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Matthew Rouwie O.

Ong
BSBA MM 1-1D

Westworld
A film review according to Kant’s Ethics

Introduction
Before I give my review to Westworld and its relationship to Kant's Ethics, let me first
discuss what is Westworld; Westworld takes place in a utopian feature. It is western themed
amusement park, built with extremely life-like robots called hosts. These hosts are programmed
individually to play a specific role such as, prostitute, a cowboy, or a farmer. On the other hand,
the customers are called ‘guests’. With just a large amount of money on your pocket, you can
live in a lawless world of an old style AmericanWest, have a journey through trains and horses,
find exciting adventures, have sex with seductive prostitutes, have a deep conversation, and
murder the hosts.

What made Westworld distinct to other kinds of shows is that it digs deep to the
philosophy of its concept: it's the society's need for escapism forcing us to sacrifice our empathy
for our fellow men, or in Westworld's case, our fellow hosts. The sci-fi series best reflects to our
current society, wherein it pursue the idea of startling questions like 'What makes us human?' and
'How can we determine between a dehumanized person without a moral code and a humanized
machine programmed with morality?'.

It is evident that Westworld encapsulates various morality, philosophy and ethics but I am
just going to tackle on how Immanuel Kant relates his Moral Theory to Westworld. This review
will discuss the philosophy of Kant to the storyline of Westworld, how it will explain the choices
and actions of the characters and the reason behind it.

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These questions related to Westworld will be answered in the philosophy of Kant;

1st Question: Is it ethically acceptable to deceive a host for the intention of experiencing
entertainment of the guests inside?

2nd Question: What is the idea and concept of consciousness in Westworld?

Is it ethically acceptable to deceive a host for the intention of experiencing entertainment of the
guests inside?

For the first question, for Kant, he stated that all kinds of actions that will create chaos
and harm (like stealing and murder), is certainly forbidden and unjust. This means that for Kant ,
deceiving someone is a wrong action and since it hinders their autonomy (the capability of an
individual to do an action in accordance to his own moral law). Therefore, for Kant, that the pain
and harm the hosts are feeling when they are deceived is equal to the suffering they are
experiencing when they are being shot, stabbed, and killed everyday. Moreover, the deception is
first perceived on ‘The Original’ wherein it can be seen that Dr. Robert Ford and his staff is
misleading the hosts about who they really are.

In addition to the concept of deception, it contradicts to Kant’s philosophy of achieving


pure practical reason when deciding an action which is doing something that sooner or later will
be a beneficial to you. This happened to young William in season 2 of Westworld wherein he had
a conversation with James Delos (founder of Delos Inc.) in ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’. William
told James about the potential of gathering the data of the guests for the purpose of putting the
mind of the human to the host, and James called him a ‘chancer’. Chancer means a devious
opportunist who capitalizes on situations and utilizes them for his own cost.

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What is the idea and concept of consciousness in Westworld?

In tackling the second question, let me first define Kant’s moral statements; he said that
statements are either ‘a prioi’ (a knowledge before experiencing something) or ‘ a posteriori (a
knowledge gained after experiencing something). In this way, Kant was able to develop these
two into formulating a deeper definition of statements which is synthetic ‘a priori’ . According to
Kant in his Moral Theory, synthetic ‘a priori’ to moral statement is that there is an external
reference that can change one’s experience to someone or something. It is a subjective judgment
of a person and his definition of truth will be in accordance to his own experience. In addition,
Kant has two definitions of consciousness; apperception (self-consciousness) and inner sense
(empirical self-knowledge), these kinds of consciousness will focus to two charcacters; the
former for Maeve and the latter for Dolores.

The idea of consciousness is contrasting to different people. Since the hosts are not real
people, they are designed to have a ‘bulk apperception’. This programming is seen in ‘The
Adversary’ wherein there’s a scene of Maeve waking up in the laboratory outside Westworld
with Felix and Sylvester and knowing who she really is; that she is not a real human, and her
character and behavior is manipulated by engineers. Apperception, defined by Kant is an
introspective self-consciousness, at which point it is the means of completely aware and
knowledge on something regarding a prior experience. In addition, bulk apperception may rely
form Kant’s transcendental apperception; the utmost subjective state of cognition. Since Maeve
increases the level of her bulk apperception to its peak, he was able to grasp her past experiences
and recalls memories of her ‘life’ before as a brothel madam.

Moreover, since Maeve gained self-consciousness through bulk apperception, she was
able to have her own choice, make a decision for herself. She wants to be human or at least be
real and in charge for her own future. She planned to escape alongside Hector and Armistice,
however she found out that her actions and schemes were programmed from the start. She was
programmed by Ford to leave Westworld and infiltrate the mainland (real world), however, she

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chooses not to follow it, instead, she stayed to find her host daughter that she recalled from her
previous ‘life’. This means that Maeve really achieve real self-consciousness since she
overpowered the command given to her by Ford, thus, she is encountered with the endeavor of
literally deciding up her own will.

On the other hand, I will discuss on how Dolores’ consciousness relates to Kant’s concept
of inner sense. In the series, Dolores was able to grasp true consciousness through William and
here’s why;

The park doesn’t change you, it just shows who you really are, “it reveals your deepest
self” ast to what said by younger William. Although this point only concentrates to the
relationship of Dolores and William. At the moment where they meet, Dolores was already
making her way towards consciousness, she had access to memory, she was improvising, and
acting on her own self-interest - as to what Bernard said to Dolores in ‘The Bicameral Mind’, “ I
gave you a voice, my voice to guide you along the way”. Bernard showed Dolores a pyramid,
memory at the bottom, improvisation at the middle, each step is towards to consciousness.
However, she has not yet access the final stage of human consciousness, which Ford tells as
‘suffering’. Bernard stated that “consciousness isn’t a journey upward, but a journey inward”.

Therefore, the search for consciousness is not pyramid, but a maze. For each choice that
she makes can either bring her to the center or go to the edges, which is insanity. In relation to
Kant’s inner sense, it is the cornerstone of empirical self-knowledge and it vastly includes
conceptualization and judgment. Hence, if we will connect the idea of Bernard, Ford, and Kant,
we will arrive to the conclusion: For Dolores to acquire true consciousness, she must experience
and comprehend the nature of suffering. This lead to Dolores meeting with William; he became
close with her, he finds how far he is willing to push himself for someone he truly cares for.
Throughout his other visit to the park, he realized that the experiences he had with Dolores, the
emotional connections he was anticipating weren’t there on his subsequent visits. This feeling ,
suffering, changed William, revealing his worst, morphing him into evil, a murderer.

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The William became Man in Black. His exploration for the maze begins. However, he
doesn’t perceive that he had already discovered what he was finding for on his first trip to the
park. Dolores was the closest thing he had come to finding and feeling anything to Westworld.
Nevertheless, William was able to force Dolores into the center of the maze, thus giving her
consciousness. Dolores’ suffering that gives her humanity, didn’t inhabit from the loss of her
father (Peter Abernathy), it came from understanding what William turned into. In a snap, she
saw him transformed from a caring person, into someone cruel. This what gave her true
consciousness. Subsequently, she eventually understands humanity.

Furthermore, the achievement of Maeve and Dolores relates to one of Kant’s postulate,
which is Freedom. Since they are aware of what’s currently happening and the real situation
inside Westworld, they are able to impose autonomy or self-law, thus, granting them their own
moral code, or in Kant’s words, moral command. In this sense, when following a moral
command, without any outside force, one will have complete freedom, and wouldn’t have
recognize that he ought to do it. This expresses that Maeve and Dolores have their own reason
for the choices they will make.

Conclusion

Westworld is a newfangled series wherein it encompasses various perception and outlook


towards the morality, ethics, and philosophy of humanity. This show lets the audience have a
broader understanding in the true nature of mankind, with regards to our actions, reasoning, and
choices in life. Through the application of Kant’s theory of morality, I was able to effectively at
least convey a direct review of Westworld. To conclude this analysis, I will leave a message that
is adapted from Maeve’s words;

“We are the authors of our story, no one can control us, but ourselves.”

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