Sornvara Kho-Udom<br />Senior Seminar<br />Period 6/Mr. Clover<br />Ebert and Varied Perceptions<br />Is what you think yo...
Rashomon essay
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Rashomon essay


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Rashomon essay

  1. 1. Sornvara Kho-Udom<br />Senior Seminar<br />Period 6/Mr. Clover<br />Ebert and Varied Perceptions<br />Is what you think you have seen actually the truth? Or is it altered by your perception? This raises the question, whether truth is relative or absolute, and whether reality is subjective or objective. Errol Morris believes that truth and reality are independent of people ergo they are both absolute and objective, and that there are no in-betweens. Conversely, Roger Ebert’s idea is that reality is subjective and truth is relative, and they can be varied and changed based on human interpretation. Based on the analysis of Kurozawa’s film Rashomon, it can be concluded that Ebert’s examination of the film fits the best. Although truth can sometimes be justified, most of the time there can be no right or wrong answer based on empiricism and each individual’s perception. Perception is ultimately a persons’ understanding of the world which is affected by their sensory input. There can be more than one “right” answer, and events can differ from person to person based on their own point of view. <br />How we see things is based on own perceptions, bias, and what we want to believe. This results from the theory of empiricism that truth can vary from person to person. It can further be explained through the concepts of phenomenalism, “seeing is believing”, and the role of the unconscious. Based on the one of the three theories of reality, “phenomenalism”, it makes no sense to say the world exists independent of our experience. All knowledge must be based on experience. We can only know the world from our distinctively human perspective and have no right to pontificated about the nature of ultimate reality. If a tree falls, how do we know that it really made a sound if we are not there? We cannot know what the world is like without our experience of it. Furthermore, our beliefs and expectations can affect the way we see things. Because belief has such a great effect on one’s view, we sometimes see things as the way we want to believe. Many times, many of the interpretations we make are during when we are at an unconscious level. We tend to not realize this because we are unaware of our actions. What you see is dependent of your current state, such as our interests. Because there is so much information constantly entering our brains, there are times when humans tend to do something naturally. But we do not realize it until it has been done. This makes sense, it is impossible for us to be aware of everything at all times. Otherwise, our minds would be overload, which results to selectivity of perception and confirmation bias. <br />Although there is some overlapping evidence and views on what actually happened in Rashomon, this does not mean that there is an absolute truth or that some of the characters are lying. As Ebert suggests, there can be multiple truths. Each of the testimony’s views can be both true and false. True, in that they present an accurate portrait of what each individual witness thinks happened. Even though it might not agree with others, we have to accept that it is true for them. It is not possible to say that all but one person is completely wrong. However, it is false because “humans are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves”. This could be associated with the ideas of selectivity of perception and confirmation bias. In the Rashomon movie, the characters (samurai, bandit, wife, woodcutter) are overloaded with information of the certain event. Because there is so much data, it is impossible to actually remember every little detail so clearly. This would cause their mind to be overloaded. Therefore, they have obliviously used selectivity of perception, remembering what was important or stood out to them. They all had different interests. For example, the samurai had the interest of taking his wife for a journey in the forest. Or, the bandit had the interest of stealing the samurai’s wife. As interest changes, so does their perception. Also their mood could shape their perceptions. If the wife was in a good mood, her perception towards the bandit could have been different. This also raises the idea of confirmation bias. People tend to remember and distinguish only evidence that supports their belief, and disregard evidence that goes against them. This goes for the characters, as each has their own beliefs in what happened. They only chose to believe what they wanted to believe, which depends on each individual’s mental map. Moreover, all the characters (wife, samurai, and bandit) that were involved in the event all claim that they were the ones who killed Tajomaru. This is because the characters each might have different motives. If only one of them killed him and there is an absolute answer, why have all the characters say that he or she is the murderer? Therefore, the idea of an absolute murderer that Morris suggests makes no sense in this case. <br />There is not always an answer to everything, as there can be multiple truths that differ for a person to another. Relating further to Rashomon, it was discussed by the priest and the common that “humans tend to lie for their own advantage”. Conversely, lying is the natural condition of human beings. Most of us have lied before. We do not want to believe and make ourselves look bad. But this is not wrong, because most of the time is when we are subconscious and is unintentional. We may be lying in another person’s view (as the woodcutter may say that medium and Tajomaru’s wife is lying), but to us we may be telling the truth because that is what we really think based on our perception. Another idea is that truth can be based on justification, but do we have it? We cannot justify or say something is 100% true, because what we say is truth, for another person it is not. A major dispute that is ongoing in the world is about religion. There are such a numerous amounts of religion. I may believe in Catholicism and that there is one god and my friend might believe in the ideas of Buddhism and the middle way. It is not right to say my religion is the only correct one because how my friend views the world can be different from how I perceive it. It is ultimately based on our unique experiences. Both religions are right, and our religion seems to make sense for each of us.<br />As mentioned previously, there is not always an absolute truth or answer to every matter. The purpose that Rashomon was created was not to give an exact answer, which is why there are both supported and unsupported evidence. This does not mean that Errol Morris’ idea of an absolute truth is false, but rather it is presented in another view. But because perception plays such a role, this is why there are not two exact, matching views of the events. Nonetheless, many times we tend to base what we experience on our own perceptions and what we expect to happen. By taking both ideas from the two critics, the final conclusion that can be made is that: we must sometimes doubt our own credibility and see if it was influenced, distorted, or sometimes misled even though we might think our view is definitely correct.<br />