Different cities in different times

From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Solipsism and the Problem of Other Minds

Solipsism is sometimes expressed as the view that “I am the only mind which exists,” or “My mental states are the only mental states.” However, the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust might truly come to believe in either of these propositions without thereby being a solipsist. Solipsism is therefore more properly regarded as the doctrine that, in principle, “existence” means for me my existence and that of my mental states. Existence is everything that I experience—physical objects, other people, events and processes—anything that would commonly be regarded as a constituent of the space and time in which I coexist with others and is necessarily construed by me as part of the content of my consciousness. For the solipsist, it is not merely the case that he believes that his thoughts, experiences, and emotions are, as a matter of contingent fact, the only thoughts, experiences, and emotions. Rather, the solipsist can attach no meaning to the supposition that there could be thoughts, experiences, and emotions other than his own. In short, the true solipsist understands the word “pain,” for example, to mean “my pain.”  He cannot accordingly conceive how this word is to be applied in any sense other than this exclusively egocentric one.”

Samuel Nunn, of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, Indiana University, writes in Designing the Solipsistic City: Themes of Urban Planning and Control in The Matrix, Dark City, and The Truman Show (2001):

” “We build the city based on peoples’ memories of different cities in different times,” says one of the alien protagonists in Dark City, a sci-fi treatment of film (very) noir. The cinematic result: a classical palimpsest of the US city, circa ‘take your pick’ 1940s through the 1970s, missing only daylight. Ironically, it appears to be much like the cities that real urban renewal programs of the 1950s and 1960s delivered to us. The real “city” in The Matrix, a film about a world in thrall to an artificial intelligence, is a literal nightmare of high rise, high tech pods, each one housing one of us, but perhaps more nightmarish is the observation that urban planner extraordinaire Le Corbusier (aka Charles Jenneret) designed and promoted the same kind of city, filled with six-meter square “machines for living,” more than adequate to support the day-to-day life of Corbu’s urban dwellers. And in The Truman Show, the “on-camera 24-hours a day” hero’s fictional city was in reality Seaside, Florida, an antiseptic, over-designed, ultra-high income suburban pastiche of yesteryears’ fictional neighborhoods that never were (except in the minds of the husband and wife architects/designers, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk), with a lengthy layer of all too real restrictive covenants designed to control where residents gathered, what they did, and how their houses must look when they did it. What is the city, then, if not what we make it in our minds?

These three cinematic cities share a common theme: complete and unquestioned control over their urban inhabitants, a control invisible and all-pervasive, as difficult to see as it is to shed. It is a control centralized and concise, embodied in a few powerful entities (a council, a machine, a director), content in their ability to direct citizens as desired. When the intrepid citizens, dwellers in an urban simulacrum, become conscious of this control, the troubles start and the sparks fly. It is as if these fictional cities, running smoothly and happily as long as the dreamers sleep, are faced with their own versions of the LA riots: the abrupt and stark recognition that those invisible, embedded mechanisms of control built into the physical and social fabric of the city can break down, leaving pandemonium and disorder in their stead. The solipsistic city awakens, and liberation follows…

…In the solipsistic city, we’re never quite sure who’s dreaming up the reality we experience. And at the end of these three films, while our ostensible heroes move on to “the next level,” it’s anything but certain that the reality they each experience — their new urban reality — is any different, or any better, than what they had. Truman steps through the door into the new (old) world, Neo flies into the blue sky, and Dark City becomes an oceanside resort. Cities are transformed, miraculously, because someone wants them that way. One version of reality is traded for another. Like the latest shopping mall or urban theme park, the codified thoughts of planners create new realities that replace what’s gone before, seamlessly and fast. The solipsistic city lives.”

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