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How the Matrix relates to Plato and Descartes 
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For school, our whole class had to do an analysis of the Matrix. Our teacher gave us the names of a few philosophers (Plato, Descartes), and we had to see how the philosophy behind the Matrix related to the theories of these philosophers. Below are sections that I wrote for the project. Be aware that some of the info here may have been mentioned before by someone else in this forum, but I decided to paste them here anyway. I spent a lot of hard work analysing this movie, please do take a read. I'm sure it'll open your eyes. It's also got stuff about Agent Smith that relates to another discussion before.

The Matrix


In the movie The Matrix, several analogies and philosophies run through the story, as well as the clever naming of certain characters, places, and objects.

Plato’s Theory of Ideas and the Myth of the Cave

Plato believed that there were two worlds that existed, the world of the senses and the world of ideas. The sensory world was the physical matter, which was always changing and does not last forever, perceived through our senses. The world of ideas is eternal, and consists of patterns which the sensory world was made from. Plato said that we cannot get true knowledge from the sensory world, because it was always changing, and true knowledge lay in the world of ideas, where we perceived through reason, and not our senses. He said that the human being had an eternal soul that existed in the world of ideas before it inhabited the physical body. When the soul sees the imperfect sensory world, it gives the soul a faint recollection of the idea world, and it longs to return and see that idea world again.

The Myth of the Cave is another way Plato explained this. He said that a group of humans are in a cave facing the back wall of the cave, and behind them is a high wall blocking the outside of the cave. Some other human-like creatures hold up some figures, above the wall, and all these humans can see are the shadows on the wall. They have been tied up in this position for their whole life. Plato said that the darkness of the cave represents the sensory world, while the world outside is the world of ideas.

These ideas are represented in The Matrix. Everyone grown in the fields by the machines are just like the people who are tied up facing the back wall of the Plato’s cave. The simulation called the Matrix is the sensory world. It does not hold the truth, and everything in it only barely resembles the things in the real world. The Matrix is the shadows that are on the walls of the cave (only barely resembling what the figures that were being held up). Everyone, including Neo was initially also born facing the wall of the cave, seeing only the shadows on the figures (only seeing things that were in the Matrix). Trinity, Morpheus, and his crew are people who have managed to free themselves their positions in the cave, and they can see the figures that cast the shadows. During his life in the Matrix, Neo started to wonder whether this was all there was, whether the shadows was the truth or not. In him, there was an eternal soul, as Plato had said, and that soul longed to find the world of ideas. Neo began to search for the world of ideas. Trinity said to Neo that before she knew what the real world was (before she saw the figures casting the shadows), she was looking for the same thing as Neo, and she said to him, “It’s the question that drives us.” She then asks Neo, “You know the question?” Neo’s eternal soul had seen the world of ideas before it inhabited him (in the Matrix), and the question, “What is the Matrix?” as he asks, is all he can remember from the world of ideas, and that is why upon seeing the sensory world of the Matrix, he had a longing, a drive to know what the world of ideas was.

Neo was born tied up to face the wall, seeing only the Matrix and Morpheus said that Neo was born into bondage, in a prison that he could not smell or taste or touch. In Plato’s cave, the cave dwellers actually could use their eyes, ears, and their senses, but what Morpheus meant was that Neo’s eternal soul could not ‘feel’ the world of ideas while he was tied up and facing the back of the cave just like he was not able to see the real world when he was plugged into the Matrix. Plato describes that the world beyond the cave is bright and that the cave dweller would be dazzled by the light. When Neo was just rescued from the Matrix, his eyes hurt, and Morpheus told him that it was because he had never used them before, it meant that Neo had never felt the world of the ideas before. Also, people who initially saw the figures that cast the shadows, and compared those to the shadows, are sceptical as to which one of these was real. Neo’s eyes hurt, symbolising that he was finding it hard accepting the real world, and also later, after Morpheus showed him the real world, he said, “No, I don’t believe it. It’s not possible.” In Plato’s cave analogy, the cave dweller who saw the outside of the cave came back to tell the others, but they would not believe in him, thinking that the shadows are all there were. These are the people who were all still plugged into the Matrix, and as Morpheus said, they can’t accept the truth, and in turn, try to protect it (“They will fight to protect it.”). In the end, the other cave dwellers do not believe in the one who has seen the outside, and they kill him.

Descartes

The ideas of Descartes and Plato fit in well together in the Matrix. In the beginning, Descartes questioned what was real, and he also questioned our existence. He started doubting everything, including his senses. When Neo was born in the Matrix, he was born in the extension world (Descartes believed that there are two forms of reality, the thought, or the mind, and the extension, which is the physical matter). Descartes was not sure of his existence, and neither was Neo, as Neo was saying to Choi (the person who was buying computer disks from Neo), “Do you ever have that feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming?” After Neo meets Morpheus, Morpheus again asks him, “How would you know the difference between the dream world, and the real world?” By this time, Neo probably completely doubted his senses, and he did not know what was real or not real.

Descartes believed things were either extended reality, or they were the reality of thought. But Descartes thought that humans were the only creature that had both. He thought animals were only very complex mechanisms, but still in the extended reality. Morpheus is like Descartes, he believed that the body could not live without the mind, but that the mind could be independent from the body. But Morpheus and Descartes thought that feelings and desires were related to the body, and that the mind needed to free itself from these impulses, as when Morpheus said to Neo, “You have to let it all go, Neo, fear, doubt, uncertainty. Free you mind.” But Mouse (another member of the crew) is like an opposing philosopher. Mouse thought that the bodily impulses were indeed important, and perhaps the dominating factor to our existence, saying to Neo, “To deny our impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.” Both Descartes and Morpheus believed the mind was superior to the body because it could elevate itself from the needs of the body. Others, like Mouse, could not free themselves from the extended reality, and that is why when Mouse was shot in the reality of the Matrix (like an extended reality), his senses in the Matrix gave him feelings of pain (the base impulses), but since he didn’t free his mind from that, he died.

What is Agent Smith? In the Matrix, Agent Smith was a program. I think that Agent Smith represented purely extended reality, and like Descartes said, I think he is only a ‘complicated automaton’, like an animal, and he had no mind. Thus, Morpheus believes that because Neo possess a mind, the Agents ‘will never be as strong or as fast as you can be’. Later, in the end, of the movie, the Descartes’ theory that the mind is superior to the body is proved when Agent Smith is destroyed. This relates back to Plato’s cave. I think that Agent Smith is an imperfect object that only exists in the sensory world inside the Matrix, meaning that he is only a shadow on the back of the cave. Even though he tries to get free, (when he says, “I am sick of this place, this reality, this zoo, whatever you call It.”), since he does not have the eternal soul, and is only physical matter in the Matrix (only a shadow), he can never reach the world of ideas, whereas Neo can.

I think that although Morpheus and Trinity could see the figures that were casting the shadows, they could not get over the wall (remember, there is a wall that is blocking off the outside of the cave). When Neo just woke up, and looked around his pod of slime, it was like he was in the cave, looking around the cave. Trinity and Morpheus knew what the truth was, just like Neo, but I think Neo was the only cave dweller that managed to climb over the wall to see the outside world. At the end of the movie when he finally ‘sees’ the computer code that is behind the Matrix, he is amazed, and that is when his ‘soul’ reaches the world of ideas. At the end of the movie, Neo says, “I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules to control us, a world without boundaries. A world where anything is possible.” He wanted to show the other cave dwellers the world of ideas that lay outside the cave – it was a world without the physical matter (without the Agents) and of the eternal soul. It may sound strange the both the extended reality AND the thought lay inside the Matrix, but I think that before people’s minds were freed, the Matrix was a sensory world, where everyone’s mind was affected by what they felt, what their senses felt inside the Matrix, but after Neo freed his mind, the Matrix became just thought, and his bodily feelings did not stop his mind – thus the elevation of his mind from the senses.


Phew, well, regards,

neoslimdog


04 Jun 2002 06:06
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Brain...matter....crumbling...must....eat....TWINKES!!!!


04 Jun 2002 11:00
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I wish we got assignments like that!! No fair!!


04 Jun 2002 14:09
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I love to read about the old greeks so I would have loved to do this project. That had some cool ideas flowing through it.


04 Jun 2002 14:31
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Did you say 'Greeks' or 'Geeks' there?

..only kidding.

Hey this is my first post. I thought that was very interesting. I'm amazed at how symbolic the film really is.


04 Jun 2002 21:59
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great stuff!

neoslimdog, email me at nerje@thematrixonline.com


06 Jun 2002 02:28
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Very well put! You are to be commended for the thought you have placed into this and the knowledge that you have acquired.

"There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path"


06 Jun 2002 03:04
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Someone has walked through the door that was shown to them


06 Jun 2002 03:54
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Isn't it ironic, though, how it is the Matrix, which exists only in everyones' minds, without any physical reality, that represents the physical/sensory world? And that it is the actual physical world that represents the world of Ideas? Sort of turns things on their head!

The Salamander


06 Jun 2002 20:47
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I think what I'm trying to say, is that the 'real' world, is only the realisation of me knowing I wasn't in the world of ideas. Because at the end of the movie, Neo says he would show the people a world without rules, boundaries, and so on, and the real world certainly had rules, for it was physical, so I interpreted it differently.

Salamander - Yeah, I know it is confusing. At first I thought that it was sad that the real world was physical, but now I think about it, maybe the machines have created a world where we could truly use the powers of our mind?! I'm' just thinking that in the end, to Neo, such rules as gravity in the Matrix won't affect him anymore, and perhaps the Matrix isn't even the Matrix anymore - he would be able to reprogram in just by thought (he wouldn't even need to know the programming language) and the Matrix would just become a blank page to him - a place with no rules as he said.

I think it was pretty sad that this movie didn't get any of the big Oscars - I know The Matrix won a lot for the sound editing and special effects, but I just couldn't believe that the Academy didn't look deeper into this one. It should've at least got nominated for Best Picture - I mean, if people didn't get the philosophy, it would be an entertaining ride anyway, but if they looked deeper, there is a lot in the film that at the time, people didn't realise. This is gonna be one of the classic films of our time, for it basically revolutionized special effects.

The sad thing is, I don't think that the Matrix sequels will get nominated for stuff like Best Picture, simply because they are SEQUELS. Most people think sequels will be worse - they think they are ripoffs, but we all know how much work and effort they put into these films, and they truly are incredible. I wonder if they will carry these themes even further in the sequels.A lot of people think sequels lack a good storyline, or something like that, and amazingly, by the time of the Oscars, the two Matrix films will both be contenders for awards, but it is likely that Revolutions will win all the awards, simply because it is released close to the Oscars. There is a tendency for them to award the more recent films the awards, rather than the ones which were released, say 6 months before.


neoslimdog


07 Jun 2002 07:40
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Very nice project neoslimdog! I want to know what sort of class was this for? Did you watch the movie in class? I love it if I got assignments like that! I'd poor my heart and soul into it! (along with my liver, lungs, small intestine, large intestine, kidneys, stomach, skin, trachea, esophogus, capillaries, all major and minor veins and arteries, muscles, tendonds, bones, blood, and any other internal or external organs and viscera that I did not mention.)

Hehe.


13 Jun 2002 23:46
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The Oscar's sequal curse dosen't always strike - Godfather won Best Picture, in 1972 The Godfather Part II won it in 1975, even though admitedly it wasn't a sequel


14 Jun 2002 00:43
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Well DP, in a way neither will the Matrix 2 & 3 be. Godfather Part I and Part II were both great because they were both written together, they were part of a whole just like the Matrix. All three Matrix movies were written as a whole movie, then divided it into three parts, like the first two Godfather movies (nobody dare mention Godfather Part III). The reason most sequels are bad is because the writers realize the sucess of the original, then try to leech off it's success by making another one, but that's not always easy. So they end up with crummy plots, or worse yet, a change of actors. Now, to get back on topic...
Man i wish my teachers would give us assignments like that, geez. No, we get stuck with boring assignments and essays on things that no one really cares about. Oh well, what class was this for again???


14 Jun 2002 01:33
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I'm well aware as to how the Matrix series has been written, what I'm refering to is in a timeline context. Godfather wasn't a sequal because it swapped to before Godfather 1 and after it. Reloaded and Revolutions, except for possible flashbkacks will be timeline sequels


I don't know what class this was for but I did a similar exercise with my film studies group, and they responded to it very well.


14 Jun 2002 01:45
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I was looking back over old threads, and i found this one. i thought it deserved to be brought back, since it was such a good analysis of descartes and plato's relevance in the Matrix, and people should read it :)


19 Mar 2003 18:39
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Bravo

When I was in school (a long time ago) I had a teacher who was cool like that as well. We dissected john boorman's excalibur. Which was also a great movie.

;)


19 Mar 2003 20:13
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I'm not going to read that essay you did right yet, because I'm still getting through Discourse on Method when my spare time permits it, so I'll finish that before reading yours.


20 Mar 2003 01:19
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Hey NeoSlimDog, would i be able to use that essay on my website?


20 Mar 2003 09:16
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my :roll:tch teacher wont lemme do how mythology and phylosofy affects the matrix cuz i dun have enough sources......
wtf


22 Mar 2003 05:16
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Wow... It's been such a long time since I wrote that. Reading back on it now I feel like I want to change a lot of things - strange when people grow and they look back at the past and say, 'Wow... I wrote that???'

Return - I really don't know what to say. As much as I would like to say yes, at the same time I also feel like I kind of want to edit it. How about this - you can use what I've done as a resource, but write the essay in your own words. Then all you need to do is in your bibliography, state the link for this thread.


Cheers,

neoslimdog

Edit: Oh yeah, and we did this in Social Studies last year... our teacher was really into philosophy and we watched the movie in class.


23 Mar 2003 03:49
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my teacher loves mythology..
u wouldnt believe how much she loves mythology


<b>SHOW ME YOUR CREDENTIALS</b>


25 Mar 2003 05:04
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In response to the original work,I disagree with a few ke points made...

Neo’s eternal soul had seen the world of ideas before it inhabited him (in the Matrix), and the question, “What is the Matrix?” as he asks, is all he can remember from the world of ideas, and that is why upon seeing the sensory world of the Matrix, he had a longing, a drive to know what the world of ideas was.

-i believe that the real reason neo knows about the matrix is from simply his extensive research of morpheus
__________________________________________________________________
Both Descartes and Morpheus believed the mind was superior to the body because it could elevate itself from the needs of the body. Others, like Mouse, could not free themselves from the extended reality, and that is why when Mouse was shot in the reality of the Matrix (like an extended reality), his senses in the Matrix gave him feelings of pain (the base impulses), but since he didn’t free his mind from that, he died.

-I believe that this statement is wrong, everyone but "the one" is so in-tune, so believing that the events that happen in the matrix are true, and neo is the only one that can deny the actions to take place, hence him being the one.No one besides neo can separate their mind from the their body. If morpheus was shot, he would die too, regardless if he knew the matrix wasnt real.
_________________________________________________________________
What is Agent Smith? In the Matrix, Agent Smith was a program. I think that Agent Smith represented purely extended reality, and like Descartes said, I think he is only a ‘complicated automaton’, like an animal, and he had no mind.

-This is completely opposite - all that agent smith IS, is a mind. he has no physical body. granted, since it is a program, this "mind" is limited hence the "rules".

-scott047m


27 Mar 2003 03:24
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The school of philosophical thought you are trying to get at with this is called "skepticism". It is the idea that there is no proof of what we are experiencing actually happening. I have not read Plato, but to expand on what you spoke of with Descartes:
Descartes spoke of what he called a "malicious demon" that creates illusions for the mind to see. Since this demon was controling everything a person under that control could not trust what he or she was experiencing. Having established that Descarte sought to find some universal truths that not even a malicious demon could tamper with. Two of the four (I think) are:
1. I exist. Even if everything I experience is simulated, including my body, I still exist in some shape or form (cognido ergo sum- I think therefore I am).
2. I have senses that convey information to my brain. Even if the experience is simulated, my brain is recieving various sensory imputs (hot, cold, pain, ect) that are real sensory imputs, regardless of the source.
These things Descartes discussed hold true for The Matrix. In this case it is a race of machines, and not a malicious demon or demons that are controling everything. The universal truths hold true as well. Even though all their experiences are simulated, the people in the matrix still do exist, and they do still experience senses (i.e. pain, pleasure, ect)

Another more contempory example of skepticism was written in the 1980's by a man named John Pollock. His argument was presented in the form of a story of a private investigator hired to find a kidnapped friend. He traces the clues and eventually ends up at a clinic where he sees doctors removing the brain from his friend's body and placing it in a vat of nutrients with electrodes hooked up to various parts of the brain. He enters the clinic to confront the people who are removing the brain of his friend, and he is subsequently apprehended by security there. He is taken to the person in charge of the clinic and it is explained to him that his friend's brain is still very much alive, and his friend is in no pain. The brain is in a vat of nutrient that keeps the tissue healthy and alive, and the electrodes are hooked up to a computer that feeds the brain signals that make it think that it is back in the body going about it's business. It is then explained to the detective that the people at the clinic would remove his brain, but that they had already did so three weeks prior. Thus, the argument follows that since we have no way of knowing or disproving that we are a brain in a vat, there is no way to truely trust fully what we are experiencing.
In the case of the matrix, it is not just a brain, but a whole body in a vat, and the brain is indeed hooked up to a computer network that simulates reality. Pretty heavy stuff, and I firmly believe that this philosophy is what separates The Matrix from all other effects laden martial arts movies.


08 Apr 2003 08:34
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It is also interesting to view the matrix from the veiwpoint of the gnostic(note not agnostic) belief system.I am not well versed in the this theology but it does have many parrallels with the movie.This thread brought up an important point the Matrix is not about what is real.It is quite plausible that the "real world" exist as a simulation as well.Indeed that would be a quite effective detterent against against a resistance.The point ,as morpheus points out is, control.If there is a higher substrate of reality to deny one access to it or knowledge of it is wrong.

?Any mathematics students on this board.?


08 Apr 2003 16:33
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Good thread, Descartes is my favourite philosopher at the moment (still getting to know most of them), and it's also cool to know the movie is being analysed in colleges & uni's. I have to do a 10 minute presentation on Simlulation & Hyperreality in two weeks time, I'll be using the Construct scene in the last 2 minutes as a visual aid. Jean Baudrillard will be my main source of info.


08 Apr 2003 17:49
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Good plan. I'm sure your speech will be excellent.

Does everyone know the "Indtroducing Evolutionary Psychology" book that the actors had to read? Well, a long time ago, when I was picking up mine at the bookstore, there is an entire shelf of "Introducing" books. I read through the titles and bought an "Introducing Kant" and "Introducing Descartes". Anyone else read these?


09 Apr 2003 11:57
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Have not read "Introducing Kant" But I ahve read some of his original translated works.For intresting you can always go with Nietzsche


09 Apr 2003 19:40
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