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Knowledge and Reality

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Memento film is a prototype psychological movie that is presented in a sequential manner, and showing a color sequence reverse order. The events of the film are showed in two different but alternating narratives, where one is shown in black and white, while the other is a colored one. Those in black and white appear in an orderly manner, where Leonard is seen conversing with an unknown caller over the phone. On the other hand, investigations that he carries on are depicted in the colored form. While watching the film, it is difficult to connect with the previous scene and it, thus, creates some sought of confusion. The two alternates create confusion as to whether Leonard is one and the same person throughout the play. This paper explores different characters of Leonard and when and where he is acting.

Moreover, the paper intends to answer the philosophical question as of what is the true personal identity of Leonard, or whether he is one and the same person throughout the film. As observed from the film, the confusing nature of the character seems to make him look as if the actor is taking the role of two or more characters. For example, while it is easy for Leonard to remember events of the past and connect with them, he seems to be out of touch with the current periods. Again, Leonard writes and leaves notes to himself, something that portrays him as a totally different person. Generally, memento is something that reminds a person of another person, thing or event that had happened earlier (McQueen). In this film, memento is seen as an emotional blow on the part of Leonard Shelby, who is driven by the urge to revenge against the murder of his wife. As the films draws to an end, the audience eventually comes into terms of the truth revolving around Teddy’s death and the movie in general, and giving an understanding that Leonard is one and the same person.

Leonard is not one and the same person

From the memory theory of identity by Locke, it is clear that a revolutionary approach had been made. He identifies and makes distinction between living things, atoms, and their masses. He argues that an atom does not change at any given time or even over a long period of time, and, thus, is easily identifiable. His remarks on the masses of atoms were that they are dependable on the atoms they hold themselves. He however found out that living things vary according to the organization of their functions. At any given instant, the organizational variation is influenced by some collection of atoms. Of all the functions that emerge, continuity in the same life is what he ranked at the top (Mottram). From his philosophical argument, it is that continuity in the functional organization which leads to continuity in life, which forms the basis of a living thing remaining the same as it was before.  

Locke argues that man is only a living body that has taken its own unique shape, while a person is a being with intelligence capabilities and can identify its own self as own self at different times and in different places. From this argument, it is clear that Leonard was actually a man, but failed to meet a core characteristic of a person, which required him to self indentify (Smith). In various scenes of the film, Leonard fails to realize himself on the things that he is actually doing presently. From what Leonard is portrayed as in the film, he is not the same thing at different places and in different times. At one point, he acts in modernity or what is happening at the moment, while again he is shown speaking to his long dead wife. These scenes are utmost contradicting to the audience.

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Dr. Kevin Kinghorn in his analysis on whether Hulk is same person as Bruce Banner puts up a similar argument as the one which has been put forward by Locke. He states that when Hulk is hit by the rays from the gamma bomb, he was affected in a way that influences his personal behavior to making him act as a different individual all the same. The effects of the bomb had made Hulk act in fear of the new person who was in him and was more likely to come out.  From this point of view, Hulk was seen to have changed to Bruce Banner. The argument was much more based on change of character, of Hulk and the new behavior that he had now acquired. Going by the argument, Leonard in Memento film can as well be regarded as a different person, as his character and behavior changes to a new one immediately after the attack.   

Leonard is one and the same person

Derek Parfit, in his Unimportance of identity, argues that change in quality of an individual does not necessarily mean a change in the person himself. Parfit gives an example, where he argues that the fact that a blue ball is repainted red does not change its identity as the same ball rather it only makes a qualitative difference. The fact that Leonard has forgotten most of the things that are actually happening to him now is not good enough to make him a different person from who he actually is. What has happened to Leonard is that he has only lost some of his unique qualities but the person in him is still the same (Parfit).

 Again, it cannot be concluded that Leonard has actually lost his total memory, as he can still remember some of the things that had happened earlier on before he had been hit and lost his memory. He is able to properly recall occasions with his wife before her death. Furthermore, he is able to make some verifications of events before the loss of his memory to the extent of tracing his wife’s murderer who he later on kills. It is from this that an argument can arise that Leonard is actually the same individual, only his mind has been disoriented and unable to catch up with the events that happened in the recent past.   

Comparison of the two positions

From the two different points of view described above, it is clear that in both cases some changes do happen. In the first case, where Leonard is seen as not the same person throughout the film, it is recognized that this change that he has undergone have made him the new person he is. In the second point of view, where the argument is that Leonard is the same throughout, changes have been appreciated though indicated as only some kind of qualitative changes. However, there exists a major contrast between the two arguments. While in the first one change has been recognized as having caused change in character and hence personality, in the second the change is viewed as a quality change within change of personality at all (Nolan).

Personal position

Going by what I have observed in the film as well as learnt, Leonard is one and the same person. Despite the fact that he has lost some memories, he is still able to remember and make some judgment. His change of behavior cannot be wholly described as change of person in him. At some level, he is able to realize himself and behave as he did earlier. What Leonard is undergoing is a mere problem emanating from events surrounding his death, but for other things he seems to act just as he did before. Loss of a personal characteristic or body part is not likely to lead to change of a person. They still remain who they are.


As explained in this philosophical paper, it is now clear that Leonard does not change in his person. He can only be said to be disoriented by events of the death of his wife. He even at one point admits that the fact that he seems to have lost memory should not be seen as a way of justifying some of his changed behavior. By this he is seen to be aware of his actions and that he still recognizes himself as he used to. As Derek Parfit has explained, loss of personal trait of an individual cannot be used to claim their loss of personality. It is by this stand that the paper observes that the change in behavior of Leonard had not gone to a point of view.

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