Last night I watched two horror films: Nosferatu and [REC] 3 Genesis. Both are kind of silly, but in different ways. Nosferatu is, not surprisingly, very dated, and the acting seems terrible. On the other hand, even now the images (some of them, anyway) are powerfully striking and, appropriately, haunting. [REC] 3 (the "rec" is for the letters used to indicate that a camcorder is recording: think The Blair Witch Project) is much more forgettable, and the weakest of the [REC] series, though still, to my mind, worth seeing. When the bride picks up a chainsaw to fight off the zombies you know you are
Nosferatu reminded me of the links between the plague and legends of vampires. It also seems portentous to watch an angry German mob run through a town after a scapegoat. Creepy. But what could the contemporary fascination with zombies mean? Perhaps nothing, of course, but my pet theory is that we are afraid that our own society is being taken over by people who are dead on the inside, and that this internal death is contagious. That we are already succumbing to it. This might be thought of as part of the death of God (freedom and immortality die along with him, and so we become mere things), or as the death of the Overman. The disenchantment of the world means, among other things, the disenchantment of human beings. Free will might be thought of as something like a compliment that we cannot help but pay to each other, but it isn't so hard to deny the compliment to those we don't really interact with (Descartes's hats and coats below in the street, "the they"), and these seem to be increasing in number and influence (see here, for instance). And much the same goes for consciousness. (Doesn't it? I haven't thought this anything like all the way through.)
We can, and perhaps cannot but, have an attitude toward a soul when it comes to people we really live with. But all those others out there, and people we live only virtually with, can't really be treated the same way. What kind of attitude can I have toward someone on the other end of an internet connection? I realize that means most of the people who will read this, i.e. the ones I will never meet, and I don't mean to be rude. But we cannot literally see eye to eye like this, or make any use of facial expression or bodily posture. I can only have an attitude toward you in a limited sense of the word. And what about people who are not themselves even in person, only representatives of some corporate position, say, or speakers of jargon? I am not of the opinion that they have souls, to misquote Wittgenstein. And then Schopenhauer's argument against solipsism comes up: you can't prove that you are fundamentally different from everyone else, but you would have to be crazy to think that you are. This goes two ways. It's a kind of argument against zombies, but also an argument against one's own non-zombie-ness. That is, if they are all zombies, and I must be the same as them, then I must be a zombie too. Just being surrounded by them, even if you are still human, is bad enough. And however incredible that idea might be, it's still scary.