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Monday, April 9, 2012

Awake 1.6: Popper's Penguin

Another excellent Awake last Thursday - 1.6  - which, like all the episodes, teaches us something profound and useful about Britten's condition.  Indeed, the show in effect makes use of philosopher Karl Popper's observation that we increase our knowledge not by finding or proving what's true, but by proving what's not true - and thereby increasing our knowledge by subtracting what's false.  If we think all swans are white, and see a million white swans, we haven't proven that all swans are white - the very next one may be black.  But as soon as we see one black swan, we now know that all swans are not white.

In Awake 1.6, we get a penguin not a swan, and like all penguins, it's black as well as white.  But this penguin is different from Popper's swan, white or black, because of the important fact that it's hallucinatory.  Now, an imaginary swan of any color would do Popper's epistemology no good at all - it would say nothing about the nature of real swans in the world - but the imaginary penguin in Awake provides us with an important lesson:

If Britten can hallucinate, and pretty quickly realize that what he's seeing is  an hallucination, then that suggests that what he usually sees in yellow and blue worlds is real.  True, Dr. Lee shows up as an hallucination, but that's only after Britten is given ketamine in this "real" world.   Which suggests to me, again, that we don't need quotes around "real" in either world.

Yes, I can see that the penguin could also be a metaphor or a symbol for the whole series, and the "fact" that one or both worlds are really dreams, but, as I've been saying (actually, writing) about this series from the beginning, that would be an obvious and too-easy resolution for what Britten is going through.

If have an interest in philosophy, and the finer intellectual things in life, you just gotta love Awake.  Where else can you get a review of a television show with relevance to Karl Popper's der Logik der Forschung.
See also Awake ... Awake 1.2: "Whole" Family  ... Awake 1.3: Frequency of Yellow and Blue ... Awake 1.4: The Baker and the Hooker ... Awake 1.5: Stretching a Dream

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