Exploring Existentialism and the Character Leanord in the Film, Memento
Although Christopher Nolan does not acknowledge any philosophical basis for Memento, the film provides a character, Leonard Shelby, who serves as an example of several aspects of existentialism. Through Leonard, Memento illustrates Soren Kierkegaard's idea of truth as subjectivity, Freidrich Nietzsche's notion that God is dead, and Jean-Paul Sartre's writings on the nature of consciousness.
In Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Kierkegaard differentiates between the subject as the knower, and the world (object) as the known: the only way we know the world is through ourselves. Kierkegaard emphasizes the importance of "how" the subject is related to the truth, and not the "what" (content) of the objective. He asserts that the truth can only exist in the subject, for if it lies in the world, we could never access (know) the truth the way we know ourselves. Kierkegaard explains that we can only discover the truth by turning inward: "passionate inwardness" is essential to finding the truth, as it is the way in which the subject is seeking the truth; the more passion the subject has, the closer she/he comes to the truth. "Passionate inwardness" is fueled by "objective uncertainty": if an individual sees objective proof of her truth, she will become less passionate; however, when she does not find reassurance in the objective, her inward passion will lead her to "the" (her) truth. This paradox relies on the subject believing passionately in the truth that exists in her while believing in a lack of objective support for that truth.
Fridreich Nietzsche writes in The Gay Science "God is dead....And we have killed him," (99, Existentialist Philosophy) referring to our destruction of objective and absolute values: through the development of morality, philosophy and science human beings have grown out of a need for an objective source of these human constructs. Nietzsche points out that morals were not given to humans by God, nor was knowledge or instinct instilled in us by God: we have created morality just as we have decided standards for "truth" and explanations for our "human nature," and so there is no transcendent external standard. If God is dead, there are no objective values and we are free to create our own values. Nietzsche says that although the death of God liberates us, leaving us free to rule ourselves, this results in a cage-like freedom: while no value is objectively "right" or "true", if we can not choose then we are not free. Nietzsche supports the individual who, despite a lack of objective correctness or "truth", makes a decision anyway, accepting responsibility for her self-created values and actions, knowing she is these actions.
Jean-Paul Sartre provides explanation for the world in his definition of consciousness as existing as a being that is no thing: by inserting nothingness into the world, consciousness allows for being; (it "worlds the...