Your feelings are illegal

Last night, my wife and I watched Equilibrium again.  The premise behind the movie is that the people of the near future decide that feelings lead to war, and to avoid war, feelings must be suppressed.  A drug is administered to help suppress those emotions.  Any individual that exhibits any emotion is guilty of "sensing" and is condemned to death.

It struck me, as I was watching this movie, that this may represent the Kantian ideal of "Pure Reason".  I'm by no means an expert on Kant's philosophy and have only read a smattering of his works, so anyone that can correct me, please do.  Kant sees reason has somehow separate from reality.  Accordingly, reason does not have all the messy details of human consciousness, nor the smattering complexities of emotions.  Reason, according to Kant, deals just with abstract ideas and their relationship with one another.

From this premise, Kant argues in his tomb on ethics, that personal values are irrelevant.  This makes sense when we consider that values first originate from our ability to feel.  As children, most of our values are based on pleasure and pain.  But as we age, the concepts of value become increasing more abstract, forming as adults a hierarchy of values that (hopefully) is based objectively in reality.  If, as Kant argues, feelings mess up pure reason, than anything based on feelings should be suppressed.  Our values are a manifestation of our feelings.  Therefore, our values should be suppressed.  This leads Kant to advocate altruism as the ethical ideal.

In the movie, there are hints of the altruist ideal and a profound lack of individuality within this society.  Art, music, and color are missing from the world and any found are immediately destroyed. There is no love, no friendships, and no social interaction.  Everything is for the "father".

What really scares me about this movie is that it is not that far off from reality.  Consider the criminalization of "hate", that has gained so much popularity lately. You know, we can't let these evil feelings out in the public.  Gotta suppress them.  Or rather...maybe we oughta consider the consequences of following Kant's philosophy.  And instead of criminalizing feelings or thoughts, let's live.  Let's live rationally, objectively, and with pride.


  1. Anonymous8:51 PM

    I like your phrasing, Kant's tomb on ethics. I'm assuming that you meant "tome" but I find your version of it very apt.

    C. Andrew

  2. Ah, yes. I did mean "tome" instead of "tomb". But I think I'll leave as it is for the very reason that you like it.

  3. Grant8:05 PM

    The most telling evident of Kantianism in the movie is when the arch villian says to the cleric that it is not the message that we must concern ourselves with, but our obedience to it. In other words, something done out of duty - the ability to do exactly the opposite of everything your consciousness tells you (reasonable and/or emotional) - is the hallmark of a moral action.