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11/2/2017 APhilosophicalAnalysisofGhostintheShell(1995)|TheVault

APHILOSOPHICALANALYSISOFGHOSTINTHE
SHELL(1995)
January20,2015 bymogsam

Ahyes,anotherarticleclumsilygrapplingwithphilosophicalconcepts,thistimeinthecontextof
noneotherthanGhostintheShell.Forthepurposeofthemainfocusofthisarticle,Illstart
witharefresher.Inthisfilm,asoulisreferredtoasaghostandtheplotispropelledforward
byamythconcerninganentirelyroboticbeingcontainingitsownghost.Thisultimatelybrings
forthquestionsastowhataghostisandwhetherartificiallifeformscanpossessthese
ghosts.Similarly,italsopushesforwardthequestionofwhatisinherentlyuniquetohumansif
roboticbeingscanmimicsomethingsuchasaghost.Itisimmediatelyapparentthatthisfilm
presentstheideaofdualismthemindandbodyarepresentedasdifferententities.

MotokoKusanagi,themaincharacter,andacyborg,isabletoseparatefromherbodyand
travelthroughthenetonherownaccord.Whenpluggedin,sheiscapableoflookinginto
anotherghostorhackintoaGPSsystemwithouttheaidofaphysicalbody.Inessence,
Motokosghosthastheabilitytoactinsuchawaythatcontrolsherbodybutatthesametime
actentirelyindividuallyfromit.GilbertRyleiswellknownforhiscriticismofdualism,atheory
presentedbyReneDescartesthatthemindandbodyaredistinct,withthemindlivinginsome
nonphysicalplane.Rylespeaksofhowapersonsmindandbodyinfluenceoneanotherthat
whilethemindcancontrolvariouspartsofthebodytoperformcertainactions,thebodyhasan
equalpotential.Rylesays,grimacesandsmilesbetraythemindsmoodsandbodily
castigationslead,itishoped,tomoralimprovement.Nowofcourse,applyingthisunique
situationoftheghostofacyborgimpliesdifferentcircumstances.Itisunknownastowhether
roboticbeingsorevencybrogscanhavewhatcouldbeconsideredasoul.However,Iwill
continueforthwiththisideaandsuggestthatintheworldofGhostintheShell,mindisclearly
superioroverthatofitscounterpart.

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11/2/2017 APhilosophicalAnalysisofGhostintheShell(1995)|TheVault

Motokodoesnotactinresponsetoherbody,andwhateveractionsshewouldreacttowouldbe
theresultofhermentalcapacities.Ibelievethatwiththeintroductionofameansforthemindto
travelthroughthenet,anypotentialforbodyandmindtobeinterwoventogetherindefinitelyis
destroyed.Followingthistrainofthought,werunintoconceptsthatsumupDescartesinhis
entirety.TheverynotionofIthinkthereforeIamisthebasisforMotokosreasoningthatshe
mustbesomething.However,herreasoningtakesitastepfurtheranddenotesthatmemories
aresomethingthatmakesupanindividualandthatwhileshemayhaveartificialpartsshehas
memoriesthatareuniquetoher.Thefollowingisaconversationshehaswithacyborgfriend
aboutherthoughtsonexistence:

Motoko:Justastherearemanypartsneededtomakeahumanahuman,theresaremarkable
numberofthingsneededtomakeanindividualwhattheyare.Afacetodistinguishyourself
fromothers.Avoiceyouarentawareofyourself.Thehandyouseewhenyouawaken.The
memoriesofchildhood,thefeelingsforthefuture.Thatsnotall.Therestheexpanseofthe
datanetmycyberbraincanaccess.Allofthatgoesintomakingmewhatlam.Givingrisetoa
consciousnessthatlcallme.Andsimultaneouslyconfiningmewithinsetlimits.

Inthismonologue,sheconsidersallofthatattributesthatextendbeyondhermind.Bythe
samekindoflogicDescartesfollows,Motokoisabletodistinguishherbodyasanattachment
toher,suchasherhandandherfacethatdifferfromothers.Shefocusesabitmoreon
individuality,namelythememoriesshealonekeepstoherselfwhichmakeupherghost.By
Descartesveryownlogic,Motokoexistssimplybecausesheisabletothinkforherselfand
makerationaldecisions.ButthequestionIaskiswhetherthatmightnotnecessarilybetrue.
Yes,Motokoisabletothinkandreacttoeventsaroundherwhilemakinglogicalchoices.She
candeduceinformationfromhersurroundings,andgoasfarastoquestionherownexistence.
Nevertheless,sheisacyborgcreatedbyacompanyandevenspeculatesthatshemaybe
entirelysyntheticwithartificiallygeneratedmemories.Moreimportantly,becausesheisa
cyborg,sheisalsolimitedtothemanufacturersspecifications.Sheactsforthebenefitofthe
companyandfollowsordersknowingverywellthatshouldshechoosetoretire,shemustreturn
backhercyborgshellalongwithanyofthememoriesshemayhold.

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11/2/2017 APhilosophicalAnalysisofGhostintheShell(1995)|TheVault

Thequestionthenis,doesMotokoexistasanindividualifherthoughtsandmemoriesmaynot
evenbeherown,withtheknowledgethattheycouldbeprogrammedartificiallyandrestrainher
fromthinkingfreely,andpotentiallyevenlimitingthekindsofthoughtshecanhave.Ofcourse,
theotherpositiontoconsiderthisconundrumisbystrictlyfollowingthestandardoldDescartes
IthinkthereforeIaminitsentirety.AslongasMotokoisthinking,sheexists,nomatterwho
orwhatthesourceofthesethoughtsoriginate.Themomentshedecidestoretireorhappensto
bedestroyedisthemomentshesimplynolongerexists.Itshouldnttechnicallymatterwhether
theyareherownthoughtsorwhethertheywereprogrammedintoherornot.

Thenextpointofinterestisindiscussingthenatureofthehumansoulandwhetherthereis
anymoremeritfromasocalledsoulthanthereisfromacyborgsghost.Hereweseethis
fleshedoutabitfurther:

Batou:Ridiculous!Youremerelyaselfpreservingprogram!

Motoko:Bythatargument,lsubmittheDNAyoucarryisnothingmorethanaselfpreserving
programitself.Lifeislikeanodewhichisbornwithintheflowofinformation.Asaspeciesof
lifethatcarriesDNAasitsmemorysystem,mangainshisindividualityfromthememorieshe
carries.Whilememoriesmayaswellbethesameasfantasyitisbythesememoriesthat
mankindexists.Whencomputersmadeitpossibletoexternalizememoryyoushouldhave
consideredalltheimplicationsthatheld.

Batou:Nonsense!Nomatterwhatyousayyouvenoproofthatyourealifeform!

Motoko:ltisimpossibletoprovesuchathing.Especiallysincemodernsciencecannotdefine
whatlifeis.

IinstantlythinkofHumesbundletheorywhenInowreadoverthisconversation,whichasserts
thatanobjectisnomorethanthecollectionofitspartsandnothingmore.Motokoisonceagain
suggestingthatlifecarriesitsindividualityfrommemories.ThiscanbeintheformofDNAor
externalizedlikeincomputers.Withsuchaheavyemphasisonmemoriesandtheimplications
theyhaveonabeingsactionsorthoughts,thesamerecurringthemeisbroughttothe
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