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Movie Night Philosophy 100

Spring 2012 Danielson

Groundhog Day (1993)

There are several themes in the film to keep an eye out for. These can be used for discussion tonight or to write on for those who watch on their own: If you are writing answers because you did not attend the film, or because you are
writing for more extra credit, please answer up to three of the questions with a two-page response. You have until the date of the next film to submit your responses.


The film has parallels to Aristotles Virtue Ethics. Phil can be seen as starting out as a person more on the vicious end of the virtue ethics spectrum. He thinks people are morons, he is rude, and he is generally an unkind person. nce he forced to relive the same day, he finds this !vicious" way of living unsatisfactory. He then endeavors to become a better person. He seems to develop himself along the lines of Aristotles virtue ethics model. He learns skills that are e#amples of the intellectual virtue of Art. He learns to speak a new language. Phil also changes his behavior towards others. He starts out as an uncaring individual and then becomes friendly. $y the end he seems truly happy. %ith what you know of &irtue 'thics, do you think Phil has become virtuous by the end( %hat is he lacking if he hasnt become virtuous( )f you found yourself in Phils situation, what would you do and why( nce Phil finds himself repeating the same day he starts off using it to his own advantage* seducing women, robbing armored cars to obtain money, and eating all he wants since there are no conse+uences. After e#hausting these kinds of pleasure, he recogni,es the meaninglessness of his life. He goes into despair and tries to kill himself. $ut even that doesnt end his suffering. At first he uses his circumstance for his pleasure. Then he sees his circumstance as a prison. His situation, however, has not changed* the change is in his perception or interpretation of the situation. )s this idea relevant to your life( How so( -o you think Phil and .ita will be able to live happily ever after( %hy( %hy not( Phil meets a couple of working class men in the bowling alley bar who lament that they seem to be living the same day over and over. /omment on how 0ar#s ! n Alienation" relates to their situation. %hat would it take for those men to find more meaning in their lives( -o you know people living like those men( %hat will keep you from ending up like them( %hat is the role of the old homeless man in the !education of Phils 1soul"( How crucial is this character in Phils development( )n the myth of 2isyphus a man is condemned to push a huge boulder up a hill only to see it roll back down once he gets it to the top. The ne#t day, and for all eternity, he has to push it back up the hill and watch it roll back down. )n a way Phil is 2isyphus. At the end of the film he knows he will catch the young boy falling from the tree every day. )t is implied that he will continue to catch the boy forever regardless of the boys response. 3et Phil, !condemned" to repeat this thankless 4ob, seems much happier at the end of the film than the beginning. %hat moral is the film conveying( How long, how many days, weeks, months, or years do you think Phil relived in order to transform into the man he became( How did you determine that( /ould it have taken him less time(

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How do you think .ita would have behaved if she was in that situation( %hy( Each night we dream. In some wisdom traditions they advocate develo ing the a!ility to l"cid dream. #his means that one !ecomes $awa%e& in the dream ' one is a!le to %now that one is in a dream state( and th"s one can control the content o) the dream. *nce achieving that a!ility each night we get to dream whatever will ma%e "s ha y. *nce we can do this we will ro!a!ly go thro"gh all the ossi!ilities we co"ld ever want+ i.e. we co"ld have every s"ccess we desire, we co"ld $e- erience& every activity we wo"ld ever want to e- erience and so )orth. .e may even dream very scary dreams, ones in which we might )ail to $!eat the dragon or the monster.& In that case, when we are a!o"t to die in the dream, we wa%e " . /.e0re always sa)e !eca"se dee down some as ect o) conscio"sness always remem!ers we are dreaming.1 2)ter some time o) !eing a!le to do whatever we wish, we might want to )ace greater challenges. .e might have a dream which seems to last 75 years. .e might try to )orget we are dreaming in the dream so it seems more real. 3inally, one night we set " #4E most di))ic"lt challenge we can ossi!ly imagine. #he challenge we will "ltimately choose, according to these wisdom traditions, is the li)e we are living right now. #he challenge is to wa%e " )rom this li)e, which is really 5"st a dream. It0s a challenge !eca"se we are convinced that this li)e is the really real world and not a dream. 6omment on how this tho"ght e- eriment relates to the )ilm. %ho is the most noble of the characters in the film( %hy( At the end of the film Phil wants to help every person he can. He is like a $odhisattva from the $uddhist tradition. 5The $odhisattva is a person who attains enlightenment and chooses not to !go off to 6irvana" until everyone else is enlightened.7 Phil can also be seen as the prisoner dragged from Platos cave. nce the prisoner is outside and sees the .eal %orld, he has care and pity for all the other prisoners still trapped inside the cave. He wants to go back and make their world as good as possible. $ecause Phil knows the truth regarding what will happen to each of them on 8roundhog -ay, he is able to save them, like the man choking at dinner. /omment on whether you think that Phil, in this respect, has left Platos cave. Phil seems to be trying to reach the Platonic 9orm of the !Perfect -ay" at the end of the film. /omment on how Platos idea of perfection is a powerful idea which drives human behavior. 5)snt the motivation for perfection something that drives all athletes, musicians, and writers, etc.(7 There is story of a man who gets an audience with 8od. He asks 8od to show him Heaven and Hell. 8od takes him first to hell. He shows the man a ban+uet hall set for a magnificent feast. The table is beautifully set with the finest china. There are delicacies of every sort. The people at the table cannot eat because the silverware is : feet long. The forks are too long for them to reach their mouths so they are starving to death. The man is appalled. Then 8od takes him to Heaven. )t too is a ban+uet hall with an identical set up, the best food and : foot long silver ware. )n this room everyone is happy and well fed. Here the people feed each other. How does this story relate to the film( The film works on least at three levels. ;7 )ts a pleasant comedy. <7 )t is a morality tale. =7 )t depicts the spiritual +uest for enlightenment. '#plore how these might relate to Platos tri>part soul. 9or a long time Phil tries, unsuccessfully, to woo .ita. .ita sees his attempts as insincere. He thinks saying the right words and memori,ing the right information will be enough to win her affection. He believes that appearing to be a certain kind of person is e+uivalent to being that person. /ompare his failed attempts and eventual success to 9reires two systems of education.

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.eincarnation is the idea that we will live many lives successively in order to finally work off our ?arma and finally get off the wheel of suffering. /omment on how the film is showing a version of reincarnation. Part of the attraction of video games is the e#perience of being able to !play the game longer" by learning the skills, the terrain and being able to master the universe within the game. As one gets to further, higher levels of difficulty, the rewards increase and thus keep people playing the game. -iscuss how this idea is relevant to the film. )f there were a virtual reality game in which you could relive a certain day over and over, trying to perfect it, what day would you pick and why. %hat keeps you from living every day as if it were within your power to perfect( i.e. would you say that you !live your life" or does !life live you"(