Boonya-ananta 1Mel Boonya-anantaMr. CloverSenior SeminarMarch 7, 2012 Rashomon Essay: Ebert or Morris When studying human interaction, truth is an element that is almost impossible to fullydiscover. People lie for many reasons, some unconsciously lie to themselves. Inthe 1950’s filmRashomon by Akira Kurosawa, a samurai has been killed in the forest and there are four differenteye witness testimonies. The first testimony was by a bandit, who recounts the story of how thecharacters ended up in the forest. He claims that he killed the samurai in a fight for the samurai’swife. The second testimony, the wife, said that the bandit raped her and left the scene. Withsame, the wife pleads with the samurai to kill her, and then she fainted. When she woke up shesaid she saw the dagger in the samurai’s chest. The third recount was from the samurai himself,whose spirit was summoned. He said that he committed suicide after his wife had been raped bythe bandit. The last recount was from a woodcutter. He said that the samurai was killed by thebandit in a fight after the two men were taunted by the wife. These four different testimoniesbring out an issue when attempting to determine truth. There are two distinct and oppositetheories of truth from Roger Ebert and Errol Morris. Morris’s position with regards to the truth isthat it is absolute and independent. Morris sees truth in the Platonic form, that it is independentof all beliefs. This is different from Ebert who believes that the truth is subjective, that everyonehas their own truth and experience of reality. With regards toRashomon, I agree with Morris to agreater extent than Ebert. With Morris’s theory there can only be one truth to what reallyhappened and that is independent from human subjectivity. Morris’s view is more efficient togain pieces of knowledge that is part of the absolute truth to what happened to the samurai.
Boonya-ananta 2 Roger Ebert claims that truth is subjective to everyone’s and anyone’s opinion, therefore,in Rashomon, all four recounts are truth for each of them. This shows an empiricist view of thesituation, where all knowledge comes from perceptual experience. Ebert’s view shows that thetruth and reality is based on personal experiences and since two people’s perceptions are thesame then whatever their perception is of reality, that is the truth for them. From this idea, withaccordance to the theory that knowledge is equal to a justified true belief (K=JTB), then if T isdifferent to everyone then the knowledge obtained would be very broad and imprecise. It can beseen that Ebert would take anything (for example motive) to be a viable justification in order togain knowledge. However, if truth is different from everyone and a belief can be justified with awide variety of factors, then knowledge will undoubtedly be different. Thus, what Ebert is sayingabout Rashomon is that knowledge can be gained about who committed the crime yet thisknowledge can be different for each individual. However, Errol Morris believes differently. He believes that in order to gain knowledgethe absolute truth or factors of the true must be known. He view is clearly shown when he saysthat “I do not believe that truth is subjective. Just thinking something does not make it so”(Interview with Errol Morris). Morris believes that the film Rashomon “is not a movie about thesubjectivity of truth” but it merely shows “how everybody sees the world differently” (Interviewwith Errol Morris). This clearly shows his view with regards to Rashomon that this movie is noteven about truth, it just shows different views. Morris believes that there is always a “physicalreality” ((Interview with Errol Morris), meaning that he believes in the physical evidence. Themovie Rashomon clearly represents that lack of physical evidence. With this view, motive is nota reliable piece of evidence that can be used in the equation K=JTB, since motive is subjective. Itis emotional and personal; no one man can truly know another’s motive unless they became that
Boonya-ananta 3person. In some cases, even though a person is as honest as possible about their motives, it isalmost impossible to articulate the true nature of their feelings, thus they would be lying(although it is unintentional). For Morris, motives would not be a valid justification to gainknowledge about who actually killed the samurai. Although Morris believes that physical evidence is essential to finding the truth to whathappened, in this case the testimonies of the event are all that is present. Testimonies arememories from witnesses that were there during the event. As part of the idea of memories,memories are naturally skewed. Everyone perceives the world differently; this is agreed upon byboth Morris and Ebert. Since everyone has different perceptions of the world, their memoriescannot be the same. Also as part of the human mind, memories get shifted to what each personwants to see or believes to have happened. When a person remembers something, they do not seea big clear mental image; they get pieces of the event. These pieces will come together to form amemory. Morris clearly states that he is a “realist” and that he believes “in the real world”(Interview with Errol Morris). He also says that “there is such a thing as truth, but we have avested interest in not seeing it, in avoiding it” (Interview with Errol Morris). This is exactly whatis done with human memories. Therefore, for Morris, the four testimonies or the four memoriespresented provide almost no help in solving the problem of who killed the samurai. However, thethings that can be seen as truth or closest to the truth are the recounts that no one disputes or saysotherwise. For example, it can be known to a high amount of certainty that the bandit did lead thesamurai to the clearing, that some sort of sexual act occurred between the bandit and the wife andthat it the sword was taken by the bandit and the dagger was left in the forest. These facts can beknowledge with a high amount of certainty due to the consensus between all four recounts.
Boonya-ananta 4 In conclusion, the film Rashomon shows four different and contradicting descriptions ofwhat happened to the samurai. These series of recounts are interpreted differently by Ebert andMorris. Ebert says that there exist four different truths for the four different individuals and theknowledge gained is different from each of them. However, Morris’s view fits more toRashomon showing that it is not a matter of truth but the idea that people have different views ofthe world. And even though knowledge is more attainable with Ebert’s view that knowledge isdifferent from individual to individual, with Morris full knowledge of the event is unattainablehowever, there is a high certainty to the facts that can be determined to be true about the event.
Boonya-ananta 5 Works Cited"Interview with Errol Morris." The Believer. The Believer, Apr. 2004. Web. 7 March 2012. <http://www.believermag.com/issues/200404/?read=interview_morris>.