Samer Darwich

Samer Darwich

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Exploring Murphy's law through "Interstellar"

    The film "Interstellar" raises the idea of murphy’s law. But should we consider this as merely an idea that shows up in the film – like lots of ideas we may raise in films – or is there more? Can the daughter’s name be considered as a sign that that law has a deeper role in the film? Many questions can be addressed about the law and how it is related to the film and more.
    1. What is the initial form of Murphy’s law? How has it changed historically? How does the movie "Interstellar" show this change?
    2. Discuss the meaning of the law. Does the movie use and apply this law somehow? Then how?
    3. Moreover, can it be related to more than the film’s content, more precisely, the style of science fiction that Nolan makes? How such a law is used behind the scenes by Nolan to present his other stories (the Dark Night, Inception, etc.)? How did Nolan draw a line between what "we can imagine" and what "is possible by itself" or "scientifically possible"?
    4. Considering what preceded, to which level the science fiction in Nolan’s work can be considered "fiction"?

    • I think there could definitely be something worth unpacking here, especially as we get a little further down your numerical list. I'll admit that I'm getting slightly hung up on point #1, since it seems pretty indisputable that Murphy's Law is invoked directly by the film, as opposed to being a subtle way of reading into the significance of a certain character's proper name. In an early scene, Murph asks Cooper, "Why did you and mom name me after something that's bad?" to which he replies, "Murphy's Law doesn't mean that something bad will happen. It means that whatever can happen, will happen. And that sounded just fine to us." It's not exactly subtext … it's just text. There's definitely something to be said about how Coop's response reframes the law from its more popular "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" connotation. While this revision speaks directly to the thematic optimism of the film at large, it might also be worth asking if the film is really about Murphy's Law if the law needs to be twisted to accommodate the thesis that Nolan ultimately wanted to propagate. Even if Coop's remark is a valid interpretation of the law (and I'm certainly not well-read enough in the history of Murphy's Law to know one way or another), it feels just as valid to say that Interstellar is a film about "probability," rather than about "the high probability of undesirable outcomes" that most people (including young Murph) would associate with that particular phrase. Aside from all of that, I'm not really sure how we make the leap from point #3 to #4, or even what #4 is even trying to say. It seems to me that we're losing the thread of the film's themes, and replacing that discussion with a misunderstanding of how genres work and/or the narratological meaning of the word "fiction." (I'm not going to reject the topic on those grounds, nor demand edits; I just really wish that everyone on earth would read Dorrit Cohn's The Distinction of Fiction, so I can stop being pedantic about this kind of thing and move on with my life.) – ProtoCanon 1 month ago
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    • To be more precise about what I mean concerning the fourth point. Sometimes, the imagination plays the role of inventing possibilities concerning: What things exist? What they are? And what relations between them exist? etc... Sometimes, we may rely on science, for instance, which would provide us with such possibilities. Now, when does the role of imagination come in this second case? After choosing one scientific possibility concerned with the aforementioned questions, we can imagine "how this possibility may be expressed actually". In other words, imagination will play the role of actualizing such scientific possibilities, not in the world, but in the piece of art (Novel, Film, Game...), and that is different from inventing them in the first place. And as there is a difference between these two processes, we may talk then about different types or levels of "fiction". Or in another way of expression, we may talk about levels of "rationalizing the fiction". – Samer Darwich 4 weeks ago
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    Latest Comments

    Samer Darwich

    Recently I was reading about biases and informal fallacies, and only now I found an informal fallacy that reminded me of the wonders I raised in my first comment. The fallacy is called the “Homunculus argument”.

    Inside Out and St. Thomas Aquinas' Philosophy of the Emotions
    Samer Darwich

    Dear Gavroche,
    I was wondering how we sometimes use concepts (like in movies but even in our everyday life) without thinking about what their exact meaning would be.
    We may be relying on what’s called our intuition with no clear definitions of the used concepts in mind?
    While I was enjoying reading your article, I was wondering about such a point, then I found your comment here raising the idea of intuitions without concepts, so I am writing about my wonder just here.
    Did the series, before going on with many concepts, raise points like:
    How can we define free will? But what is a will in the first place? Does it have any special relation to reason?
    Why saving people’s lives is good? (intuitively!?) What is good and what is bad? Are they related to having a will?
    Etc.

    Now, why it is so important?!
    Sometimes, our judgments about one thing diverge, but the fact behind this divergence can be that we are perceiving that thing differently, or that we have different definitions of the thing we are discussing. In other words, even if we are in appearance talking about the same thing, we will be talking about two different ideas – two different things. Therefore, it would not be surprising to end up with different judgments.

    Person Of Interest: The Art of putting Kant’s Philosophy into a Computer
    Samer Darwich

    I was wondering if the movie made some points unclear, and maybe there where lies the main difference with St. Thomas’ ideas: Who’s deciding? Those little things inside my mind? Who’s making the balance? Joy? But what about me? What I am doing? But what would represent “I” then? My mind has things; do those things have their little minds? And if so, do those little minds have little things having minds in their turn? Are our actions determined by those things? Or is there a will behind our actions? If so, what represents it, and can I call it my will or the will of those little things called emotions? Etc.

    Inside Out and St. Thomas Aquinas' Philosophy of the Emotions
    Samer Darwich

    Dear Riccio,
    It seems to me that happiness, in the Aristotelian sense, may not be considered merely as a component of life [such as a feeling or the like] that can therefore be desirable for something else like “survival” for instance, but rather, it is a way of living – an entire human condition, taking into its account the facts of action and progression. If I should use the word “survival”, I’ll say that happiness is itself survival [not at the individual level but in the sense raised by the theory of evolution], but more importantly, it is not about surviving anyhow, rather, surviving rationally – as I would call it. Now, as a human species, can survival alone [any how] be counted as our aim? Let’s talk about heuristics and cognitive biases. Kahneman and Tversky stated that: “Heuristics are the ‘shortcuts’ that humans use to reduce task complexity in judgment and choice, and biases are the resulting gaps between normative behavior and the heuristically determined behavior.” So, some cognitive biases are adaptive and may lead to effective actions in a given context. Therefore, we are talking about mechanisms that probably helped us to survive. However, we, as humans, are not satisfied with those mechanisms, and for that you’ll see researchers searching out for such kind of mechanisms, trying to understand them and to find out where it is not plausible to use them, and how to avoid them when it is required… And all of this is simply a rational touch in perceiving, judging, deciding, and acting. In other words, it is not enough for us, as a human species, to survive, but we desire to survive rationally. And that is a state of being, a way of living, that is, as I assume, what is happiness.

    Aristotle and the Highest Good
    Samer Darwich

    Dear Hutton,
    Can you please justify your statement, and before doing so, can you explain what do you mean in a clear and exact way?

    Aristotle and the Highest Good