Comparision Paper

Comparison Paper

Every piece of art or literature is prepared with a theme that the artists seek to communicate to a target audience. In films, various themes and motifs are likely to come up based on the scripts or the action that is taking place. In most films, there is always a philosophical perspective which when adequately explored can be put into context. This paper explores the philosophical concepts of knowledge, power, morality and law that are depicted in two films, On the Beach and A Space Odyssey 2001. The paper will compare how the philosophical concepts are understood from the films from what is already clear from class readings such as the Plato’s Republic.

Various characters in the two films have assisted in the development of the main philosophical themes of the films. In the film, On the Beach, the main theme is self-destruction. This theme is explored from almost all the main characters in the movie. First, it is important to understand that technology as depicted in the movie is both helpful and destructive. Dwight is the captain of a nuclear submarine that has destroyed the planet through releasing of nuclear bombs. He understands the functionality of the machine so much that he even explains it to the other people in his crew. He has the adequate scientific knowledge, but he appears to know only how to destroy and not to rebuild. The shortcomings of his knowledge are seen when he is unable to help even himself and even ends up resigning to the same fate as that of the people he has bombed over the years. Although he helps Moira to reform and have faith in life, he is not remorseful for having caused the death of Moira, simply because he is tied by the law.

Moira, on the other hand, is very desperate in life and an alcoholic. She is put close to the captain by Mary Holmes in order to keep him entertained. However, she ends up learning something about life from Dwight and her immoral life changes. Although she has the knowledge of the impending fate, she is encouraged and transformed to love her life and even agrees to take a secretarial course to empower herself. She is the face of morality in the movie.

In the other film, The Space Odyssey, Bowman represents humanity and morality. He is able to discern the good from the evil better compared to Hal the machine. He is able to detect the disruptions that occur when Hal deliberately kills Poole. From what he knows, the robot was not developed or programmed to perform as such. However, he understands that with artificial intelligence the machine can develop such desires. He seeks to terminate the machine but is worried about the law that has placed him and the machine in the same place. He fears that terminating the machine will jeopardize the whole mission as the machine is effective in managing the trip to Saturn. Again, the law and morality seem to conflict in this situation even with adequate human knowledge of the two.

Hal, the robot is also a character in the movie and is governed by a code of ethics and rules. However, the robot fails to follow orders and based on its sophistication decides to kill one of the humans in the space ship in order to instill its own rule. The knowledge that human beings have in robots seems to turn against them, and Bowman is in a dilemma whether to terminate the scientific invention and perform all the duties alone or to stay with it and risk dying like Poole.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with knowledge and what it entails(Fine 2001). According to this branch, knowledge is what one believes to be true, certain or factual. It is therefore what one can be justified to believe in(Bourget & Chalmers 2014). From watching the two films, the aspect of knowledge can be explored from two perspectives; the human and the machine perspective. In the film, On the Beach, Dwight Towers, Moira and the bother human characters possess the human knowledge. They know that the nuclear bomb has already destroyed the rest of the humanity and that their fate is also sealed. They all face an impending death by the radiations from the nuclear bomb. This knowledge brings them together and makes them cooperate. Even Moira who was previously desperate about life suddenly changes and becomes tender and more convinced about life. However, knowledge is philosophically understood as personal. This means that what one believes to be true may not necessarily be the same for another person. For instance, Dwight still believes that his family is not dead yet and that they are going to reconnect. In the film, A Space Odyssey, Bowmans has the human knowledge and reason and believes in doing well with the knowledge.

From a machine perspective, the concept of knowledge can be understood better from the character of Hal, the robot. Although the robot has been installed with so much intelligence, it still lacks some aspects of knowledge. It has no beliefs and cannot be justified. The machine acts as instructed in its core and does not base the actions on any knowledge. Philosophically, machine intelligent is irrational and cannot be depended on.

Morality and the law can also be explored from the two films. Dwight in On the Beach is the one who demonstrates a very strong conflict between the law and morality. In the incidence that leads to the death of Moira, Dwight has a chance to save her life by letting her into the submarine. Moira dies lonely at the cliff. The refusal from Dwight is because the law does not allow it. Although she has known Moira for a long time, he refuses to break the rules and decides to maintain his integrity as a priority. His inflexibility is also seen in his response to whether if he were in a position he would stop the bombing. He ponders and explains that although he would want to think that in that situation he would negotiate, the law would have demanded him to bomb. In the other film, there are no laws that apply to the robot as it works in a pre-programmed fashion. The robot is not remorseful for having killed human beings and due to its irrationality and lack of human concern, the robot does not recognize others as important and wants to kill them all and run away from the control of human beings. The robotic actions can be viewed as immoral from the human perspective. It is therefore not a wonder that Bowman desires to shut it down.

According to the natural law, morality and the law are connected(Drobner 2009). The law is made to ensure that people who subscribe to the law conduct themselves in a morally upright manner. However, there are sometimes that the two contradicts. This is especially possible when the man-made law does not effectively cover all situations, and one finds himself divided to either operate within the law of conduct himself morally(Kramer 2004). According to St Thomas Aquinas, a law without moral content is perverse and inferior. The man-made law that demands a breach of moral conduct is inferior. Tomas Moore also indicated that human beings are bound to a higher law than that of their making(Adams 1988). This is the law that people should turn to when their law contradicts morality. Dwight did not consider the morality of the situation and would have saved Moira even though their fate was still death.

From the perspective of Hal the machine, philosophy indicates that machine ethics can only be instilled by human beings. If a machine operates in a moral way, it is because of the initial programming that dictates its performance. Similarly, lack of moral or irrational operation is also dependent on the initial settings to that effect. The conduct of Hal cannot, therefore, be blamed on the machine itself but the operators and developers of the robot including Bowman.

Philosophy is applicable in various situations around the world(Gould 1992). From the perspective of these films, the issues of knowledge, morality, law and ethics are depicted, and they can be easily understood. Ethical and moral dilemmas that arise from the practice of law with the knowledge and respect of morality can also be seen from the perspectives of different characters in the movies. First, it is imperative to recognize that acquisition of knowledge is important for human beings. However, the knowledge should be helpful rather than destructive and should be used to assist humanity achieve better rationality and morality. Self-destruction should not arise from the application of the knowledge and the laws.

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