The Tattoo serves as a mnemonic, as a testimony and reminder to Jack of his journey. For the reader, it is a summary of the ideas that are encountered and addressed in the story, though as is always the case with philosophy, it may well be that the reader does not find their own answers in the various solutions given to these problems in the story. The responses in the story are those that I thought were worthy of appraisal, and so it is the reader’s task to refine their own views as they encounter the philosophical conundrums in the story.’
It should be reasonably obvious, particularly for anyone who has studied some philosophy, that the some of the people Jack encounters are well known philosophers from History, and they are naturally propounding their own views. David Hume, who Jack meets, expands on his own view of empiricism and its repercussions. Such a view, whilst precise, logical and attractive, seems to fall well short of a complete understanding of the human condition, and Jack intuitively grasps this in his conversations. Hence the meeting with these historical philosophers is to explain to the reader where the crux discussions in philosophy have been over the years. In some cases, I am aware, that these discussions are lengthy, however cutting the philosophy down to its bare bones would run the risk of ‘infantilising’ the philosophy itself, and therefore it is too easy to misconstrue the argument or put them up as a ‘straw man’ argument – too easy to refute and therefore the point missed.
The completion of the tattoo, whereby Jack had learned all the lessons he needed to learn to overcome the challenge of Mara’s philosophy, opens up a further insight to him that would appear to answer all his questions, and more importantly, allow Jack to live a good and meaningful life, something which he was unable to do after Mara had explained his own nihilism to Jack.
It is my understanding, that the philosophical and theological questions that are key today are very much issues that have been well addressed in the past. There is little new under the sun in philosophy. The ideas however are expressed again anew in each era. And so, the paintings Jack’s room in San Jean Pied de Port, the challenges of Mara and Jack’s own life set up those key philosophical questions that we face, and the tattoos keep a record of those whilst in time becoming a key to further insight and meaning.