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Metaphysics and Reality, Essay Example

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Essay

In director Peter Weir’s 1998 film, The Truman Show, the title character’s entire existence occurs within the confines of a carefully constructed reality.   As the film goes on, the artificial reality breaks down, just as Truman himself increasingly seeks to escape it.  He is unaware of exactly what is occurring, but he seems compelled to discover whatever greater, or more true, reality is outside of the existence he knows.   At the end, he chooses to abandon the artifice and walk into the unknown, apparently because, in his mind, whatever is false gets in the way of “real” reality.

On a topical level, this is actually an ordinary story of a journey, and one with no surprises.  It is natural to think that anyone, exposed to the fact of living in an artificial environment, would do anything to escape it.  There are, however, larger issues here that the movie overlooks.   Truman can move from one controlled physical reality to one presumably not artificial, but the greater question of what is “real” in the realities we know must arise.   More exactly, it must be asked what Truman gains, in terms of a better existence or a deeper understanding of himself, and of truth, in making this choice.

Viewed in the light of Aristotle’s philosophy, Truman is moving on as he must.  He has no concrete reason to escape the life he knows, yet the impulse to do so is overpowering, and consequently a reason in itself.   He is essentially going by instinct, and in a very Aristotelian way:  “The intuitive mind does not reason or argue; it knows” (Aristotle  15).    Seen from this angle, all reality is there to provide shifting foundations for the greater journey to truth, and the intrinsic value of each reality can only be known as the individual, or traveler, moves on.   In Aristotle’s eyes, it is not that Truman’s “fake” world is worthless; it is more that it is just another platform in the progress to the more genuine one.

It is interesting to contrast this with some idea of how Plato would see Truman’s actions, because it seems that Plato would have suggested that Truman not go to so much trouble.  Plato was, essentially, mistrustful of all physical realities, so it is likely that Truman’s constructed world would not be especially problematic to him.  Plato accepted the “realness” of realities, but only in so far as they may lead to a greater understanding of the truth.  In his mind, physical realities are intermediate tools of a kind (Hoitenga  18).  In this, he is close to Aristotle, but there is a large difference because Plato ultimately seeks to dispense with realities and their inevitable power to warp truth.   In the Phaedo dialogue, this cynicism is taken to its deepest level, as Plato asks: “Have sight and hearing any truth in them?  Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses?”  (Plato  101).   Given this kind of questioning, it seems that Plato would encourage Truman to not waste time with differences in perceptions of realities, because the real has little more to offer than the false.

The real question of The Truman Show, then, is not how the hero can escape, but if he should even try.   If Truman’s impulse is to discover whatever is beyond his known – and contrived – existence, he might do well to first consider what all realities mean to him.   It is nice to think that a “real” world translates to a more natural, personal evolution of being, but this ignores the fact that, if all the elements of our physical realities are not strictly set there intentionally, they are nonetheless beyond our control.   This inevitably means that all experience, artificial or random, is the same in that only our own reactions to it define who we are, as well as how “free” we are.  Rather than pursue an unknown reality because it is not manufactured, Truman should instead consider how important these aspects of intent or the lack of it really are, and how similar the unpredictable is to the artificial, in terms of how we move through our realities.   Before taking the exit to enter a new reality, Truman should take the time to better understand what all reality means to him as a man.

Works Cited. 

Aristotle, as quoted by Kal, V.  On Intuition and Discursive Reasoning in Aristotle, Volumes 46-48. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1988.  Print.

Hoitenga, D. J.  Faith and Reason from Plato to Plantinga: An Introduction to Reformed Epistemology.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1991.  Print.

Plato.  Jowett, B. (Trans.)  Five Great Dialogues of Plato: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo.  Claremont, CA: Coyote Canyon Press, 2009.  Print.

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