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Philosophy in Bioshock Infinite

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Brittany Sikaffy

on 11 June 2013

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Transcript of Philosophy in Bioshock Infinite

Determinism, Compatibilism, Many Worlds & You Background Background (Con't) The Bioshock series started in 2007, with it's first self-titled release. Currently there are three games to the series the most recent, Bioshock Infinite, was released in March of this year. Bioshock Infinte takes place in the floating city Columbia in 1912. Columbia was founded by the "prophet" Zachary Hale Comstock. The city holds many strong and enforced ideals such as American Exceptionalism and ideals surrounding religion. The main character, Booker DeWitt, is sent from Maine into Columbia to bring back a girl named Elizabeth in order to wipe away his debt. As always the case, Columbia set out to be a utopia but as the game progress it is revealed that it is far from that. The Characters Booker DeWitt - The main character, he becomes an alcoholic with a gambling addiction after the battle at Wounded Knee. He is given an opportunity to wipe away his debt by going to Columbia to rescue a girl named Elizabeth. Elizabeth - Locked in a tower all her life she finally gains her freedom thanks to Booker. However, she is hunted throughout the game by Comstock who is determined to lock her back up. Zachary Hale Comstock - The Prophet and founder of Columbia, he controls the entire city by enforcing extreme religious ideals onto it's citizens and through fear-mongering. Comstock claims he can see into the future. The Characters (Con't) The Leutce Twins - Rosalind and Robert Leutce are twins who are both quantum physicists. They assist Booker and Elizabeth throughout Columbia. Philosophy in Bioshock Infinite The game holds many underlying metaphysical ideas and theories that can go unnoticed by the player, they are: Compatibilism
and The Many Worlds Theory All these ideas tie back into each other as Booker DeWitt "swims in different oceans, but lands on the same shore." Free Will: Determinism and Compatibilism Compatibilism: Freedom means not physically or psychologically forced or compelled to do what one does. It is a matter of being able to choose and act in a way which one prefers or thinks is best given how one is. Bioshock Infinite is a game that holds many compatibilist views with an overall deterministic attitude, in other words constants and variables.
So do we have a say in how we play the game? Determinism: That we ultimately have no choice in the matter, everything is predetermined and is therefore inevitable in the end. The history of the universe is fixed. Traditionally in the Bioshock Games Determinist and Compatibilist Points Experienced by The Player Compatibilist Determinist Weapons used
Vigors used
Looting bodies
Upgrades The number picked at the raffle and the throw
Coin Toss
There's always a revolution Determinist and Compatibilist
Points Experienced by Booker Compatibilist Determinist Accept or rejecting the baptism Playing a role in the revolution
Always gives his daughter away Daniel Dennett - Compatibilist David Hume - Compatibilist The Many Worlds Theory Many Worlds Theory
in Bioshock Infinite B.F. Skinner - Determinist American philosopher, cognitive scientist, writer and professor at Tufts University (Boston, MA). March 28,1942 - Present He thinks of free will in terms of evolution. For example, we have evolved over the centuries becoming smarter and more able than before. Because of this we are able to think about our actions - weighing out the choices and consequences with reason and responsibility. Because we act through this way, we have free will. May 7, 1711 - August 25, 1776 In Hume's book, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Hume states the following about free will: we have the power to act or not according to our own determination of will. If we choose to not stand up, we do not have to but we still have the option to stand.
Hume goes on to say, "This hypothetical liberty (freedom) is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner in chains." This means freedom is the ability to take a course of action. March 20, 1904 - August 18, 1990 American behavioural psychologist, best known for his operant conditioning learning. Says that people's actions are a result of their conditioning from their upbringing and their environments. Therefore, it's impossible for a person to act any other way because they are conditioned to do so. By being conditioned, we have no real choice and therefore we have no free will. Created by Hugh Everett (1930-1982), an American physicist. The theory states that the universe duplicates into different universes when an action is taken, even if a person does not take action. There is a universe for each possible action.

For example: If you find yourself in a life or death situation and the outcome is you that you're still alive, you would be dead in a different universe. The Baptism After the battle at Wounded Knee, Booker DeWitt seeks redemption through baptism. In one universe, he accepts the baptism. In the other he rejects it. Accepting the Baptism (Universe One) When Booker DeWitt accepts the baptism, he turns into a new person, adopting a new name and placing all his faith into God. He becomes Zachary Hale Comstock. He turns into a religious figure over time, gaining much popularity within the religious community and the government while also establishing a white political party called The Founders. Not long after, he took interest in a physicist name Rosalind Lutece, who's recently discovered how to make atoms float. Comstock hires Rosalind to build the floating city of Columbia. Rejecting the Baptism (Universe Two) After rejecting the baptism, Booker becomes an alcoholic with a gambling addiction - generating an incredibly large amount of debt. With Columbia built, the ideals that the city is built on clash with the United States, Columbia succeeds from the US and disappears into the sky. Comstock decides he needs an heir to his throne in order to secure the future of the city but is found to be infertile as a result of partaking in Rosalind Leutce's experiments. At the same time, Rosalind has opened up a tear into another universe where she has met herself, except she is a he and his name is Robert Leutce. Robert agrees to come over and live in Rosalind's universe. Comstock tells the two that they must venture into a universe where he has a child in a different life and bring it to their universe in order for Columbia to have an heir.
Robert Leutce makes his way through a tear into the world of Booker DeWitt. Columbia is Built (Universe One) Universe One & Two Meet Robert offers a chance to Booker to wipe away his debt if he gives up his daughter. Booker complies. The Trouble With The Girl (Universe One) With Comstock now in possession of an heir. The Leutce Twins have also mastered traveling across the multiverse plane, seeing into the future that Comstock's heir becomes a tyrant. They must correct their mistake. Redemption (Universe One & Two Meet) The Leutce's travel back to Booker 20 years later and offer him a chance to wipe away his "debt" again if he rescues a girl from Columbia. He agrees and the Leutces bring him into Universe One, into Columbia. The Many Worlds Theory (Con't) Elizabeth, the supporting character of the game possess a power to open tears into different worlds. By opening these tears, we get to see the world and characters change drastically, with examples going back to what Booker thinks he experiences. But the tears do not always have a deterministic viewpoint, they also allow for compatabilism in the game. As a player, we have options of bringing in ammunition, health kits, turrets, etc. offering us choice. In addition, there are instances encountered that allow the player to go through tears into different versions of Columbia. What's Been Established By being able to open tears and traveling into different universes (many worlds) one can say that we have freewill based on the fact we can do this (compatabilism).
As the game progresses, the idea of compatabilism seems to fade away as no matter what choices we are free to make, the outcome is always the same (determinism).
Finally, if Booker can accept or reject the baptism, we are back at a compatabilism view. Questions Raised By Everything If Bioshock Infinite has a set path (the weapons, situations, the ending is always the same) then is there really choices for one to make or is it the illusion of choice? Is the choice of Booker accepting or rejecting the baptism a creation of a deterministic and compatibilistic world?

This meaning that Booker is the compatibilist, in his world there are many decisions he can make. Comstock is the determinist as he can see into the future, knows when he will die and constantly speaks of a "false Shepard," Booker, coming into Columbia to lead the "lamb, "Elizabeth, astray. You are presented with the choices that effect the overall ending of the game. This comes from the idea of "saving" or "harvesting" Little Sisters in the first two Bioshock games. If the player chooses to save the Little Sister, they are broken from their mutated and conditioned state and return to normal. If the player harvests the Little Sister, she dies but the user gains more ADAM to progress in the game. For example: If the player saves every Little Sister they encounter, the ending will result in the main character taking the girls to the surface for them to live a normal life. If the player harvests the Little Sisters, the main character goes to the surface with the enemies of Rapture to take over the world.
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