Dr. Santas’ Study Questions for Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2001) Something to Note: There are two sets of scenes: a B&W set that runs in a forward sequence; and a Color set that runs in a backward sequence. They meet in the middle at the end of the story. It goes like this: Black and White scenes Color scenes st 1 2nd 3rd … last last … 3rd 2nd 1st Things to Look For: Memory as foundation for personal identity—compare to Blade Runner, Dark City, Impostor, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Connection to David Hume’s conception of self as fragmented--see Hume's Skeptical Doubts How self-as-choice is dependent on memory—compare to Matrix, Total Recall, and Truman Show The relation between factual knowledge and self-knowledge—compare to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Rene Descartes’ Meditations I-II and Meditations IV Questions: 1. Given that “memories are unreliable,” is Leonard’s system more reliable than memory, as he contends? Comment on the relation between ‘memories’ and ‘facts’. 2. What “facts” can he be certain of? Make a list. What happens to these facts as the story unfolds? Relate to Descartes’ account of error in Meditations IV. 3. Leonard was “disciplined and organized.” Did this help him? In what way? Explain. Are there larger lessons here for those of us not in his “condition”? 4. Who are the “evil deceivers” (a la Descartes’ Meditations I) in this story? Does his “condition” bring that quality out in people by virtue of the power it affords them? 5. Leonard says “How am I supposed to heal if I can’t feel time?” If time heals all, can someone with his condition heal at all? What else might help him heal? Compare his fate to that of Joel and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine. 6. What role does memory play in the formation of a person? We often discuss the importance of accurate long term memory (as in Blade Runner and Total Recall), but what about the loss of the ability to form new memories? 7. Can habit and routine help you live your life adequately or meaningfully if you can’t form new memories? Do actions in the world matter if you can’t remember them? Compare and contrast Leonard to the inhabitants of Dark City. 8. Teddy tells Leonard that he doesn’t know who he is, even though he remembers as much as anyone who he was before his injury. Can who you are ever = who you were? Explain the relation between past, present and future in the persisting (diachronic) self. 9. Was it the lack of memory or his self-deception that was Leonard’s downfall? Develop an argument for each of these possibilities. 10. Teddy tells Leonard, “So you lie to yourself to stay happy—you leave out a few details—who cares? …. You don’t want the truth.” Using this quote, explain the relation between factual knowledge, truth, and self-knowledge.
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