Doubt as Inception

A Philosophical Analysis of the Movie – INCEPTION (2010)


Inception – The Movie shows us the division and distinction between dreams and reality, what exists as real and what is just a dream.

Inception (2010)
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Descartes began his meditation with what can be called into doubt and doubting itself. For him, in order to demolish everything completely we have to dig and start from the foundations. He gave us the example of a building from where in its foundation lies everything, all the “knowledge” which has been established. To doubt means to destroy the foundation of this building, of the institutions and disciplines from where the “knowledge” they consider lies within. In the movie, Cobb told that for us to know whether if it is a dream or not, we need to remember how everything started, how did we arrive at a certain position or situation. Here, he was pertaining to the foundation and beginning of all the things, knowledge or in the film ideas being planted in the subconscious of the human mind. But, once we were able to trace the foundation of a dream it is not a dream anymore, rather a reality. Therefore, what can be considered as a real dream is reality itself, a reality which is still a dream because even this reality we know have to be questioned and have to be doubted.

In the plight towards inception, Cobb’s team was after the basic or simple idea which is that the “world is not real” and for them it is the only thing that we have to put in mind in order to go back to reality. Descartes on the other hand, suggested that the only way to start the search for truth is to doubt because doubt is the proper path to knowledge, if there is such path to knowledge at all. In the search for truth and in the way to inception, we have to demolish everything completely and start right from the foundations, that the world where we think we live is not real, that all of these things are just projections which we may find to be deceiving. What if  after everything that happened, we are just dreaming that this world is just a dream and we are in a series of constant dream? The movie Inception and Descartes’ Meditations both implied this simple yet distinct  idea to doubt and question your reality, doxa and praxis for absolute certainty.

Are the children real? Descartes, after establishing the Cogito, set out to prove the reality of the beliefs which he initially doubted, in the hope of reinstating his belief on them. For as long as we think, doubt, understand, affirm, deny, are willing, or unwilling, and also imagine and have sensory perceptions, we exist and therefore real¹ . Descartes also gave us the ‘I’ who imagines and what can be perceived by the mind through the power of imagination is real. What appears to us, what we think, and what seems to be cannot be false.

Cobb after the inception made to believe that he was back to reality, he was able to go back to his children whom he considers as reality. Therefore, the children are real. Although the ‘totem’ at the end part of the movie did not stop it may be concluded that the world Cobb perceived to be real is still a dream. But, it also implies that we as a ‘thinking thing’ and the ‘I’ in the terms of Descartes,  will be the one to chase for reality.


Footnote: ¹Rene Descartes’ Second Meditation from his Meditations on First Philosophy (1639)


A reflection paper submitted to my Philosophy I Class under Ms. Olivia Mendoza (Instructor in Philosophy, Dept. of History and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Baguio)             

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