessel.

There’s a buzz of getting ready around the ship also a minor cocktail party in progress. (light music playing from the ship…) DECKHANDS preparing to ship out, etc… (p. 10; PDF 4.9MB)

“Alethia” is a phonetic transcription (in English) of the Greek word ἀλήθεια (or aletheia in its usual orthographical transcription). The usual translation for it is “truth”. In their Greek-English Lexicon Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott signals that in Homer the word is opposed to “lie”. After Homer, it’s also used as “reality” in opposition to “appearance”. Used to qualify a character, it means “truthfulness, sincerity”. For more see ἀλήθεια in A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1940).

The word is constructed from the privative “α” and “λήθη” which means “forgetting, forgetfulness”. In regard to Freddie’s heavy consumption of alcohol, it’s also interesting to note that the same word, “λήθη”, also gave us both “lethal” and “lethargic”. Hence, when one is drunk, one could be said to be lethargic, meaning one is not his or her true self.

The German philosopher Martin Heidegger was notoriously not very fond of this translation. Basically, he explains that there is no gain in translating ἀλήθεια as “true” since we don’t really know what the ancient Greek meaning for “true” was or even, for that matter, what it means to us today. In other words, this translation doesn’t explain much, it only postpones the explanation. Heidegger’s explanation appears in various works, but one of its most exhaustive development can be found in his book on Parmenides…

Read More Here…

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