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Minority Report and Determinism

Minority Report and Determinism - Lisa Leary Philosophy 101...

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Lisa Leary Philosophy 101, Section 3 Minority Report: Devil’s Advocate in the Free Will Versus Determinism Debate The film Minority Report is set in Washington, D.C. in the year 2054. The city has been used for the past six years as the site for an experiment in a new method of fighting crime: precrime, a system of detecting murders before they happen and preventing the crimes from taking place. Dr. Iris Hineman, while attempting to help children born with defects due to their mothers’ addiction to a futuristic drug called Neuroin, discovers three children that have an extraordinary gift: they are able to see murders before they occur. She develops the technology which is the basis for precrime: a method of projecting the visions of these seers, referred to as “precogs,” onto a screen. The program is very successful, effectively reducing the murder rate in D.C. by nearly one-hundred percent. John Anderton is a very firm believer in this system; that is, until he finds himself face-to-face with a depiction of himself murdering a man he has never met. Though Minority Report has a captivating storyline, the film’s purpose reaches far beyond the superficialities of entertainment. It is an applied analysis of both sides of the age-old free will versus determinism debate, examining first the arguments for determinism and gradually shifting the focus to libertarianism. In the film’s opening scene, after a vision projected by the precogs is interpreted, a man named Howard is arrested by a team of precrime officers as he is about to stab his
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unfaithful wife with a pair of scissors. Howard is taken away, proclaiming his innocence. The way the scene is set up leads the viewer to believe Howard was certainly going to kill his wife; the scissors are mere centimeters from her face when Howard is apprehended. Whether or not one believes he deserves to be punished for an uncommitted crime, it is difficult to argue that he was about to at least attempt murder. Anderton believes very firmly in this system which relies completely on the ideas of determinism. He adamantly defends the system under the scrutiny of government detective Danny Witwer, sent to evaluate the system that may soon become nation-wide.
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