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The Philosophy of Fringe: Swinging Schrodinger's Cat By Its Tail


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#1

oconnellaboo

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 11:48 AM

There have been some interesting philosophical discussions on the threads lately - which have been taking us off topic! - so here's a place for all things philosophical.

I've always been fascinated by sci-fi on TV because at its best, it explores human relationships in even more intimate detail than some so-called "dramas." And Fringe does it better than almost anybody. From the search for one's identity, to being an adult child caring for an elderly parent, this show looks at the human condition in all its flawed, gorgeous, and scary glory.

So, let's discuss!

#2

amomono

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 2:19 PM

My mind is still blown by the new trailer that is out today, but I'll hop back and discuss (err, I mean swing cats) later

#3

Money Magnet

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 2:24 PM

Here's a discussion topic: Does Fringe believe in ghosts, or doesn't it?

Walter doesn't believe in ghosts; he says they don't exist (one of the few things he believes doesn't exist). And, in "6B," the events were shown not to have been caused by ghosts, but by the force of human emotions across the universes.

So, if ghosts don't exist... do souls? What about soul magnets? How did Belly's reincarnation happen? What is Fringe's stance on this really?

#4

oconnellaboo

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 3:07 PM

I think that's one of the main sources of dramatic tension in Fringe: Walter, the scientist, has always believed that everything has a scientific explanation. However, we see him in Season 2 asking God for a sign of forgiveness, and begging God to save the universes.

If Walter doesn't believe in ghosts, does he believe in the existence of the soul in a religious sense? If not, why would he believe in God? I've always wondered at that.

I think that Fringe, true to its name, is on the fence about souls. I think Bell and Walter consider the brain to be what we would call the soul, and that what makes us human is a collection of electro-magnetic pulses firing off in our brains; therefore, that energy could conceivably be transferred, via "soul magnets," from one vessel to another.

And I just had a Dark Matters flashback...

Anyway, Bell seems to have stuck to that theory; his idea of the soul is as the sum of all individual human knowledge, while I think perhaps Walter - humbled by madness, and amazed at his estranged son's capacity for forgiveness - is starting to think of the soul as something more. I sincerely doubt Bell had any kind of "romantic" or religious notion of the soul, but I think Walter does.

#5

CorwinOfAmber

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 3:08 PM

Well the soul magnets per se prove the existence of the soul, whether you want to call it someone's spiritual essence or energy fields. I mean, they captured a disembodied soul and stuffed it into another body however temporarily.

#6

fedorafadares

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 3:15 PM

Ghosts versus soul magnets...oooh, interesting!

I would think that as scientists, Bell and Bishop would be interested in energy --the electrical charge used by our brains to help create "consciousness."

If I had to step into Walter's shoes, I'd say he doesn't believe in ghosts because they are a spontaneous embodiment of someone's conscious energy. The aburdity here is that if someone dies, their consciousness (electrical energy) leaves their body and suddenly appears to us in the physical form conveniently identical to the shape of the person we know. That's just nutty.

Soul (consciousness) magnets are different, I would guess, since they draw the energy from a person's brain and concentrates it on the magnet to recreate that person's consciousness. There's a physical medium to absorb the energy (the magnet) and a physical medium to relate the information (Bellivia.) That's less nutty.

Actually it's all nutty, but it's fun to try to work out the writers' logic.

#7

CorwinOfAmber

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 3:22 PM

If I had to step into Walter's shoes, I'd say he doesn't believe in ghosts because they are a spontaneous embodiment of someone's conscious energy. The aburdity here is that if someone dies, their consciousness (electrical energy) leaves their body and suddenly appears to us in the physical form conveniently identical to the shape of the person we know. That's just nutty.


Well, Walter could just as easily claim that the person who encounters a ghost creates a form in their mind for it that they can understand. Especially if they're in an isolation tank, high off their gourd. :)

#8

oconnellaboo

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 3:39 PM

Well, Walter could just as easily claim that the person who encounters a ghost creates a form in their mind for it that they can understand. Especially if they're in an isolation tank, high off their gourd. :)



Indeed! It'll be interesting to see how Walter explains himself if he starts to see or hear Peter if he's not in the tank.

As Band of Horses said, "Is there a ghost in my house?"

#9

CorwinOfAmber

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 4:01 PM

As Band of Horses said, "Is there a ghost in my house?"


Oh, nice reference!

It actually becomes more than a hypothetical problem in Walter's case, both because he's become used to seeing unusual things, and because he knows he shouldn't trust his own mind.

#10

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 4:50 PM

I like that we're attempting to order our theories by degree of nuttiness. So perfect for this show! And as...uh, some guy I seem to have heard say this a few times might add, "'Cause that's not ridiculous at all."

So, Bell takes a completely scientific view of the soul; Walter seems to be coming around to the idea that a higher power might be involved; the scientist in "White Tulip" implied that science/scientists essentially are God--and provided Walter his sign of forgiveness, delivered via science but interpreted as a message from God, by Walter.

Where does Olivia fall on this spectrum, do you think? I believe it's in "Unearthed" (ptui!) that the girl's mother asks if she's religious, and Olivia deflects, saying she's not but understands that faith can be a comfort to some. On the other hand, she also held onto (and passed down to Ella) her mother's crucifix. Has all the crazy crap she's seen pushed her one way or the other? Or, with the apparent reset we're walking into with Season 4, has she seen as much, or the same, crazy crap?

#11

DixieGirl

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 5:14 PM

So, Bell takes a completely scientific view of the soul; Walter seems to be coming around to the idea that a higher power might be involved


I agree, and I think this is a good example of hubris vs humility. Bell (at least as far as we know) has not considered himself to be the cause of suffering and loss, while we know that Walter has seen, understood, and accepted responsibility for his actions that have hurt others.

#12

CorwinOfAmber

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 5:19 PM

Personally, I think that Bell knew that he'd harmed others, and didn't care. Look at his callous disregard of Olivia's safety.

#13

DixieGirl

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Posted Sep 16, 2011 @ 5:47 PM

That's probably more accurate, Corwin. When Bell and Walter were young turks, they were probably as arrogant as could be - perhaps Walter's family caused him to look a little more outside himself, while Bell had no such influences - I don't see Nina as softening him, she probably egged him on.

When Walter and Bell were talking about Bell removing pieces of Walter's brain - and Bell told him that he ASKED Bell to do so because he was afraid of what he was becoming.... that tells me that Walter had a tighter grasp on his humanity than Bell.

So..... if Walter's humanity came from having a family, wonder if he is more like Bell without that influence?

#14

Money Magnet

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Posted Sep 19, 2011 @ 2:35 PM

When Walter and Bell were talking about Bell removing pieces of Walter's brain - and Bell told him that he ASKED Bell to do so because he was afraid of what he was becoming.... that tells me that Walter had a tighter grasp on his humanity than Bell.


Or that Walter wasn't as ambitious.

Even though Bell is rarely seen on the show (and is now supposedly really, most sincerely dead), it's his philosophy that gives the show its background oomph: "Only those who dare to go too far can know how far they can go." (Which is sort of a meta-commentary on Fringe, the show, considering the nature of the season we are about to begin.) "Don't be afraid to cross the line." I don't see where Bell has ever been painted as a villain, or even as a cautionary tale. When Bell does show up, he is a voice of wisdom, as well as a devil's advocate for boldness.

So I'd say that Fringe's philosophy is undecided on "love over all" because as far as I can tell, Bell loves nothing but science and discovery (even Nina, apparently his lover, was also one of his experiments, with her mechanical arm). I guess Bell stands for "pure science." And Fringe, the show, has never seriously tried to portray that as wrong (even though we know experimenting on children was wrong).

And what about the Observers - are they also dispassionate "scientists" or does September have some kind of inner conflict over this that echoes the Bell-Bishop "conflict" between science vs. emotion?

I believe Walter was equally brilliant, but perhaps weaker in will, than Bell (more "human" I suppose) - which I guess would fit in nicely with Walter's many past sexcapades. It seemed to me that Peter had a strong enough will to stare Bell down (during the Bellivia episode), something Walter always seemed to lack.

(Crap, you know what else we need here on the forum? A William Bell topic. Or someplace we can discuss the prequel Fringe spinoff some of us really fantasize about.)

Edited by Money Magnet, Sep 19, 2011 @ 2:44 PM.


#15

jophan

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Posted Mar 8, 2012 @ 3:09 PM

Bump

#16

Ageha

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Posted Mar 8, 2012 @ 6:55 PM

I...totally forgot we had this thread! Thanks, jophan!