The philosophy of science fiction

Imagine this: three people have spent their entire lives chained in a cave, facing a white wall, unable to turn their heads. Behind them, at the other end of the cave, is a fire that allows shadows to be cast on the wall the prisoners are facing. The space between the prisoners and the fire is used by the rest of society to pass with different objects and maybe even their pets / domesticates. Prisoners begin to name and classify their perceptions of shadows as real entities. One day, one of the prisoners is freed so he finds his way out of the cave. Experiencing for the first time what objects actually look like, the prisoner finds it hard to believe that the illusions he believed to be true were in reality mere reflections. Gradually, his eyes begin to adjust and he can look at the reflections in the water, at the objects themselves and even the Sun. Then, he returns to the cave to inform his partners of the discoveries he has just made, but finds himself unable to observe the shadows as clearly as before. Listening to his stories, his partners begin to believe that the journey has made him blind and ignorant; therefore, they resist any attempt at liberation.

As great as it is as a plot for a novel or a sci-fi movie, it is actually a passage written and portrayed by Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, in his work “Republic”. While science fiction and philosophy may seem like two completely independent disciplines, they have a deep correlation. Philosophy is a discipline that investigates the nature of reality, ethics, and humanity at its core, while the science fiction genre seems to explore questions about who we are and what rules the world. and humanity. Thus, science fiction is an ideal form of literature for exploring the ideas and arguments of philosophy.

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Some of the earliest science fiction stories were originally noted as philosophical treatises. A true story of Lucien of Samosata (a Syrian philosopher) was originally written in the 2nd century in order to poke fun at the ideas of sophisticated philosophers, including those involving fanciful flights. However, he was the first to claim one of the earliest pieces of science fiction by traveling through concepts of journeys made to the moon and imaginary lunar societies and creatures. Other examples include the text of Ibn al-Nafis titled “al-Risala al-Kamiliyya fil-Sira al-Nabawiyya” or Theologus Autodidactus where he introduces ideas of restoring a whole body from a single part (much like the process of cloning) and the first fictional account of the apocalypse, and Utopia by Thomas More, which familiarizes us with the concept of a utopia or an imaginative society where citizens possess qualities almost perfect.

While the stories mentioned above are not the ones we are familiar with, there are some that we all read or heard about growing up. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was written in response to Descartes’ writings on human nature and existence, and may even have been influenced by the writings of a French philosopher Julien Offray de La Mettrie, who believed that the human body was a machine, soulless and that a craftsman could create a mechanical man who could have human features. Another story most of us would recognize is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Journey, which satirically portrays the human tendency to abuse political power and authority in the form of a strange dystopia.

Ideas such as those already expressed about soullessness in man and Cartesian skepticism have evolved and have become the basis of many other philosophical arguments. Some of them include arguments such as the “evil demon” argument put forward by Descartes who says the world can be ruled by an evil demon instead of an omnipresent God who provides us with data from which we train. our beliefs, and the ‘brain in a Vat’ argument by Hilary Putnam, who expresses that the reality of the world could be that brains are placed in liquids in vats that are connected to a sophisticated computer program that can perfectly simulate experiences of the outside world. These concepts have since been the basis of an era of science fiction films, the most important being the “The Matrix” trilogy. Other films played with various other philosophical theories such as the Cartesian dream argument in the film “Inception”.

Unlike most genres that use the familiar to construct images of the world around us, science fiction uses bizarre creations and worlds to portray the craziness of the world around us. Philosophy therefore gives science fiction the perfect genesis to give us a glimpse of the possibilities of reality.

Syeda Afrin Tarannum would choose ‘The Script’ over ‘G-Eazy’ any day. Continue to ignore his musical tastes on: [email protected]


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