Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood

Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood

Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood

Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood

Synopsis

"The meaning of life is the most urgent of questions," said the existentialist thinker Albert Camus. And no less a philosopher than Woody Allen has wondered: "How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world, given my waist and shirt size?"

Movies and the Meaning of Lifelooks at popular and cult movies, examining their assumptions and insights on meaning-of-life questions: What is reality and how can I know it? (The Truman Show, Contact, Waking Life); how do I find myself and my true identity? (Fight Club, Being John Malkovich); how do I find meaning from my interactions with others? (Pulp Fiction, Chasing Amy); what is the chief purpose in life? (American Beauty, Life Is Beautiful); and how ought I live my life? (Pleasantville, Spiderman).

Excerpt

You'll be surprised how fast, how easy it is for someone to steal
your and my mind. You don't think so? We never like to think
in terms of being dumb enough to let someone put something
over on us in a very deceitful and tricky way …One of the best
ways to safeguard yourself from being deceived is always to
form the habit of looking at things for yourself, listening to
things for yourself, thinking for yourself, before you try to come
to any judgment.

—MALCOLM X, At the Audobon (1965)

And let him deceive me as much as he can, he will never bring
it about that I am nothing as long as I think I am something…
I am. I exist … What am I? A thing that thinks.”

— DESCARTES, Meditations on First Philosophy (1642)

Who am I? Why am I here? What's it all about? What is the meaning of life? Imbedded in these questions is the assumption that the life being considered really is my life. In other words, the life I am living, the activities I engage in, the friendships I nurture, the beliefs I form (about art, politics, morality, religion, life, death, the afterlife), the things that I value, all of these things involve me. I am central to the story-line. I am so to speak the star of the show.

But what if I were to find out that the life I am living had been scripted? What if I'm simply starring in a play of my life . . .

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