Cartesianism and Intersubjectivity in Paranormal Activity and the Philosophy of Mind

Steve Jones

Over the last century within the philosophy of mind, the intersubjective model of self has gained traction as a viable alternative to the oft-criticised Cartesian solipsistic paradigm. These two models are presented as incompatible inasmuch as Cartesians perceive other minds as “a problem” for the self, while intersubjectivists insist that sociality is foundational to selfhood. This essay uses the Paranormal Activity series (2007–2015) to explore this philosophical debate. It is argued that these films simultaneously evoke Cartesian premises (via found-footage camerawork), and intersubjectivity (via an ongoing narrative structure that emphasises connections between the characters, and between each film). The philosophical debates illuminate premises on which the series’ story and horror depend. Moreover, Paranormal Activity also sheds light on the theoretical debate: the series brings those two paradigms together into a coherent whole, thereby suggesting that the two models are potentially compatible. By developing a combined model, scholars working in the philosophy of mind might better account for the different aspects of self-experience these paradigms focus on.

 

Key words: intersubjectivity, Descartes, Paranormal Activity, horror, self.

 

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