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The Matrix Philsophy

  1. Oct 27, 2004 #1


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    As an extension of my post in the purpose of life thread and the money/happiness thread, the Matrix trilogy, as I see it (and this is one of the great things about it), deals with 3 key philosophical issues (overlapping, of course), in the 3 movies:

    -"The Matrix" is about Fate vs freewill (choice).
    -"The Matrix, Reloaded" is about choice vs causality.
    -"The Matrix, Revolutions" is about trust vs faith/belief and, of course, the triumph of choice.

    The humans win because none of the machines, with the possible exception of The Oracle understand the nature of Choice.

    Morpheous is, imo, the weakest of the principle humans because he puts so much emphasis on Fate. All of the other principles are at some point faced with pivotal choices and they sieze the choice instead of letting Fate make the choice for them.

    Neo's journey, of course, begins with a choice (red pill) and he realizes the power of his choice when he chooses to help Morpheous. Trinity doesn't quite get it yet, but believes in Neo, so she chooses to go with him. By the 2nd movie, she gets it completely, when she chooses to go back into the Matrix (and in the 3rd, as the scene in Merv's club shows).

    Cipher is weak and simple, but nevertheless makes a choice (ignorance is bliss). Zee and Link make choices (to fight and to honor their fallen siblings). Niobe chooses to trust in Neo.

    For the computer programs, only the Oracle really understands Choice. Persephone kinda does, but she's motivated by revenge and doesn't really use it. The Architect doesn't (or maybe he does, but its existence annoys him), but accepts it and made basically a functional workaround. Merv vastly underestimates the power of choice over causality twice (well, 3 times if you include with Persephone and his lipstick...), almost to his downfall. Smith is Neo's opposite and his complete lack of understanding of choice is what leads him to do the things he does - including his downfall. Smith equates humans with viruses (or better yet, cancer) in the first movie, but he is, in fact the cancer that spreads through the matrix. He's the result of an error or mutation in his programming, apparently created when Neo first destroyed him.

    The Indian family is tough. I think they are meant to illustrate how easy it is to confuse these issues (hopefully, not the opposite...). The man makes a choice, like Neo, motivated primarily by love. But while Neo actually feels love, to the Indian man, it is just a word in a dictionary that describes a condition. X+Y+Z=Love: Sati is his daughter, therefore he loves her.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2004
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  3. Oct 27, 2004 #2


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    Interesting, Russ, but I'd appreciate if you could clarify a couple of points.

    To what extent is the notion of causality distinct from that of fate?

    Also, I assume you mean both 'choice' and 'free will' in the sense that these are, in some manner or another, indeteministic? (If not, what distinguishes them from causality/fate?)

    What is the difference between trust and faith?

    From this, I gather you mean that choice is a matter of one's attitude towards events. That is, one exerices choice in the event that one performs an action based on one's independently formulated decision, as opposed to performing actions based on decisions or plans of action that have been, in some sense, 'handed down' to them. Is that a correct interpretation of your use of the word? Do you have anything to add here?
  4. Oct 27, 2004 #3
    So what you're saying is that the machines lost because they didn't understand freewill/choice. This means that their foresight would be calculated based on their idea of causality. The machine thinks, "If X happens, under conditions Y, then Z will result. The machines could never know that Z would result if X were now A instead, or B, or C etc. or anything because the freewill element introduces a new variable and the machines can't fathom this changing/dynamic system as opposed to a predetermined programmed one. So all the machines can do is react to changing situations as a result of these human choices, just like any species on Earth would do. While the sentinals are digging towards Zion they are presumably following a program code. This code doesn't necessarily know when human contact will occur, but when it does, lets say in an Earth layer far closer to the surface than Zion, the sentinals would react accordingly and defend themselves then, right? So they are executing a choice: "humans are here: kill them." Of course they may not have a choice because they are programmed to do it, so they have to. Then they are bound by whatever programmed them. So if the worker bee stings you, and she doesn't have a choice to because she is dictated by her queen's pheremones, then the queen is the one making the "choice" to defend the hive. At some point in the mechanical system, the machines made the "choice" to engage and destroy humans, and have that implemented into the program code, therefore at least some element of this system understands the idea of free will/choice.

    Which is your favorite? I like "Reloaded" the best, especially those ghost dudes who can pass through things when they want to but manipulate the matrix too.
  5. Oct 27, 2004 #4


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    Ooh, good question. Fate often implies a supernatural guiding force while causality is just deterministic laws of physics, but that's probably not good enough for you... They are related, I must admit, in that they both both seemingly overrule Choice -- or do they? In Oedipus, we learned that sometimes you make your fate happen by making bad choices (or choices that you think will enable you to escape your fate). I'm going to have to sleep on that one....
    Again, not much, though in this case I consider the difference to be important, as subtle as it is: trust involves choice, faith doesn't (necessarily). Not your choice, the choice of another. Faith, to me, has always been somewhat empty and weaker than trust. Its like trust, but without the connection. You have faith that someone can help you, but you trust that they will. Niobe gives her ship to Neo because "I believe in him" - which implies faith, but I think there is more to it than that. I think she trusts that he won't let her down - she knows he'll do his best to do what he needs to do. At the same time, faith is a guarantee, trust isn't: faith means that (like with fate), you think the outcome is a foregone conclusion. With trust, the outcome isn't, but the effort is.

    Again, I may need to sleep on this one (I've had several drinks tonight...). Great questions, though.
    That's a good characterization. It may not be a satisfying one to some people, but imo, choice is mostly about attitude. In Oedipus, it was the attitude of Oedipus and his parents that condemned Oedipus to his fate. Had all of them acted as if they had freewill (whether or not they actually had it), Oedipus's fate would have to have been different.

    In the first movie, before Neo was freed, Morpheous asked him what he thought about fate - he didn't like it because he didn't like the idea that he wasn't in control of his life. The message of Oedipus is that you are in control of your life, even if you don't believe it. Even if someone has seen the future, the future is still your choice: fate with a lower-case "f" instead of a capital one. And maybe that's the difference: causality is Fate without choice - seeing the future without having control over it is fate with choice (choice for the people experiencing it).

    This worldview allows me to believe in Choice even in the face of scientific and religious determinism.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2004
  6. Oct 27, 2004 #5


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    As to which I like best, I honestly don't know. I was disappointed by Revolutions at first, because I was expecting something more profound, philosophically - but maybe the message really is as simple as Neo's last words (when asked why he continued to fight): "Because I choose to." Simple, but powerful.

    For action, though, you really can't top the first one. I watched the lobby shootout scene about every day for a month after I got the movie. Throw in the helicopter crah and the fight scenes and it was a revolutionary movie. The other two just built on that.
  7. Oct 27, 2004 #6
    I choose what I do. However I don't choose my own creation. The universe, or whatever you want to call it, is creating me. Thefefor it can be ultimately said that the universe is the cause of my actions. So in my opinion choice is a matter of perspective.
  8. Oct 28, 2004 #7


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    Well, the existence of choice does not mean everything is in your control. Inside the Matrix, Neo had absolute Choice, and everything was, indeed, in his control. In the real world, though, we do have to obey gravity, etc. My mom had the "serenity prayer" hanging on the wall in my house:
    That's where the vast majority of my philosophy really comes from. The Matrix just so happens to fit it.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2004
  9. Oct 28, 2004 #8
    I actually disagree with your interpretation of the Matrix. The movie can be viewed in many ways, and indeed I think it is meant to be. I don't remember all my thinking on the movie but I remember thinking both worlds were actually the same Matrix and that Neo, his actions, and his struggle over choice were predetermined.

    I can remember only a few examples of why I think this. The predictions that the oracle makes relies on the events that transpire in the real world, she would have had to know both worlds, after all Neo was back and forth between them. Neo also has psychic visions of future matrix events while dreaming in the real world where Trinity falls out the window while fighting an agent. I believe they explain knowing the future as seeing the future code of the matrix, which of course requires predetermination. And since the future code depends on the comings and goings of people from the other world they both must be predetermined. Neo clearly has matrix like powers in the real world and as rational as the story has been up to this point I don't go for the supernatural unexplainable explanation. Also the agents are able to some how possess humans in the real world which doesn't make sense unless they are unified under a single Matrix. The last thing I remember is that Neo is handed a spoon in the real world, which is a symbol of the Matrix, possibly implying he is still in the Matrix. I haven’t seen the movies in a long time but this much I remember.
  10. Nov 2, 2004 #9
    I'm glad to see someone likes the trilogy as much as I do. There was so much backlash after the last Reloaded and Revolutions, I didn't understand what the problem was.
    Great line.
  11. Nov 3, 2004 #10
    I knew there was more in Phili than cheese steaks.
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