Reflection Paper: Fight Club

Reflection Paper: Fight Club
Ayungao, Krishna Lou T.
2010 – 10917
Ms. Tano Ramoya
Philosophy 27

1) How did you find the movie in terms of its themes, and relevance to our past discussions?

I find the movie very disturbing, and at the same time interesting. Even before the narrator of the story had problems with Tyler Durden, his alter ego, he was already mentioning bits and pieces of what does and does not define him. Say for example, I am Jack’s raging bile duct, Jack’s cold sweat, or Jack’s broken heart. Tyler also said that you are not your job, your money in the bank, or the things you possess. So basically, the movie was already discussing the foundations of defining one’s identity. I was also puzzled with how the narrator did things with two different personalities without confusing himself too much. How in the world can one person be an automobile agent without knowing that he is also a waiter and a soap salesman at the same time? Its theme is mainly about discovering one’s true identity and how we can actually make things up when it comes to who we are and who we want to be. It also has a touch of the Marxist Existentialism when it comes to the Fight Club itself. I think the movie wanted to focus more on the persistence of one’s self in terms of the real identity being dominant over the confused identity of the narrator. Although it doesn’t talk too much about the persistence through the soul, since Tyler was agnostic, the movie really explores different theories when it comes to one’s identity. Fight Club will make you question about the nature of identity above all others.

2) Did the movie problematize the subject of identity? In what way/s?

Fight Club did problematize the subject of identity in so many ways than I can imagine. In psychology, we can easily say that Tyler Durden is just the alter ego of the narrator. But in philosophy, there is just no way I can say what defines the narrator’s identity. Even if the narrator and Tyler Durden are technically one, they still have problems with their identities. So what defines their identity? Can two identities really exist in one body? Or is there really just one identity that exists?

I don’t think that Locke’s theory of the same consciousness makes both of them have the same identity. They may have the same memory, but they don’t have the same perspective. Tyler knows that he is only an alter ego, created by the frustrations of the narrator. On the other hand, the narrator was not aware of that until other people started calling him Tyler Durden. That only means that there were discrepancies in the narrator’s memory. Applying Clarke’s theory, there are so many limitations in the narrator’s memory and yet he still calls himself “I” with the knowledge that Tyler is different from him. What does that make Tyler Durden? Is he just an unreachable part of the narrator’s identity or entirely different from it? Hazlitt said, “A person has no other self than that which arises from this very consciousness.” If we take that into account, I think it somehow says that the narrator could both be himself and Tyler Durden, meaning they have the same identity, and it only depends on what perspective is present in a given time. Or we can explain their identity in the easiest way that we can, using Priestley’s theory, that our identity is the belief that we are whoever we think we are. It’s just like the principle of having a split personality. You have the same brain, and/or the same mind, and the movie only showed that it is actually possible to be whoever we want to believe we are, and not be stuck to only one identity. But that is just a crazy idea, because as the narrator can be both himself and Tyler Durden, he can be almost anyone he wants to be (eg. He could be Shatner, or Lincoln, or Gandhi).

In the Extrinsic Relations View, we will have to consider how the narrator and Tyler are related to other people. Since they have the same body – only that Tyler looks different in the narrator’s imagination – and since everybody knows the narrator as Tyler, they will remember him as a person named Tyler, from a mental institution who acts as if he has two personalities, but only one identity because they only have one body. But I don’t believe in the extrinsic relations view because I think that neither the narrator nor Tyler is defined by his body. The body is still essential, because without it, the crazy mind of the narrator-slash-Tyler will not have anything to act with. I also believe in Gabriel Marcel’s theory because the narrator and Tyler’s body helped them relate to each other, and also connect and participate in the world. If embodiment is not just about external appearance, but about what a person truly feels inside, then the embodiment of the narrator and Tyler differs and depends on which personality is present in a given moment. That gives rise to the idea of the four-dimensional view of an identity. The narrator can be one person-stage of himself, and Tyler Durden, another person-stage. And only one of them can be present in a given moment. Maybe it’s because the narrator is incomplete without Tyler, and vice versa. We cannot just discard Tyler Durden just because he is a so-called alter ego in the movie. He is not just an alter ego. I think he may be part of the identity of the narrator, the suppressed part of his identity that he has to let out, he may be different but it’s still him or part of him.

The narrator kept saying things like, “If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?” or “When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep… and you’re never really awake,” or “Is Tyler my bad dream? Or am I Tyler’s?” It is actually a perfect example of what Descartes said, “We should doubt all that we know because they come from our senses which deceive us, and these can be just a result of a dream.”

I think the reason why the narrator was never confused about himself and Tyler (before Marla called him Tyler) was because he didn’t have an awareness of who he is (as the narrator), only an awareness of what he experienced, based on the theory of Hume. And every single time he did the things that Tyler did, he saw Tyler doing it, that’s why he always thought he was different from Tyler. If he is Tyler, then he is seeing himself do it, only that he didn’t know it was him. But we should not see ourselves doing something because we are the doers. And the narrator had to kill Tyler in his mind, not because he had to stop Project Mayhem because in the end it didn’t really matter, but because as long as he is seeing himself (or technically, Tyler) do the things that he does, there is an illusion of self in experience (according to Buddha). There is a fictitious illusion of who he is, and with that illusion, he could never be free.

So to sum it all up, Tyler Durden can be part of the identity or a separate identity of the narrator depending on the perspective. But it is important that he only has one whole identity in one body so as not to confuse himself, and for one whole identity to really own the body and be united with it as one, so the body wouldn’t be a certain instrument being fought over by two identities or two parts of an identity.

3) Establish Tyler Durden’s identity (assuming that he is different from the narrator) in terms of:

a. Consciousness (memory and awareness)

A very distinct thing about Tyler’s consciousness is that he is aware of everything that the narrator is aware of, yet the narrator is not aware of everything he is aware of. But in the end, they attain the same memory. He knows that he is everything that the narrator wants to be. He has a different mind, that is to say he thinks differently, than the way the narrator does. He knows the narrator too well and the things he would say, so every move Tyler did was carefully planned so he could stop the narrator from aborting Project Mayhem in the future. He had it all planned out in his mind ever since the narrator met him. He said that the Fight Club was only the beginning of Project Mayhem, so even before he bombed the apartment of the narrator or asked for a fist fight, Tyler already knew what was to come. He is dominant over the personality of the narrator, and smart enough to make the narrator believe that they are two different persons.

b. Embodiment (physical features and gestures/actions)

In the narrator’s imagination, he is a handsome, young man in his thirties with a fit body structure. He is characterized as a liberated person who believes in the potential of the working class, and wants to achieve economic equilibrium and the greater good by doing radical actions. Technically, he exists through the body of the narrator who has insomnia. Tyler takes over when the narrator thinks he is asleep. He also lives a very different life as a soap salesman and a waiter, and goes around the world to train people for Fight Club. He makes love with Marla Singer, but it’s not his identity that really likes her.

c. These two combined

With the consciousness of Tyler and his imaginary embodiment, together they create an identity totally different from the narrator’s identity. He is full of confidence and has all the freedom – actually more freedom than the narrator has – to do what he wants. He is a totally different person, although he may appear as the narrator to other people, he lives a different kind of life. He knows a lot of things, he behaves differently, and has a very special philosophy in life. He considers himself entirely separate to the identity of the narrator, but he knows that they are also related. And it is Tyler’s identity, not the narrator’s identity, which exists in other people’s minds.

 

References:
Personal Identity from Plato to Parfit by Martin, Raymond
My Body by Calasanz, Eduardo Jose E.

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