2011 Abstracts Stage 3

Identity on a Razor’s Edge: the Dialectic of Self-Hood in “Blade Runner”

Will Reynolds, 2011, Stage 3

A study in the dialectic existing between the master and the slave within the post-modern situation of Ridley Scott’s 1982 movie ‘Blade Runner’, in discussing the theories found within Hegel and Nietzsche.

In the fictional early 21st Century, mankind has developed technology to such an extent that artificial beings, replicants can now be produced; these are not to be employed for the emancipation and enlightenment of man, but as slaves. They are granted no freedom and are subject to death at the end of their service or upon their return to the birth place. They are the ultimate slave, and mankind has become the ultimate master.

Their very servitude grants these replicants an identity, which forms an aspect to the dialectic which constitutes mankind’s self-hood. Hegel informs us of the need for recognition in the formation of self-hood; the master requires the slave in order to be recognised as an individual, but relationship is unequal. The slave has a greater access to the needs to man and as a result grows in humaneness leading to the eventual overthrowing of the master. This process culminates in a replicant saving the life of the police ‘Blade Runner’ who has slaughtered his friends; the civilised slave has overcome the barbaric master.

The replicants and their motivation to overthrow the shackles of their servitude and forced deaths, act as an example of Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’, by which an individual affirms their existence by overcoming the obstacles which stand between him and autonomy. This occurs as throughout the movie, the replicants, the artificial human beings, show a greater degree of humaneness than the human masters.

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