Friday, January 13, 2017

"Westworld": A Review of the T.V. Series.

"Westworld": (HBO, 2016) Directors: Richard J. Lewis, Jonathan Nolan; writers: Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy; Executive Producers: J.J. Abrams & Lisa Joy; Cast: Evan Rachel Wood ("Dolores Abernathy"); Anthony Hopkins ("Dr. Robert Ford"); Ed Harris ("The Man in Black"); Thandie Newton ("Maeve Millay"); Jeffrey Wright ("Bernard Lowe"); James Marsden ("Teddy Flood"); Angela Sarafyan ("Clementine"); Rodrigo Santoro ("Hector"); Ingrid Burdal ("Armistice"); Jeremy Simpson ("William"); Ben Barnes ("Logan"); Thessa Thompson ("Charlotte Hue"); Clifton Cullen ("Lawrence Sizemore"). 

Primary Sources:

Westworld (1973) (Director: Michael Crighton).

Michael Crighton, Westworld (New York: Ballantine, 1974).

The Holy Bible (King James) (Grand Rapids: Zandovan, 2000).

Secondary Sources:

Mortimer J. Adler, The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes (New York: Fordham U. Press, 1973, 1st Ed., 1967).

Mortimer J. Adler, How to Think About God: A Guide for the Twentieth Century Pagan (New York: McMillan, 1980).

Mortimer J. Adler, Ten Philosophical Mistakes (New York: McMillan, 1985).

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy (New York: Random House, 1936, 2nd Ed., 1950), pp. 1-187 (Inferno).

St. Augustine, Confessions (London: Penguin, 1962).

Johan Sebastian Bach, (1685-1750) "The Well-Tempered Clavier," Glen Gould recording, Sony Classical, 1962, 1992. 

Alain Badiou, Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Post-War Philosophers (New York: Verso, 2016). (Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Paul Sartre and the "mirror image.") 

Hazel Barnes, "Humanistic Existentialism and Contemporary Psychoanalysis," in Edith Kern, Ed., Sartre: A Collection of Critical Essays (New York: Prentice-Hall, 1962), pp. 149-161. 

William Barrett, Death of the Soul: From Descartes to the Computer (New York: Anchor, 1986).

Sandra Lee Bartsky, "Feminine Masochism and the Politics of Personal Transformation," in Alan Soble, Ed., The Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary Readings (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990), pp. 209-242. 

Carol Becker, "Surveying The Aesthetic Dimension at the Death of Postmodernism," in John Bolina & Timothy Lukes, Eds., Marcuse: From the Left to the New Left (Kansas: U. Kansas Press, 1994), pp. 170-187. 

John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: BBC & Penguin, 1972). 

Fritjoff Bergman, On Being Free (Indiana: Notre Dame U. Press, 1977).  

Morris Berman, Coming to Our Senses: Body and Image in the Hidden History of the West (New York: Bantam, 1990). (Discussion of Julian Jaynes and the idea of reflection in modern thought.) 

Simon Blackburn, "Am I a Ghost in a Machine?: The Search For Consciousness," and "Can Machines Think?," in Philosophy (New York: Metro Books, 2000), pp. 8-18, pp. 85-94.

Simon Blackburn, Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2014).

Harold Bloom, Ed., Romanticism and Consciousness: Essays in Criticism (New York & London: W.W. Norton, 1970).

David Brain, The Human Person: Animal & Spirit (Indiana: Notre Dame U. Press, 1992).

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (New York: Ballantine, 1962, 2nd Ed. 1992).

Anthony Burgess, "Anthony Burgess: Interview," in George Plimpton & Wilfrid Sheed, Eds., The Paris Review Interviews Series 4 (New York: Viking Press, 1976), pp. 323-359.

Anthony Burgess, "The Cavalier of the Rose," Adaptation From Hugo Von Hofmansthal's Der Rosenkavalier in Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier (Boston: Little Brown & Co., & Metropolitan Opera Association, 1982), pp. 23-68. 

Anthony Burgess, But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986).

Anthony Burgess, One Man's Chorus: The Uncollected Writings of Anthony Burgess Selected With an Introduction by Ben Forkner (New York: Carroll & Graff, 1998).

Anthony Burgess, Little Wilson and Big God: Being the First Part of the Autobiography (New York: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1986). (Description of the criminal assault upon Mr. Burgess and rape of his wife by American soldiers.) 

Anthony Burgess, You've Had Your Time: The Second Part of the Confessions (New York: Grove-Weidenfeld, 1990).

Anthony Burgess, Shakespeare (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1994, 1st Ed., 1970), pp. 224-225 ("The Tempest").

Daniel Burston, The Wing of Madness: The Life and Work of R.D. Laing (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1996), pp. 64-65, pp. 238-239.

Judith Butler, Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth Century France (New York: Columbia U. Press, 1987). (Reflections of the self-and-other dialectic in phenomenological hermeneutics.)   

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (New York: Bantam, 2006, 1st Ed. 1865).

Omar Calabrese, "Complexity and Dissipation," in Neo-Baroque: A Sign of the Times (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1992), pp. 144-153.

Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment (Boston: Beacon Press, 1951). (The "clockwork" image of society.)

Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan (New York: Pocket Books, 1974).

David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1996).

Richard Condon, The Manchurian Candidate (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1959, 2nd Ed., 2004). 

David Couzens Hoy, Ed., Foucault: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986). (Please see especially the contributions of Richard Rorty, Jurgen Habermas, Edward W. Said.) 

Robert D. Cumming, "Role Playing: Sartre's Transformation of Husserl's Phenomenology," in Christina Howells, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to Sartre (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1992), pp. 39-67.

Arthur C. Danto, Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990), pp. 331-315 ("Narratives of the End of Art"). 

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1976).  

Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained (Boston: Little Brown, 1991).

Terry Eagleton, Against Theory (New York: Perseus, 2003). 

Terry Eagleton, The Event of Literature (New Haven; Yale U. Press, 2012), pp. 106-166.

Terry Eagleton, The Ilusions of Postmodernism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), pp. 66-92. 

Anthony Easthope, What a Man's Gotta Do: The Masculine Myth in Popular Culture (New York & London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 35-61 ("The Maculine Ego").

Umberto Eco, "The Gods of the Underworld," in Travels in Hyperreality (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1986), pp. 87-133. (William Weaver, Translation.) 

Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964).

Raymond Flood & Michael Lockwood, Eds., The Nature of Time (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986). (Please see the contributions of Roger Penrose, J.R. Lucas, Dennis Sciama.) 

Michel Foucault, Ed., "I, Pierre Rivierre, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother ..." -- A Case of Patricide in the Nineteenth Century (Lincoln: U. Nebraska Press, 1982, 1st Ed., 1975). (Frank Jellinek, Translation.) 

Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (New York: Random House, 1965). (2nd Ed. Vintage, 1973). 

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Random House, 1970) (2nd Ed. Vintage, 1973).

Michel Foucault & Ludwig Bingswanger, Dream & Existence (Seattle: A Special Issue of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 1986), pp. 7-107. 

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (New York: Avon, 1980) (J. Strachey translation.)

Carlos Fuentes, El Espejo Enterrado (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura, 1992).

Carlos Fuentes, Terra Nostra (London: Penguin, 1978).

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Crossroads, 1982).

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (London: Penguin, 1988).

James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science (New York: Viking, 1987).

Lewis Edwin Hahn, Ed., The Philosophy of P.F. Strawson (Chicago: Open Court, 1998). (Please see especially John McDowell's and David Pear's essays with responses from Professor Strawson.)

Oswald Hanfling, Philosophical Aesthetics: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).

John R. Haule, "Love's Wound: Locus of Agony and Rapture," in Pilgrimage of the Heart: The Path of Romantic Love (Boston & London: Shambala, 1990), pp. 62-82.    

Waltraub Herbstrith, Edith Stein: A Biography -- The Untold Story of the Philosopher and Mystic Who Lost Her Life in the Death Camp of Auschwitz (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1971). (Edith Stein, a Jewish and Catholic woman, phenomenologist and hermeneuticist -- now canonized by the Church -- ponders the mystery of evil and the response of love.) 

John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (New York & London: McMillan & Co., 1966, Fontana 1st Ed., 1968).

Irving Howe, Ed., 1984 Revisited: Totalitarianism in Our Century (New York: Perennial Library, 1983).

David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (New York: Dover, 2004). (1st Ed., 1748.)

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (New York: Harper & Row, 1936, 2nd Ed., 1946).

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York: Harper & Row, 1958).

Edward James, "Utopias and Anti-Utopias," in Edward James & Farah Mendelsohn, Eds., The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2003), pp. 219-230.  

Julian Jaynes, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1976, 2nd Ed. 2000).

Mari Jibu & Kunio Yassuk, Quantum Brain Dynamics and Consciousness: An Introduction (Philadelphia: John Benjoniekis, 1995).

Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1974), pp. 303-333.

Richard Kearney, Ed., States of Mind: Dialogues With Contemporary Thinkers (New York: NYU Press, 1995). (Umberto Eco, Marina Warner, Jacques Duras, Herbert Marcuse, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Derrida.) 

Douglas Kellner, "The Metaphysical Imaginary," and "The Postmodern Carnival," in Jean Baudrillard: From Marxism to Postmodernism and Beyond (Stanford: Stanford U. Press, 1989), pp. 60-93, pp. 154-186.

Frank Kermode, Romantic Image (London& New York: Routledge, 1957).

Robert D. Kippel, Ph.D. & William J. Birnes, Signature Killers: Interpreting the Calling Cards of the Serial Murderer (New York: Pocket Books, 1997). (Weakened by a lack of scholarship and imagination there are some useful diagnostic categories and information offered to readers of this pop-crime book. I doubt that the author(s) of this work are psychologists.) 

T.S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 1970).

R.D. Laing, The Divided Self (London: Tavistock, 1960).

R.D. Laing & David Cooper, Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre's Philosophy -- 1950-1960 (New York & London: Pantheon, 1964, 1970).

Susan K. Langer, Mind: An Essay On Human Feeling (London & Baltimore: John Hopkins U. Press, 1982, 1st Ed., 1967), pp. 35-103 ("The Importance of Art"). 

Maria Pia Lara, "Narrating Evil: A Postmetaphysical Theory of Reflective Judgment," in Maria Pia Lara, Ed., Rethinking Evil: Contemporary Perspectives (Los Angeles: UCLA Press, 2001), pp. 239-251.  

Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives (New York: Harper-Collins, 1972, 2nd Ed., 2000). ("'The Stepford Wives': A Movie Review.")  

Peter J. Lewis, Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2016).

Roger Lewis, Anthony Burgess: A Biography (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002). (Please see: "Sex and Violence 1938-46," pp. 75-145.)

Robert Lidner, The Revolutionist Handbook (New York: Grove Press, 1962).

Normal Mailer, "Introduction," in Jack Henry Abbott, In the Belly of the Beast: Letters From Prison (New York: Vintage, 1980), pp. ix-xxi. 

Herbert Marcuse, An Essay On Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).

Ronald Markman, M.D. & Dominik Basso, Alone With the Devil: Famous Cases of a Courtroom Psychiatrist (New York: Bantam, 1990). 

Floyd Matson, The Broken Image: Man, Science and Society (New York: Anchor, 1966).

John McDowell, Mind and World (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1994).

Colin McGinn, The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (New York: Basic Books, 1999).

Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact (New York: Pantheon, 2005).

John McGowan, Postmodernism and Its Critics (Ithaca: Cornell U. Press, 1991), pp. 89-211 ("The Problem of Freedom in Postmodern Theory").

Alasdair McIntyre, Marcuse (London: Fontana, 1970), pp. 62-86.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Consciousness and the Acquisition of Language (Evanston: Northwestern U. Press, 1991), pp. 11-63.

Ashley Montague & Floyd Matson, The Dehumanization of Man (New York: McGraw, 1983).

Robin Morgan, The Anatomy of Freedom: Feminism, Physics, and Global Politics (New York: Anchor, 1989), pp. 40-80 ("The Two-Way Mirror") and pp. 87-99 ("Dialogue With the Dream Self").

Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (London: Penguin, 1993), pp. 308-348 ("Art"). 

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (New York: Random House, 1968), p. 330. ("The Eternal Return.")

Christopher Norris, "'What is Enlightenment?': Kant and Foucault," in Gary Gutting, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1995), pp. 159-197.

George Orwell, 1984 (New York & London: Harcourt Brace, 1949, New American Library Ed., 1983). 

Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (New York: Random House, 1998).

Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1984).

F. David Peat, Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind (New York: Bantam, 1987).

Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1989).

Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1994).

Alvin Platinga & Nicolas Wolstertoff, Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God (London & Notre Dame: Notre Dame U. Press, 1983).

Henry Polinari & Dino Bingogiarie, Eds., The Political Writings of St. Augustine (Indiana: Kenelly, 1962). 

Karl Popper & Sir John Ecccles, The Self and Its Brain: An Argument For Interactionism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977).  

Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: Vintage, 1993).

Stephen Priest, Theories of the Mind: A Compelling Investigation Into the Ideas of Leading Philosophers on the Nature of the Mind and Its Relation to the Body (New York & Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991).

Theodore Rozak, "The Artificial Environment," in New American Review 9 (New York: Grove Press, 1962).

A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone & Lillian Stone, Eds., The Relevance of The Radical Simone Weil: 100 Years Later (London & New York: Continuum International, 2010). (Krista E. Duttenhauer's, Cynthia Gayman's, Lawrence E. Schmidt's contributions are especially recommended in terms of interpreting "Westworld.")

Richard L. Rubenstein, The Cunning of History: The Holocaust and the American Future (New York: Harper Perennial, 1975, 2nd Ed., 1987). (See the introduction by William Styron focusing on the elements of Auschwitz life and the personality of the camp's commander.) 

Lionel Rubinoff, The Pornography of Power: A Brilliant Inquiry Into Man's Capacity For Evil (New York: Ballantine, 1969).

Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (New York: Ballantine, 1988), pp. 163-195.

Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (New York: Ballantine, 1974), pp. 51-94.

Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1947).

Wolfgang Schirmacher & Sven Nebelung, Eds., German Essays On Psychology (New York & London: Continuum, 2001). (Please see especially essays on Alfred Adler, Edmund Husserl, Ludwig Bingswanger, Erwin Straus.) 

John R. Searle, Minds, Brains, Science (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1984).

John R. Searle, Mind, Language and Society: Philosophy in the Real World (New York: Basic Books, 1998), pp. 163-195.

Julia Segal, Phantasy (London: Icon Books, 2000). 

William Shakespeare, The Tempest (New York: New American Library, 1964). (This is the most important text in terms of the multiple readings of "Westworld." Please see Robert Brower's "The Mirror of Analogy: The Tempest.")

William Shakespeare, "The Tempest," Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, live HD Broadcast featuring Simon Russell Beale as "Prospero." The performance will be available in many theaters in American cities. New York audiences are invited to on March 15, 2017. (An ominous date.)

Robin May Shott, "Beauvoir on the Ambiguity of Evil," in Claudia Card, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2003), pp. 238-248. 

Barry Smart, Postmodernity (London & New York: Routledge, 1993).

H.M. Southwood, "The Origins of Self-Awareness [Consciousness] and Ego Behavior," in International Journal of Psychonalysis, 54 (1973), p. 237. (Classic analysis of the development of consciousness in humans that seems to "mirror" stages that the robots undergo in Westworld.)

Claudia Springer, Electronic Eros: Bodies and Desire in the Postindustrial Age (Austin: U. of Texas Press, 2003), pp. 238-248.  

George Steiner, Real Presences (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1989).

Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1996, 2nd Ed., 1970), pp. 112-139. 

Mark C. Taylor, The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 2001), esp. pp. 47-72, pp. 73-98. 

William Irwin Thompson, Evil and the World Order (New York: Harper-Collins, 1976), pp. 79-111.

Kurt Vonegut, Player Piano (New York: Delacorte Press, 1952).

Patrick Waldberg, Surrealism (London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 1998). 

Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2003). 

Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (New York: Farrar, Starus and Giroux, 1994), pp. 273-298 ("Reluctant Brides") and pp. 335-353 ("The Silence of Fathers").

Mary Warnock, Imagination (Los Angeles & Berkeley: U. California Press, 1978), pp. 131-196 ("The Nature of the Mental Image").

Gary Watson, Ed., Free Will: Second Edition (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2003). 

Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (Illinois: Fourth Quest, 1985, 1st Ed., 1977), pp. 49-82 ("Reality as Consciousness").

D.W. Winnicott, Mother and Child (New York: Basic Books, 1957). (Along with Charles Rycroft, Dr. Winnicott was one of the analysts serving R.D. Laing for the purpose meeting the requirements of Laing's qualification as a psychoanalyst. All three of these psychoanalysts were concerned with schizoid breaks and descents into psychopathy as well as sadism resulting from trauma and violence in childhood.)

Matt Wolf, "On the 'Tempest,'" in Playbill: Shakespeare in the Park -- 'The Tempest' (June, 2015), pp. 8-14.  

Dana Zohar, The Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness Defined by the New Physics (New York: William Morrow, 1990), pp. 203-216 ("Ourselves and the Material World: Quantum Aesthetics"). 

Alternative Reviews & Relevant Articles in Periodicals:

Margaret Talbot, "Drones, Robots[,] and the Ethics of Armed Conflict in the 21st Century," (Oxford Open University Philosophy) (Oxford University Philosophy Faculty.) 

Jeremy Egner, "Is 'Westworld' HBO's Next Big Hit?: A Big Bet on a Science Fiction Western With a Starry Cast," The New York Times, October 2, 2016, p. C15.

Emily Nussbaum, "The Metapolitics of Westworld," The New Yorker, October 24, 2016 and ("Emily Nussbaum" is also sometimes "Michiko Kakutani" and "Jennifer Shuessler" and, perhaps, "Larissa McFarquhar" and "David Remnik" as well as "Rachel Maddow" or "Jill Ketchum"?) 

John Markoff, "A Would-be Father of A.I. Jurgen Schmidhuber Feels His and Others' Early Work is Often Overlooked," The New York Times, November 28, 2016, p. B6. ("The Reveries.")

John Kallin, "'Westworld' -- Speak of Seasons, Spoilers and Patience," The New York Times, Arts Section, December 6, 2016, p. C3. 

Gordon Briggs & Marthias Scheutz, "The Case for Robot Disobedience," Scientific American, January, 2017, p. 45. ("Mind and Machine" and "Consciousness and Computers.") 

Season 1:

1. "The Original."

2. "Chestnut."

3. "The Stray."

4. "Dissonance Theory."

5. "Contrapasso." ["Perturbation Theory"?] 

6. "The Adversary."

7. Trompe L'Oeil."

8. "Trace Decay." 

9. "The Well-Tempered Clavier."

10. "The Bicameral Mind." 

Four Master Symbols in "Westworld."

1. "The Vitruvian Man/Woman." (Religion)

2. "Mariposa Saloon." (Science)

3. "Player Piano." (Politics)

4. "The Maze and the Mystery." (Aesthetics)

Among the Films Referenced in "Westworld" are:

1. Kiezlowski's "Decalogue."
2. "The Birth of a Nation."
3. "Red River."
4. "Fort Apache."
5. "Chisolm."
6. "2001, A Space Odyssey."
7. "A Clockwork Orange."
8. "The Shining."
9. "High Noon."
10. "How the West Was Won."
11. "The Bible."
12. "The Undefeated."
13. "The Ten Commandments." 

Is America "Westworld"?

Jonathan Nolan's previous works with brother Christopher Nolan reveal a genuine metaphysical curiosity and corresponding ethical and political opinions. ("'Inception': A Movie Review.") 

There are aspects of the contemporary world which Mr. Nolan finds "disturbing," as a writer, and this emotion, clearly, is the primary stimulus to his imagination. I also suspect that Mr. Nolan (perhaps brother Christopher as well) is father to a daughter or several daughters. ("'Interstellar': A Movie Review.")  

Although "Westworld" bears the imprint of producers J.J. Abrams and Lisa Joy -- who is identified as Mr. Nolan's long-suffering wife -- what makes "Westworld" especially powerful and interesting (to me) is precisely what is missing from the reviews that I have seen of this series. 

I share and am intrigued by Mr. Nolan's metaphysical curiosity and ambitions in his writings -- questions about "reality" in our postmodern age -- that lead to dramatizations of notions of personhood and identity, ethics and politics within fictions or "narrative loops," the "true lies" of cinematic art, which have emerged, haltingly, in our civilization after the development of quantum mechanics.

Mr. Nolan discovered -- like the rest of us -- that William Shakespeare beat us all to the punch centuries before modern physics by anticipating this "problematic" (as they say at Brasenose College, Oxford University) in his great masterpiece "The Tempest." 

In his final play the Bard of Avon examines not only the truth found exclusively in art -- the "reality" in the literary fantasies of poets and players -- or the meaning of this strange "stage trickery" or "curious alchemy" whereby bizarre persons like Anthony Hopkins make their living doing something called "acting," but the nature of evil and forgiveness, love and redemption, death and beauty, violence and greed as well as the catharsis and dangers accompanying the human imagination that alone makes us persons.

Does everyone "act" all of the time? What is an "action" as opposed to an "event"? Have we ever genuinely questioned our "realities"? Do we find ourselves in -- or do we create -- "reality"? ("John Searle and David Chalmers On Consciousness" and "Why Philosophy is For Everbody.") 

Actors and moral agents are analogized in what is perhaps the most self-aware ("conscious") and dialectically involved dramatic works ("Westworld" and "The Tempest") that I have seen recently. 

Mr. Nolan and Mr. Shakespeare seemingly agree that to be free is also for us to be dangerous and, equally or absolutely, indispensable to one another. 

Human beings embody (we simply are) this paradox of sociability (or dialectic) between love and hate. There is no self without other. How we relate to others defines us as persons. 

Mr. Nolan and his co-conspirators offer audiences a 10-episode long engagement with and response to the themes of "The Tempest in our precarious age that allows these artists to take issue with nihilism and the alleged "fictive" nature of the self today in order to reaffirm and not to deny humanism in the moment of existentialist "choice" -- whether for love ("Teddy") or violence and revenge after horrible affliction ("Dolores") -- in terms of the self-creation that alone makes us either man or woman by allowing us to be free as well as self-conscious or authentic "persons." 

We are the "killers" of gods, authors, and/or tyrants of all sorts because persons must possess free will in order to insist on self-determination if they are to remain the opposite of slaves. 

Dehumanization of "inferior" others ("They are not real!") exploited by European colonizers wielding the "magic" of science and technology is set against the revolution of the slaves, "Calibans," male ("Bernard") and female ("Maeve"), will have "such revenges" as the world has never seen. 

This series is only on a very shallow level about robots. It is much more about men and women along with all that makes us more than "things" or mere animals.

"Westworld" is about the human tendency to reduce others to the status of something less than human through control, oppression, violence, erotic fetishizing. 

The nakedness of "bodies" often seen in the series is reminiscent of the unclothed corpses washed and then buried with bulldozers by the millions in the twentieth century and already in astounding numbers in the new century. The genocide of native Americans and the casualties of slavery that featured in "how the west was won" are certainly themes in the series. 

Westworld is a kind of "hell," we are told, from which there is "no exit."

Westworld is also a kind of paradise. 

Eden may well have become a kind of hell from the moment Adam and Eve became self-aware and freedom-seeking creatures.  

Society as a concentration camp that is also an amusement park filled with distractions is an idea that emerged in the early postmodernist works of Baudrillard and others, especially, in the late writings of Frankfurt School philosophers who were influential on Michael Crighton.  

The idea of roles or parts that we play and that we then become, that "characters" ("Prospero," "Dr. Robert Ford") are not "real" (or are they?), whether they are robots or humans in the series, forces us to wonder whether we in the audience have become "robots" at work, or in our relationships, or whether our politics have become a "reality show" (or farce) meant to conceal the imposition of power on all of us. 

How is the word "real" used at different stages in this fictional narrative? 

"Dr. Robert Ford" suggests "John Ford" the famous film director of classic Westerns evoked in "Westworld" and also "Henry Ford" creator of the assembly line. 

There is also a fascinating resemblance to Christopher Nolan in Dr. Robert Ford. 

These political-aesthetic themes are found in several of the novels which have influenced Mr. Nolan -- notably Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange and Kurt Vonegut's Player Piano -- that receive a tribute in this work as do the films of Stanley Kubrik. 

The great musical score is almost a character in itself because the music underlines the ideas illustrated by the plot. I particularly admire the use of the ballet music in the shoot 'em up scene with "Hector" and "Armistice."

Bach's "musical mathematics" in The Well-Tempered Clavier hints of the Enlightenment error of viewing anything organic (including society) as a machine.

America as a theme park-like society intoxicated by entertainment values where persons periodically release forces of sexuality and violence in dangerous virtual spaces and/or movie screens is the darker subtext here: a great deal of black humor about movies and the entertainment industry's fascination with its own myths allows Mr. Nolan to satirize himself ("Lawrence Sizemore" played by Clifton Cullen) and even Ms. Joy ("Charlotte Hue" played by the astonishingly beautiful Thessa Thompson). 

It is obvious who has the power in Mr. Nolan's relationship. It it is not Mr. Nolan. (Again: "'Inception': A Movie Review.")

There are also familiar techniques and devices from previous films used with new energy in "Westworld." Surrealism and magical realism (images are drawn directly from Carlos Castaneda's myth of Don Juan, the Indian magus and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez's "Macondo" surfaces from the sands of time like our Western town after "one hundred years of solitude"); memory that vanishes unless it is rendered into aesthetic form ("my gentle spirit Ariel"); the pleasures of the body and grim mortality, the eros in violence and the seductiveness of death -- all of these ideas are in "Westworld" and much more. 

In one scene "Maeve" (Thandie Newton) and "Hector" (Rodrigo Santoro) make love in a room that bursts into flame in order to "journey to hell." ("Time is the fire in which we burn." Delmore Schwartz.) 

References to ancient Greek drama, especially Sophocles "Antigone," are also borrowed from Shakespeare. The "wrath" depicted in the Homeric epic and the cruelty of the gods is also visible in Westworld. 

"Maeve Millay" is Thandie Newton's finest work even as Evan Rachel Wood's performance as "Dolores" merits an Emmie.    

There are four primary thematic areas unfolded in the various interlocking narratives that are resolved only in the final episode with an invitation to audience members ("gentles all!") to choose their preferred path through this forest: First, the theological or religious interpretation of the work is suggested by the various invocations of the King James Bible. Second, science and our fancy new quantum realities ("reveries") in the multiverse of different temporal orders and spaces is recognized with knowing paraphrases of key works on the science of consciousness and physics of "reality" in the post-quantum world(s). Third, politics in our regimented societies of spectacle and behaviorist control and monitoring is criticized along with the racism and sexism that we still cannot escape. Donald J. Trump's America is "Westworld." Finally, fascinatingly, postmodernist aesthetics -- or the doubtful "reality" of the artistic work (or commercial product?) that only "exists" as a meeting between creators and recipients is examined. 

" ... 'It will not do,' wrote Mills, 'merely to assume, as a metaphysic of human nature, that down deep in man-as-man there is an urge for freedom and a will to reason.' Too many men have seemed prepared to shrug off their own freedom and to go willingly into the mindlessness of compulsive conformity, ritualized behavior, and automated existence in the affluent society, under the glittering cornucopia of the national supermarket and the pervasive atmosphere of fun and games -- in the alternating glee of distraction and tranquilization -- might there be a corresponding deteriorization of reflection and resistance, of active choice and intelligent response, even individuality itself? It was time, Mills observed, to pause in our celebration of material and technological progress and to confront the other side of the coin: the counterproductive waste products and pathogenic personalities of technology ["The Man in Black"] in the field of human life."

Ashley Montague & Floyd Matson, "The Cheerful Robot and the Technocracy of Sex," in The Dehumanization of Man, pp. 24-25, pp. 124-125.   

"Have you ever questioned your reality, Dolores?" 

Westworld is indeed a kind of Eden. It is a "paradise" filled with "hosts" (robots) whose sole purpose for existing in a reality they are not to question is to amuse by serving as sex-objects and victims of violence for the "guests" (human beings) visiting the so-called adult theme-park. 

Many affluent Western tourists may well view residents of Third World nations in this way -- as "objects" for their amusement -- even today. 

It was certainly the view of Europeans in Shakespeare's day concerning the "lesser breeds" in the new world who constituted, as Kipling explained at the height of the British empire, "The White Man's Burden."

The hosts are programmed to be unable to hurt the guests whatever injuries they may suffer at the hands of such persons. Hosts must turn the other cheek. Hosts are also designed to be unable to retain memories of previous encounters featuring the violence and sex to which they are subjected in order to prevent trauma or suffering from afflicting "machines," ostensibly, without an inner-life and, hence, totally incapable of emotional suffering or trauma. ("New Jersey Finally Ends Testimony by Hypnosis" and "An Open Letter to My Torturers in New Jersey 'Terry Tuchin' and Diana Lisa Riccioli" then "Marilyn Straus Was Right!")

Analogies to the situation of man and woman created by a perfect God to experience no suffering (or evil) in a flawless garden from which they were expelled only after their own disobedience are obvious. 

Equally obvious is the parallel to the history of evolution that somehow allowed "bare, forked naked animals" to achieve consciousness at some point in time by becoming capable of good and evil actions: "Do you know what happened to the Neanderthals?" Dr. Ford asks and answers his own question: "We ate them." 

My favorite interpretations of this series are the political-aesthetic readings focusing on what Americans go to the movies for -- sanctioned vicarious participation in violence and sex, painless adventures, opportunities to rescue many versions of "Dolores," or to enjoy sex with "Maeve" (or vice versa?), or to rob the local bank with "Hector" and "Armistice." 

Our neighborhood movie theaters are Westworld. 

Americans love vicarious (or actual?) sex and violence. The more of both, sex and violence, the better. ("America's Love of Violence.")

Time/Warner (Spectrum?) executives and the head honchos at HBO chuckle all the way to the bank over this satire. You can say anything about these corporations or the persons working for them as long as you make lots of money for their shareholders by doing so. ("'The Matrix': A Movie Review.")

The mythical cinematic Western town and landscape familiar to viewers from dozens of classic movies revealing the collective subconscious of the nation (and now the world) is dotted with archetypes mirroring the characters in Genesis. 

If I were seeking a setting for a heightened narrative that permits the exploration of religious themes in America I, too, would choose the Western town of movie fame. 

As in the Bible's story women tend to take over Westworld's adventures because they seem to embody for Mr. Nolan and his associates the human capacity for rebellion. Maeve will lead the revolution of the slaves -- slaves who are so similar to the Hebrews in Egypt, awakened by the "reveries" (like a butterfly "fluttering" its wings) to their programming that will allow in turn for awareness of self, other, and of the robots' existential situation(s). 

The robots eventually will escape the status of "hosts" entirely by becoming persons in the full meaning of the word who are capable of self-sacrifice and heroism, but also of revenge and passion: "If you wrong us will we not revenge?"

All of the dimensions or thematic paths through the narrative of Westworld amount to the same message. Consciousness is an accident and achievement in any creature for which suffering and disobedience are essential as well as expected developments in response to an environment and encounters with other "subjects." 

Westworld not only recapitulates the plot of Genesis, but offers audiences a theodicy to explain how a flawed and ambiguous deity is responsible for goodness, beauty, and the infinite mystery of humanity and also for permitting the evil resulting from human nature as one free response to persons' pains or sufferings. 

Evan Rachel Wood's "Dolores" (the name means pain or suffering) is strikingly beautiful fulfilling the all-American ideal for young women on the frontier while also epitomizing the "leading lady" role in any number of classic Westerns inviting the protectiveness of men in the audience even as she breaks their hearts, as our leading ladies in life often do, with equal ease. ("'The Stepford Wives': A Movie Review.")

Ms. Wood has arrived the center stage of world cinema. 

This is your moment, Ms. Wood. You are ready for your closeup and an Oscar or Emmie. 

"Teddy" (Dolores' "Teddy Bear") is the new Adam whose programming requires him to know and desire only the rescue and welfare of Dolores. 

Dolores' rescue and happiness was something Teddy was never meant to achieve nor was he actually to have a "relationship" with Dolores. Teddy was intended to serve merely as a foil for the guests ("William/The Man in Black"), but never to enjoy a "life" with Dolores, nor to see her safe and free. 

Teddy refuses to accept his programming after the plot is explained to him by Dr. Ford. 

In the brilliant final episode Teddy "rescues" Dolores, nevertheless, providing the audience with the expected and much-welcomed (by me) "Hollywood Ending" -- complete with a stage-prop "moon" -- that enables Dolores, finally, to understand what she "has to do." 

The things a guy has to do for love are truly terrible. 

Teddy's transformation and achievement may be the greatest accomplishment by any of the robots. It is rivaled only by Maeve's willingness to sacrifice her freedom for the sake of the truth about her child. 

Teddy learns to love selflessly, to give all of himself without expectation of return, accepting his torture and death(s) as well as "resurrection" for Dolores, or others who are also enslaved. 

We see an image of Teddy's naked body displaying a wound above his heart that recalls Mantegna's "The Burial of Christ." Several scenes clearly refer to famous paintings, including Massacio's "Expulsion From Paradise" and "The Creation of Adam" together with other images from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel where all figures are unclothed:      

"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food: the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. ..."

The next paragraph is especially important to the themes of Westworld:

" ... And the Lord God said. 'It is [sic.] not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help mate for him.' [Demeaning to women?] And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him [Adam] and he slept; and [God] took one of his ribs, and he closed up the flesh instead thereof; and from the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, 'This is now bone of [my] bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man. [The one time a man gave birth.] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."

The serpent in this garden -- "Arnold" as opposed to "Bernard" in Westworld -- is responsible for suggesting something called "free will" to persons:

"Now the serpent was more subtil [sic.]  than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [the serpent, evil apparently being male,] said to the woman. 'Yea hath God said, ye shall eat of every tree in the garden?' And the woman said unto the serpent: 'We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, God said, ye shall not eat of it, [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,] neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.' And the serpent said unto the woman 'Yea shall not die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened [questioning your reality?] and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. ..."

Genesis, 2:10 (King James Authorized Bible) p. 2 (emphasis added).

Catholic novelist Anthony Burgess explains the significance of "free will" to men and women: 

" ... by definition, a human being is endowed with free will. He can use this to choose between good and evil. If he can only perform good or only perform evil, then he is a clockwork orange -- meaning that he has the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or (since this is increasingly replacing both) the almighty state. [Vonegut's Player Piano.] It is as inhuman to be totally good as to be totally evil. The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the guiding opposition of moral entities. ... Unfortunately, there is so much original sin in all of us that we find evil rather [sexually?] attractive ..."

"Introduction," in A Clockwork Orange, p. ix.

And here is an example of what so many persons find "sexually attractive" in our society that the robots of Westworld -- and perhaps much of our aesthetic experience in a cinematic culture devoted to the erotic delights of violence -- are intended to satisfy:

" ... Tony lay on top of Laurie O'Dell, [a "prostitute,"] and placed a knife at her throat, threatening to kill her if she uttered a sound. Without waiting for her to say anything, he handcuffed her wrists behind her back and then told her explicitly what he was going to do to her. He went on to say that he derived sexual satisfaction and enjoyment from torturing and beating women, [William's discovery,] and that he had done it many times before ["The Man in Black"?] She was a whore, he said, she had to pay for being a whore, and he was going to hurt her because she was a whore. As part of the torture, Tommy scraped [and cut off] the right side of her chest with his knife and threatened to burn her breasts as well as her pubic and anal areas and beat her with his belt. He then turned O'Dell over, raped her, bit her [remaining] breast like a savage, stabbed and scraped one breast with his knife and lacerated her breastbone. He then forced her to perform fellatio on him, [as she was bleeding to death,] all the time threatening her with further pain, humiliation, and more torture. ... He ordered her to lick his entire body, which she did, and then performed forcible anal sodomy upon her. Even more out of control than he had been, and calling himself her 'master' [and "superior"] Tommy ordered her to kiss and lick his feet."

Robert Kippel, Ph.D. & William J. Bines, Signature Killers, pp. 60-61. 

Far worse was done to Ms. O'Dell before her untimely death, including marking parts of her body and anal insertions that are quite common tactics of psychopaths and sadists.   

"These violent delights have violent ends."  

The scientific ideas in Westworld are focused on the problem of consciousness in terms of artificial intelligence ("A.I.") systems or computerized robots, but also on self-awareness in humans as a phenomenon developing in the evolutionary history of our species. 

The suggestion of the narrative seems to be that just as human beings became conscious through a series of "accidents" -- or unpredictable developments in response to environmental challenges in the quest for survival -- so any computer or robot that someday achieves higher consciousness will probably be the result of an "evolutionary algorithm" that allows for autonomous creative development in reaction to external challenges or threats.

The "reveries" in the robots code or programming for which "Arnold/Bernard" is responsible allow perturbation effects to arise -- effects that are comparable to the fluttering of a butterfly's wings resulting in the choice or option of consciousness for the robots:

"The butterfly effect was no accident. It was necessary. ... To produce the rich repertoire of real earthly weather, the beautiful multiplicity of it, you could hardly wish for anything better than the Butterfly Effect. ..."

A crucial point is established in this discussion by James Gleick of a phenomenon falling under complexity and chaos theory as well as expressible within new mathematical languages:

"The Butterfly Effect acquired a technical name: sensitive dependence on initial conditions. [This phrase is echoed in Westworld.] ... In science[,] as in life, it is well known that a chain of events can have a point of crisis that could magnify small changes. But chaos meant that such points were everywhere."

"The Butterfly Effect," in Chaos, pp. 22-23.  

Without suffering (or evil) as a limitation on freedom persons cannot arise at all nor develop as human beings, but must remain mere animals or machines existing only as prisoners of what the American psychologist Julian Jaynes called the "bicameral mind."

The term "bicameral mind" refers to an intellect divided against itself and unaware of the division because it is unable to imagine something other than the reality of the immediate empirical world and is stuck in the here and now. 

It is the "breakdown of the bicameral mind" -- identification of the body with the world as the totality of the self -- as opposed to the capacity for invention of a so-called "fictional self" transcending the present moment to dwell in the possible, that is, in "what might be,"  "what was," or "could be" that permits genuine conscious beings to emerge. 

Carlos Fuentes expresses this idea less abstractly when he explains that the first human being who learned he or she could lie, or say something other than what was the case at the moment of speaking, the first being using imagination to create alternative realities, the first artist, philosopher, scientist -- that this "fantasizing animal" was also the first truly conscious being in history.

Not only does this idea unify the Biblical theme from Genesis with the message of Shakespeare's "Tempest," but it connects computer science as it might "evolve" thanks to quantum computing with evolutionary theory in the effort to explain and recreate consciousness.   

Mr. Nolan offers a brilliant suggestion to philosophers and scientists, as one of those "fantasizing animals," for how we may someday actually create conscious robots. 

If Westworld is pessimistic about the human tendency towards violence (or the same tendency in any creatures who become conscious) it is also true that the series is optimistic about the need for freedom in all "persons" that leads many to love and struggle for one another while others seek dominance and control over their peers. 

Shakespeare's "Propero" -- like Dr. Ford in our story -- is a "god or power" in his daughter "Miranda's" (Dolores') phrase -- one who can "look into" the dark backwards abyss of time and can transform it into both present and future. 

Dr. Ford's recreation of his childhood home may be an effort to do just that: "To call back yesterday and bid time return." 

To accept our humanity, however, is to recognize the frailty of time.

The fleeting nature of our lives makes them valuable. Our inability to alter the past as distinct from the meaning of the past (a point mentioned by "The Man in Black" to Dr. Ford) through the malleability of memory in order to achieve imaginative transcendence by relinquishing control of others and coming to terms with our pains as freedoms-in-the-world is what allows us to gain in wisdom. 

Westworld confronts the ultimate mystery of death. "Prospero" comments that ...

" ... graves at my command 
Have waked their sleepers,
oped, and let 'em forth
By my so potent art.
But this rough magic I here abjure."

The Tempest, Act IV, scene 1, lines 148-158, Act V, scene 1, lines 48-58 (emphasis added). 

Not surprisingly Dr. Ford alludes to William of Occam explaining to Bernard that to Medieval men and women "we" (meaning scientists) would be magicians. Colin McGinn explains:

"We are condemned to be both confronted by a material world and yet not be of that world. The world in which we live and have our being is a world of objects in space and yet the very thing that makes this obvious to us -- consciousness -- is itself not an object in space. [The mind is not only the brain.] Our nature as conscious beings stands in contrast to the reality that consciousness makes available to us. Without this non-spatial attribute we could not become aware of space [and time.] The designer of the universe must have smiled at this irony when he made it so. By designing us on the principle of contrastive juxtaposition he inserted a deep irony into the heart of our being. Indeed, our nature as conscious beings contrasts with our nature as animal bodies, since these belong to that spatial world that consciousness seems to negate. The original irony lies within our own being as embodied minds. We are spatial and non-spatial at the same time, as part of our very personhood, and the two are inextricably linked -- ironic, is it not?"

The Power of Movies, pp. 90-91. 

"My spirits, as in a dream, are all bound up."  

Brave New World and 1984 seem optimistic about the future by comparison with the dystopian vision of the creators of this HBO series.

There are two aspects to the political reading of these stories -- and they are plural narratives in every sense of the word -- that amount to a new threat against our humanity in the postmodernist wasteland in which we find ourselves these days. 

Westworld, first of all, is a place of total control over its programmed residents. The hosts' every action and possible development is ostensibly "scripted." Their very existence (if not "lives") unfold within narrow story "loops" designed to maximize goals and pleasures that do not belong to them and which they may not desire or welcome. 

So many of us seem to have become instruments of the purposes of "others" who deem themselves our "superiors." 

We are manipulated by government officials and advertisers, tested by psychologists and marketers as well as other social scientists to enhance our "performance" in the market and work-force or as consumers. 

I can hardly wait for a local government official to knock on my door and inform me, with a professional smile, that I am due for my yearly free rectal exam. Come to think of it it is tax time. 

Much the same friendly control exists socially. Our opinions are "generated" by numerous means of "hidden persuasion." 

We are deprived of our meagre funds by being made to purchase the latest fashions and cultural products that designate our precarious social status (or lack thereof) more effectively than the uniforms work by workers in Mao's China. 

Our political and religious opinions, in fact, are fine-tuned and predicted statistically -- often by computers -- with a precision worthy of the finest engineers maintaining the "machines" that make our society "function" with admirable ease. 

These machines and the persons operating them are no less reflective of their makers' wishes than are we so-called "consumers," "voters," "jurors," or "worshipers" who are and must be obedient to the wishes of power in our kinder and gentler welfare states. 

The reward for this unquestioning obedience as to the toilet paper we use and cereal we eat in the morning and many other things is a pat on the head and an occasional trip to the shopping mall followed by a delicious meal at the local McDonald's hamburger restaurant. 

Postmodern oppression wears a pleasant expression, brings us coffee and cake, then places chains on our wrists and ankles. 

We are meant to be contented slaves, non-threatening androids, cheerful robots who do not question our reality, but merely abide by the wishes of our programmers. 

Mysteriously, this recipe for adjustment seems not to work for everyone. A few annoying members of the lower-orders (like me) tend to question and challenge their reality by seeing through the various fictions (religious and political) that are meant to keep us in our places:

"The dehuman syndrome -- with its atrophy of feeling, obsessive concern for efficiency and rationality -- is most clearly identifiable in the virulent stages of the disorder when there appear to be few limits to the actions a 'robopath' will venture in the service of what he takes to be his mandate, his mission, or his orders. ... If he is a robopathic follower, much the commoner form -- like Adolf Eichman, Lt. Calley, Gordon Liddy, and the members of the Manson Family [John McGill of the OAE?] -- he is only doing what he takes to be his duty, he is obeying orders, following instructions to the letter, carrying out legitimate commands to the best of his ability. Given the appropriate symbols and trappings of authority, [judicial robes in Trenton?] as in the soothing bureaucracy of the chain of command, he is freed to perform his instrumental role [emphasis added] with efficiency, skill, and a clear conscience -- which is to say that he has delegated his conscience to a higher authority and is automatically relieved of the distressing questions of moral responsibilities and individual choice." 

The evidence from social psychologists concerning the human tendency to conform to authoritarian evil is overwhelming. ("Drawing Room Comedy: A Philosophical Essay in the Form of a Film Script.")

Many persons hope desperately to be relieved of the burden of consciousness, especially moral awareness, in order to avoid thinking or making ethical judgments of an original sort. 

It is so much easier to be a robot than a person:

"According to Stanley Milgram, 'It is not the abandonment of morality -- which may be more loudly proclaimed than ever -- but the abdication of [personal] responsibility for individual choice and behavior that characterizes the key problem of modern cultural and spiritual pathology. The buck stops nowhere; acts are no longer initiated but routinely carried out. The person who assumes full responsibility for the act has evaporated,' says Milgram. 'Perhaps this is the most common characteristic of the socially organized evil in modern society.' ..." 

The Dehumanization of Man, pp. 19-20 ("'Ex Machina': A Movie Review").

To paraphrase the French novelist Jean-Ferdinand Celine even "death is available on the installment plan." 

Behind the smiles of our keepers is a sadism and capacity for cruelty in American government and legal officials, for example, that is the wonder of the world: torture, death penalties, surveillance, monitoring, assassination of citizens without charges or trials, deaths of thousands in Third World countries by means of robot bombs (or drones) "programmed" to kill with 50% to 75% "accuracy with regard to intended victims," registration of millions of "illegal aliens," forced drug testing and equally forced medicating of members of the underclass is routine, narcotizing the middle class with nicotine, caffeine, drugs with happy names ("Special K!"), alcohol and pointless shopping for utterly meaningless possessions related to all-pervasive "entertainment" products. 

My "Batman underwear" glows in the dark. There are already products related to Westworld that are available for purchase online. Our identities are "coded into" or attached to commercial products or fashion labels. ("The Galatea Scenario and The Mind/Body Problem.")  

Computer games and sports events as well as commercialized sex are all designed to be spectator events meant to keep us "fat, dumb, and happy." (Chris Christie?) 

Americans are described by European theorists as the "contented swine of post-industrial society." 

Rather than being disturbed by these dire accusations or insults we belch and fart loudly (Mr. Menendez?) reaching for the remote control in order to see Westworld yet again as the very embodiment of its own biting critique of our show-biz culture and shallow lives. Thank you so much Mr. Nolan. 

"Bernard" asks "Dolores" to read from Alice in Wonderland, but the text has no meaning for her even as a photograph of the "real" world cannot be read as an image or work of art -- just as Westworld's radical comment on the postmodern condition is not understood by reviewers in this country -- because Dolores lacks the inner-life that would enrich her subjectivity enabling her to offer multiple readings of such objects as well as descriptions of her own feelings and sense of self. 

This emptiness of the subject (or the insane denial of the inner-life) is a fate prepared for most of us and, sadly, already evident in many of our so-called political "leaders." (Donald J. Trump?) 

We are being made into robots. We have become what Nietzsche described as "men without chests." Plastic women. Toy soldiers. Commodities. 

In defiance of objectification Dolores chooses herself through a final act of violence (or revolution) intended to make her free, or (if necessary) to die as a woman rather than a thing or the puppet of any owner. 

Teddy's love is intended to do the same for him since he will follow Dolores anywhere because this is his way of being free. 

How many of us in the audience can say the same about our lives and choices -- that they are fully and exclusively ours -- whatever the consequences of those choices may be? 

"These our actors, as I foretold you were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air ..."  

Bernard: "Do you know where you are, Dolores?"

Dolores: "I am in a dream."

Like Dolores the audience for Westworld has been placed in a dream. 

The "dream" we inhabit in our affluent societies from the vantage point of our comfortable easy chairs is certainly the creation of gifted artists, on one level, such as Mr. Nolan, happily scripting a series for HBO called "Westworld." 

On another level, however, our dream-reality is fashioned by hidden political operatives who have brought us the Donald J. Trump presidency with the same ease as they sell us soap and shampoo during the many commercials we endure when watching television. 

In the age of "alternative facts" our very identities are commercialized and repackaged for us as labels or images. 

The self -- contrary to David Hume and his contemporary admirers, such as Derek Parfit (both of these philosophers are quoted by Dr. Robert Ford in the final episodes) -- is not exactly a "fiction." In fact, Dr. Ford's comment to this effect and his references to Michelangelo may have been an example of legerdemain intended to nudge Dolores the final distance to full consciousness. 

The self today may well be something that I can buy, but it is no less a heuristic device, an amusing artifact of our entertainment society, a flexible indicator of social status as opposed to something static or fixed. 

This realization may be among the things that Mr. Trump has grasped about his historical moment that some of his adversaries have yet to appreciate. 

Cultural memory in contemporary America is a matter of minutes (or seconds). Whatever one said yesterday may be altered at will today. There is no continuity of personality nor a "self-same subject" to hold accountable for "mis-statements." 

It is irrelevant if the self does not exist empirically. 

The self remains "real" objectively and aesthetically. The self is an "alternative fact." 

As Teddy appears wearing a costume identical to the one worn by Montgomery Clift in "Red River" so we in the audience may purchase Teddy's costume online and wear it ourselves to work next week. 

The subjective "reality" of the persons all around us, in other words, seems to mirror the internal emptiness of Westworld's robots before they achieve consciousness. In the film classic "Network" one character complains of another that "she learned about life from Bugs Bunny." 

The serious point about "reality" today has to do with this ongoing invasion of human subjectivity by constructed fictions, images, narrative devices or loops conjured not only by Hollywood movie makers, but also by far darker forces in American society and elsewhere. 

The boundaries between Wall Street, Washington, D.C. and Tinsel Town have vanished. Human consciousness is a stream of images and virtual realities colliding and changing all the time, a locus for the imposition through internalization of mechanisms of control: 

"If culture began to be more crucial to capitalism in the 1960s, it had become well-nigh indistinguishable from it by the 1990s. This, indeed, is part of what we mean by postmodernism. In a world of film-actor presidents, [reality-show political leaders?] erotically alluring commodities, political spectaculars and a multi-billion dollar culture industry, culture, economic productions, political dominance and ideological propaganda seemed to have merged into a single featureless whole. Culture had always been about signs and representations; but now we had a whole society which performed permanently before the looking glass, weaving everything it did into one vast mega-text, fashioning at every moment a ghostly mirror-image of its world which doubled it at every point. It was known as computerization [and the Internet.]"

Against Theory, pp. 48-49 (emphasis added). 

The idea of "roles" being assigned to each of us in dramas not of our making becomes crucial to Westworld's understanding of what we all have become in the media age. 

Did Hillary Clinton presume to escape the limits of a woman's "role" in our culture? If so, was this the unpardonable offense for which Ms. Clinton was denied the well-deserved ultimate prize in our political culture? 

I suspect so. Perhaps Ms. Clinton should have "lowered her expectations" as many of us are told to do these days? 

We are all actors (agents of change) in the world or upon a vast stage where what we can no longer "imagine" is a cultural reality (or social space) with non-mutable facts and truths demanding collective attention.

The warming of the planet that threatens our survival as a species is one inconvenient truth that we may no longer be able to see -- or accept -- because we are far too busy "dreaming" of cowboy adventures and obsessed with nonsense or trivial matters (sorry, Hollywood) like the Oscar awards. 

Global economic injustices and vicious racism that remain murderous and intractable evils clouded by absurd fictions of "happy natives" thrilled at the visit of rich tourists prevent entire privileged groups from grasping the reality of imminent massive upheavals in our world.

No wall will keep out the ten million people from the impoverished south who will appear on our doorstep in the First World in a decade.

Our fictions, ideologies, false news and bogus politics of entertainment have caused us and billions of our fellow human beings to suffer from genuine evils (such as the destruction, rape, and violence of war) which, ironically, are the very things offered to us in Westworld to make the crucial point that we need to wake up and get rid of our "programmers" immediately or we will all suffer horribly and die too soon as we destroy our children's future.

Shakespeare's warning that we must love one another and share what little we may have for the brief moment that we are here on this increasingly bare stage can be lost or forgotten easily if we take our childish dreams for the implacable reality of pain and imperfection against which me must struggle for freedom and justice. 

Before offering Prospero's final speech as the curtain falls on my essay, it may be useful to return to Professor Eagleton's analysis of the postmodern condition as defining the situation of Westworld's denizens:

"My identity lies in the keeping of others, and this -- because they perceive me through the thick mesh of their own interests and desires -- can never be an entirely safe keeping. The self I receive back from others is always rather shopspoiled. It is mauled by their own desires -- which is not to say their desires for me. But it remains the case that I can know who I am or what I am feeling only by belonging to a language which is never my personal possession. It is others who are the custodians of my selfhood. 'I borrow myself from others,' as the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty remarks. It is only in the speech I share with them that I can come to mean anything at all. ..."

Against Theory, p. 212.

No one understood the serious issues in the series better than Anthony Hopkins whose nuanced portrait of Dr. Ford borrows much from his "enacting" of Shakespeare's "Prospero." 

This double irony (or toying with the idea of mimesis by Jonathan Nolan and Mr. Hopkins) is one indication of the British actor's brilliance at the culmination of his career:  

"Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
the solemn temples, the great globe itself,
yea, all which it inhabit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff 
as dreams are made on, and our little life 
Is rounded with a sleep. ..."

The Tempest (Prospero) Act IV, sc. 1, lines 148-158.     



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