The Matrix and Philosophy

The Matrix and Philosophy

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

Book - 2002
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The Matrix conveys the horror of a false world made of nothing but perceptions. Based on the premise that reality is a dream controlled by malevolent forces, it is one of the most overtly philosophical movies ever to come out of Hollywood. These thought-provoking essays by the same team of young philosophers who created The Simpsons and Philosophy discuss different facets of the primary philosophical puzzle of The Matrix: Can we be sure the world is really there, and if not, what should we do about it? Other chapters address issues of religion, lifestyle, pop culture, the Zeitgeist, the nature of mind and matter, and the reality of fiction.
Publisher: Chicago : Open Court, c2002.
ISBN: 9780812695014
Characteristics: viii, 280 p. --
Additional Contributors: Irwin, William 1970-


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Mar 12, 2013

Another entry in the "Popular Culture and Philosophy" series that uses a pop culture phenomenon, in this case the 1999 movie The Matrix, to examine philosophical topics.

Not surprisingly, these essays by a variety of philosophers and academics focus on topics such as the nature of reality, true knowledge, fate, and religion. Generally, the quality of the essays is good and the material is readable and understandable. There is some repetition of themes; Plato's Allegory of the Cave is mentioned often, as is Descartes' "mischievous demon".

My favourite essay was "Real Genre and Virtual Philosophy", which looks at The Matrix in terms of the various film genres that it combines. The essay, and several others, conclude that the movie asks many valid questions, but they are not new questions and it provides no real answers. The film's philosophical profundity is in fact more virtual than real (a conclusion I agree with).

One of the odder entries was one looking at the movie from a feminist standpoint (apparently, The Matrix is typical chauvinistic fantasy). But the most incomprehensible was the final essay, which is written in philosophical gobbledygook. A typical sentence, selected at random: "In other words, does the externalization of the big Other in the computer not account for the inherent paranoiac dimension of the wired universe?" Huh?

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