In order to truly understand the world that surrounds us we must not only analyse it but begin to question it. Among some of the biggest philosophical questions would be the unknown truth behind our existence and whether or not our reality is truth or merely an illusion or dream state within or produced by our mind. Socrates states that an unexamined life 'is not worth living', essentially highlighting the importance of trying to identify a true understanding of reality and in turn the world around us. This philosophical topic of reality vs. unreality is what Hollywood addresses in 'The Truman Show'. The lead protagonist (Truman) has lived his life as a star of 'reality' TV show since birth, the show broadcasts to a worldwide audience. He is oblivious to that reality, and the fact that his whole town is quite literally a stage in which all his colleagues, friends and family are all merely actors. Truman begins to question the appearance of this reality leading him to discover the truth. I will further discuss how through active examination one can gain a true understanding of what is real, with reference to the views of Descartes and other philosophical thinkers, and how 'The Truman Show' attempts to answer certain questions.
Rene Descartes wanted to discover what the foundation of reality was but in order to do this he had to discard all of his experiential knowledge. His thinking behind this was that throughout his life thus far he had acquired many false opinions and had since then built assumptions around them, which in turn must be considered to be inaccurate. He was aiming to rid himself of his opinions by showing that they are the cause of doubt. He stated that 'the senses are deceptive' and that therefore it wouldn't be wise to 'place complete trust' in them again in his search for elemental truths about reality. Whilst all knowledge gained through experience can be reason for doubt, there is no doubt about his own existence as a 'thinking being'. There is no doubting that we exist as we are able to question ourselves, at the very least we can accept that our mind exists, it can think and reason, it would be illogical to state otherwise. Descartes could use his statement of 'I think, therefore I am' as the foundation for knowledge; one's own existence as a thinking being is something we can all acknowledge and be certain of, but everything else can literally be thrown out of the window, doubting this knowledge can lead one to an understanding of what is real.
Similar Cartesian themes are present in 'The Truman Show'. In the dome of Truman's world everything he accepts to be true, his friends, family, marriage and encounters - are actually all precisely planned out and scripted carefully to build up his life or existence. Truman is in fact the only real person in the TV show. Christof, the director of the TV show, acknowledges this when he describes the appeal of the show, stating that 'while the world [Truman] inhabits is counterfeit, there's nothing fake about Truman himself'. Truman, like Descartes, begins to doubt the world around him; he claims that he sees many 'loose threads [and] false steps' and notices many 'slips of the tongue', making him doubt both the world around him and the genuineness of the people within that world. He tries to confide in his lifelong friend Marlon that 'everyone seems to be in on it', he states that he feels as if 'the world revolves around [him] somehow'. The distrust of his worlds reality strongly mirrors the notions of Descartes methodology of doubt. The quest for what is real continues.
Descartes is able to doubt everything he knows by suggesting that 'malevolent demon' could have 'employed all of his energies' in deceiving him. The only thing that remains undeceived is that Descartes own existence. Despite the fact this 'deceiver' could make what is false appear…