Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich

Regina Goncharenko

Metropolitan State University

Philosophy 101-02

Mark Matthews

October 28th, 2020

              Regina:  Where did you get the article by Sandro Nannini?  It was never assigned, nor is it in any any of the anthologies I have assigned for the course.

You will need to re-write. Send me an e-mail response .


                                   Philosophy with Malkovich and Nannini

This paper will be split into four main parts. The first part will address the conclusion of the article “Cognitive Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind” by Sandro Nannini and how it relates to the current society. The second part will give a summary and the thematic plot of the movie Being John Malkovich. The third part will discuss how the film exemplifies the Naturalism philosophy in reality through characters’ unfolding stories concerning the already summarized article by Sandro Nannini. The final piece will identify one criticism of the naturalistic philosophy, as argued by Sandro Nannini, and to prove the truth behind the criticism.
To start, the main argument for the article “Cognitive Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind” Nannini (2000) is that life becomes meaningless without the spiritual realm. This conclusion is drawn from Nannini’s assertion from the article that there are two broad ways to operate: how the human mind perceives meaning and how there are conditions of importance that vary among human beings. Unlike bodily states, the mental states are conscious and have sense and content to an object (the idea of things). Human minds are imperfect and believe that there is a higher being with supernatural powers that control and guide humanity (Nannini, 2000). Thus, naturalistic theory agrees with Rene Descartes’ third meditation about the existence of God as a supernatural being who continually recreates the human mind to attain perfection.
According to the article, the human mind and body are two different things. This goes hand in hand with the common sense attached to the religious aspect that addresses the immortality of the soul and free will among humanity (Nannini, 2000). Analytic philosophers are opposed to metaphysics and the dualism of body and mind. Their discussion around the ‘mental’ state corresponds to the nature of human beings according to the naturalist belief.
The body-mind discussion is encouraged by Descartes’ writing about the relationship between the soul and the body. About nine different philosophers have expounded on this naturalist philosophy in what seems to be an extension of Plato’s philosophies (Nannini, 2000). Dualism and pluralism is the first theory around naturalism philosophy; Descartes, Christianity religion and Plato advance the dualism aspect (Nannini, 2000). It states that the spirit and the body are two separate entities and that the human soul is directed by a perfect supreme being who is in charge of all things.
The second aspect is from materialism philosophy, which is advanced by Hobbes and Enlightenment philosophers stating that “mental states are reducible to the physical state” (Nannini, 2000). The third reasoning around the naturalist philosophy and mental state is based on functionalism and cognitive as advanced by Aristotle, where he states that “the soul is the ‘form’ of the body; mental states are functional states implemented in cerebral countries” (Nannini, 2000). The idealism aspect further proves the article arguments in the article “Cognitive Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind” by Sandro Nannini by Leibniz that observes that indeed “matter does not exist independently of matter; material objects exist insofar they are seen or thought of by a mind.”
Secondly, we can see how naturalism philosophy is practically exemplified in the movie, Being John Malkovich, through an accurately developed plot that shows how mental state differs from the physical body state. Spike Jonze’s film is about a disappointed man who is unhappy about his failing career and marriage. He looks to another woman for the fulfillment, but the whole case takes a new turn (Jonze, 1999). Craig finds a unique door within a strange office, which he enters, leading directly into John Malkovich’s body (Jonze, 1999). The talented Craig, currently out of work and lives with his wife, is a puppeteer who has been depressed; his wife asks him to get a job to get out of depression. Getting I to John’s body excites Craig, who is determined to reinvent himself (Jonze, 1999). Craig turns John’s career into a puppeteer. Fast forward into the movie, Craig, as a Malkovich, has become successful in art and pop culture as a puppeteer.
In the third part of this essay, the film, Being John Malkovich is a perfect indication of naturalist philosophy in action. It shows the difference between the body and spirit through the theme of lack of fulfillment (Jonze, 1999). Lack of body fulfillment is a vast human weakness, and thus the constant need for spiritual fulfillment. Craig keeps going back to John’s body to seek mental peace and recognition. Craig longs to experience the world in someone else’s eyes and will give anything for that experience (Jonze, 1999). In naturalism reasoning, in human nature, there is an insatiable longing for things that may never come to be in reality; the spirit is always longing for fulfillment and thus the reasoning behind the dualism theory of being.
The film shows how the world easily beats us by circumstances; however, these are bodily (physical) matters, yet if we seek a more profound mental satisfaction, we may just be okay. Unfulfillment leads to loneliness; however, through the subjectivism angle of naturalism, the meaning of life varies from one person to another depending on their mental state. From the film, we see a happy and more contented Craig in John’s body. He can detach his bodily sorrows and builds a successful career owing to the mental peace that he obtains from John’s body. Being John Malkovich makes us understand that naturalism philosophy is real. Human peace and satisfaction are derived from subjectivism and objectivism, where peace is derived from something supernatural, as proposed by Descartes.
On the fourth and final part, the criticisms labeled against the article “Cognitive Naturalism in the Philosophy of Mind” is from Bruce Bain. He states that “primary phenomenal consciousness is neither a non-physical substance nor a non-physical property but simply the “format” that the brain gives to a part of its dynamics to obtain a fine-tuning with its environment when the body acts on it.” according to Bain, the mind and body are the same (Fischer & Collins, 2015). The brain indicates for the body to work on something. Bain’s arguments are sensible since it is hard to separate the mind from the body and that the peace and joy that the body enjoys must come from the senses (Fischer & Collins, 2015). Once the mind perceives what it feels like to be happy through marriages, career, or business, then the body will set off to achieve these milestones in an attempt to remain comfortable and peaceful. Nannini holds that the mind-body dualism owes to the fact that the study of the brain belongs to the science of nature and that the course of the mind is in the human sciences (Fischer & Collins, 2015). Naturalist philosophers, therefore, must appreciate the connection that the body may never be comfortable without a happy mind to can the mind be at ease with a troubled body.


Fischer, E., & Collins, J. (2015). Rationalism and naturalism in the age of experimental philosophy. Experimental Philosophy, Rationalism, and Naturalism: Rethinking Philosophical Method, 3-33.
Giere, R. N. (2017). Naturalism. A Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 308-310.
Jonze, S. (1999). Being John Malkovich. USA Films. United States
Nannini, S. (2000). Cognitive naturalism in the philosophy of mind. Naturalism in Cognitive Sciences and the Philosophy of Mind, 41-62.

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