Deception plays a central role in the movie. It is the basis for the entire scenario and is at the heart of the Cobb’s plan. The movie promotes deceptive activities and justifies the means in the goal achievement. It also raises far more questions and debates and leaves many queries without the answers. Therefore, the current paper discusses ethical dilemmas that are raised in Inception, especially the possibility of deception and truth in inception on the one hand. From the other point, the movie is torn by the debate over the possibility of happiness in inception in contrast to the real world.
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Deception in the View of Inception
The concept of inception provides the introduction of the idea into one’s mind during the process of sleeping. It is naturally presumed that inception involves deception of a person that is provided with a new idea from the inside. However, the issue of deception is rather debated since it is assumed that the state of dream is usually not controlled by an individual and, thus, deception should not necessary occur in every case. More than that, it is also suggested that human being acts on its own and thus, the abuse of its independence might be considered as the violation of one’s self.
Many dichotomies are portrayed in the movie. For instance, emotions and ideas are presented as the opposite concepts. Cobb uses emotions as the foundation for inceptions into the minds of his victim. The ideas are transcended through the relations that emerge between him and Fisher. He manipulates with emotions that Robert experiences to create the realities that would make Robert’s mind more receptive to the ideas that are to be inserted into the mind of Fisher.
While creating the strategy for inception, Cobb stresses that the subconscious is not motivated by the reason only. It is more driven by emotions and impulses. Therefore, in order to intervene into Fisher’s mind and install the idea in it, Cobb and his team have to execute inception by the positive emotion. The latter helps to fight negative emotions that might raise a doubt or prevent a person from accepting the particular idea. Under the circumstances of the movie, it is quite a challenge since Robert has had difficult relation with his dying father that are associated with the plenty of negative emotions. The latter can prevent him from following the idea that is to be installed by Cobb and company.
More than that, it is shown how human emotions could be manipulated. For example, the movie demonstrates the widely spread behavior that is based on antagonisms. At the first level of the dream, Cobb makes Fisher conclude that the latter will not follow the steps of his father. The emotional trigger that is affected here is tied to the home where Fisher’s father lived and where he experienced strained relations with his father.
Then, at the second level, Cobb affects Fisher’s emotions that are related to the proclivity and ambitions and installs the idea of creation of something for Fisher. This emotion is also tied to the new position that is to be inherited by Robert after the death of his father. At the third level, Cobb again appeals to emotions of self-esteem and independence that reinforces the idea that as at the first level. He makes Fisher think that his father did not want his son to have the same fate as he had. All these three levels actually masque the idea that was incepted into Robert’s mind. It creates the impression within his mind that provides for his ability to live his own life without repetition of his father’s fate.
Inception teaches the viewers about the techniques that are employed in the process of deceiving others. As reveals, the positive emotions make a person more vulnerable to the deceptive practices. Therefore, one should develop emotional intelligence to understand the roots of emotions and the reasons for their emerging.
Another important notion that refers to the deception in the movie is the manipulation with the authority. Many writers speculate on this topic. Robert Cialdini, a famous psychologist, in Influence: Psychology of Persuasion examines this method of deception in details. He asserts that people are more inclined to trust the people who are dressed in the uniform. In the movie, however, Cobb relates to the godfather of Fisher, uncle Peter. Realizing the influence the latter has over the issues that are important for Fisher, Cobb incepts Peter into the minds of Fisher.
Reflecting on the subconscious of Fisher, it should be noted that the producer of the movie introduces the extra characters whose role is to protect the mind of Fisher from the external intruders. In fact, in the real life, these characters might be equaled to the moral rules and values that are much absorbed by a person so that they influence his or her activities without him or her knowing about them. More than that, these characters might also represent the behaviors that are borrowed by children from their families and then reinforced in the latter life.
Deceiving Robert, Cobb tries to convince him that he actually belongs to the army of his protectors claiming that the subconscious of Robert is the intruder. Such a situation might also occur in the real life when other people try to cultivate the new principles and values in another person claiming that his or her previous values and beliefs are wrong. At the same time, it should be stressed that the movie itself denies the idea of the possible influences that the values might have on a person. It only asserts that dreamscapes, the subconscious are only affected by the emotions, thoughts, and memories of the person.
The Concept of Truth in Inception
The movie includes many inceptions, and it is hard to differentiate the reality and inception. More than that, these two concepts are heavily contrasted, and the truth becomes a relatively blurred concept. On the contrary of the reality, which is deprived of happiness and desire, inception provides for the fantastic world that could be created. It envisages the idea that everyone determines his or her fate on the contrary of the reality that is controlled by other forces.
To discuss the issues of the truth, it is necessary to define it. The truth might be opposed to the deception. The truth provides for the real facts that do exist. More than that, the truth also might be defined as the concept or the idea that is true or accepted as the true one. Considering these definitions, it might be supposed that the truth can actually be real in the inception world too since inception, as a dream-like state, is also driven by certain rules that draw the line between the real and surreal.
At the same time, the truth frequently refers to the recognition of the particular fact as the true one. It means that there are those who determine the true or false essence of the statement, idea or fact. Thus, it always refers to the external authority. On the other hand, it is important to stress that the truth is also extremely individualistic concept, as everyone tends to see the world through his or her perspective only.
Inception shows that the truth can also transcend through different states of mind, e.g. through the conscience and unconsciousness. It can prevail in the dreamlike state and then expand to the reality. In the movie, Joseph, Jacob’s son, experiences a dream where his brother bows down to him; the events in the dream are actually real and, therefore, true. Joseph, Mary’s son, also dreams of the angel Gabriel that tells about the immaculate conception of Mary. Therefore, the dreams indeed can transcend the truth into the reality.
At the same time, the truth can be falsified in the inception as well. In the movie, Cobb tells Fisher the lie in order to make him believe in another reality and turn him against his subconscious. In this example, the lie was actually perceived as the truth, and it was recognized as the given reality and accepted by Fisher’s consciousness.
When the director of the movie provides the viewer with the opportunity to experience the things from two points of view, the viewers realize that it could not be possible in the real life where they can only approach others objectively. They could not judge their own things and actions fairly.
In Inception, one can see how the truth can be forged to legitimize the lie. The truth here does not frequently transcend the reality. In attempt to win Saito in the dream, Cobb recreates the apartment of Saito. In the process of recreation, Nash forgets to change the material from which the carpet has been created, and characters have to pass the whole scenery as the truth. Saito, naturally, identified the mistake and points on it. In addition, this example is extremely important for the understanding of the truth. In this case, Saito should have first created and perceived the reality and only then, he became capable of identifying it as the truth and differentiating it from the falsified realities. Moreover, this notion can be applicable to all ideas that human beings have developed.
As it turns out, the truth is the mere set of the facts, which have used to and, therefore, consider them to be true for us. However, in Inception, there are several layers of the realities, and the world that exists in inception as a dream-like state of mind can also have the true and falsified elements. Within this state, the carpet, which is made out of polyester and not from wool, is actually true and real. Indeed, this reality is similar to the one that Saito has used to except for the carpet. However, it does not mean that this whole thing a fake.
This notion is reinforced in the movie. The new reality that is created within the dream should have nothing in common with the previous memories of a person. Then, he or she might perceive it as a new experience that is truthful. If the newly constructed reality would be mixed up and created out of memories and new ideas, then a person might become more suspicious about the reality of things.
The truth, in fact, lies at the crossroads of the old experiences, learned ideas, and experienced feelings. The creation of a new habit provides for the perceive mention the new ideas and absorption of new rituals as well as the creation of correct associations. Until some moments of history, people believed that the Sun is moving around the Earth, and that the planet has an end behind the horizon. The further scientific discoveries proved these beliefs to be wrong. In other words, the truth is relative. What is nowadays considered as final and ultimate, could be rebutted by newly discovered facts tomorrow.
The Vision of Happiness in Inception
Another important aspect that is discussed in the movie is, obviously, happiness or rather its lack. The main character, Cobb, creates a parallel reality, a dream in which his wife is still alive. Only there he could experience the ultimate happiness and calmness. However, he controls this state; he realizes that he is the creator of this reality, and that he is in charge for it. As a proof of the dream, he uses the spin: if it spins, then he is dreaming. The viewers, however, realize that the world created by Cobb is not real. They might even empathize him and share his loss. Still, they do not understand his feelings; it is hard to judge his state and the feeling of happiness he might experience.
This ultimately leads to the discussion regarding happiness that is slightly touched by the movie. Happiness is, perhaps, the hardest thing to define. However, there are certain characteristics that are attributive for it. First, there is definitely a shared understanding of happiness within certain communities. The latter is heavily influenced by the culture, traditions, environments, upbringing, etc. The citizens of China will approach happiness in a way that differs from Americans or Italians. Chinese people tend to respect elders; they value family closeness and treasure family ties.
At the same time, Americans are frequently experiencing the ignorance of family issues for the sake of professional success. In the meanwhile, Italians endeavor to attach tones of happiness to every moment of their lives. In other words, there are certain stereotypes regarding happiness that are developed within each of the cultures. In the view of globalization processes, one might also refer to the issue of the mass culture of happiness.
From another perspective, happiness just as truth relates to the concrete person. Everyone is shaped by certain senses and experiences that might be common in one dimension and extremely individualistic in another. All of them create the unique perception of the reality and the state of happiness, which everyone seeks for during the entire life. Of course, human beings are frequently driven by the stereotypes that are developed by the community. However, the movie reinforces the idea that happiness is individualistic concept.
At the same, the antagonistic concepts of reality and dream that are developed in the movie also make one reconsider the moment of happiness and physiology of it. It is hard to say whether we really experience happiness in the real life and how long it lasts. The volume of control that one has over this feeling is also hard to measure. For long, it has been considered that a human being is tied to the concept of fate, and that everything is predetermined. Then, times changed, and philosophers of Enlightenment convinced people that they could actually strive for ultimate happiness (Goldman, n.d.). The latter notion provides that a human being should make the concrete conscious moves to achieve happiness.
At the same time, we also experience the state of happiness in the dreams. The mechanisms that provoke the feelings of happiness when the human being is dreaming, are still not identified by the scientists. There are also debates as to the possibility of conscious moves made in the state of dreaming. Inception provides that a person can intervene into the dream or to create the one of its own and experience happiness. At this point, the scientific fiction coincides with the reality that enables the events that are occurring in the movie. To some extent, a human being indeed controls his or her feelings or thoughts during the state of inception or dreaming.
The movie shows that human beings can create the reality filled with happiness. However, the credibility of feelings experienced during the dreamlike state of mind might be questioned. Yet, presuming that the new reality is fully experienced by the characters in the movie, one can believe that they might actually misinterpret the realities. It has actually happened in relation to Cobb’s wife, Mal, who has confused the life and the dream and ended up her life by committing the suicide to escape the limbo. The latter shows that in the dreams, a human being can experience a whole range of emotions that might go out of control.
At the end of the movie, the spin, which helped Cobb to differentiate the reality and the dream, is still spinning. The creators of the movie assert that the end of it is indeed indefinite. In such a way, they force the viewers to chase their own realities and determine the end of the movie for themselves. As Nolan says, “he (Cobb) didn’t really care any more, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid”. Definitely, it is hard for the viewers to differentiate the realities and the fiction. There are, of course, many ways to interpret the final scene of the movie. For example, one might suppose that everything is manipulated by Saito. Or maybe, Mal was right and Cobb should have killed himself to get back to the reality. The conversations between the characters of Ariadne and Yusef let one presume that the depending on the dream, the person can stay with it for quite a long time. In any case, it is up to the viewer to decide on the matter. Apart from the totem, e.g. the spinning pin, Cobb also wears the ring every time he dreams. However, the left hand is almost always hidden from the viewer’s eye to manipulate with them.
In the end, for sure everyone experiences the true happiness realizing that Cobb finally has made it. He managed to return home, back to his beloved children. He spins the pin and it does not stop moving. Yet, at this moment the viewer is indifferent as to the truth or falseness of the reality that is created in the movie. The happiness is transcended to everyone in the cinema. And at this moment the thesis regarding the possibility of happiness even in the inception is actually confirmed. The happiness is more important than the truth; it is primary.
Inception raises many philosophical and ethical dilemmas that are quite important in the ages when religion is neglected, and the world is mainly driven by the creative and innovative mindsets. The movie reveals deceptive techniques that might be used in the real life, for example, the appeal to the authority or positive emotions. More than that, it questions the concepts of truth and realities and makes the viewers approach these ideas from the unexpected perspectives. The end of the movie is indefinite and provokes the viewers to decide on their own whether they have been exposed to the reality or dream. In any case, the movie demonstrates that the concepts of reality, dream, truth, and happiness are extremely individualistic and should not be framed by the society, common expectations or other factors.
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