James Sivy 10/04/10
Ghost in the Shell is an animated film that describes the life of a major in the military, in a futuristic society. The films suggest that if you mix machinery and biology too much, can you be sure of which one you are. If a person has a mechanical brain and body can they be considered alive or are they just a program in a computer. In order to answer that you would have to define alive; does being alive have anything to do with flesh and blood? Perhaps being alive is the ability to think and percieve the world around you. In fact questioning is another trait distinct of thought. A program can calculate and predict, but the one thing distinct of sentience it can not do, question. If something can question then it is sentient.
The director has the main character state “Who am I?” The Major, the Main character, wonders if she is a real person or a program. "Major Motoko Kusanagi barely exist in her original human form, retaining only a small portion of organic grey matter inside an almost totally robotic, titanium body or"shell." (Dan Dinello, page 276, Anime and philosophy) The title of the anime supports this, “Ghost in the Shell” likely refers to the phrase “ A shadow of your former self.” The main character has a cybernetic mind and body, which leads her to question her existence, whether or not she is still alive. If one states that the difference between a human and a machine is that the human has a soul, what then, is a cyborg, such as the Major? “ The cyborg protagonist of Ghost in the Shell, Major Motoko Kusanagi, struggles within the interstitial space between a humanist identity grounded in individual agency and consciousness as a seat of identity (her “ghost”) and a posthuman distributed cognition in which “grounding” of experience becomes expanded and fluid.” (Angus McBlane, page 28, Anime and Philosophy) "She can patch her nervous system into the internet, mentally "dive" into cyberspace, and access the connected minds of others." (Dan Dinello, page 276, Anime and philosophy) "She practically co-exists on the net."(Dan Dinello, page 276, Anime and philosophy) "The philosophical action, however, focuses on her techno meta-physical quest beyond gender and human identity for a spiritual bond, for perfection, for transcendant wholeness, for the ghost in her shell." (Dan Dinello, page 276, Anime and philosophy) With the majors ability to exist inside the internet who is to say that she is not a program running off the internet or in her shell? But, even if that were true, she has the ability to think, rationalize, she is also aware of her own existence. To be considered human must one be of flesh and blood, perhaps the traits previously listed of the major are enough to qualify one as sentient and therefore human.
I believe that the films underlying message is, What makes man a man? “The Major is alone, confused and feels trapped inside her corporation created body.” (Dan Dinello, page 275, animation and Philosophy) “ Not a human with prosthetics, The cyborg major was built not born”.( Dan Dinello, page 278, animation and Philosophy) Her only human parts consist of organic brain cells, from her former female self, housed in a titanium skull and augmented by a computer brain.( Dan Dinello, page 278, animation and Philosophy) "confused about her identity beyond police work, Motoko wants to find her place in the world." (Dan Dinello, page 275, Anime and philosophy) " She wants to know if she is an autonomous person or an automaton." (Dan Dinello, page 275, Anime and philosophy) The Major is strugling with her identity, she cannot tell if she is a program or person. The major villian in the film, the puppet master, has the ability to hack a person cyber brain and implant false memories, with this in mind who is to say that the major does not have any programed memories, that Motokos' memories were not thought up in a lab. Whether or not this is true is irrelevent, any being aware of its own existence and surroundings is sentient and therefore in some way human. The fact that the Major questions whether she is machine or not is proof of her sentience. How can one question if one cannot think. thatis what sepparates a being from a machine, a question, machines just "do", but beings can question.
So, when technology and biology are mixed and almost inseparable what then is a human. Does being human mean you are of flesh and blood? Or perhaps it is the ability to think and create, to be aware of ones self and environment. The film suggests, to me at least, that if something is aware enough to define its own existence then in a sense it is alive. A machine can have a soul if it is aware of its own existence. The ability to question what one is, is again proof of their awarness and sentience. The fact that the major can question her self is proof that she is in some way human. To be a human is to be able to ask questions. I f something can question then it has human qualities, therefore to be human does not mean one must be of flesh and blood but one may be of anything so long as they can percieve and question, that makes them alive, it makes them human.
Angus McBlane, page 28, Anime and Philosophy
Dan Dinello, page 278, animation and Philosophy
Dan Dinello, page 276, Anime and philosophy
Dan Dinello, page 275, Anime and philosophy