Philosophy & The Matrix

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For Descartes, even the most basic assumption about reality was to be doubted. Even when we are not looking at optical illusions, and perceive the world as we should be perceiving it, we are still being fooled by our senses.

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In neurobiological terms, "reality" is little more than a representational model of the world, a construct generated by multiple neural circuits acting in parallel. This model is based on sensory experiences received by the brain via the senses, which can detect only the narrowest range of stimuli. The human eye, for example, is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of between approximately nm nanometers, billionths of a meter , an infinitesimal fraction of the entire spectrum. In that respect, the other senses are not much different.


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So the brain can be thought of as something like a radio, tuned in to just several of billions of channels. Plato alludes to the narrow limits of the senses in this passage from The Republic :. Imagine human beings living in an underground, cavelike dwelling, with an entrance a long way up, which is both open to the light and as wide as the cave itself. They've been there since childhood, fixed in the same place, with their necks and legs fettered, able to see only in front of them, because their bonds prevent them from turning their heads around. Light is provided by a fire burning far above and behind them.

Reality and Perception & The Philosophy of The Matrix - Film Study / Analysis

Also behind them, but on higher ground, there is a path stretching between them and the fire. Imagine that along this path a low wall has been built, like the screen in front of puppeteers above which they show their puppets Then also imagine that there are people along the wall, carrying all kinds of artifacts that project above it - statues of people and other animals, made out of stone, wood, and every material.

And, as you'd expect, some of the carriers are talking, and some are silent.

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The cave-dwellers get a hint of reality from the shadows on the walls. They may see a shadow of an object, and construct a mental representation of that object. But, according to Plato, knowing the form of the object is not sufficient to have a full understanding of it, which can only be obtained by more direct experience. For him, the world as we perceive it is no more or less real than that perceived by the people in The Matrix , as neither we, nor they, actually have any direct experience of that world.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.


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For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. For Blake, we are deceiving ourselves about our understanding of reality. Plato's argument, like that of Descartes, involves deception by other entities. Whereas Descartes believes he is being deceived by his demon about the nature of reality, the cave-dwellers are being deceived by the mysterious puppeteers behind the wall. These are mere impressions of what lies behind the wall, yet the cave-dwellers use them to construct their models of the world, because it is the only information they have.

I'm a tad surprised you didn't mention Jean Baudrillard at all, who was, more directly, an inspiration for the Matrix. There's a scene early on in the movie where Neo pulls out a book - the one he has computer disks stashed in - and the book quite clearly is a copy of Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation. You can see the screen shot of the book in the film here - scroll down about half-way.

Watch: What Does 'The Matrix' Owe Plato?

To quote the wikipedia article , which states it rather crudely, "Baudrillard claims that our society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that in fact all that we know as real is actually a simulation of reality. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are signs of culture and media that create the reality that we perceive. Apparently, the Wachowski brothers tried to get Baudrillard's help while making the movie but he declined, at least partly because they were misinterpreting his ideas. Baudrillard has some fun theories and he's pretty provacative, like when he said "The Gulf War the first one did not take place.

I've read that the human eye processes about 10 million bits of data per second my post about it , but I'm not so familiar with fruit flys. He pointed out that the presence of a thought only implied the presence of a thinker or brain if we assume that our experience of the world, where brains are what have thoughts, is accurate. But this is precisely the kind of assumption that cartesian doubt forbids. Strangely, I don't recall Schliermacher calling Descartes out on his more obvious error - the assumptions that a a god exists and b this god would not allow us to be misled.

I try to avoid blanket praise without specific content, but I have to violate my rule and just say, great post. I really enjoyed it. Quote: The truth - believe it or not - is that we all live in a matrix, albeit one composed of several hundred billion neurons and the quadrillion or so synapses formed by them. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Jean Baudrillard, as the Wachowski brothers were more directly influenced by his writings. His book, Simulcra and Simulation, even has a cameo appearance of sorts.

Here's a good interview with Baudrillard on the film caution: postmodern jargon ahead. You might find that there's a lot more out there - in truth and quantum reality, matter and mind - than you think. And there's a man working to make this idea more than a cozy debate; but you'll have to, to quote the bad movie, "See it for yourself". He's been at it for ten years, however, and I've known 'im for six of them. So my vote's cast. Note that Plato's version of the solipsistic challenge requires enforced and overwhelming constraint -- Putnam's version involves actually tampering with the victim's memories.

One could argue that Blake's argument was answered by Huxley, but that involves hallucinogenic drugs The realistic answer here, is that the world provides its own proofs by way of being rigidly persistent and consistent, to the point where we can in fact use it as a double-check for our individual senses. The problem of simulating a "real" environment may well be worse than "AI-complete"! That said, Blake is right in that most humans barely see the world around them through their personal filters and interpretations. Some of us are a little better at seeing the world "directly", but that isn't always a good thing!

Cough, cough, Autistic Spectrum. Normal humans filter the world so that they have more time to think about it! Your complimentary articles. You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please. In fact, like many philosophers, I found it fascinating for its ability to turn a philosophical issue into a visual experience. In his first Meditation , Descartes takes the fact that our perceptions can be mistaken — our senses can be deceived — to undermine his faith in perceptual truths.

The world, he realises, might be nothing like it appears. To keep his habitual beliefs at bay, he says that he needs to do more than simply recognise that perceptions may be untrue, he needs a more concrete supposition to overcome the pull of the accustomed. For this reason, he said, suppose that there is an evil genius, much like God but lacking his beneficence, who gets his kicks by giving you sensations but making sure the world contains no objects corresponding to them. After a long and devastating war with humans, the victorious computers use humans only as energy sources, farming them in a huge industrial complex.

As we watch the film, we initially believe in the fictional reality of the world we see depicted on the screen. And in doing so the film actually philosophizes. Sadly it appears the majority of interviewees are quoting Western philosophers, while the concepts of the story are actually grounded in Eastern thought The realm beyond language, in fact. Consciousness itself. Finally , a philosophical discussion of the Matrix I've rewatched the Trilogy just recently, and its spiritual philosophical richness is astounding for a couple of geeky writers first major films.

Interestingly I've also just rewatched Little Buddha in which Keanu portrays Siddarth the Buddha, and mention an Oracle is is part of his story as well. Not entirely a coincidence, I suspect.

Return to Source: Philosophy and The Matrix

The incessant fist fights-gunplay with Neo DID get somewhat weary to me, but I expect that was necessary to get it made. Krishna's philosophy is the ultimate undefeatable philosophy. When your finished with your illusionary movie world and want to know the absolute truth read any books on Krishna consciousness or read online and go to your local temple, other wise you stay in illusion no matter how many coloured pills you take.

What is the philosophy of Krishna??????????? Why is it unbeatable? I can guarantee without even knowing much about the philosophy i can find many flaws in it. Up for the Challenge? And there was me thinking that the matrix was just another film Some very interesting concepts and interpretations, and i dont think i'll ever see the matrix as just a film anymore. I've always found the matrix very interesting, though admittedly I think I might have a missed a few of it's open to interpretation meanings. What I got out of the matrix movies was, "Is it really okay to be independent and truly free, if it means contradicting my happiness?

Well, either way, I still don't plan on converting to Sheeple-ism.

Some good points and interesting readings, what is lacking in this one, though, is any kind of critique of the Matrix as propagating a Platonic system. Certainly there is an acknowledgment of the Platonic "good" as related to "the One", the ineffable "Model" as it were, but nowhere is there the observation that this supposedly divine, certainly "heroic" subject is placed at the privileged peak of a hierarchy that has always been the moralizing road-map to despotism.

The Matrix makes sexy our most innate colonial entitlements with a humorless, wooden delivery, bogged down in its own lead-weighted self-importance, and it does so because it assumes that its own masterful production values have made it a bona fide "Model" of sorts. Nihilism is the denigration of this existence in deference to a speculative other that denies difference, totalizes being into an "essential truth", and finds the present existence blame-worthy and in need of judgment. Too bad that that little bit of Nietzsche didn't sneak into and of the perspectives offered in this film. Just watched this.

Very informative. I think the documentary is dead on about the ideas presented.

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I do not think we will ever see another film series which presents these ideas and concepts in such a stunning and imaginative way again. I remember when the Matrix first came out.. Nice little Doc. Well done Vlatko! Just watch the movies and enjoy them.