Introduction: Meditations on The Matrix (Full Text)
- Which pill would you choose, the red or the blue? Is ignorance bliss, or is the truth worth knowing, no matter what? After watching The Matrix we are impressed by the action and special effects, and also besieged by questions. Is it possible that we ourselves are prisoners of the Matrix? Is this a Christian film? A Buddhist film? There is no spoon?
- A student of mine at King's College, Adam Albert, first drew my attention to The Matrix. He immediately saw the connections between the film and Descartes's speculations on the possibility of deception by dreams or an evil deceiver. My experience and his were similar to those of philosophy professors and students around the world. The magazine Philosophy Now even held an essay contest for college students. The topic: Which pill would you choose? Why?
- With this book, professors follow the trail blazed by their students. Each author asks and answers questions about the philosophical significance of the film. As culture critic Slavoj Zizek suggests, The Matrix is a philosopher's Rorschach inkblot test. Philosophers see their favored philosophy in it: existentialism, Marxism, feminism, Buddhism, nihilism, postmodernism. Name your philosophical ism and you can find it in The Matrix. Still, the film is not just some randomly generated inkblot but has a definite plan behind it and intentionally incorporates much that is philosophical. The Wachowski brothers, college dropout comic-book artists intrigued by the Big Questions, readily acknowledge that they have woven many philosophical themes and allusions into the fabric of the film. The Matrix and Philosophy does not in every instance attempt or purport to convey the intended meaning of the writers and artists responsible for The Matrix. Rather, the book highlights the philosophical significance of the film.
- To paraphrase Trinity, it's the questions that drive us. The contributing authors draw on Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Nietzsche, Sartre, Sellars, Nozick, Baudrillard, and Quine (among other philosophers) to address the questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope? What is real? What is happiness? What is the mind? What is freedom, and do we have it? Is artificial intelligence1 possible? Answering these questions leads us to explore many of the major branches of philosophy including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy. Despite the multitude of questions, there is but one imperative: WAKE UP!
- People like popular culture; it is the common language of our time. Did you know that Aaliyah died before completing the sequel to The Matrix? Did you know that W.V. Quine died less than a year before that? Many people know about the pop star, Aaliyah, while most people have never even heard of the great philosopher, Quine. The contributing authors of this book aim to bring the reader from pop culture to philosophy. Willie Sutton was a criminal mastermind, a genius of sorts. Once asked, "Willie, why do you rob banks?" he replied straightforwardly, "Because that's where the money is." Why write about pop culture like The Matrix? Because that's where the people are.
- No one would object if we turned to the works of Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare to raise philosophical questions. The Matrix does not belong to the list of Western classics, but nevertheless the film raises the same philosophical questions as the great works of literature. If philosophy could be found only in the writing of philosophers and were relevant only to the lives of professors, then it would be the dull and sterile discipline too many people mistakenly believe it to be. But philosophy is everywhere; it is relevant to and can illuminate everyone's life; like the Matrix, "it is all around us."
- This book is not just for philosophers but for all of us who have ever had a "splinter in the mind, driving us mad." Let it be a beginning but by no means an end to your study of philosophy.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)