The Meaning of Life and Death
The abstract idea of life cannot be explained by such simple ideas as being animated, breathing, or speaking. Ordinary machines in this century can perform all of these basic functions. The quandary with defining death is not as abstract and elusive as that of life. The problem of defining life and death has plagued philosophers and the religious bodies for thousands of years for one reason; each philosophy or religion has tried to define the meaning of life and death from only their certain perspective. The seemingly appropriate approach to this problem would be to understand the ideas presented in various philosophies and religions and through this knowledge create a new definition for each idea of life and death. The movie Blade Runner has taken this exact approach in its attempt to finally define life and death in a logical and un-spiritual manner. By taking the position that death is a concrete idea that can be explained, Blade Runner accomplishes the task of interpreting the idea of life in terms death. Through this approach, the meaning of life is redefined to accommodate for the existence of the replicants. Also, as a result of this novel notion of life, it is apparent that humans and replicants never actually live, even though they are alive.
The idea of death in Blade Runner seems to be different for humans and for replicants, but it is indeed the same. When a replicant is killed, the characters in Blade Runner refer to it as, “retirement,” while killing a human is called murder. These two terms are actually synonymous. The term murder, in one of its definitions, means to put to an end, destroy (AHD). The definition of retirement is to stop working (AHD). If these terms are interpreted together, their meaning is very similar to that of modern philosophical thought. According to Epicurus, “Death is annihilation. The living have not yet been annihilated (otherwise they wouldn't be alive)” (Cook). Also, according to modern philosopher Steven Luper in an interpretation of Epicurus, death is also “permanent non-existence”, which is brought upon by some act of biological “retirement”. This applies to both humans and replicants. Hereinafter, the deaths of humans and replicants should be considered one and the same.
The emphasis on death in Blade Runner can be attributed to many different reasons. One of these reasons includes the search for a solution to its inevitable arrival. The prime objective of the replicants in Blade Runner is to discover when they were created. To a human, this is common knowledge, but the replicants are not given this information freely. Although, in contrast to the human knowledge of when they were incepted or born, the replicants know the ultimate length of their life. After Roy finally meets Tyrell, he is asked, “What seems to be the problem?” Roy answers, predictably, “death.” Why is death such a problem to the replicants? The replicants do not...