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Kant's Noumenal Self and Doppelganger in P.K. Dick's a Scanner Darkly

Kant's Noumenal Self and Doppelganger in P.K. Dick's a Scanner Darkly

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Published by Frank Bertrand

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Published by: Frank Bertrand on Jul 12, 2011
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02/24/2012

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Kant's "Noumenal Self" and Doppelganger in P.K. Dick's
A Scanner Darkly 
 By Frank C. BertrandThe two-in-one character Arctor/Fred in P.K. Dick's
A Scanner Darkly 
(1977), inconjunction with several of the ancillary characters therein, pose explicit and implicitnotions about Character, personality, and self (Being) that are both informative andproblematic for reaching an understanding of the novel as a whole. Three of these areArctor/Fred as Doppelganger, schizophrenic, and symbolic personification of Kant's ideathat there are two wills or selves in Man, the phenomenal and noumenal self.Individually and in combination these reflect Dick's long standing concern with thenature of Reality and the interaction between Man and Reality.Most obvious of the aforementioned is that of Arctor/Fred as doppelganger,double, or composite character, a literary motif that generally represents the faces ofgood and evil within a single individual as objectified in two characters at war with eachother. Arctor/Fred, however, is not the stereotypical doppelganger as originallyconceived by Jean Paul Richter in the late eighteenth century for his novel
Siebenkas 
 (1796-97). Unlike Golyadkin Sr. and Golyadkin Jr. in Dostoevsky's
The Double 
(1864),or Schwendy and Habeland in E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Doubles" (1821), Arctor/Fred is apsychological rather than physical double; he is a split-personality, a second-selfreminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novella
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 
(1886). Of his book Stevenson wrote, in his essay "A Chapter on Dreams"(1888), that he "had long been trying to write a story…to find a body, a vehicle, for thatstrong sense of man's double being which must at times come in upon and overwhelmthe mind of every thinking creature." Thus it is that the dignified Dr. Jekyll, impeccable inrespectability, immaculate of reputation, seeks relief for his repressed instincts in theguise of another identity. His transformation into Mr. Hyde is deliberate and depends,initially at least, on the drugs which he has concocted. As Dr. Jekyll states in the writtennote he leaves before he kills himself, "man is not truly one, but truly two. I say two,because the state of my own knowledge does not pass beyond that point…I learned torecognize the thorough and primitive duality of man."Arctor/Fred's situation in
A Scanner Darkly 
is similar to the extent that his"transformation" is also accomplished by drugs, specifically use of the drug SubstanceD. But, use of the drug is not deliberate to effect transformation. The nature and extentof his split-personality, his neurosis, stems from use of Substance D as Arctor, theundercover persona of Fred, while investigating drug users and pushers in general andthe source(s) of Substance D in particular. In fact it is intimated near the end of
AScanner Darkly 
that Arctor was deliberately addicted to Substance D as a part of alarger scheme to discover those responsible for manufacturing and distributing the drug.At one point Donna says to Mike Westaway, "now he hasn't any ideas. You know thatas well as I do. And he will never again in his life, as long as he lives, have any ideas.Only reflexes. And this didn't happen accidentally; it was supposed to happen." (p. 203)It is also suggested that Arctor/Fred is being used to trap Jim Barris. Hank, Fred'ssuperior, says, "We really are interested in Barris, not you; the scanning of the housewas primarily to keep on Barris." (p. 182) Whether this is part of Arctor/Fred's beingdeliberately addicted to Substance D is not clear. What is evident is that it contributes to
 
and symbolizes his split-personality, that is, Fred as Arctor spying on Arctor and, in turn,unknowingly setting up Barris.Arctor/Fred's awareness and assessment of his situation, however, is not nearlyas acute as that by Dr. Jekyll of his. Fred notes that "When you get down to it, I'mArctor…I'm the man on the scanners…I'm slushed, my brain is slushed. This is not real.I'm not believing this, watching what is me, is Fred -- that was Fred down there withouthis scramble suit; that's how Fred appears without the suit!" (p. 132) Earlier in the novelArctor wonders "how many Bob Arctors are there? A weird and XXXXed-up thought.Two that I can think of…The one called Fred, who will be watching the other one, calledBob. The same person. Or is it? Is Fred actually the same as Bob? Does anybodyknow? I would know, if anyone did, because I'm the only person in the world that knowsthat Fred is Bob Arctor. But…who am I? Which one of them is me?" (pp. 74-75) Andthen there is what Barris says about Arctor, "There's a great deal about Bob Arctoryou're not aware of…That none of us are. Your view is simplistic and naïve, and youbelieve about him what he wants you to…I have come…to distinguish in him certaincontradictions. Both in terms of personality structure and behavior. In his totalrelatedness to life. In, so to speak, his innate style." (Pp. 32-33)Simplistic our view would appear to be, indeed, and contradictions there are. Asearly in the novel as page seventeen one finds "In his scramble suit, Fred, who was alsoRobert Arctor, whatever" (p. 18), which phrase is repeated on the next page. Then, Fredthinks "he always had a strange feeling as to who he was…What is identity?…Wheredoes the act end? Nobody knows." (Pp. 20-21) Also on page twenty is the phrase"Arctor-Fred-Whatever-Godknew." The Arctor/Fred character in Dick's
A Scanner Darkly 
, therefore, is aware of his two personas, but as Arctor says "
which of them is me?" 
(emphasis mine) That is, which persona is the real one? Which is original andwhich is the split personality?Note that there is a progression, of sorts, from "Fred, who was also RobertArctor" to "Fred, Robert Arctor" to "Fred, Robert Arctor, whatever" to "Arctor-Fred-Whatever-Godknew." Further, the Arctor/Fred character
first 
appears in
A Scanner Darkly 
in reaction to being introduced as "the vague blur" by the host at a AnaheimLions Club: "In his scramble suit, Fred,
who was also 
Robert Arctor, groaned andthought: This is terrible." (p. 17, emphasis added) But this is the narrator speaking, notArctor or Fred. Four paragraphs later one finds this exchange:"But to be serious for just a moment," the hostsaid, "this man here…" He paused, trying toremember."Fred," Bob Arctor said. "S.A. Fred." (p. 17)Again, this is narrative identification, as are those in the progression mentioned, all ofwhich intimates that the narrator is an unsure as Arctor/Fred. The implication, though, isthat the original persona is Bob Arctor. But, Arctor doesn't know this. Or does he?"…Fred in his scramble suit naturally reported on himself. If he did not, his superior --and through him the whole law-enforcement apparatus -- would become aware of whoFred was, suit or not. The agency plants would report back, and very soon
he as Bob Arctor 
…" (p. 44, emphasis added) One could infer from this that Fred is the originalpersona and is well aware of his undercover role as "Bob Arctor." Yet, this is at best asimplistic conclusion not conclusively supported by facts. True, we are told a lot more
 
about Bob Arctor than S.A. (Special Agent) Fred and Arctor is "on stage" in the novel amajority of the time. We learn that Arctor "in former days" (p. 48) had a wife, two smalldaughters and worked as an insurance investigator until he "hit his head in the kitchenwhile getting out the corn popper and…found a better solution." (p. 72) He realizes thathis "life had been too safe. All the elements that made it up were right there before hiseyes, and nothing new could ever be expected." (p. 49) In the "dark world where he nowdwelt, ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wonderous thingspilled out of him constantly; he could count on nothing." (p. 49) Does the bump and cutin his scalp from the corner of a kitchen cabinet have anything to do with Arctor/Fred'ssplit personality? Indirectly, apparently. It is almost too easy to postulate that BobArctor, in whose life "nothing new could ever be expected," opts for a job as anundercover narcotics agent with the Orange County Sheriff's Department, S.A. Fredbeing his cover, and becomes the Bob Arctor who "could count on nothing." Note too,that Fred, while talking with two fellow agents, says, "I've got two kids…two little girls."(p. 159) Bob Arctor and Fred are obviously the same person, yet, it is still not conclusivethat Arctor is the
original 
persona. It is equally plausible that Fred, a narcotics agent,has assumed an undercover role named "Bob Arctor" complete with background lifeand then due to use of the drug Substance D, while undercover, finds it more and moredifficult to keep his two identities separate.What is certain is that neither Bob Arctor nor Fred knows for sure. As Alice says,in Lewis Carroll's
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 
(1865), when the caterpillarchallenges her to explain herself, "I can't explain
myself 
, I'm afraid, Sir…because I'm notmyself, you see." And neither is Arctor/Fred hisself after using Substance D. Arctor/Fredis, in this respect, similar to Pellig, a character in Dick's first novel,
Solar Lottery 
(1955).Though an artificial android, Pellig acquires "some kind of multiple mind" when humanpersonalities/minds are electronically transferred into him for the purposes of control.But the results are chaos and Pellig becomes "a fractured personality artificiallysegmented into unattached complexes, each with its own drives, characteristics andstrategy." (p. 132) Arctor/Fred's experience, as is Pellig's, is a chilling enactment, inpart, of what Harry Haller, in Herman Hesse's
Steppenwolf 
(1927), learns from the"Treatise on the Steppenwolf." This treatise informs Harry that men have an inbornneed to regard the self as a unit:And if ever the suspicion of their manifold beingdawns upon men of unusual powers and ofunusually delicate perceptions, so that, as allgenius must, they break through the illusionof the unity of the personality and perceivethat the self is made up of a bundle of selves,they have only to say so and at once themajority puts them under lock and key, callsscience to aid, establishes schizomania andprotects humanity from the necessity ofhearing the cry of truth from the lips of theseunfortunate persons.Arctor/Fred is not a man of unusual powers nor of unusually delicate perceptions, butdue to the drug Substance D he is "forced," as it were, to break through the illusion of

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