Wednesday, February 21, 2024


It's fascinating to me how many interesting themes this book had which didn't make it into the film, yet could easily form the conceits for alternative adapted screenplays. 


For example, the androids (replicants in Blade Runner) are produced on a Mars colony, not simply to provide labour, but also to serve up the semblance of human social bulk and a more complex society. Dick has a word for this in his fiction: simulacrum.

So, you could buy a package of neighbours: two adults, two kids and maybe a dog. Their presence nearby would be comforting, as would the knowledge that one could safely ignore them.

The other theme which is so on the mark for our present moment is the cult of empathy.

In the novel this is called Mercerism and adherents have an 'empathy box' at home which they use to observe and emotionally participate in, the tribulations of an individual who is pelted with rocks as he attempts to push his own large rock up the steep flank of a mountain, seemingly on a loop.

Later on in the story Mercer's situation is exposed as a phoney production, but this does not seem to be any kind of deal breaker for the believers.

Merleau-Ponty once said of Socrates that he "reminds us that it is not the same thing, but almost the opposite, to understand religion and to accept it," thereby demonstrating what both the French Existentialist and the Greek moral philosopher did not really understand about religion — how blind faith often advances willy nilly in the face of contrary evidence.

This is certainly true of the religious/political empathy cults which have taken hold of western society in recent decades, which operate on the basis of an unshakeable conviction and moral narcissism, and often tend to focus on subjects which can be observed through what my parents' generation called 'a set' (my father even referred to his laptop this way), which further reduces the need for engaging with facts, and thus understanding.

Dick's own understanding of how these belief systems work, how his own tended to work, was along the lines of "the Truth is out there, even when it's not".

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