The Marlboro Man As a Twentieth Century David: a Philosophical Inquiry Into the Aristotelian Aesthetic of Advertising

ABSTRACT - The David represents the climax of the influence of Aristotle's philosophy of aesthetic on Michelangelo. Thus the David is an aesthetic abstraction of the Aristotelian ideal in the form of High Renaissance sculpture. Some advertising, by its very essence, contains fundamental Aristotelian ideas in its formal aesthetic. Thus the Marlboro Man is an aesthetic abstraction of the Aristotelian ideal in the form of 20th century advertising. This paper posits that because of the Aristotelian ideas manifest in the David, advertising aesthetic, and the Marlboro Man, both the David and the Marlboro Man have come to symbolize similar meta-ethical, aesthetic and political ideas.


Barry Vacker (1992) ,"The Marlboro Man As a Twentieth Century David: a Philosophical Inquiry Into the Aristotelian Aesthetic of Advertising", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, eds. John F. Sherry, Jr. and Brian Sternthal, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 746-755.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19, 1992      Pages 746-755


Barry Vacker, University of Texas


The David represents the climax of the influence of Aristotle's philosophy of aesthetic on Michelangelo. Thus the David is an aesthetic abstraction of the Aristotelian ideal in the form of High Renaissance sculpture. Some advertising, by its very essence, contains fundamental Aristotelian ideas in its formal aesthetic. Thus the Marlboro Man is an aesthetic abstraction of the Aristotelian ideal in the form of 20th century advertising. This paper posits that because of the Aristotelian ideas manifest in the David, advertising aesthetic, and the Marlboro Man, both the David and the Marlboro Man have come to symbolize similar meta-ethical, aesthetic and political ideas.

"A convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility."--Aristotle


Recent years have seen scholars apply the ideas of semiotics (Pierce, 1931-1958) and symbolism (Langer 1942, 1953) to better comprehend the advertising and consumption processes. In applying semiotic and symbolism theory, scholars have found that the advertising and consumption process involves signification at many levels (Holbrook 1987; Kloepfer 1987; McQuarrie 1989; Mick 1986, 1987, 1988), the creation of symbolic meaning (Levy 1959, Solomon 1983), the creation and transfer of cultural meaning and values (McCracken 1986, 1987; Sherry 1987), the creation and representation of ideals (Schudson 1984, Belk and Pollay 1985), and the acceptance of a wide range of ideas and philosophies (Belk 1988). Some scholars have begun to apply literary theory to consumer research (Durand 1987; Stern 1988) while others have realized the impact aesthetic plays in the advertising process (Feasley 1984, Kloepfer 1987, Holbrook 1987, Noth 1987, Schudson 1984). In a more specific context, Kloepfer (1987, p. 136) observed that advertising draws from all of the arts to make use of the aesthetic potential and Holbrook (1987, p. 88) noted the close alliance of semiotic theory and aesthetic philosophy. In light of such research, inquiry based on aesthetic philosophy could be fruitful.

The purpose of this paper will be to show that an Aristotelian aesthetic philosophy is manifest in both Michelangelo's The David and the Marlboro Man. Aristotelian aesthetics has many ramifications and implications, but for the purposes of this paper, the emphasis will be on the Aristotelian priority of representing or portraying the ideal individual (or the ideal in nature) as attainable in "this world." As aesthetic abstractions, both The David and the Marlboro Man are "this worldly" ideals. Since The David and the Marlboro Man are both derived from Aristotelian aesthetic philosophy, they have both come to symbolize the same metaphysical, ethical and political ideas or values. By investigating the fundamentals of Aristotelian aesthetic and its processes, this paper posits the potentially controversial idea that the Marlboro Man is a twentieth century David.

Since its creation, the David has been considered a masterpiece of aesthetic expression. However, on a more philosophical level, the David is seen as an aesthetic abstraction in form representing an Aristotelian metaphysical view of man. (While Michelangelo is often considered a Neoplatonist, which may be true later in his life, the David, carved when he was but 29, represents a much stronger Aristotelian influence). Art scholars have observed that the David is an ideal representing man as a noble, conscious being, at home in the universe, and master of his own destiny (Symonds 1901, Rolland 1915, Bargellini 1971). This egoistic ideal thus became the political symbol for independence, liberty, and justice (Vasari 1550, Bargellini 1971). The Marlboro Man too is an egoistic ideal; a noble and conscious being, at home in his universe, master of his destiny. Thus the Marlboro Man has come to symbolize individualism, independence and capitalism. To understand how these aesthetic processes operate we must first turn to the aesthetics of Aristotle.


The origins of Greek aesthetic thought first appeared in criticisms and reflections upon poetical works, painting, and sculpture. During this period, the word "mimesis"--meaning "imitation" or "representation"--came to indicate the relationships of the various arts to the objects in reality or nature (Croce 1909). Although Aristotle never, to our knowledge, formulated a complete theory of aesthetics, he did form coherent ideas about the position art held, for the Greeks, in relation to nature, science and morality (Butcher 1896, p. 116). As in Western philosophy and science, Aristotle has had a most influential impact on Western aesthetic (Butcher 1896, Clark 1953, Cook 1913).

For Aristotle, art is meant as a state of capacity to make or create, wherein art involves a true course of reasoning and a lack of art involves a false course of reasoning (Ethica Nicomachea VI 4, 1140a20-23). "Art imitates nature," said Aristotle (Physics II 2, 194a21). However, this does not mean that art provides an "exact" imitation of the object in nature. Art imitates nature in that art (like nature) has certain ends requiring means which are found in nature; but, since nature can sometimes fail in its effort to complete, perfect, or bring in to being, art imitates the essence of the object in nature by eliminating the accidentals and improving the object in nature (Physics II 8). Thus, art emphasizes that which is essential to the nature of the object and completes or perfects what nature alone could not complete or perfect. (The author wishes to thank the Aristotelian scholar Professor Jacques Brunschwig of the University of Paris for helping me clarify my thoughts on Aristotle's concept of imitation in art. However, the responsibility for the interpretation here lies solely with the author.) Thus, art must conceptualize the result to be produced before its realization in the material. This is consistent with Aristotelian teleology in which the ends must be known before the means can be chosen. Thus, in this sense, art is a potency, an originative source of change, accompanied by a rational formula (Metaphysics IX 1, 1046a10-1046b1). As such, art is concerned with coming into being and perfecting matter through matter's union with (the art) form (Metaphysics VII 7). Thus, the artist should "imitate" things as they ought to be (Poetics IX, XXV). Aristotle held that art arises because this type of imitation is natural and delightful to man, the most imitative creature in the world (Ethica Nicomachea VI 4, 1148b3-10).

For Aristotle, art as a capacity to make involves imitation of the essence or universals of nature and change (or coming-to-be) in matter. The form of art is found in the artist's soul which possesses reason. Since reason is concerned with discovering the truths of nature, art should concern itself with universals.

"Hence poetry (art) is something more philosophic and of graver import than history, since its (art) statements are of the nature of universals, whereas those of history are of singulars" (Poe. 9, 1451b5-7).

Therefore, the artist's function is to present, not what has happened, but in accord with the universal nature of man, what might happen or what is possible, as being probable or necessary (Poetics 9). Aristotle held that art should portray man/characters not necessarily as he is but as he should be. Aristotle cites the example of portrait painters who "reproduce the distinctive features of man, and at the same time, without losing the likeness, make him handsomer than he is" (Poetics 15, 1454b10-12). Aristotle concluded, that for the purposes of art, "a convincing impossibility is preferable to an unconvincing possibility" (Poetics 25, 1461b11). Since art was an imitation as a perfection of nature, including human nature, the forms of art would thus present the universals or essence of man in an ideal state. In presenting this ideal, art imitates the ideal character, emotion, and action of man if he or she followed the principle of reason in their own nature. The action imitated was primarily an inner action, the activity of reason, which manifested itself as the outer action of character and/or emotion. Thus, art does imitate and complete the moral ideal via an aesthetic ideal. While a harmony of soul and body indicated a moral ideal, the ideal beauty contained order, symmetry, and definiteness (Metaphysics XIII 3, 1078b1). Thus, for the Greeks, a beautiful face with no sign of inner conflict was the ideal (Sures 1969, pp. 605-606).

Aristotle was the first to distinguish between "fine" art and "useful" art. However, this distinction is made only in the context of the exact teleological purposes of each. Fine art is a free and independent activity with its own end. Useful art (such as advertising) has another end in conjunction with its own artistic end. However, both fine and useful art follow the same principles in that they both imitate and complete nature. For useful art follows the guidance of nature and simultaneously supplies any deficiencies (Politics I 2, 1253a2). Key to Aristotle's theory of art is understanding its teleological purpose. The general movement of organic nature, including the life of man, is movement toward the "better" or the "best." For man and art, it is the "purpose" or "design" which is identified with the best. Thus, art imitates the movement to a more perfect completion and, as a consequence, strives for an ideal "better" than the real (Poetics XXV). For Aristotle, unlike say Plato or Kant, the ideal is real and natural, not unreal and supernatural.

This brief discussion of some of Aristotle's fundamental aesthetic ideas is in no way complete, but it does explain some of the fundamental Aristotelian concepts of the ideal at work in some art and some advertising. However, it would be fruitful to turn to some modern Aristotelian aesthetic philosophers in order to better comprehend how the Aristotelian process works in art, particularly with the David, and in advertising, particularly with the Marlboro Man.

Butcher (1896, p. 156), in discussing Aristotle's ideas, states that nature's (including man) "true beauty and significance are visible to the eye of reason." For Aristotle, a work of art is an image of the sense impressions made by an independent reality upon the mind (reason) of the artist with reality reflecting the facts of human life and human nature. Art discovers the form towards which an object tends. From the particulars or individuals art presents the universal, the ideal. "The ideal is the real, but rid of contradictions, unfolding itself according to the laws (reason) of its own being apart from all influences and the disturbances of change" (Butcher 1896, pp. 150-151). The ideal is represented through the abstractions of universal concepts. Aesthetic presents moral and spiritual ideals via signs or symbols. Inner qualities are manifested in outward forms in which symbols and signs are visible tokens of the unity of body and soul (Butcher 1896, pp. 126-134). Universals and ideals are objectified through form. Whether sculptor, poet, or painter, the true artist should portray the ideal form by abstracting the universals or essentials and eliminating the particulars or accidentals. Thus, the artist should portray man or life as he or it "might" be, based on a rational formula. Realism and symbolism must work together to make fiction symbolize truth (Butcher 1896, pp. 391-392). In the Aristotelian sense, the purpose of art was to objectify the real, the essential, the universal, the complete (Fleming, 1955, pp. 49-53).

It is the objectification of universals through abstractions in form that can give Aristotelian aesthetic a potential for fulfilling a fundamental psychological/epistemological/emotional need in man and thus having potentially powerful mental/emotional effects. In building on Aristotle, Rand (1971) holds that man needs art precisely because his cognitive faculty is conceptual. This means that man acquires his rationality and knowledge by the process of forming abstractions and thus has an epistemological need to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate, perceptual awareness (p. 45). "Art fulfills this need: by a means of a selective re-creation, it concretizes man's fundamental view of himself and of existence. It tells man, in effect, which aspects of his experience are to be regarded as essential, significant, important. In this sense, art teaches man how to use his consciousness. It conditions or stylizes man's consciousness by conveying to him a certain way of looking at existence" (p. 45). Thus, with regard to symbolism in art, the artist does not fake reality, he stylizes reality. The artist selects the essentials, and omits the accidentals, of life or objects in existence which he or she regards as metaphysically important and by emphasizing, isolating, and stylizing them, the artist objectifies, in an aesthetic form, his or her view of life or existence (or nature). Thus, the aesthetic concepts or forms are "not divorced from the facts of reality--they are concepts which integrate the facts and his metaphysical evaluation of the facts" (p. 36).

Thus, in a most fundamental sense, aesthetics serve as an objectification of metaphysics and the means for the communication of moral ideals. The aesthetic process, via aesthetic forms or concepts, enables man to bring "concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts" (p. 20). This is what gives aesthetics the potential for conveying or invoking such powerful emotions. Metaphysical and/or ethical concepts are, via aesthetic abstractions in form, brought to one's perceptual level to "see." In broad fundamentals, this helps explain the complex psychological/epistemological process of aesthetic communication between an artist and a viewer. This process may be summarized, in essence, as follows: "the artist starts with a broad abstraction which he has to concretize, to bring into reality by means of the appropriate particulars; the viewer perceives the particulars, integrates them and grasps the abstractions from which they came, thus completing the circle" (p. 35).

Hopefully, this section has briefly shown the fundamentals of Aristotelian aesthetics and its complex precesses. We can now see a little clearer how Aristotle's "convincing impossibility," Butcher's fiction symbolizing truth, and Rand's abstractions as stylized reality can be utilized to great aesthetic effect, both in the David and in the Marlboro Man.

The David

Michelangelo's David is, by most accounts, one of the greatest artistic achievements in history (and this brief discussion can only touch upon a few ideas about the David). Michelangelo, in a sense, was a product of his century. The 16th century is characterized by the spirited rebirth of Aristotelian thought, which challenged the authority of the church and state and which fueled the incredible artistic achievements of the High Renaissance. Man as having reason, virtue, independence, and happiness in this world were ideas that were manifest in the meta-ethical, political, and aesthetic thought of the time and in the Renaissance idea of the "perfect" man, both in thought and action. Aristotle's Poetics were first translated to Latin in 1498 in Venice (Butcher 1896); the David was begun in 1501 and completed in 1504.

The David (Exhibit 1) represents the climax of an Aristotelian influence in Michelangelo (for his later work was more Platonist, tragic, and religious). Michelangelo believed that his "intelletto," the reason in the eye of the artist, was capable of discovering the form or "potentia" (Clements, pp. 14-21) that existed in the huge block of marble with no value, marred by the work of a previous and lesser sculptor (Vasari, pp. 15-16). Michelangelo returned from Rome and Venice to Florence and accepted the commission to salvage the marble block from the Board of Works of S. Maria del Fiore (Symonds, pp. 86-90). Working from a small 18" wax model, Michelangelo abstracted the ideal form of face (Exhibit 2) from several individual faces to help convey the "terribilitß," an "awe-inspiring" conception (Symonds pp. 99-101). The David, with its intense purposeful stare, its furrowed brow, its both slightly oversized head and masculine hands (Exhibit 3), and its height (nine cubits: approx. 17 feet), conveys the essence of self-efficaciousness and masculinity in the Aristotelian sense. The David is a complete ideal abstraction in form, Aristotelian in spirit but definitely a creation of and for the Renaissance. Conceived in Michelangelo's soul, the completion of what nature could not finish, an imitation and perfection of nature, a universal man, handsomer than any one particular man, a face with no inner conflict, a man of action as a man could and should be, according to the principles of nature and reason, the David stood tall in the civic area of the Palazzo Vecchio and conveyed great symbolism for the Florentines. Conveyed via the particulars of the sculpture, the nude figure embodied the ideal of perfection in man ("man" meaning woman and man). Fiction symbolizing beauty and truth.

"Self assured, his gaze fixed on a goal already attained, Michelangelo's David truly represented the consciousness of a man, master of his own destiny, who victoriously opposed brute force with the invincible power of the spirit...(and) became the silent assertor of the republican independence that was soon to be suppressed but not vanquished forever (Bargellini, p. 2)."

The Aristotelian aesthetic ideas manifest in the David naturally led to the David symbolizing the meta-ethical concepts of reason, independence, egoism and efficacy and the political concepts of republican liberty. Thus, the David is the objectification of an Aristotelian ideal conveying profound meta-ethical, political, and aesthetic meaning.





The idea that Aristotelianism (as opposed to Platonism or Kantianism) is manifest in some advertising may seem quite unusual. However, upon philosophical investigation, we can see that it is quite natural. Some scholars have observed that Aristotle is the primary philosophical source for Western classical liberalism and constitutionalism (Hayek 1960), and by implication, capitalism. However, on a more fundamental ethical level, Aristotle's concept of "eudaimonia" (the self-sufficient full life of thought and action) and happiness in "this world" remain influential in the Western world. This has important implications for advertising.

The view that man can better himself in "this world" with ideas and goods is predominantly a Western concept. Production is the creation of ideas, goods, and services to better satisfy individual wants and needs (Mises 1949). On another level, production is the application of reason (ideas) to reality (matter). Thus, production completes what nature cannot bring to a finish. Ideas, goods, and services are produced to improve man's life on earth, both intellectually and materially. Therefore, advertising necessarily presents the idea that goods and services can improve life on earth. Advertising presents (or implies) that a particular good can contribute to some potential form of happiness for an individual. Though a produced good or service exists as an actual object in reality, it exists only as a potential with regard to consumption and happiness. Only after the product is consumed or in the process (whatever it may be) of being consumed can the advertised potential form of "happiness" actualize for the individual. Advertising presents the product or service as a potential originative source of change for man from a given state to a desired state of "happiness," as could or should actualize. Thus, the teleology of advertising is to necessarily present potentials as they could or should actualize. A product or service could or should bring some form of "happiness" (to whatever extent) to an individual consumer. Advertising aesthetic necessarily represents life as it could be or should be or ought to be. While both production and advertising also have a catallactic end, the primary end for each, respectively, is to cause and portray movement toward the better.

Advertising aesthetics consist of a conception of a potential result before it is realized or actualized in the material. Advertising aesthetics presents a potency of change via a rational formula which should necessarily be intelligible through reason. Advertising presents products and services that do exist as objects in reality and for their function or meaning to be understood by a particular potential individual, advertising must impart its meaning through some form of reason and values. This meaning is communicated/symbolized through abstractions of universals (the concern of reason) via aesthetic forms. The meaning of objects, which exist independently in reality, is communicated through intelligible aesthetic representations. Thus advertising aesthetics imply an independent reality, epistemological realism (Kelley 1986), and a rational faculty in man (in this context).

Advertising aesthetics are mimetic of the universals of the potencies of man and existence in a Western capitalistic, political/economic system. Advertising aesthetic is not fine art (though it may serve this function), which exists solely for its own end. Advertising aesthetics, like architecture, is a form of Aristotle's useful arts. Advertising is an aesthetic activity in which an idea, good, or service and its potential value is re-created as an abstraction of reality according to the advertiser's metaphysical values. The form of the abstraction may be any combination of literary/aural/visual/sensory forms. The form of the presentation and the style in which the product and reality is abstracted is determined by the advertiser and its agency. Advertising re-creates and stylizes aspects of reality through abstraction as form.

Thus in advertising art, abstractions in form represent the product in reality, with reality including the product and its potential, and the background, setting, people, characters, etc. By stressing that which is fundamental and universal and omitting the particular, thus abstracted is not any particular one of the products advertised, but rather the universal form of the product and reality. For example, the casting process is a form of abstraction and omission, in that a model is selected to be the form of the universal abstraction of the chosen character, spokesperson (excluding celebrities) or individual symbol of a demographic category. The casting process, wardrobe, set selection and design, lighting effects, photographic techniques and make-up processes all represent the process of abstraction for a particular advertisement. This process of abstraction necessarily leads to a presentation of a universal form, i.e. an ideal. The ideal is thus better and more important than the real. For example, through the process of abstraction via special effects, lighting, photography, etc., a soft drink bottle or a lipstick tube or a person/character become more "real" in their stylized form in advertising than any particular form in reality. Thus, a soft drink bottle may look more frosty or a lipstick tube may look more "wet" or "red" or a person/character may look more beautiful than any particular soft drink or lipstick or person in reality, although a bottle or lipstick tube or person could look that frosty or red or beautiful. Thus, in advertising aesthetic, the ideal is more "real" than the real.

Advertisers attempt to objectify in form the universal or essential. For advertisers, it is the universal in product, service, man and reality. Advertisers also objectify the complete, the unified whole. All parts contribute to the whole; the non-essential is omitted and nature is completed. An abstract hero may overcome a conflict or obstacle. A hero, either product or person and product, faces a seemingly impossible or significant conflict, which is ultimately resolved through change caused by the product. The aesthetic process of abstraction thus changes this change by representing the change in its universal, potential form. The ad presents the changes in the form of obstacles being overcome, values being won, happiness being achieved, nature being completed. Advertising is necessarily Aristotelian in that it is always portraying the coming-to-be.





Advertising, in pure form, is individual-centered. It does assume and state that individuals can be happy and experience eudaimonia in "this world." Advertising is necessarily egoistic. Advertising presents a form of the moral individual. Moral and spiritual inner qualities are manifested in the outward forms in advertising. The universals in form thus symbolize or signify this harmony of mind and matter, soul and body, spirit and material. Advertising necessarily presents the egoistic ideal; how life could and should be when guided by nature and reason's formula. The state of affairs is potential happiness, a full life of thought and action. In presenting how life could be, advertising often presents the ideal man or woman as a symbol of the way he or she could be. The moral man or woman is a universal abstraction in form. Many times national advertising presents the universal abstraction in form, while complementary local advertising provides specific information on how, where, and for what price the product is available so the consumer can begin the process of change (coming-to-be) to a more universal or pure moral form. Thus the outer forms pictured in advertising symbolize the tendencies of the universal inner qualities. The aesthetic outer symbolizes the moral inner. A beautiful face symbolizing no inner conflict.

Advertising utilizes aesthetics in re-creating reality through abstractions as forms. Herein lies where advertising reaches its greatest potential as an art form. Man's need for art lies in his need to have his widest metaphysical abstractions brought to the perceptual level. Advertising aesthetics do bring to the perceptual level various metaphysical abstractions about man. Advertising presents reality, objects, ideas and concepts via a perceptual form (pictures, sounds, words, etc.). The criterion for an aesthetic abstraction is: "What is important?" In creating an advertisement, the advertiser selects the aspects of the product and existence which the advertiser regards as important. These aspects of the product and existence become the elements or content of the ad. The objects/elements in the advertisement signify metaphysical importance and the style/technique signifies epistemological importance. By selecting, isolating, and stressing the aspects deemed as important and by omitting the insignificant and accidental, the advertiser presents his view of his product and its potential in existence. These aesthetic abstractions are not divorced from the facts of reality; they should, in a proper form, be abstractions which integrate the facts and the advertiser's evaluation of the facts. Advertising, like art, is egoistic in that it appeals to the psycho-epistemological needs of man by re-creating reality through various abstractions that give form to important values about man and woman and life on earth. It is in the objectification, through universal abstractions in outward form, of metaphysical, epistemological, and moral evaluations of man and woman that advertising aesthetics (the useful) most approaches Aristotelian aesthetics (the fine).

The Marlboro Man

Perhaps the most famous and successful advertising campaign in history is the Marlboro Man campaign for Philip Morris. As others have noted, the Marlboro Man is more than just a cowboy selling cigarettes (Camargo 1987, Lohof 1971). The Marlboro Man is the objectification, in advertising form, of universals concerning the meta-ethical nature of man. Like the David, the Marlboro Man is too a product of his century. The Aristotelianism manifest in the nature of some 20th century advertising created the philosophical framework for the creation of a Marlboro Man. This Aristotelianism has led to the Marlboro Man coming to symbolize the same meta-ethical, political and aesthetic ideas as the David.

First commissioned in 1954 by Philip Morris, 450 years after the David, the Marlboro Man was created to give value to an object, a failing cigarette brand, where little value had existed before. In repositioning the Marlboro cigarette for men, the Leo Burnett agency explicitly chose to convey the abstraction of masculinity via the American cowboy (Burnett 1966). In creating the abstraction of masculinity via the cowboy, the creators of the Marlboro Man have utilized many men to represent the universal of man, but not of any particular man. Interestingly, but naturally, the Marlboro Man also is similar to the David in many actual aesthetic executions (Exhibit 4). Often the Marlboro Man is shown "in action" with his hand reaching into his pocket for a cigarette or a lighter much like David with his hand grasping his slingshot. The Marlboro Man is often depicted in profile, emphasizing the straight nose, square jaw, and furrowed brow (Exhibits 5 & 6) over an intense, purposeful look in the eyes. Additionally, like Michelangelo with the David, there is an emphasis on oversized masculine hands grasping the fundamental object, the cigarette and/or lighter (Exhibit 7). In sum, there are striking executional emphases and similarities in both the David and the Marlboro Man: the emphasis on the strong square-jawed "Western" profile, the oversized masculine hands grasping a sling or a cigarette, the Aristotelian man of action (the exhibits are just a few among many that could have been chosen).

However, the greatest similarity between the David and the Marlboro Man is the philosophical ideas they symbolize. Via the chosen particulars, strong profile, the masculine hands, the man of action (as both inner thought and outer action), the Marlboro Man symbolizes the universal in man: reason, independence, efficacy, and egoism. Like the David, the Marlboro Man controls and is at home in an intelligible universe, comprehending reality and acting in accordance with it. Fronting the essential facts of life, the Marlboro Man purposely exists as his own end, doing what must be done. An imitation and perfection of nature, the completion of the nature of man, the potential as abstraction in form, man as he could be, more handsome than any particular man, more real than the real, the Marlboro Man symbolizes the same meta-ethical, aesthetic and political ideas as the David. The Marlboro Man stands tall on the billboards of the world as the Aristotelian aesthetic ideal, symbolizing reason, independence, efficacy, egoism and explicitly or implicitly, republican liberty (Exhibit 8). In Aristotelian fundamentals, the Marlboro Man is a 20th century David.



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Barry Vacker, University of Texas


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 19 | 1992

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