Dualism and Personal Identity
What is the criterion for establishing what makes a person who he/she is? Many of the changes people go through may leave them the same as they were some years back. Despite changing constantly, a person may still exist as an individual who has changed. Most philosophers would answer the above question by tackling the issue of essential properties. An essential property, by definition, refers to something important for a thing to exist or be what it is. For example, an essential property of a figure like a triangle is the fact that it possesses three angles. It will no longer be known as a triangle if it had four angles, the triangle would cease to exist. However, it is hard to establish the essential properties of a human being.
Some have argued that a human has a soul or immaterial mind that is non-physical, which qualifies as an essential property. Dualism, however, say that people need the same soul to be the same individual. Rene Descartes argues that the immaterial mind is all of him and not just a part of him. His body only acts as a dwelling place for the mind. Dualists think that the body and mind are both parts of a human being. It is not clear whether the same soul would still exist if a number of changes occur in the body. According to others, humans need the same body; therefore, a person dies if the body dies, but keeps on living when the body is still alive even without something like a functioning brain. On the other hand, some argue that humans need the same brain. This means that a person would end with a new body if the brain was moved to a new body. However, some state that one needs psychological continuity, for example, having a continuing set of fears, desires, beliefs, character traits, and loves. All these sets of psychological continuity change gradually over time. Those who hold this view even argue that persons can be changed to computers and still survive for long. John Perry also argues about this scenario. Can a person exist even after death? Many people agree to this. Therefore, if a person dies and then someone else in the future possesses all his/her characteristics after the death, would it be him or her?
According to dualist views, the universe has two fundamentally different types of things: mental and physical things. The mind or the soul, as some people call it, is non-physical. The dualist idea of personal identity is different from dualism regarding philosophy of mind. The dualist view on the philosophy of mind believes that a person has a soul or immaterial mind. The dualist view on personal identity also believes that there is a soul or mind and that it makes who we are. The soul or mind is a key aspect that makes us who we are. One cannot lose a sole and continue to exist. The dualist view on personal identity considers the mind or soul as the only thing essential to a human being. A person will still exist even if the body is harmed and nothing is done to the soul or mind. One of the characters in John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immorality criticizes the dualist view. Nonetheless, one can ask if a person can be different if he/she loses all his/her beliefs and memories but still possesses the same soul. If dualist views are true, the methods used to identify the same individual will be reliable until their demise, so is there a problem? Possessing the same soul means having the same character, beliefs, and memories. Notably, these features do not give room to soul replacement or body switching.
Dualism is in contrast with monism, which explains that there is one fundamental principle, category of thing or kind and no other. Dualists have a belief that the physical and the mental are both real and cannot be assimilated to each other. However, the idealists state that all physical states are mental. According to their argument, the physical world is empirical; it is the intersubjective product of the human collective experience. If dualism is false, it means the mind will be limited to the physical brain. In such a scenario, what type of mind should we expect? We will not expect things like consciousness, emotions, sensations, desires, thoughts, and free choice. Individuals with such minds may not be responsible for their actions or behavior because everything they engage in will have to be determined by attributes of the matter. According to some philosophers, it is possible for one to have partial or vague identity. Others, however, consider this nonsensical.
According to Moon (2009), Sam Bell is very alone apart from GERTY, his robotic assistant. Bell has been posted to the surface of the Moon to work for a company that extracts helium-3 from the Moon. It is enough to state that Bell does not anticipate meeting anyone he knows on the Moon. It is exactly what happens, a replica of himself brings Bell to base after having an accident. They are the same with the replica, apart from slight differences in personality. A crucial aspect that truly defines their identity is the shared memory, which represents an interesting insight into the theory of psychological continuity. It is clear that the two Sams are clones, and the main agenda of their survival is to work on the inhospitable Moon. Thereafter, they will be terminated by the company that made them. As this debate about their existence goes on, the audience is left to philosophically explore the definition of a person’s identity, if anything.
While the issue of personal identity is not new in film, Moon is different as it shows an individual contacting another individual that is themselves for all exhaustive reasons. Nonetheless, despite their indistinguishable appearance, shared understanding about their lives, and identical memories, there is a disparity in their personality. The two clones are different in character; one of the Sams is skeptical, whereas the other is realistic about their situation and somehow aggressive. This makes the viewer look at them as at two distinct individuals.
Litch (2010) argues that the main philosophical theory that surrounds the issue of personal identity is Psychological Continuity. The belief in this theory is that human beings are made by their psychological characteristics as well as their persistent flow of consciousness. However, there is a possibility of having diverse branches of human psychological continuity. Two of these branches are evident in Moon as the two Sams interact. The question many viewers would ask is “can one of the clones claim to be Sam Bell”? The two possess the same persona of Sam Bell. Both would qualify as Sam Bell if we were to use perceptions and memories as a basis for judging them. However, we cannot judge them that way.
A single identity cannot be used to judge two individual entities. For example, a bottle of beer can never be two. Despite the fact that they have the same memory, the two Sams cannot claim to be Sam Bell. This means that the clones do not have a personal identity. However, the differences in their personalities start appearing from here; the two Sams develop emotions, identify events surrounding them, and eventually change. Their developments are the same as those of other people. Their opinions change as the perceptions and experiences in their surroundings change. This is the same as how people go through a river of selves; one cannot be the same as they were ten minutes ago. The fluid process, psychological continuity, evolves in a continuous manner. Rowland likens us to the survivors of the individuals we were long-ago. We might be similar but somehow a different version of the past individuals. The changes that continually happen around us remove the possibility of humans developing an identity, the clones in the Moon included.
Neither of the Sams can claim to be the real or original human Sam. Each of the two represents a single branch of psychological continuity and, hence, ends up sharing many things. Nonetheless, each of them develops differently in the movie. Possibly, the original Sam on planet Earth knows that the clones exist and may even support their incineration. It is interesting to note that the Sams on the Moon cannot morally kill one another. This shows how they have coined different beliefs and thoughts because of their experiences. The Moon shows the clones as distinct characters that separately develop their identities. They also perceive their surroundings in two distinct ways. They become good examples of what we go through when we constantly change throughout the life.
Deckard: A Human or Replicant?
A sequence added in the Director’s Cut version depicts Deckard dreaming about a unicorn. This possibly suggests to Deckard and the viewer that Gaff understands Deckard’s dream in the same way Deckard understands everything about Rachael’s memories that had been implanted. The unicorn dream aside, other evidence suggests Deckard being a replicant; nonetheless, they do not do away with the possibility of Deckard being a normal human being. Firstly, there are many black and white photographs in Deckard’s apartment about the past. Replicants adore photographs because it reminds them about a non-existent past. Furthermore, in one of the scenes, Rachel asks Deckard if he did pass the Voight-Kampff test but receives no answer. After Roy expires, Gaff tells Deckard that he has done a man job. He does not sympathize with Deckard throughout the film. Lastly, he lets Rachael live and does not do anything when they leave the apartment together with Deckard. In one of the scenes in the apartment, a red tint appears in Rachel’s eyes, which is also seen in Deckard’s eyes when he comes up from behind.
Some of the actors involved with the film also talk about Deckard. Edward Olmos, who played a detective Gaff, talks of Deckard being a replicant. Harrison Ford, however, considers Deckard not as a replicant but a real human. The original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher stated that he wrote the character as a normal human being but wanted it to look like a replicant in the film. This statement makes the film appear ambiguous. Deckard, a character written by Philip Dick, is human in the original novel. Therefore, the movie is different from the book in various ways, which adds to the argument about ambiguity in the film. For instance, Deckard passes the Voight-Kampff test in the book but declines to answer a question asked by Rachel on whether he passed the test or not.
It is clear that the issue of personal identity will continue to puzzle many since there are different views amongst the dualists and the monists.