After reading a few chapters of the latest book that examines the intersection of pop culture and philosophy, Inception and Philosophy: Ideas to Die For, I thought to present a few of the interpretations of the movie. Take a moment to look at each of these and pick one that you think fits the movie best.
1. Since the movie depends upon technology, the dreams aren't actually dreams but a computer simulated environment ("shared dreaming was created by the military so that soldiers could fight each other and not die") designed by an architect like Cobb or Ariadne. The biggest problem with these simulations is that there is a virus in it named Mal (mal-ware), and she has obviously screwed things up. However, since such a machine / computer is so rare, it's hard to find or obtain a new one. So, it's not like Cobb or Arthur can get a new one at Target.
2. Rene Descartes' question - How - if at all - can we know whether the world we experience while we're awake is real or not? - really fries your noodle if you think about it too much. So I am asking you to apply this question not only to yourself (part 1) but to the movie (part 2). In the movie, the characters have totems to know whether or not they're dreaming. But we don't have them to help us out, so how do we truly know?
3. In 1974, philosophy professor Robert Nozick came up with the thought experiment, "the experience machine" from his book, Anarchy, State and Utopia. Nozick asks us to think about a machine that would give us whatever desirable or pleasurable experiences that we could imagine (by plugging our brains into it - Matrix?) in a way that we could not distinguish between reality and this machine life. Nozick asks, if given a choice, which would we prefer, the machine or real life?
4. How is the movie a metaphor for skepticism / doubt / Socrates? Socrates has stated that the only thing that he truly knows is that he knows nothing. One of the consistent things about Inception is that the movie keeps its audience guessing as to what is the true level of reality - whose dream is real or is the movie's reality truly real? If the movie keeps us guessing or making us doubt, can the movie/director act as a philosopher?
5. This tangent should truly be called an addendum to question #2 because it asks you to answer the unanswerable, but what if we were all just brains stuck in a jar full of nutrients that kept us alive, and much like the Matrix, that we are in some shared dreaming space or computer simulation? In the album art below for Pearl Jam's BackSpacer by Tom Tomorrow, the band members are controlled by a vat in a jar.
Due Wednesday, October 19. 250 words minimum.
Brain in a vat discussions - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_in_a_vat
Nozick's experiment - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experience_machine