After years of inflated academic hype and frustrated expectations, the first philosophical porn movie is finally about to come out. Much is still uncertain at this point but as director Dave Leroy stated at a recent press conference, “with this movie I intend to bring a whole new intellectual depth to the experience of masturbating, starting with the very fact that I will do so single-handedly”.
He added that the plot will revolve around the field of Philosophy of Mind and will be loosely based on some of its most famous thought-experiences. The main character will be Mary, inspired in Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument. However, in the movie, Mary is not a specialist in the neurophysiologist of vision who knows all about colors but has never seen any aside from black and white, as was the case in the original thought-experiment. Instead, she is a virgin super-sexologist who knows all there is to know about fingering, licking, stroking, fondling, suckling, orgasms, penetration and general erotic stimulation in all of its glorious forms, but only in theory. She has never actually tried any of it herself because she is waiting for her true love to come and take her virginity (hopefully not in that order).
One day, while Mary is quietly sitting in her secluded room studying the physics of doggy-style, a pizza delivery boy knocks at the door. She opens it, politely greeting him, but to her great surprise, as she reaches for her purse she realizes she doesn’t have enough money to pay for the pizza. Having decided that going to the nearest ATM would be too much of a nuisance, she quickly dismisses her dreams of popping her cherry with her true love and in a heart-wrenching teary-eyed close-up sequence, offers to pay for the pizza in the universal currency of sex. This part, the director admits, is not exactly groundbreaking screenplay writing but “it does the trick, and you can’t go wrong if you go classic”.
However – and here is the fascinating twist – the pizza delivery boy reluctantly reveals to Mary while she eagerly unbuttons his fly that he is incapable of having an erection because he is actually a philosophical zombie, which is to say a being who behaves like a normal human being in every respect with one exception: he is unable to feel, and therefore cannot get a hard-on. “I call this the Soft Problem”, he says. David Chalmers, the creator of the philosophical zombie thought-experiment, has already agreed to come out of his academic comfort zone and make his debut in the adult movie industry by playing the zombie part himself, which the director considered to be “very good news not only because we won’t have to worry about getting his permission to use his idea as pivotal in a porn flick (which could be tricky if he was less open-minded), but also because we are on a tight budget and we’ll save a bunch of money in make-up since he already looks like a zombie pornstar anyway.”
Moving on, Mary, unconvinced by the zombie’s argument, puts her amazing sexual skills to good use and decides to tackle the zombie’s Soft Problem hands-on, which is to say she decides to solve the problem by putting her hands on the zombie’s soft tackle. After a few magnificently edited scenes in which the spectator can really get to grips with Mary’s manual technique, so to speak, she miraculously manages to solve the zombie’s Soft Problem. Nevertheless, the zombie’s rejoicing is only temporary, because now he has a Hard Problem on his hands to deal with. Undaunted by the renewed challenge, Mary gets down to business again and her once void sexual explanatory gap is now filled by the zombie’s Hard problem and they both climax at the same time – the zombie and the movie –, in a completely mind-boggling interplay and crossover of metaphorical and literal philosophical and sexual events during which it is impossible to tell where metaphysics ends and genitalia begin.
This riveting plot is sure to cause quite a few pensive rubbing of chins among philosophers, coupled with other less contemplative forms of rubbing. Does Mary, in losing her virginity with the zombie, learn something new? Specifically, does the feeling of having an orgasm add anything to her complete theoretical knowledge of the physiological effects of having sex? If she does learn something new after her experience, how was it possible for her to solve the zombie’s Hard Problem empirically as she did? But if she doesn’t learn anything new, will the zombie still call her the next day? These are by no means easy questions, and if Frank Jackson himself didn’t help us find an answer to them, it will be considerably more difficult for other philosophers to do so while jacking their frank. “But that’s the beauty of philosophical porn”, says director Leroy, “On the one hand, it confronts the viewer with the very deepest of philosophical mysteries. On the other hand, well… it’s really no mystery what’s on the other hand, now is it?”