Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon relays a perplexing realization about the human condition, that the concept of truth is fallible, or may not exist at all. For, in each account of the Samurai’s death, the manner, location, culprit, and motivation is different. The film begins by providing the audience with the most basic evidence of the murder: That the samurai was found dead in a grove, that a cut rope lay next to him, and that no conceivable murder weapon — knife or sword — was found at the crime. Tajomaru’s testimony, that he killed the samurai in a duel after “seducing” his wife, initially seems most plausible.
Examining Tajomaru’s testimony from the perspective of John Locke reveals few discrepancies between the case’s evidence, other testimonies, and the expectations of the infamous brigand. The first and most blatant discrepancy is his perception of his encounter with the samurai’s wife. In both other testimonies, Tajomaru forcibly assaults the wife until she regretfully submits to him. Assuming the other testimonies are truthful as they depict a similar encounter, Locke may attribute Tajomaru’s differing experience to the nature of secondary qualities.
In Locke’s discussion of secondary qualities from his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, he explains that the sense impressions of secondary qualities — our sense-data of color, smell, taste, etc. — don’t necessarily resemble the object we are sensing. Rather, Locke claims that secondary qualities are properties of the object that are related to its being perceived by us. Secondary qualities “are nothing in the objects themselves but powers to produce various sensations in us. ” Therefore, Tajomaru is experiencing the subjective secondary ualities of his encounter with the samurai’s wife, which do not necessarily relate to the objective reality in which the object or incident resides. For Tajomaru, these qualities inspire a false sense of consent and submission. Aside from this, Locke would find little to argue with in Tajomaru’s testimony, as his account coincides with the evidence at hand. At the end of his testimony he admits to foolishly forgetting about the wife’s dagger, which had been dropped during their struggle.
The next testimony, that of the samurai’s wife, depicts Tajomaru leaving after his assault of the wife. As the wife approaches her husband, she is met with a gaze full of loathing, eventually enticing her to turn her knife towards him. She faints and awakens to find the knife in her husband’s chest, deducing that she must have killed her husband. Locke would immediately be skeptical of the validity of her testimony due to her wildly emotional mannerisms, at times sobbing uncontrollably. He may assume that her turbulent emotional state has clouded her perception and memory of the crime.
Although unknown to Locke, Kurosawa hints that her recollection of the events is flawed when she recounts “How horrified my husband must have been, the more he struggled, the tighter the ropes dug in. ” When we witness her flashback, however, the samurai remains calm, unwavering, and stoic throughout. When comparing Tajomaru’s testimony to this one, Locke would favor the former. By applying Ockham’s razor to both testimonies, we realize that Tajomaru’s testimony contains one unresolved variable — who took the dagger from the crime scene?
The wife’s testimony, on the other hand, has two unresolved variables, as she leaves the knife in her husband’s chest and makes no mention of cutting the ropes ensnaring her husband. In order for her testimony to make sense, an entity must be added to both take the knife from the husband’s chest and slice his ropes. At this point, Locke would discredit the wife’s testimony. The final testimony is that of the samurai himself, speaking at the trial through a spirit medium. In his testimony, the depressed and emotionally distressed samurai commits suicide — after being betrayed by his wife — by stabbing himself with the knife.
Because of Locke’s belief in the existence of God and, by extension, the afterlife, he would not immediately discredit the testimony of the samurai. However, by applying Ockham’s razor and comparing this testimony to Tajomaru’s, Locke would again favor Tajomaru, as the samurai’s testimony contains two unresolved variables. First, the samurai claims that someone, unbeknownst to him, approached his dead body and removed the knife from his heart. Second, the samurai kills himself at the top of a hill, a considerable distance from the grove where his body is found.
Entities must be added to remove the knife and move the samurai’s body, violating the razor’s general premise: “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. ” George Berkeley, as a general extension of Locke, would agree with the assumptions made above, but would suggest different means to describe and discredit certain testimonies. Berkeley would first disagree with Locke’s analysis of Tajomaru’s experience with the samurai’s wife, as he does not believe in the existence of primary and secondary qualities.
Berkeley instead proposed “immaterialism”, a theory denying the existence of material substances. The theory asserts that objects are merely ideas in the minds of perceivers and, as a result, cannot exist without being perceived. Berkeley’s statement “esse est percipi” summarizes his theory, translated as “To be is to be perceived. ” Therefore, however Tajomaru perceives his experience with the samurai’s wife is how it occurred. Furthermore, It is also possible to apply the esse est percipi concept to Tajomaru himself.
However his mannerisms, characteristics, actions, and history are being perceived by the court is how he exists. If he exudes insanity and has a criminal record, his testimony is more credible. Next, Berkeley would immediately discredit the wife’s testimony, as she faints and induces that she has killed her husband. Since no one perceived the murder of the samurai, no a posteriori evidence of his death exists in her testimony. Berkeley would declare that we should not rely on inductive reasoning when we have plausible explanations of the same event relying on evidence obtained by the senses.
Finally, since Berkeley shares Locke’s belief in God, he would agree with Locke’s assessment of the samurai’s testimony. Again, by applying Ockham’s razor and comparing Tajomaru’s and the samurai’s testimonies, Tajomaru’s testimony is favored. Conversely, David Hume would oppose the judgements and assumptions of Locke and Berkeley, demanding that we uphold skepticism when evaluating each testimony. Hume would reject causality between both Tajomaru’s and the wife’s characteristics and histories and the validity or invalidity of their testimony.
In skepticism, causality is not provable in the physical world and only exists in mathematical scenarios. Alternatively, Hume would apply his fork to each testimony, “measuring” quantifiable aspects of each scenario and simple statements of fact. When evaluating Tajomaru’s testimony, Hume would first remark upon its quantifiable similarity to the account of the woodcutter, who discovered the crime scene. First, the distance from where Tajomaru describes killing the samurai and where the body is discovered is zero.
And Second, the knife discrepancy in Tajomaru’s testimony can be explained by maintaining that only 3 people were present in the grove. Using Ockham’s razor, it is most likely that the wife returned to retrieve her dagger and defend herself from Tajomaru. Throughout his testimony, Tajomaru relates his version of the murder using specific and simple statements of fact, neither making generalizations nor inductive observations. In opposition, the wife’s testimony appears flimsy, implausible, and frivolous under the fork. First, like Tajomaru’s testimony, the wife describes killing the samurai where his body is found.
Second, however, more than 3 people must have been in the grove to adequately resolve all variables in the wife’s testimony. An entity must be added to cut the rope’s of the samurai after his death, which would be senseless and futile. Another entity must be added to remove the knife from the Samurai’s body, as it is not reasonable to believe that the wife returned to retrieve the knife. Immediately after killing her husband, the wife attempts suicide but fails in all her efforts. Most importantly, though, the wife utilizes inductive reasoning to conclude that she is the culprit.
Hume would chide this induction, proclaiming the necessity of a posteriori experience to claim fact. Lastly, Hume would immediately reject the testimony of the samurai. Hume in Of the Academical or Sceptical Philosophy denounces our ability to prove the existence of God, claiming one would “be at a loss to find arguments, by which we may prove the existence of that Being or any of his attributes. ” Hume, then, would think it impossible for a medium to channel a spirit of a spirit world that does not exist, and, by use of Ockham’s razor, would conclude that she is a fraudulent con.
Although nothing is positively knowable, Hume too would believe that Tajomaru’s testimony is the most probable. While each philosopher comes to the same conclusion, Hume’s epistemology provides the most compelling reasons to reject the wife’s and samurai’s testimonies. His discreditation of Tajomaru’s and the wife’s tempestuous emotional states adds a feeling of objectivity to his analyses. Since nothing can be known with absolute certainty, it is best we not assume causality between emotions and actions.
Hume’s fork adds an additional level of objectivity with its ability to measure the quantifiable aspects of each testimony. With our measurements, the testimony most comparable to the evidence provided is most sound. Further still, Hume’s reliance on straightforward statements of fact make his judgements least prone to error, as he cannot be led astray by knowledge not gained a posteriori. When one applies Ockham’s razor to the already impartial Hume’s fork, they are rewarded with the most probable explanation of events.