Inception and Philosophy: What the Spinning Top Might (or Might Not) Mean

Kyle Johnson has an excellent article for Psychology Today (“Inception and Philosophy: Did the Spinning Top Fall?“). It’s tempting to fixate on those closing seconds of the film — did Cobb’s top keep spinning, or didn’t it? — but perhaps that’s a bit of clever misdirection on director Christopher Nolan’s part to keep us guessing on one detail while ignoring some other clues. In fact, Kyle wants you to think about it this way: it doesn’t matter whether the top does fall or not.

There’s a great discussion in the PT article on the role of totems (“an elegant solution for keeping track of reality”  as Ariadne calls them) —

“As the film reveals, you are never supposed to let anyone else touch your totem. Why? Because they might figure out how it works—how it is weighted, or how it is supposed to behave in the real world. And if they do, the totem will not be able to tell you whether or not you are in their dream.” 

Yes, the totems serve as a way for the characters to keep track of what they think is reality within dreams– but how do they really know what they think they know?

What certainly makes Inception a fitting source of philosophical reflection is that there’s ample evidence to support multiple interpretations of the film —

And, check out a sneak preview of Inception and Philosophy on Google Books!


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