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 The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real

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PostSubject: The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real   Sun 15 Nov 2009, 1:18 am

William Irwin - The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real
Open Court | 2002 | ISBN: 081269502X | Pages: 320 | PDF | 1.88 MB



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.

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A few Amazon Reader Comments:

Quote :
I use this book in the Introduction to Philosophy course that I teach. This book provides me with an "in" that I can use in order to discuss very important philosophical issues. It is often difficult to make the material "come to life", especially when teaching a required course. By using this book, it is possible to make the process much more enjoyable for students who would otherwise be disinterested. This book can be used on its own or, being that it is relatively inexpensive, it can be used as a companion piece along with a textbook. For the most part, the writing is lively and engaging. It is both accessible to Intro. students and interesting to graduate students. Anyone who has had an even cursory acquaintance with philosophical writing knows how rare that is. I believe this to be the best book in the series. I am most likely biased; I have what some might call an unhealthy obsession with the film.

The other two books, Seinfeld and Philosophy and Simpsons and Philosophy, are excellent, but this book is much better for use in an intro. course for on simple reason: To understand most of the essays in the other two books, the reader will have to be familiar with the series. Seeing a few episodes will not do. With The Matrix, you can watch a two hour movie and be able to understand the references that are made in the book.

A few highlights:

Ch.1: Computers, Caves, and Oracles: Neo and Socrates- Compares Plato's allegory of the cave to Neo's journey. An excellent discussion of what it means to lead an examined life and seek the truth. Excellent segue into the red pill/blue pill debate.

Ch.6: The Machine-Made Ghost: Or, The Philosophy of Mind, Matrix Style- Discusses Artificial Intelligence and the nature of the mind. The author argues against dualism and favors a materialistic view. Leads to a discussion on whether or not it would be theoretically possible for a Matrix to exist and the presuppositions that are present in the movie with regard to the nature of the mind.

Ch.8: Fate, Freedom, and Foreknowledge: A discussion of fate, freedom, omniscience and determinism. Even if they escaped the Matrix, would people really be free?

Ch.11: Happiness and Cypher's Choice: Is Ignorance Bliss?- My favorite essay in the book. What do we make of Cypher's decision to try to return to the Matrix? Is a decimated reality preferable to an artificial world where you can "eat" a juicy steak and do not have to worry about Sentinels trying to kill you? The author says that it is, and his argument is very thought-provoking.
There are other excellent essays in this book, but these happen to be my favorites. Students, teachers and those who are just interested in philosophy: You should definitely buy this excellent book.

Quote :
This book contains 20 essays by 20 philosophers covering various parts of the film The Matrix and how they relate to philosophy. The 20 essays are divided into 5 categories. The first group of essays deal with the possibility of the Matrix or some other deceitful reality, the second section includes essays covering implications of The Matrix, the third covers how The Matrix relates to religion and ethics, the fourth section includes the essays covering philosophical themes of The Matrix, and the final section includes essays in which the film is analyzed from different perspectives, including feminism, Marxism, and postmodernism.

While almost all of the essays are good, my two favorite essays were #8: "Fate, Freedom, and Foreknowledge" by Theodore Shick, Jr. and #19: "The Matrix Simulation and the Postmodern Age" by David Weberman. Both were interesting and thought-provoking.

At least two of the essays, though, contain serious flaws. Essay #7: "Neo-Materialism and the Death of the Subject" by Daniel Barwick is seriously flawed in its critique of reductive materialism. The author quotes a passage from Michael Tye noting the difference between experiencing different colors and merely learning what it's like to experience different colors. This passage and the subsequent discussion of it are relevant neither to reductive materialism or to The Matrix. A more relevant situation would be one in which 2 people perceive what they think is a real tree, but only one of them is actually perceiving a real tree while the other is only receiving computer generated electrical signals that give the false perception of a tree, as what differentiates one's perceptions in reality and The Matrix is not the perceptions themselves, but rather the source of those perceptions. Essay #10: "The Religion of The Matrix and the Problems of Pluralism" by Gregory Bassham describes the references to religion in The Matrix, and finds the film to be supportive of religious pluralism. While the film does indeed borrow plot and character archetypes from religion, that does not make the film religious or supportive of a view towards religion, such as pluralism or exclusivism. The Wachowskis commented in an interview that the film was about "Faith in oneself," which is a non-theist position.

It was somewhat annoying how nearly every one of the essayists repeat how The Matrix is similar to Plato's "The Cave" allegory and how The Matrix is similar to Descartes' malicious demon thought-experiment. Also, in almost every essay the dialogue from the scene in which Cypher is eating the steak while making the deal with Agent Smith is quoted and analyzed. Instead, perhaps, the first 3 essays could have been devoted to 1 of the 3 things exclusively (The first essay is devoted primarily to the "The Cave" allegory) so they wouldn't have had to be repeated in almost every essay.

Also, I was a bit disappointed that none of the essayists noted the more likely, but not nearly as interesting scenario that should, but probably won't, be revealed in the final 3 minutes of the 3rd film: The year is actually 2399, not 2199, and none of the thought to be real events, places, or even people (which no longer exist) are indeed real, and instead everything took place as part of a computer simulation onboard one of the A.I. machines, of what might have happened if the A.I. machines had used human energy to continue their existence on Earth, instead of solar energy that the A.I. machines really use to continue their existence in outer-space, as it floats benignly through space.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this book. If you liked the film and are interested in philosophy then I think you'll find this book enjoyable and thought-provoking. If you didn't like The Matrix and are not interested in philosophy or have studied philosophy extensively, then this book probably isn't for you.
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PostSubject: Re: The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real   Mon 16 Nov 2009, 2:51 pm

Thanks. Downloading.
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PostSubject: Re: The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real   Sun 31 Jan 2010, 2:27 pm

Return to the Source: Philosophy & the Matrix (2004)

Interview with Baurdrillard regarding the Matrix movies.

The Matrix Decoded
Le Nouvel Observateur Interview With Jean Baudrillard

http://hive2.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/matrix-decoded-baudrillard/
Quote :
Le Nouvel Observateur: Your reflections on reality and the virtual are some of the key references used by the makers of The Matrix. The first episode explicitly referred to you as the viewer clearly saw the cover of Simulacra and Simulation.3
Were you surprised by this?

Jean Baudrillard: Certainly there have been misinterpretations, which is why I have been hesitant until now to speak about The Matrix. The staff of the Wachowski brothers contacted me at various times following the release of the first episode in order to get me involved with the following ones, but this wasn’t really conceivable (laughter). Basically, a similar misunderstanding occurred in the 1980s when New York-based Simulationist4 artists contacted me. They took the hypothesis of the virtual for an irrefutable fact and transformed it into a visible phantasm. But it is precisely that we can no longer employ categories of the real in order to discuss the characteristics of the virtual.


Nouvel Observateur: The connection between the film and the vision you develop, for example, in The Perfect Crime, is, however, quite striking. In evoking a desert of the real, these totally virtualized spectral humans, who are no more than the energetic reserve of thinking objects… .


Baudrillard: Yes, but already there have been other films that treat the growing indistinction between the real and the virtual: The Truman Show, Minority Report, or even Mulholland Drive, the masterpiece of David Lynch. The Matrix’s value is chiefly as a synthesis of all that. But there the set-up is cruder and does not truly evoke the problem. The actors are in the matrix, that is, in the digitized system of things; or, they are radically outside it, such as in Zion, the city of resistors. But what would be interesting is to show what happens when these two worlds collide. The most embarrassing part of the film is that the new problem posed by simulation is confused with its classical, Platonic treatment. This is a serious flaw. The radical illusion of the world is a problem faced by all great cultures, which they have solved through art and symbolization. What we have invented, in order to support this suffering, is a simulated real, which henceforth supplants the real and is its final solution, a virtual universe from which everything dangerous and negative has been expelled. And The Matrix is undeniably part of that. Everything belonging to the order of dream, utopia and phantasm is given expression, “realized.” We are in the uncut transparency. The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the matrix that the matrix would have been able to produce.


Nouvel Observateur: It is also a film that purports to denounce technicist alienation and, at the same time, plays entirely on the fascination exercised by the digital universe and computer-generated images.

Baudrillard: What is notable about Matrix Reloaded is the absence of a glimmer of irony that would allow viewers to turn this gigantic special effect on its head. There is no sequence which would be the punctum about which Roland Barthes wrote, this striking mark that brings you face-to-face with a true image. Moreover, this is what makes the film an instructive symptom, and the actual fetish of this universe of technologies of the screen in which there is no longer a distinction between the real and the imaginary. The Matrix is considered to be an extravagant object, at once candid and perverse, where there is neither a here nor a there. The pseudo-Freud who speaks at the film’s conclusion puts it well: at a certain moment, we reprogrammed the matrix in order to integrate anomalies into the equation. And you, the resistors, comprise a part of it. Thus we are, it seems, within a total virtual circuit without an exterior. Here again I am in theoretical disagreement (laughter). The Matrix paints the picture of a monopolistic superpower, like we see today, and then collaborates in its refraction. Basically, its dissemination on a world scale is complicit with the film itself. On this point it is worth recalling Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message. The message of The Matrix is its own diffusion by an uncontrollable and proliferating contamination.


Nouvel Observateur: It is rather shocking to see that, henceforth, all American marketing successes, from The Matrix to Madonna’s new album, are presented as critiques of the system which massively promotes them.


Baudrillard: That is exactly what makes our times so oppressive. The system produces a negativity in trompe-l’oeil [a reference to illusion painting (see below)], which is integrated into products of the spectacle just as obsolescence is built into industrial products. It is the most efficient way of incorporating all genuine alternatives. There are no longer external Omega points or any antagonistic means available in order to analyze the world; there is nothing more than a fascinated adhesion. One must understand, however, that the more a system nears perfection, the more it approaches the total accident. It is a form of objective irony stipulating that nothing ever happened. September 11th participated in this. Terrorism is not an alternative power, it is nothing except the metaphor of this almost suicidal return of Western power on itself. That is what I said at the time, and it was not widely accepted. But it is not about being nihilistic or pessimistic in the face of all that. The system, the virtual, the matrix – all of these will perhaps return to the dustbin of history. For reversibility, challenge and seduction are indestructible.

The system that the elite are attempting to force on the public will fail, for reversibility, challenge and seduction are indestructible! The more our system nears perfection, the closer we come to "the total accident."

trompe-l’oeil
http://www.trompe-l-oeil-art.com/
French for 'trick the eye' is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects appear in three dimensions, instead of actually being a two-dimensional painting




~~~~

I'm going to take a crack at this interview, as I wanna see how good I am at understanding this stuff.

Quote :
They took the hypothesis of the virtual for an irrefutable fact and transformed it into a visible phantasm. But it is precisely that we can no longer employ categories of the real in order to discuss the characteristics of the virtual.
My interpretation is the Baudrillard doesn't see the "virtual" as visible physical world.

Quote :
Nouvel Observateur: The connection between the film and the vision you develop, for example, in The Perfect Crime, is, however, quite striking. In evoking a desert of the real, these totally virtualized spectral humans, who are no more than the energetic reserve of thinking objects… .


Baudrillard: Yes, but already there have been other films that treat the growing indistinction between the real and the virtual: The Truman Show, Minority Report, or even Mulholland Drive, the masterpiece of David Lynch.
One could also add Lawnmower Man, Surrogates and the new movie, Avatar to this list, with this last movie really extrapolating this "virtualized sprectral human" concept.

Quote :
Baudrillard: The Matrix’s value is chiefly as a synthesis of all that. But there the set-up is cruder and does not truly evoke the problem. The actors are in the matrix, that is, in the digitized system of things; or, they are radically outside it, such as in Zion, the city of resistors. But what would be interesting is to show what happens when these two worlds collide. The most embarrassing part of the film is that the new problem posed by simulation is confused with its classical, Platonic treatment. This is a serious flaw. The radical illusion of the world is a problem faced by all great cultures, which they have solved through art and symbolization. What we have invented, in order to support this suffering, is a simulated real, which henceforth supplants the real and is its final solution, a virtual universe from which everything dangerous and negative has been expelled. And The Matrix is undeniably part of that. Everything belonging to the order of dream, utopia and phantasm is given expression, “realized.” We are in the uncut transparency. The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the matrix that the matrix would have been able to produce.
So, if I understand this correctly, he's saying that the distinct separation between the two worlds, of The Matrix and of Zion, is a serious flaw, as it does not reflect our hyperreality, which is that these two words are actually one and are not physically separate.

The real problem lies in our own dilluted view of the world, where real suffering and everything "negative" is supplanted by simulated images, which even The Matrix movie is part of. Hence, on those images that are "authorized" are realized in this simulated world.


Quote :
Baudrillard: The Matrix is considered to be an extravagant object, at once candid and perverse, where there is neither a here nor a there. The pseudo-Freud who speaks at the film’s conclusion puts it well: at a certain moment, we reprogrammed the matrix in order to integrate anomalies into the equation. And you, the resistors, comprise a part of it. Thus we are, it seems, within a total virtual circuit without an exterior. Here again I am in theoretical disagreement (laughter). The Matrix paints the picture of a monopolistic superpower, like we see today, and then collaborates in its refraction. Basically, its dissemination on a world scale is complicit with the film itself. On this point it is worth recalling Marshall McLuhan: the medium is the message. The message of The Matrix is its own diffusion by an uncontrollable and proliferating contamination.
In the 1st part of the paragraph, its interesting that Baudrillard summarily dismisses the "total virtual circuit" concept. I think this goes to his "One Great Thought," whereby everything is reversible, even this concept of hyperreality - reversible back to a more real reality. Therefore, while they may want us to believe we live in a total virtual circuit, we do not.

In the 2nd part of this paragraph, I see Baudrillard saying that critiques of the system are developed, distributed and promoted by the same system that is critiqued. I think what he is saying is that all images are "contaminated," as they represent multiple messages. This is how we can have a system that is simultaneously real and hyperreal, as images are polluted, or what one might call 'weaponized' with propaganda. Hence, all images are available for abuse by the system, even the Matrix movie itself.


Quote :
Baudrillard: That is exactly what makes our times so oppressive. The system produces a negativity in trompe-l’oeil [a reference to illusion painting (see below)], which is integrated into products of the spectacle just as obsolescence is built into industrial products. It is the most efficient way of incorporating all genuine alternatives. There are no longer external Omega points or any antagonistic means available in order to analyze the world; there is nothing more than a fascinated adhesion. One must understand, however, that the more a system nears perfection, the more it approaches the total accident. It is a form of objective irony stipulating that nothing ever happened. September 11th participated in this. Terrorism is not an alternative power, it is nothing except the metaphor of this almost suicidal return of Western power on itself. That is what I said at the time, and it was not widely accepted. But it is not about being nihilistic or pessimistic in the face of all that. The system, the virtual, the matrix – all of these will perhaps return to the dustbin of history. For reversibility, challenge and seduction are indestructible.
Here again, Baudrillard refers to the 'trick of the eye,' where all images presented to the public are co-opted in order to support the system, even images that include critiques of the system itself. Therefore, there is no way to combat the system, as all alternatives are absorbed by it. It's a borg-like assimilation of everything and anything that might attack it or grab the publics attention as an alternative.

The good news here, which I'm not sure I quite understand, is that Baudrillard argues that as the system reaches its goals and becomes more perfect, it becomes more vulnerable to total collapse. I guess as the system becomes more "perfect" it becomes more connected, and any unexpected pertubations could ripple throughout the system in unexpected ways and intensities.


In his final analysis, Baudrillard concludes that the seduction between humanity and the real (nature) is too strong and any alternatives that cloud that reality will eventually fail, for humanity cannot be kept from it.

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PostSubject: Re: The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real   Sun 31 Jan 2010, 4:31 pm

Ah, the philosopher I most love to fight with (vbg). It looks great, IP...thanks. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real   Tue 23 Feb 2010, 7:23 pm

I wish I would have not recommended this book. I now view him as an authorized author, who wrote the book to perpetuate philosophical manipulations. His first chapter is a complete slap-in-the face to I.F. Stone's "The Trial of Socrates."

Here are a couple of interviews with the author. Had he not been authorized to write this book and perpetrate myths, he would have NOT gotten this type of mainstream media coverage.

Very important, listen to the threat given in this first video (5:25 - 6:00)





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