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"Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story”

“I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently.”


This page explores the excellent Ang Lee film The Life of Pi and its relationships to the sort of epistemological questions that we have been exploring in this unit.



Some Analysis for your perusal

  1. An excellent blog - based on the book, but extremely relevant for our purposes. "Hollow at the core."
If you do a Google search for The Life of Pi and Epistemology there is a wealth of material to read through. Do this.

Here are three interesting questions to get you thinking about the links between the film and epistemology:
  1. It seems like Pi wants us to believe in his first version of his survival at sea. You know, the version with the tiger. But does this version essentially count as a lie? Are there times when you should tell "a dry, yeastless" version? Meaning: does fiction have a limited place in society?
  2. By the way, which version of Pi's survival at sea story do you choose to believe in? Why?
  3. It's odd to suddenly remember that both Pondicherry, India, where Pi is from, and Canada, where the author is from, were both French colonies. In the worst examples of colonization, one culture destroys another. Can one story – not necessarily "the better story" – colonize another? Martel also mentions Darwin a few times in the novel. Would you say that stories, like species, also battle it out for survival? That the best story survives?

This from http://www.shmoop.com/life-of-pi/ending.html

You might find it a little odd, after pages of adventure, despair, and hope, to encounter a sort of Japanese comedy duo at the end. However, the two investigators ask Pi some important questions and, more importantly, act as liaisons between the doubtful reader and the text.


We're not sure when you jumped ship, but Martel increasingly tests the limits of his readers' faith. Maybe you grimace before you even begin and say, "A boy and a tiger in a lifeboat? Like that could ever happen." Maybe, as Pi's survival extends to an unprecedented 227 days, and he hones his skills as a shark-thrower and hawksbill connoisseur, you say, "Enough's enough. I want realism." Most readers probably raise The Eyebrow of Disbelief when Pi meets another castaway on the Pacific Ocean and discovers an island made entirely of seaweed. The Japanese investigators are right there with you. They tell Pi flat out: "We don't believe your story" (3.99.1).


Their admission gives Pi a chance to defend his tale. He links storytelling with faith. He talks about how our understanding of the world shapes the facts we share about it. He explains the danger of reason on its own. And he expresses disappointment in the investigators' expectations. (He believes they want a "a story they already know.") On a theoretical level, Pi defends himself well. But the knockout punch happens when Pi tells an alternate version of his story. He retells the shipwreck, his survival, and his 227 days at sea without the animals. In their place, he puts himself, a Taiwanese sailor, his mother, and a cook. The story is horrific. Even ghastly.


Now for the BIG question: Which version do you believe? Do you think Pi, as young boy, comes up with fantastical tale to cope with an ugly truth? Or is it somehow not the point to decide what actually happened? That the beauty of the first story outweighs the believability of the second? On the one hand, Martel spends a good 200 pages developing the first story and about 7 on the second. The sheer volume, the proliferation of details, favors the first. On the other hand, the first story is also totally unlikely. We're not going to tell you which story to believe. Uncomfortable? Good.


Some more:
In what ways do the two Japanese investigators represent two ways of knowing that we have been discussing?
In what ways does the film present a right hemisphere explanation of truth?
In what ways does it represent a left hemisphere one?

In what ways could Pi's 'story be seen as an "Eastern" way of explaining reality?

What is Post Modernism? How do you think its central ideas relate to this film?

Are all explanations for Reality simply different stories/narratives?