Ghost in the Shell grasps many philosophical questions. The plot of the film is powered through the theory that a cyborg contains its own ghost, also known as soul. The move generates the question of how we can define “ghost” and if robotic beings can occupy such. The main character, Motoko, is a cyborg. Her actions are a product of her intelligence. Her actions, as well, are not a response to her body.
The theme of the mind’s ability to travel through networks in the movie shows that the indefinite potential of the body and mind as one is lost. Motoko proves her existence through the separation of her mind and body, her unique memories and the sensation of fear. At first glance, the film displays Descartes’ idea of dualism; being that the mind and body are separate beings. It also presents Descartes theory of memory; the idea that they are an important part of our existence. Furthermore, Descartes describes this concept in his notion “I think therefore I am.
” This concept is the foundation for Motoko’s belief that she must have some sense of self. Following this approach, Motoko adds and implies that memories are special to one being. They are what an individual is comprised of. Even though Motoko may be artificial in some aspects, she has unique memories that lead her to conclude that she must be something.
Interestingly, Motoko expands upon this and questions her existence through fear. Motoko converses with one of her cyborg friends about her thoughts on existence. In this conversation, Motoko acknowledges the many characteristics of herself that continue past her mind. Descartes fosters the same logic. Motoko characterizes her body as a connection to her.
For instance, she states that her face and hands are different from others. However, she centers on her individuality. She understands her body as an attachment to her ghost, showing that her mind and body are separate. She touches the notion of the many things that go into making a human a human.
All the data she is comprised of gifts her with consciousness that allows her to refer to herself as “me”. Through Descartes’ logic, Motoko believes her existence is due to her ability to make rational choices and thoughts through her “ghost.” Motoko finds herself again implying that life coneys its distinction from its memories. The film has a strong emphasis on memories and its attributes to their effects on one’s thoughts and actions.
This theme that an individual’s existence is a compilation of their perceptions and their experiences reoccurs throughout the movie. This is similar to Descartes theory of memory; one’s imagination builds honest images that are signaled from one’s senses. These “painted images,” as Descartes describes them, are what we experience when we are awake. Expanding upon this idea, both artificial intelligence and human beings exist through their power to preserve information and recall it in future circumstances when it is deemed valuable.
How can this be true? Motoko is a cyborg, that is artificially made by a company. She even goes as far to contemplate how synthetic she is and if her memories are even artificial. She is a robotic being, meaning that her actions benefit the company in which she follows their orders. To the contrary, Motoko can think and react to her surroundings through rational choices. She can analyze information around her. She even goes as far to question a major philosophy question of whether she exists. Another question could arise about Motoko existing as an individual due to her thoughts and memories possibly being artificially programmed that prevent her from free thinking or limit her thoughts all together.
However, according to Descartes “I think therefore I am,” it is shown that Motoko exists regardless of her source of thought. The moment in which her existence is terminated, is when she is no longer existing. Therefore, it shouldn’t matter whether her thoughts are programmed artificially by her company or not.
She has a profound sense of awareness of emotional response to her surroundings. While Descartes supports most of the arguments that Motoko presents about her existence, as the film progresses Motoko goes deeper into her thoughts on her existence. This is seen when Motoko dives into the open water to feel her emotions. Heidegger’s ideas of existence come into play during this scene. When Motoko dives into the ocean she is able to feel an eclectic array of emotions that are centered on a sense of fear. Heidegger believes that our awareness of dying is a present element of human experience.
While Motoko is unable to die as a normal person would, she is still is interested in her existence of being a ghost in a shell. She aches to further her existence rather than surrender to death, which is natural to many human beings. In regards to her concern for life and her emotions when faced with fear, it can be said that Heidegger’s theory that “death is the key to life” can support what she is feelings Heidegger’s theory of being can be criticized in many ways. However the one thought that my come to some in regards to this argument and the film may be the idea of clinical death. However, Heidegger’s theory is not about dying clinically, rather a way of life.
Existence, to Heidegger’s, resides in fear. When Motoko is diving into the ocean to experience arousal of emotion she is really proving her existence through fear. What Heidegger’s theory is trying to prove is a way of life; that if you are closer to death, you will emphasize your existence.