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Some scholars raise issues of exclusivity and scarcity as precursors of property rights. My brain can be accessed only by myself and its is one of a kind (sui generis). True but not relevant. One cannot rigorously derive from these properties of our brain a right to deny others access to them (should this become technologically feasible) - or even to set a price on such granted access. In other words, exclusivity and scarcity do not constitute property rights or even lead to their establishment. Other rights may be at play (the right to privacy, for instance) - but not right to own property and to derive economic benefits from such ownership.
On contrary, it is surprisingly easy to think of numerous exceptions to a purported natural right of single access to one's brain. If one memorized formula to cure AIDS or cancer and refused to divulge it for a reasonable compensation - surely, we should feel entitled to invade his brain and extract it? Once such technology is available - shouldn't authorized bodies of inspection have access to brains of our leaders on a periodic basis? And shouldn't we all gain visitation rights to minds of great men and women of science, art and culture - as we do today gain access to their homes and to products of their brains?
There is one hidden assumption, though, in both movie and this article. It is that mind and brain are one. The portal leads to John Malkovich's MIND - yet, he keeps talking about his BRAIN and writhing physically on screen. The portal is useless without JM's mind. Indeed, one can wonder whether JM's mind is not an INTEGRAL part of portal - structurally and functionally inseparable from it. If so, does not discoverer of portal hold equal rights to John Malkovich's mind, an integral part thereof?
The portal leads to JM's mind. Can we prove that it leads to his brain? Is this identity automatic? Of course not. It is old psychophysical question, at heart of dualism - still far from resolved. Can a MIND be copyrighted or patented? If no one knows WHAT is mind - how can it be subject of laws and rights? If JM is bothered by portal voyagers, intruders - he surely has legal recourse, but not through application of rights to own property and to benefit from it. These rights provide him with no remedy because their subject (the mind) is a mystery. Can JM sue Craig and his clientele for unauthorized visits to his mind (trespassing) - IF he is unaware of their comings and goings and unperturbed by them? Moreover, can he prove that portal leads to HIS mind, that it is HIS mind that is being visited? Is there a way to PROVE that one has visited another's mind? (See: "On Empathy").
And if property rights to one's brain and mind were firmly established - how will telepathy (if ever proven) be treated legally? Or mind reading? The recording of dreams? Will a distinction be made between a mere visit - and exercise of influence on host and his / her manipulation (similar questions arise in time travel)?
This, precisely, is where film crosses line between intriguing and macabre. The master puppeteer, unable to resist his urges, manipulates John Malkovich and finally possesses him completely. This is so clearly wrong, so manifestly forbidden, so patently immoral, that film loses its urgent ambivalence, its surrealistic moral landscape and deteriorates into another banal comedy of situations.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He is the the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.