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Terminator And Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am edited by Richard Brown and Kevin S. Decker

01/12/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Terminator And Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am edited in the USA - or Buy Terminator And Philosophy: I'll Be Back, Therefore I Am edited in the UK

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pub: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 294 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $17.95 (US), $21.99 (CAN), 11.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-470-44798-7.

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Of the recent 'Philosophy' books I've read, some aspects of this examination of 'The Terminator' films is practically border-line racism with continual reference to actor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian roots and accent. The first film wasn't even created for him as a vehicle but was originally going to have Lance Henrickson in the starring role, only changed when it was decided that Schwarzenegger had the bigger (sic) profile after his sting as Conan. Considering director Jim Cameron saw it only as a small budget SF first film for himself, it was the viewer response that turned the film otherwise.

With the focus of attention in this book focusing primarily on the Terminator, right down to the 'The', Sarah Connor and her son, John, with some emphasis on what his initials mean in a religion connotation, little is said about the artificial intelligence, Skynet, in all of this activity. When you consider that Skynet is instrumental in all of this in order to protect its own 'life', it is a major smarter player. We might not see any of it close up, but we can see the actions it orders and escalates. Then again, all the philosophers involved in this book that debate causality and time travel tie themselves in knots on something we SF readers sort out without any difficulty.

The dilemma of what would have happened if Kyle Reese hadn't returned into the past as discussed specifically by Robert Delfino and Kenneth Sheaham really got them into knots with the problems of causality. It's a shame they never read my article on the subject. Although the first Terminator is ordered to kill Sarah Connor, I doubt if that was Skynet's true aim. What was really needed was for it to lose and its parts found at the Cyberdyne factory because without them Skynet couldn't have been created. Successive Terminators sent into the past were to ensure that path was kept, as well as letting the humans over-run its time travel complex for Connor to send back Reece and other Terminators to protect his earlier self. Connor might not have realised that it was fulfilling destiny but Skynet would have. The Judgement Day might have been shifted with each time trip but the one thing that was set in the future was the existence of Skynet. Had Reese's mission had been to go back and kill Sarah Connor, he would have stopped Skynet being created with a single shot. Although the Terminator would have been there because it jumped out of its own time stream, it would have lacked its own mission unless perhaps there was an extra order to turn itself over to Cyberdyne for dissection or at least leave the right parts. Whether John Connor had elevated his own importance into 'It's all about me!' let alone commit matricide and wipe his own existence out or slip his reality into an alternative future or not is debatable but it would have stopped a known future from happening. Maybe philosophers, or at least these twenty-two, aren't as widely read or informed on Science Fiction matters.

Placing John Connor in the saviour role similar to Christ is or was lost by Jim Cameron's successors with the 'Terminator' films or why else wasn't Kate Brewer given a name more suited to her role in the third film? I suspect also that Cameron has given the name as a throwaway gag with little other thought than ensuing the Connors had a regular name. Hardly in the same league as the survivors of a world-wide plague being called Adam and Eve.

When there is a chapter devoted to the 'The' in the title 'The Terminator' which is often forgotten by its fans who just call it 'Terminator' then I think there was a little too much stretching to ensure the word count was built up for this book. I should point out that some aspects of 'The Sarah Connor Chronicles' is considered but as it was released before 'Terminator: Salvation', notice no 'The', then there is a possibility that this book is likely to have a revised edition further down the line. As far as the people in the present of 1985 were concerned, there was only one Terminator, hence the 'The'. To have called it 'One Of The Terminators' would have been misleading and there's been too much reading into the title.

Considering the piss-take with the contributors bios at the end of the book, I wouldn't be surprised if readers wonder if this book should be taken seriously. The idea of Schwarzenegger not not wanting to kill in the second film being regarded as acting motherly still has me chuckling. A lot of the issues, despite my criticism above, will give you a lot to think about. The piece on how artificial intelligences will have to deal with understanding language is actually very valid and a constant dilemma to be resolved if there is ever going to be a real AI.

Love it or hate it, I think this book will still make you think and give you something to debate. Just be careful of muscular men with a preference for sunglasses and shotguns knocking at your door. Just remember to say Miss Connor lives next door only she's off on holiday to Mexico or somewhere.

GF Willmetts
November 2009

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