Sunday, February 13, 2011

Free will, as far as Metal Gear Solid 2 is concerned

Existentialism claims that we, as human beings, have free will.

Following is a clip from the game Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (yes, it's a video game....but it has a ton of movie-style sequences, so hey). The premise here is that by simulating certain scenarios, anyone can be made into the perfect soldier; basically, the "free choices" made by many of the characters in the game have NOT been made of their free will-- they have been playing along in an orchestrated "game". ...except for one character, who was unexpected (and, presuming since he goes by his own rules, exercises his free will).

Just to let you know: If you're playing this game for the first time, or would like to and haven't yet, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO, since this would spoil the whole game for you.


  1. Video games are good, especially to talk about free will. Over time video game developers have emphasized the “A.I.” component of their games. The thought is that the elements within the game can “learn” from your actions and respond accordingly yielding a richer gaming experience. Yet, for all the programming, are not the elements of the game simply following a designated set of reactions based on the actions of the game player. The programming may be more complex and offer more variety but the actions are in a sense predetermined. This brings us to us.
    Do we act independently, or within a preset group of actions in response to our environmental stimuli? We can claim our actions are our own and thus this constitutes free will. Then the question is how much free will, if any do we really have. We surely cannot say we are truly free as we can only react to stimuli and in a manner consistent with in how we were conditioned. I believe Locke, in a deterministic view, stated we are simply the product of all that we have had stimuli from. Kant, on the other hand believed that yes we were the sum product of all that affects us, but we have the right, or really the duty, to apply reason to our situation to act accordingly. But with what “reason”, the same reason that we acquired from direct interactions into our senses? Are these not the same ideas and stimuli that have already been imprinted upon us from another source? The only way to truly apply “reason” to our situation would be to either separate ourselves from the situation, or connect directly to someone, something or some concept outside of our stimuli. This could be Plato’s higher truth, what shamans seek to connect with, what we have access to in our dreams, or maybe all the above. This would lead to Descartes’ seat of the soul, the pineal.

  2. Since I cannot seem to be able to start a new post I will piggy back here.

    The clip will not embed but it is from Dark City. As a brief background, the lead character, John has awakened with no memories and is accused of murder. This scene is used to set the actions of the dark element of the movie, the “Strangers”. They are a group of non-descript aliens that are performing experiments on humans in effort to see what makes us unique. They are using Kiefer Sutherland to implant memories into people to observe how they react to different environments. The purpose of this is to find the soul that they, the “Strangers” lack. The questions would be
    1.) Since the pineal gland is instrumental in sleep cycles and dreaming and the “Strangers” are changing memories while the people are asleep, could Sutherland be injecting these memories directly into the pineal gland or Descartes’ seat of the soul?
    2.) Since the “Strangers” are trying to find the soul by observing the effects of external stimuli on us, would that imply that the soul is the reference point that we all share in common? I believe it was Plato that felt that our souls existed before our birth and were part of the higher truth. This could imply that this reference point is not an ordinary reference point but actually our connection to the higher truth and thus to each other.
    As discussed briefly in class on Thursday, who are we in regards to our past? Are we simply a product of those stimuli (memories) that have affected us and if those memories could be changed would we be someone else? Maybe that will be the next Dark City clip.