The Effect of Thinking Philosophically about Films

On the surface, Minority Report is an action packed film full of futuristic technology and unexpected plots twists. However, when one looks at the movie from a philosophical standpoint, he or she is able to gain a much richer understanding of the film and its themes. The theme that is primarily emphasized in the movie is whether human lives are predestined or if each person has free will to control their life. In the movie, it appears to the audience that Anderton is only trying to defy the system in order to gain his freedom. However, when taking a closer look, one can see that this idea can be applied to our everyday lives as well. It is easier for us as humans to believe that our fate is predetermined, but in reality that belief can act as a simple escape for those too lazy to make a change in the world. Regardless of what the stimulus is, everyone has a choice on how they want to react to it. If you see a homeless person on the street, or someone who dropped a bag of groceries, it is much easier to say that it’s their problem, and continue on with your own life. In the movie, Burgess knew about the minority reports, yet found it easier to keep that information unknown even when it was unfair to numerous innocent citizens. Instead of admitting to his faults, Burgess was selfish and didn’t want to harm the progress the system had made by telling everyone the truth. Spinoza references self-preservation in his writing, explaining that the desire to survive is innate. He states “Each thing, in so far as it is in itself, endeavors to persist in its own being” (Spinoza III P6). According to Spinoza’s theory, it is natural for Burgess to act in the way he did in order to protect himself. This, however, does not atone for his actions, as the number of people who were hurt by his actions is incalculable. This movie prompts the audience to ask themselves if they want to take control of their lives, or let the surrounding environment take control of them. Additionally, the movie reminds the audience of the inevitable consequences to every action. Anderton faced the consequence of holding onto so much grief that he was almost willing to murder for it. He also paid the consequence of blindly accepting the PreCrime system and asserting that it was perfect, when in reality the human error had not been accounted for. Burgess paid for his lies, which ultimately cost him his life; a price that most likely wasn’t worth it in the end.

By doubting predestination, people are able to find control in their own lives. This philosophical point of view gives power to the viewers and reminds them that they should always exercise that control. Similar to Descartes ideas on doubts, it is important to begin with the foundation of doubt. While the abilities of the Precogs are based on the senses of the Precogs and the PreCrime officers, the predictions are assumed to be true. No one, other than Witwer, feels the need to doubt the system, which is what leads to its termination. As Descartes encourages, doubt allows us to build up to conclusions that we can be certain of. He quotes, “And thus I realized that once in my life I had to raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences” (Decartes 13). With this philosophical point of view, the viewers of the movie learn not only to doubt the system, but also to doubt conclusions they originally may have been sure of in their own lives. Thinking about movies in a philosophical manner allows the viewers to gain a deeper understanding of the content due to the fact that these philosophical theories are ones that can often be applied to a large portion, if not all, of the population. This effect is what allows movies to come to life for the audience and encourage people to make a difference in their own lives.

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Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minority_Report_(film)

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