19th century philosophy

Titanic (1997 film)

The experience of viewing the iconic “I’m flying!” scene from James Cameron’s film Titanic is an example of coming to know an idea via art. This is the scene where the main characters, Rose and Jack, stand at the bow of the Titanic ship, and Rose stretches out her arms and exclaims “I’m flying!” I chose this scene specifically as an example of the state of complete absorption Schopenhauer discusses because it is exceptionally beautiful and immerses the viewer through the magnificent setting featuring a sunset, ocean, and grand shots of the Titanic, the soul-touching song by Celine Dion “My Heart Will Go On,” and the apparent romantic chemistry and joy between the characters. For these reasons, this scene can fully absorb an audience and relates to the following points made by Schopenhauer about coming to know ideas.

Schopenhauer states that an indication that a subject is fully perceiving an object and coming to know an idea is that “[the viewer] ceases to consider the where, the when, the why, and the whither of things, and looks simply and solely at the what” (WWR, vol. 1, bk. 3, §34). This means that when a viewer is fully perceiving an object, they abandon the rational analysis that is associated with scientific thinking; they do not try to link the object to anything else via the principle of sufficient reason. This applies to the viewer of the “I’m flying!” scene because I imagine that when most people watch this scene for the first time, they are not concerned with intricacies like “Why did Rose change her mind at the beginning of the ‘I’m flying’ scene?” nor do they try to make connections between the scene and other things that can be on their mind. They are fully captivated by the “what,” that is, the aesthetics and emotion they see on screen created by the scenery, music, acting, etc. When such a state of absorption is achieved, the viewer comes to understand the ideas concerning beauty, joy, love, etc.

Another sign of total perception of the object is “the individual has lost himself; but he is pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge” (WWR, vol. 1, bk. 3, §34). This applies to the viewer of Titanic when they are so absorbed by the scene that they forget themselves, their current surroundings, and current desires (“will-less”) and worries (“painless”). The “I’m flying!” scene has an escapist quality that is conducive to total perception of an object.

In summary, according to Schopenhauer, a subject comes to know an idea when they fully perceive it and are undistracted by rational analysis or external concerns. Because the “I’m flying!” scene is so aesthetically and emotionally captivating, it induces a state of absorption in the viewer that allows them to grasp the ideas concerning beauty, joy, love, etc.

Leave a Reply