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on pensivity

Reading Roger Ebert's review of Solaris, I had come across one of his somewhat philosophical passages that I always enjoy reading in his movie reviews. Recalling it just now, it gave me a start.

Kelvin gets back not his dead wife, but a being who incorporates all he knows about his dead wife, and nothing else, and starts over from there. She has no secrets because he did not know her secrets. If she is suicidal, it is because he thought she was. The deep irony here is that all of our relationships in the real world are exactly like that [...]. We do not know the actual other person. What we know is the sum of everything we think we know about them. Even empathy is perhaps of no use; we think it helps us understand how other people feel, but maybe it only tells us how we would feel, if we were them.

I'm going to go eat lunch alone. I have a little thinking to do before I can resume work.


( 6 comments — Comment )
Jan. 13th, 2004 11:55 am (UTC)
There is a Greg Egan story set in a future where people can have their brains "scanned" for download, and you (or the scan of you) can live a phenomenologically normal life integrated into a computer program.

That's not the story, though -- he has lots of stuff exploring the conseuquences of that.

The one I'm thinking of is about a kidnapping -- this guy gets a call from some kidnappers, they've got his wife. Except it's not his *wife* exactly -- it's a scan of his wife. Except she's never been scanned. *HE* has, though.

"what" has been kidnapped is the recreation of his *image* of his wife.
Jan. 13th, 2004 12:06 pm (UTC)
I had been trying to think about this very same concept for awhile, and finally I found it written down, well, you found it.
Jan. 14th, 2004 05:38 am (UTC)
At least in real life, though, there's the potential to learn more about other people. If all they are is what you already knew about them...where do you go from there?
Feb. 16th, 2004 10:08 am (UTC)
I guess it depends on the true "free will" of the creation. Remember that they start out only incorporating what you know about them, but from the moment of creation, they continue from there, an independent person. It seems like it could be very interesting to see what happened from that point, and not at all predictable.

There's a sort of uncomfortable parallel here with other creation myths... God creates the world but grants his creations free will, and then is often disappointed with how things turn out.

I've always gotten the feeling that there's much more depth to the story of Solaris that I'm not accessing. And I thought I did particularly well, too. Perhaps I need to read the book. Becca did (my Becca, not you :)) but she often has difficulty discussing heavily emotional/philosophical subjects.
Jan. 14th, 2004 07:25 pm (UTC)
If You Haven't Read...
If you haven't read the novel by Lem yet, I'd really recommend it; I can honestly say it was the most terrifying story I'd ever read, for many of the reasons Ebert cites in the film version. While not a lot easier to follow, per se, the novel is far more enriching. You read all of these books that talk about love ... and then you read something like that ... especially if you're in a relationship with somebody who feels suicidal, you can identify with Kelvin ... and with the conundrum you face when you think you know what's going on.
Jan. 15th, 2004 06:14 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of something I read in _To Sail Beyond the Sunset_ by Heinlein.

"We are strangers, all of us, family most of all."

I've always liked that line...
( 6 comments — Comment )



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