Philosophy and Memento

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Kendra Williford
Philosophy 217
Spring 2012

Philosophy and Memento

When seeking out the definition of philosophy, it is common to find some variation of ‘the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.’ I think through the variations it is safe to say that an inquiry of life and its meaning is a more basic statement of what philosophy is at its core. So the next question would be, how does one do philosophy? To answer simply, I believe it would start with asking questions. One cannot philosophize without asking questions, and since most of us begin our human lives as being curious, it seems only natural to ask questions anyway. It has become a controversial issue in the twenty-first century whether or not a film can do philosophy. If I were to answer, I would give a resounding yes. Written texts may have been the earliest vehicle for philosophy, but to be fair, film evolved with technology, just as the printing press did. Some even think that film should be embraced because of the tendencies of newer generations. George Brague states,

“Perhaps we can lead them [young minds] to the words of the great philosophic texts by showing them how some of the actions and dialogues portrayed in the images they avidly consume exemplify and explore themes, concepts, and arguments otherwise dealt with by the likes of Plato, Descartes, and Hume.” (pg 64)

Like Brague, I look at film as a different art form, capable of delivering philosophy on a different platform so-to-speak. As Thomas Wartenberg states, “…Films are capable of giving philosophical ideas a liveliness and vivacity that some may find lacking in the written texts of the tradition.” (Pg 4) Just like books, not every film may contain philosophical content. But in the case of Memento, philosophy resides in almost every scene.

One of my favorite television series (The Tudors) opens with the statement, “You think you know a story, but you only know how it ends. To...
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