Thursday, May 03, 2007

"The Prestige": A Movie Review.

The Prestige, Director Christopher Nolan, Touchstone Pictures/Warner Brothers, Newmarket Films (2006).
Christopher Priest, The Prestige (New York: Tom Doherty, 1995).
Richard Matheson, Now You See It ... (New York: Tom Doherty, 1994).

Many scholarly and artistic works are referenced in this review. However, I wish to emphasize two works that are especially helpful in my interpretation of this film and its sources:

Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981).
Lisa Randall, Warped Passages (New York: Harper-Collins, 2005).

Mr. Nolan's "Inception" is scheduled to appear on July 16, 2010. I plan to review that film and "Shutter Island," together, since both works feature performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and explore parallel philosophical themes which seem to interest Mr. DiCaprio as they are prominent in his film work.

This essay has been selected for inclusion in

Curtain Rising.

I begin my review by summarizing the elaborate plot of this film. I then discuss some scientific issues at the center of the story. I turn next to the philosophical puzzles woven into the narrative. I examine the aesthetics of deception in literary devices and film-making. This is a story told with "smoke and mirrors." But then, isn't cinema always a kind of "rough magic"? Can the same be said of politics and religion?

Dangerous metaphors associated with key symbols lurk under the surface of this seemingly familiar sci-fi story. Don't be surprised if God turns out to be a stage magician, one with a wicked sense of humor. I conclude by borrowing from the philosophy of mathematics and the new logic of fictional objects in multidimensional spaces -- a logic which may be analogized to the uses of legal fictions in jurisprudence. I expect to unify these thematic analyses by means of the structure of this film. Perhaps this review essay is also best written and read with mirrors, as a reflection of a more personal set of issues for me. There is at least one person who will understand what I mean. The meanings of this essay are deliberately enfolded, one within the other, each stands alone while implying all of the others. ("Metaphor is Mystery.")

The director of a film -- like the author of a novel -- becomes a magician performing the ultimate disappearing act. The person who writes a book is sometimes very different from the author found "in" the book. Hence, Shakespeare's mystery. Much the same is true of actors and their "images." ("Michel Foucault and the Authorship Question.") If the work of art succeeds, then the artist disappears, since the creation takes on a life of its own. Think of a magician who makes not his assistant, but himself disappear into his audience. ("The 'Galatea Scenario' and the Mind/Body Problem.")

As for "the Prestige," which is the term for every magic trick's final movement and resolution, the reappearance of the artist (director, author) is in the form of the recipient of the art-work (audience member). One subject of this film, then, is metaphor (art and theory) as both deception and revelation in multiple contexts. This theme leads to the most important questions concerning metaphysics and knowledge, philosophy and science, illusion and reality, identity and meaning. ("Master and Commander.")

Like Prospero, the artist-magician "abjures magic," only to invite the recipient of the art work to create his or her own "trick." Michael Caine's character, the "engineer," is an obvious "stand-in" for the author or director. He sets the stage -- to make use of an apt metaphor -- for the viewer of the cinematic work or aesthetic trick. That's you. It is the goal of some artists for recipients to know more than the subjects of their works in order for that person to make judgments that are not available to the subject, even as he or she is inspected and judged by the work of art. This is the diamond-to-the-light quality or "fusion of horizons" achieved in aesthetic encounters.

"Every magic trick," Caine's character tells us, "has three steps": 1) the "Pledge" which is sometimes called "the Magician's Choice" offers audiences an option, but really tips the process, favoring one option over others. In the same way, life seems to offer everyone the same set of choices, when (in reality) the best choices are more "real" in some lives than in others. 2) The next phase in the magic trick is the "Turn," transforming one possibility into another unexpected possibility; and finally, 3) the "Prestige," or return of the original promise in a surprising fulfillment or realization, such as the reappearance of the person who has first vanished.

Think of this sequence as a version of the hermeneutic circle. These stages also parallel the hero's journey described by Joseph Campbell and metanoia, as analyzed by both Carl Jung and R.D. Laing. The stages on life's journey: first, encounter with "the quest" or "challenge"; second, the "adventure" resulting in loss or death; third, "the return," either healing from the hero's wound ("Tristan") or rebirth of the dead god: Osiris is held by Isis in Egyptian mythology, which mirrors the later Gospel story, when Mary holds Jesus.

Death and rebirth is a theme in this work and in the universe. The triangle of birth, death, rebirth is a version of the dialectic which is universal. Each of these roles is usually embodied in a character or archetype in world mythology: Mary (birth), Jesus (dying god), rebirth (resurrected Jesus, fusion with Holy Spirit). This dialectic will be modified in this film because the sequence is time-altered for heuristic purposes, as we shall see, but the work does rise to the level of mythology. I suggest a glance at Hans Georg Gadamer's Hegel's Dialectic.

I. The Pledge.

Robert Angiers ("A") and Alfred Borden ("B") are clearly aspects of a single warring psyche. Set aside the obvious references to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Borden is rougher, source of greater genius (id), while Angiers -- who will call himself "The great Danton" (Marat?) -- is more polished, diplomatic and political (ego). Two beautiful look-alike asistants, doubles or twins, are first presented as (a) the dying wife of Angiers (possibly killed by Borden), then (b) as a new assistant to both rivals. Incidentally, see Jean Louis David's painting "The Death of Marat."

"Pour le vaincre, pour le atterer, que faut-il? De l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours l'audace." (Danton, September, 1792.)

Scarlet Johansson's character in a push-up bra is not to be missed. In fact, slow motion is highly recommended in any scene when she appears, until her exit, which -- if you are fortunate -- will allow Ms. Johansson to turn her back to the camera. She is beautiful and desirable, also just right as a young working class woman on the make, skeptical of both central characters. ("That's so sexist!")

Mirrors and doubling-reflections will play a prominent role in this film -- and in this essay -- as does the idea of the double and doubling in life and art. The analogy to the mathematics of "manifolds" and quantum trickery will be developed later, along with the philosophy of identity in splitting cases, schizoid breaks. Bernard Williams will be brought into relation with R.D. Laing and the young Michel Foucault. David Bohm and F. David Peat will confront Steven Hawking and Brian Greene, also Lisa Randall teams up with Roger Penrose.

Time is no longer linear in the aftermath of the quantum mechanical revolution, so this film begins with the final events resulting in a trial, moving backwards and forwards in time, and ending ... but is there an ending? Maybe we are only offered a new beginning, a circle.

"The universe is therefore pictured," Physicist F. David Peat writes, "as emerging out of a series of highly subtle and enfolded levels in which process and active information can be thought of as two sides of a single order. The end result is the emergence of explicate orders of mind and matter out of their underlying enfolded forms. According to this account therefore, mind and matter are not distinct substances but two sides of one reality, [dual aspects?] orders which emerge out of a common spectrum that contains additional subtle, and yet unexplored orders that may be found to play a significant role in events at a subquantum level, the evolution of life and the operation of society." (emphasis added)

Notice this next paragraph:

"Clearly, this whole account should be taken in the spirit of a metaphor, for the complexity and subtlety of the universe lie beyond all attempts to capture it in language and images. [Is that like God?] However, the essential point of this image is that it involves a central creativity that pervades everything, from its continuous origin in an unconditioned act of perception, to the constant subtle movement of its various orders, levels, and structures."

Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind (New York: Bantam, 1987), pp. 214-215. David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London & New York: Routledge, 1980), p. xiii: (" ... this field [the universe] must be discontinuous as well as particle-like, and ... it is as undermined in its actual behavior as is required in the particle view of relation as a whole.")

"I am," Sartre says, "an enemy to myself." The French existentialist was articulating the darkest realization of humanity in the twentieth century: Are we designed to self-destruct in order to give birth to another self? Or to a child? A loved-one? A new species? The theme of "self-sacrifice" emerges in the film as subtext. What is it that self-destructs? Star dust. What is it that this star dust becomes? More or a new arrangement of star dust. So does it ever really self-destruct? Perhaps not. The intricate interaction of space and energy continues, like an elaborate minuet, forever, a never-ending "dance to the music of time." (See the film "Sliding Doors," then "A.I.")

This is true in the external universe and within the psyche in schizoid reactions, developing as a means of surviving an impossible double-bind situation. For example, life in a torture chamber, as the victim is reminded by torturers to be "ethical." R.D. Laing points out that such forms of splitting the self may be the most rational reactions to evil situations -- especially for children -- so that, any one of us under circumstances of impossible competing demands, is likely to divide or replicate, spontaneously, in order to survive the experience:

"In fact," R.D. Laing writes, "any of us are only two or three degrees Farenheit from experiences of this order. Even a slight fever, and the whole world can begin to take on persecutory, impinging aspects." The Divided Self (London: Tavistock, 1960), p. 46. In conditions of interrogation, forced hypnotic, impaired, or so-called "heightened questioning" combined with Vietnam-like levels of stress, such reactions are common. (See "Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli and New Jersey's Agency of Torture," "What is it like to be tortured?" and "Psychological Torture in the American Legal System.")

Michel Foucault links "madness" to social conditions of extreme pressure on identity. Few people realize that Foucault trained in psychology with Ludwig Bingswanger, a great Jungian-existentialist therapist. Women sexually assaulted early in life, for example, display pathologies of "repetition and disassociation," together with schizoid reactions, as means of escape from trauma. Not only is it meaningless to "blame" victimized women for such reactions, but it is predictable that they will experience them. They can only be helped by understanding and treatment aimed at rebuilding relationships of trust and love in their lives. The best way to destroy such women is to take away meaningful loving relationships that provide confirmation and reinforcement for the superego. Michel Foucault, "Passion and Delirium," in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York: Vintage, 1965), at pp. 85-116 and Greg Hollingshead, Bedlam (New York: Picador, 2004).

Jungians will point to doubles in world mythology, alternative selves entrusted with aspects of the threatened psyche (often female), usually innocense or goodness. Versions of the evil twin trapped in a mirror and released only when seen by lover glancing at his own reflection (usually male) exist in many varieties. Typically, the female image in the mirror enlists the male for purposes of escape or survival, the tale of Narcissus is a distant ancestor of these stories. ("'Diamonds Are Forever': A Movie Review.")

One reading of "The Prestige" is that the film dramatizes the universal elements of the human psyche in Jungian archetypal terms. The best measure of the accuracy of accusations directed today against American interrogators, is the quick denial of what is now painfully obvious. "We do not torture people," former C.I.A. Director George Tenet said to a CBS interviewer. "This was after acknowledging signing off on numerous 'black-ops' as well as 'enhanced interrogations,' and admitting to knowing what this meant."

Nobel laureate Harold Pinter comments on the devices by which torturers distance themselves from their actions: "It never happened, even when it was happening, it wasn't happening." It is not only victims, also torturers must do this "splitting." How does a Jew become Mengele, Terry? Denial?

Each of these men, "A" and "B," seeks to outdo the other, appearing in false beards and costumes to "stage" attacks against one another, competing in their magic acts. Borden first develops "The Transformed Man" trick, then "The Great Danton" pursues Nicholas Tesla -- a genuine scientist and inventor, whose genius is responsible for many of the marvels of the modern world -- to replicate and surpass his rival's achievement. The analogy here is to artistic rivalry and Harold Bloom's "anxiety of influence."

Tesla's cautions concerning scientific hubris and obsession are ignored. The analogy to the horrors of nuclear weaponry in the twentieth century are equally obvious. Scientists are the "wizards," doing in fact what magicians only appear to do. Each character is indeed "transformed"; each dies and is born again. Analogies to Shrodinger's cat and Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty are available for science or philosophy geeks, like me. The bouncing ball used in Borden's trick is a symbol for the mysterious electron in the quantum realm. See Nicholas Mosley's novels of ideas, Hopeful Monsters and Accident.

The uncertainties and doubts of scientists, the dangers of mysteries -- both within the psyche and in nature -- are left as issues to be explored by viewers. The screen characters are metaphors for archetypal forces, as I say: Icarus hovers as an offstage presence in this story. The replicants are mirror-images making the transformation possible on stage, but paying for it with their lives. Each man's destruction -- even in Danton's death there is a duplication of an earlier drowning -- foreshadows the demise of the other.

A lesson here is the Jungian point that self needs its shadow, not as an enemy, but as an integrated component of the psyche. Animus is needed by woman; anima is needed by man. "A" desires "B."

There is a duplication also in the marriage relation and reproduction. An analogy to the showmanship in politics and law is also obvious. A judge wears robes and bangs a gavel. A courtroom is a theater, things may not be as they appear to "audiences." Hence, the need for legal fictions to accomplish policy goals. Are corporations "persons"? The cabinet from which persons appear and disappear in the movie is an hommage to "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" -- a silent screen classic. Religion is also analogized. The pulpit is viewed as yet another stage with its theatrical tricks.

The artist who makes this film is the magician, again, offering you (the viewer) an illusion. Is it an illusion that we all want? Perhaps. Freud's pleasure principle is useful at this point. The author does the same trick for readers. The political candidate does much the same, as does the priest. "The trick is everything," we are told, "the secret is nothing." We are fooled. We need to believe in magic. Does this explain the continuing appeal of religion? Science? Romance? Why do we enjoy being fooled? Too much reality is unbearable. Movies? Special effects? "The Hair Club for Men"? Consider this item:

"I, Sexbot," in Harper's Monthly, March, 2010, at p. 25.

This company offers "ROXXXY" the world's first autonomous sex robot. Designed by artificial intelligence engineer, Douglas Hines, ROXXXY is available in six different personalities, including "Frigid Farah" and "Mature Martha," and is priced starting at $7,000.00. The same society that allows for the sale of this sex robot criminalizes prostitution for persons engaging in sex acts for money. (See the film "Cherry 2000" which dates from the late eighties.)

How many of America's cinematic "sex goddesses" are really versions of "ROXXXY"? Are we surprised about what happens to such women? Marilyn Monroe? Brittany Murphy? Seeing a character on film as distinct from the artist creating that character is the opposite of objectifying. To see a character on screen is to respect its independence and "reality." Stuart Sim, Lyotard and the Inhuman (New York & London: Totem Books, 2001), pp. 48-49. ("... we are all chimeras, fabricated hybrids of machine and organism.")

"I am a realist," says the middle-brow scientific, nihilistic skeptic. Of course, this skeptical stance is only another set of illusions -- illusions of control and pragmatism. "I don't believe in any nonsense because I see the world as it is," would-be scientists say. But your belief that you see the world "as it is" only amounts to your version of "nonsense." You can still have objectivity and truth, by the way, even if you recognize this point. ("Hilary Putnam is Keeping it Real.")

Both lead characters will disappear (die); both will reappear (be born again). The coin of meaning appears in this hand, then in the other, only to disappear again. The magician needs the audience. Politicians need voters. Priests need the faithful. Man and woman need each other. Judges need litigants, although not as much as lawyers do. Humanity needs God. Each partner in the dialectic -- each mirror-image -- requires the other for completion. Each of these relations are circles or spirals, not linear progressions, whose resolution is a new beginning. A hermeneutic circle? This circle represents our latest understandings of time and eternity.

Humanity's need for God may be displaced in a suspicious and skeptical age, but it is still God that is sought even when we think we want money, sex, power, achievement. Substitute the word "love" for "God." When will the dialectic be complete? When we are one. What makes us one? Love. The ultimate symbol of this unity is still, for me, the crucifix. All of the great religious symbols point at this unity. Global religious traditions gesture at this single wisdom: the "homecoming of humanity" is unity with divinity, or love.

"As to Wordsworth, so to Schelling, everything in Nature seemed to be alive. The inorganic he regarded as the extinguished product of a lower form of life, a kind of petrified intelligence. In a dazzling aphorism he called Nature 'das verdende Ich,' the self which is in the process of becoming.' In other words, Nature was to be understood as the embodiment of a process by which the spirit tends to rise to a consciousness of itself. In passing we note that similar ideas, albeit with markedly Christian overtones, came to be expressed in our time by the daring Catholic thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin" -- also a noted scientist -- "in his remarkable book, The Phenomenon of Man."

H.G. Schenk, The Mind of the European Romantics (New York: Anchor, 1966), pp. 179-180. For a linking of the latest theoretical work conceptualizing metaphor with German idealism and contemporary science, see Andrew Bowie, Schelling and Modern European Philosophy (London: Routledge, 1993), pp. 30-42 ("The Hermeneutics of Nature").

"But if we think of God as something embodied within, or something that uses, the laws of physics, then the relationship between the vacuum and the existing universe suggests a God who might be identified with the basic sense of direction in the unfolding universe -- even, perhaps, with an evolving consciousness within the universe."

Danah Zohar, The Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness Defined by the New Physics (New York: Quill, 1990), p. 226 (emphasis added).

II. The Turn.

This brings me to the mystery of identity. The invitation extended in this film, as art, is the eternal invitation in all genuine artistic works: "finish it." Perhaps this is God's one instruction to humanity -- "finish it." (See "'The Fountain': A Movie Review.") Complete creation by supplying it with your meaning, which can only be love as the achievement of selfhood. (See "The 'Galatea Scenario' and the Mind/Body Problem.") Physicist Lisa Randall comments:

"One question, of course, is whether we will find that space and time are so complicated ... that we can't really talk about a beginning in time. We've got to accept that we will have to jettison more and more of our common sense concepts as we go to these extreme conditions."

Simultaneities. And again:

"It is symmetry that relates the properties of bosons to those of their partner fermions (bosons and fermions being two types of particles distinguished by quantum mechanics). Bosons have integral spin and fermions have half-integral spin, where spin is an integral quantum number. Without supersymmetry, one would expect these two particle types to be unrelated. But given supersymmetry, properties like mass and the interaction strength between a particle and its supersymmetric partner are closely aligned." (See the mathematical descriptions of "Branes.")

"Theories of the Brane," Edge, and Warped Passages, at pp. 6-7 (discussing the "warped geometry of extra dimensions"). By way of comparison, see James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (New York & London: Viking, 1987), pp. 83-118; and Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 442-449 (" ... the strange role of time in conscious perception" and "a child's view!"). Identity and supersymmetry. Action at a distance. ("George Santayana and the Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics.") Yes, Lisa, those particles are very closely aligned. I can "feel" that much. A needs B.

The missing factor in the quantum realm may be the entanglement relation that explains anomalies in experimental and observational experience. "Quantum entaglement is one of those things that is easy to understand but almost impossible to believe -- like free checking or protestations of innocence from tobacco executives. ... The probabilistic nature of quantum measurement arises not from magic, but from the working amplifiers, the bridges between the quantum world and the classical one." Robert Laughlin, A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics From the Bottom Down (New York: Basic Books, 2005), pp. 52-53; and see Sir John Eccles, Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 559; and discussion at David J. Bartholomew, Uncertain Belief: Is it Rational to be Christian? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 73.

Action at a distance affecting an emotional "partner" provides an uncanny echo of medieval discussions of witchcraft and contemporary mathematical descriptions of virtual organisms in electronic spaces. Compare Charles Williams, Witchcraft: A History of Black Magic in Christian Times (New York: Meridian, 1971), pp. 123-152 with Mark Ward, Virtual Organisms: The Startling World of Artificial Life (New York: Macmillan, 1999).

What explains the state of Schrodinger's cat when it is not perceived by an observer may well be "emergent phenomena" and "entanglements in a network of relations," most of which are not perceived as coextensive in time and/or alternate spacial dimensions. Analogously, personal identity may be shaped by "entanglements" in relationships which are life-enhancing (love) or just the opposite (hate in a torture chamber). In the human realm let us speak of "dialectics" and "love." Terry Eagleton's conclusion of his recent essay on "The Meaning of Life" is helpful:

"When St. Paul comments that we die every moment, part of what he has in mind is perhaps the fact that we can only live well by buckling the self to the needs of others, in a kind of little death, or petit mort. [Yes, Freudians, the "petit mort" is another term for sexual climax.] In doing so, we rehearse and prefigure that final self-abnegation which is death. In this way, death in this sense of a ceaseless dying to self is the source of the good life. If this sounds unpleasantly slavish and self-denying, it is only because we forget that if others do this as well, the result is a form of reciprocal service which provides the context for each self to flourish. The traditional name for this reciprocity is love."

The Meaning of Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 58-59.

Only in relation to those I love -- all of them -- can I truly "be." Love is mutual self-giving. Thus, by being trapped in relations of enmity the two characters in this movie are locked in a sinister hall of mirrors, whose "no-exit" dilemma is impossible to remedy in the absence of love. Loving relations for each are necessary, if they are to walk towards the light as opposed to remaining in the darkness. Love is the only exit from hell. By loving, you escape hell through a "transformation" into another self without the need for a magic cabinet.

This brings me to Bernard Williams, Robert Nozick, and the philosophical problem of identity.

III. The Prestige.

Among the most interesting independent discoveries of particle physicists and philosophers exploring the mysteries of identity is what might be described as a "Copernican" revolution in our latest thinking about both areas of inquiry. "Spontaneous symmetry breaking" in the quantum realm is a phenomenon explicable -- not by any alteration in events -- but by a shift in perspective on objective reality on the part of an agent-observer who sees only a part of that reality. Observer-distortions become observer-constructions. ("Jacques Derrida's Philosophy as Jazz" and "'The French Lieutenant's Woman': A Movie Review.")

I suspect that this crucial insight informs much of the mathematics of cubes and multidimensional objects, possibly explaining Mr. DiCaprio's interest in fragmenting identities and selfhood as a kind of triptych. (Again: "Jacques Derrida's Philosophy as Jazz" and "'Inception': A Movie Review.")

If I am correct about this concern by Mr. DiCaprio, then we may expect -- at some future point -- a third film exploring similar patterns, assuming it has not arrived already. There are other thematic concerns for this Hollywood character, which are similar to those of Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, "Leonardo DiCaprio." ("Celebrity?") If Mr. Nolan is both the Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale characters in "the Prestige," then is Christopher Nolan also Mr. DiCaprio's character in "Inception"?

" ... instead of having atoms coming individually and attaching themselves at a continually moving growth line (classical crystal growth), one must consider an evolving quantum linear superposition of many different alternative arrangements of attaching atoms (by the quantum procedure U). Indeed, this is what quantum mechanics tells us must (almost always) be occurring! There is not just one thing that happens; many alternative atomic arrangements must coexist in complex linear superposition." (Roger Penrose, at p. 437.) ("Arthur Schopenhauer's Metaphysics of Art.")

Rubik's Cube. Identity-options recur in patterns for very good actors who explore mysterious sides of themselves through characters that embody one side of who they are. For example, for Mr. DiCaprio: public self ("Celebrity"), private or social self ("Revolutionary Road"), inner demons, subconscious, dream self ("Inception"). Superego, ego, id. This inner exploration and revelation, in public, takes courage.

My presence at dinner alters the dynamics in a room, shifting or morphing the symmetries in the network of relations for all others who are present. But what if my absence does the same? If my presence is needed by, say, "B" and I -- just call me "A" -- am not there, what is the result? Think of Sartre waiting for Pierre in the restaurant. Beckett's tramps "expecting" Godot. "Absence," Sartre insists, "is also a presence."

The loss of a parent, for example, is an absence that is felt as a present pain or loss. This is much more true in the case of a missing "other self." Hence, "A" (ego) cannot live without "B" (id), even less in a relation of conflict or hostility. Masculine cannot live without feminine. The older self cannot exist without the younger self who makes that older person possible. One interpretation of the finale of this movie is that the death of each man produces the continuity of a third person, integrating aspects of both, in new relations with all others in a community. A new beginning? Possibly. Aufgehoben. Mr. DiCaprio needs all of the various versions of himself in order to "conjure" his tricks for an appreciative audience. ("Sinbad's Excellent New York Adventure.")

There is a lesson in this insight about "entanglement relations" concerning racial harmony in America and the world. Please see the films "Glory" and "Amistad." Perhaps the resulting void warps the space around the missing "A" (he) in my own example -- creating an abyss, a black hole -- into which "B" (she) may fall. ("The 'Galatea Scenario' and the Mind/Body Problem.") Such a forced separation may then be FATAL for both "A" and "B." Get it, Terry? Diana? Any questions, Stuart? Anne Milgram?

This insight is now given mathematical expression in the theory of "manifolds," developed to describe effects in multiple dimensions, which is actually as old as Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. An idea expressed in mathematical or scientific language may receive respect, even when it is ignored in a clearer philosophical language. The opposite may also be true. Respect is something we all need, but so few of us receive it. Some of us even have our written work destroyed or altered by hackers. Think of this as the "Rubrik's Cube" theory of the universe where everything can only fall into place with your manipulations of the "options."

The identity potentials of "A" and "B" are products of an "entaglement relation" or dialectic. A manifold in mathematical theory "is something like a rubber sheet. Generalizing the properties of such smooth, pliable objects to higher dimensions [which] has allowed mathematicians to invent a host of strange new objects." Lawrence M. Krause, Hiding in the Mirror (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 185. Self-entangling octagons. Mr. Nolan clearly sees movies as comparable open-ended objects. Perhaps we can say the same of dreams. ("Umberto Eco and the Semiotics of Power.")

If A is directed towards B, then multiple options become available; if A is directed at C or D, then there is a shut down or closure, even active harm to self and others, as a response to negative "reflections" returned to A, along with denials of "options."

Even a fictional object in mathematics is governed by a necessary logic leading to truth, as in four dimensional object theory. See Philip J. Davis & Ruben Hersh, "True Facts About Imaginary Objects," in The Mathematical Experience (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), pp. 406-411. In light of my discussion of dialectics and entanglement relations, look up "Goldbach's conjecture" in mathematics. Let us give the devil (in the form of Professor Salmon) his due, see Nathan Salmon, "The Limits of Human Mathematics," in Metaphysics, Mathematics, and Meaning (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), pp. 243-265, then Robert Nozick, "Newcomb's Problem and Two Principles of Choice," in Socratic Puzzles (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 45-74.

Actors know the logic of their characters' personalities and their possibilities. Actors can tell writers what their characters would not do. Any writer should listen to actors carefully when they offer such advice.

This technique in math theory suggests that alternate dimensions, creating variable possibilities -- each folded into the others -- may be described soon, with the assistance of computers, by using the language of manifolds. Each one of us is many different persons, with many possible futures, only one of which is ultimate self-realization because one future alone contains love. A way to describe these possibilities of meaning in the human realm is through art. This film, for example, opens a door to a closed room for many people, a room where philosophical discussions and dramatizations of ideas are possible. In fact, aren't films fictional stories with their own logic and truth? I think so. An education is avaliable merely through seeing movies. Best of all, film language may allow for communication with persons who cannot be reached in other ways.

If you've seen the Matrix: Reloaded, then you'll remember the scene with Neo and the Architect in which numerous screens depict both the contents of Neo's mind, as possibilities, and the rival "unfolding" of events or reactions (by him) to what is being said in alternate dimensions. The mathematics of manifolds may allow for the mapping of these possibilities and descriptions of the exact plausibility of each scenario before (or as) it occurs. The multiverse theory says that each scenario does occur in a different universe.

For each person, then, there are any number of possible selves determined by relations to a few others or maybe to one highly significant other person. One person for each of us allows our relating to all others to "unfold" in a loving or optimum mode. The absence of that single person ALONE may result in the opposite way of relating to others. "B" needs "A." Sometimes there are two people together providing optimum "functioning" for a single creative artist or thinker, or for the artist and thinker within each of us. I am sure that these relationships fit together in networks that must be integrated in societies and among all human beings. This integrating is a kind of "quantum looping."

It is not simply that we find ourselves, necessarily, placed within "networks" of meanings and narratives, but that we have all become networks of meanings and narratives through the process by which we construct our identities through sharing in communal events, like 9/11.

"It would be nice to think that the realm of reality itself is not already prefixed in a hierarchical order," Robert Nozick writes, "but is open to new ways to combine and integrate its dimensions. Not knowing the complete ordering in any case room is left for creative endeavor from us. We become most real not by moving up a prefixed scale but by finding and inventing our own new way of combining and exhibiting reality's dimensions." The Examined Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989), p. 210; and Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 294-316, pp. 317-362.

What word would you use for the universe's capacity to combine reality's dimensions in such beautiful ways? It is a short word. Christopher Isherwood said that he was the camera when writing some of his beautiful short stories in Berlin. Not only film directors, but also great cinema actors become the camera, photographing you (the audience) by anticipating your reactions, making you a participant in the film. I defy you to see "Sense and Sensibility" and not fall in love, a little bit, with Marianne Dashwood as distinct from Kate Winslet. (The Last Tycoon: "You would not have asked about the nickel.")

"We can note that wide and inclusive as the whole category of reality is, traditions speak of another realm we have not yet touched, which they call the Void or Silence, or Emptiness; specific meditative practices are said to allow us to live within this realm which is inside of us."

The Examined Life, p. 211.

"A" and "B" will find each other, even if it is only inside themselves. By way of comparison, see Bernard Williams' discussion in "Personal Identity and Individuation," in Problems of the Self, at p. 11. ("Suppose a magician is hired to perform the trick of making the emperor and the peasant become each other.") Film buffs will think of the many versions of "The Prince and the Pauper" and please read Gore Vidal's essay Screening History, which is the best film criticism I have encountered. All of this leads us back to the discussion of love as an orientation towards the world and the networks of relations made possible by love. Think of that short word again. ("Martha Nussbaum on Iris Murdoch's Philosophy of Love.")

A Final Bow.

The ultimate trick each person must perform in life is called: "The Transformation." This is a trick which is only possible by becoming our best selves in relation to that needed "other self." To love is to be. To love is to orient ourselves to the world in a welcoming and engaged mode, as self-giving. The most common quality I detect in evil persons is closure to the world of others or beauty, even hatred of beauty, meaning, goodness. John MacMurray's justly famous discussion of the self's "modes of reflection," in a constitutive dialectic, will serve as my final comment on issues so beautifully dramatized in this film, as metaphors, also in my review as metaphor:

"Both these modes of reflection are activities of knowing. [Science and Art.] This will be accepted without question in the case of science; but not, perhaps, in the case of art. Yet if one of the two is to be refused the title of knowledge -- and I can see no reason for such a discrimination -- it is art that has the better claim. For whatever concerns us as merely means to an end is never apprehended for itself, but only in relation to something else. Our interest is only in those properties which make it useful to us, and these are general properties which it shares with other things. They are often regarded as causal properties. Intellectual reflection, as knowledge of the world as means, aims at knowing everything in the world in general, but nothing in particular. In this mode we come to know a great deal about things" -- MacMurray is saying that we are not and cannot be only "things"! -- "without knowing them. It is only when our interest, and so our valuation, comes to rest in some thing [or person] for itself, only when something becomes for us an end-in-itself, that we seek to know it for itself, instead of making generalizations from it. [Subjects.] This knowledge of things [and especially of persons] as they are in themselves is the intention of [loving] contemplation. When something of which we have been aware attracts our attention so that we stop to contemplate it, we really see it for the first time."

The Self as Agent (New York: Humanity Books, 1999), pp. 199-200 (emphasis added).

Love is a kind of seeing for the first time and forever, a synchronicity, a transformation for (and into) the other self. That "trick" of loving is always the best "Transformation." Loving is always now.

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