Monday, November 26, 2012

Educate Emma: Books: Inception and Philosophy edited by David Kyle Johnson

Goodreads Description:

"A philosophical look at the movie "Inception" and its brilliant metaphysical puzzles. Is the top still spinning? Was it all a dream? In the world of Christopher Nolan's four-time Academy Award-winning movie, people can share one another's dreams and alter their beliefs and thoughts. "Inception" is a metaphysical heist film that raises more questions than it answers: Can we know what is real? Can you be held morally responsible for what you do in dreams? What is the nature of dreams, and what do they tell us about the boundaries of "self" and "other"? From Plato to Aristotle and from Descartes to Hume, "Inception and Philosophy" draws from important philosophical minds to shed new light on the movie's captivating themes, including the one that everyone talks about: did the top fall down (and does it even matter)? Explores the movie's key questions and themes, including how we can tell if we're dreaming or awake, how to make sense of a paradox, and whether or not inception is possible. Gives new insights into the nature of free will, time, dreams, and the unconscious mind. Discusses different interpretations of the film, and whether or not philosophy can help shed light on which is the "right one". Deepens your understanding of the movie's multi-layered plot and dream-infiltrating characters, including Dom Cobb, Arthur, Mal, Ariadne, Eames, Saito, and Yusuf.

An essential companion for every dedicated Inception fan, this book will enrich your experience of the "Inception" universe and its complex dreamscape."

Review: (*warning for Inception spoilers*) 
I am a hard-core Inception lover. Like, seen the movie six times, read more than a dozen theories about the ending, read fanfiction when I get bored hard-core. My love of the story is intense. It was only logical than my mum pick out Inception and Philosophy when she was at the library. 

I don't know what I was expecting with this work, but it exceeded my expectations. The essays towards the beginning of the book are focused mainly on the main question: was the entire movie a dream? Each essay brilliantly explained the issue of reality while laying the groundwork for philosophical thought. They tightly built on each other - a feat that I've never seen in an anthology before. They made good points, and the general consensus seemed to be that the All Dream/the whole movie was a dream theory made the most sense. Only thing that confused me about this perspective was that they seemed to reject the groundwork made in the movie: you can go three levels down, but after that, you hit Limbo. For the entire movie to be a dream, there would have to be layers upon layers upon layers of dream activity, and the story logic follows that once you hit three, you hit the infinite space of Limbo. Am I missing something? I could be, but I found it strange that not one of these philosophers had thought of that issue.

The beginning of the book is a little repetitive in parts, because everyone seems so obsessed with the end question of the movie. After a while, this got slightly tiring. Once we escaped the end question and got into other aspects of the movie, though, I found myself invigorated again. Of course, once the anthology moved away from the Big Question, it was less tightly interwoven. However, I didn't mind too much for the sake of branching out. Everything from the idea of inception being a metaphor for moviemaking to the movie's use of Asian philosophy was covered. My very favourite essay was about the idea of knowing oneself and the people around you, and how you can only obtain an understanding of others if you are entirely in the present. 

This book not only explores all the brilliant intricacies of the Inception universe, but really provides a general overview of a lot of different philosophical branches and ideas. The bibliographies of the essays act as a great resource for further learning. I have a lot of new concepts that I would love to study more in depth. It succeeds at discussing Inception intelligently and making philosophy accessible to the public, and for that, it deserves attention. 4 and a half flowers. 



  1. I thought it wasn't that you couldn't go more than three deep, just that it was virtually impossible to wake up from it, hence getting caught in limbo when the dreamer wakes and you can't escape. They do in fact go 4 deep in the movie don't they?

    Anyway, this book sounds like it might be something I want to at least flip through.

    1. That would make sense. Thanks for the clarification!