Inception (Analysis)

inception philosophy

2011 has been stroke by a meaningful movie : Inception, by Christopher Nolan

Inception raises the question of dreams and reality.


Cobb is a thief of ideas: he shares a dream with his target to capture the secrets of a person hidden in his subconscious. That is what he calls the extraction. To be already gone much too far, too deep in successive dreams, he lost all connection with her previous life, even with the reality he finds it hard to define. A final task of either extracting an idea in an individual, but to establish one, could help him regain what he lost … or her appearance.

This entire philosophical film is built on a classic premise skeptical epistemology called the argument of the dream. And when you’re in the dream, we are interested in what the people, namely the subconscious, and there we leave philosophy to psychoanalysis. Nolan added to these concepts for fiction scenario: an individual can share the dream of another, or create any decor. And whether there is or is not in the dream of someone else, you must bring a totem, an object of known characteristics alone, the weight felt … Note that it would absurd to think the difference between his own dream and reality with this scheme (if I know something, my subconscious knows the same subject and I will have no trouble getting to represent in a dream), which cuts off some theories that I have read on Inception.

We find discussions of the argument of the dream including Plato, Aristotle and Descartes, at least in terms of Western philosophy.

Inception and the Plato reference

Proceed chronologically, and begin with Plato, who recounts a discussion between Socrates and Athenian mathematician Theaetetus. These two wondered what science is, and therefore knowledge. Theaetetus arguing first that science is the feeling, Socrates concludes and disproves the difference between perception and knowledge. It was during this exchange where the question of the dream. (Readers interested in the philosophy of science can refer with interest to the book aptly titled AF Chalmers What is science?, Excellent introduction to theories of scientific method.)

Preview text: Plato, Theaetetus (early fourth century BC)


Theaetetus: I dare say, Socrates, I do not know what to answer, because thou hast taken earlier to have said. In reality, however, I can not deny that, in madness or in dreams, we have false opinions, while some think they are gods and that others are in their sleep they wings and they fly

SOCRATES: Dost thou not to the controversy about this, especially on the dream and the day before?

Theaetetus: What controversy?

Socrates: A controversy that you have, I think, intended to raise more than once by people who asked what could be done convincing response to that would point-blank question: do we sleep and we dream what we think or are we awake and converse we really together?

Theaetetus: It is embarrassing, Socrates, to find evidence to recognize it, because everything is the same and exactly in the two states. Take, for example, the conversation we just had: nothing prevents us from believing that we would also like sleeping, dreaming and when, we believe tell of dreams, the resemblance is remarkable with what happens to the wakefulness.

Socrates: So you see that it is not difficult to raise a controversy on this, then you wonder even if we are awake or whether we dream. Moreover, as the time when we sleep is equal to that which we are awake, in each of these two states supports our core ideas that she has successively are absolutely true, so that during half time, this is one that we hold true and the other half, the other, and we affirm each other and with the same assurance

Theaetetus: That is certain.

SOCRATES: Do we not say the same disease and madness, except for duration, which is more equal?

Theaetetus: Yes.

SOCRATES: But what? Is this the length and the short time we will define the truth?

Theaetetus: It would be ridiculous in many ways.

SOCRATES: But can you do see some other clear indication which of these beliefs are true?

Theaetetus: I do not think so.


Inception and the Aristotle reference:

Aristotle also addresses the issue. For him, nobody could believe that reality is not what is known as being awake, and no sensation is felt that the issue moot. But my feeling facing the same issue is varied according to my state. The perceived is subjective, relative. The appearance is not the truth.

Preview text: Aristotle, Metaphysics (late fourth century BC) – Book IV, 1010b – 1011a6

For what is the truth, many reasons we prove that all the appearances are not true. And first, the feeling itself does not deceive us about its proper object, but the sensible idea is not the same as sensation. Then, one can rightly wonder we are talking about are those in doubt on questions like these: The magnitudes and colors are they really as they appear to those who have strayed or such see that those who are near? Are they really as they appear healthy men, or as seen by the sick? Gravity is what it seems to men of low weight complexion, or what is for strong men? The truth is it what we see in sleep, or what we see during the day? Nobody, of course, believes that there is on these points the slightest uncertainty. Is there someone, if he is dreaming in Athens, then it would be in Africa, s’imaginât, on the basis of this dream to go to the Odeon? Moreover, and this Plato who made the remark, the opinion of the ignorant certainly does not equal authority to the physician when it comes to know, for example, if the patient recovers or not recover health. Finally, the testimony of one direction on an object that is foreign, or even that comes close to his own purpose, has no equal in value to his testimony on his own object, the object is actually hers . This is the view that judges and not the color of taste is the taste that flavors judge, not the view. Never did any of these senses, at the same time, when applied to the same object, tells us that this object has and has not both such property. I go further still. You can not dispute the testimony of sense, because different times he disagrees with himself, he must send the accused to be experiencing the sensation. The same wine, for example, or because it has changed itself, or because our bodies have changed, we appear, it is true, in a sweet moment, the opposite in another. But this is not the sweet that ceases to be what it is, it never remains the essential characteristic and is always true that a mild flavor is sweet, and what will be a sweet we will necessarily the essential character.

Here is a difficulty facing most of these philosophers, some in good faith, others just for the sake of arguing. They ask who will assess the health and, in general, what is the one who considers well in all circumstances. Now is such a question is whether there is currently asleep or awake.

Inception and the Descartes reference

Finally, our last reference is Rene Descartes who experienced dreaming  comfortably lied in his chair.

Preview text: Rene Descartes, Meditations (1641): First Meditation

However I have here to consider that I am human, and therefore I wont sleep represent me and my dreams the same things, or sometimes less likely that these fools when they are awake.

So suppose now that we are asleep, and that all these particulars it, namely, that we open our eyes, we’re shaking their heads, that we extend the hand, and the like, are but false illusions, and believe that perhaps our hands, nor our whole body, not as we see them. However, it should at least admit that the things that we are represented in sleep are like paintings and paintings, which can be formed as the likeness of something real and true, and thus, for least these general things, namely, eyes, head, hands, and the rest of the body, are not imaginary things, but really existent. Because real painters, even when they study with the greatest skill to represent sirens and satyrs by forms strange and extraordinary, they can not do, however, give forms and natures entirely new, but are only a medley of the members of various animals, or if perhaps their imagination is extravagant enough to invent something so novel that we have never seen anything like it, and thus their work we represents a thing purely and absolutely false pretense, although at least the colors they make up have to be true. And for the same reason, although these general things, namely, eyes, head, hands, and the like, be imaginary, but must admit there are things even simpler and more universal, which are true and existing mixture which, neither more nor less than that of some real colors, all these images of things that reside in our thoughts, whether true and real or false and fantastic, are formed.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Inception (Analysis), April 8, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 8, 2012,

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