The Philosophy Behind The Matrix (p1)
December 30, 2021
⚠️ In the dawn of The Matrix 4, I became inspired again about the philosophy behind the movies. Just watched it yesterday so, yes, there will be a few spoilers ahead so continue at your own risk.
The Matrix is my favorite movie, not only because of the cool futuristic story and its believableness (or plausibility) but also because there are so many layers to it. I personally enjoy diving deeper into the philosophy behind it and all the secrets, hidden gems and Easter eggs. Paradoxes, philosophical questions, and the human psyche are all part of the topics we will discuss further here that we may see signs of them in the movies. What does everything mean? What are the hidden messages or wonderings that the Matrix is trying to remind us of? Here are just a few that I thought of and read about.
Not claiming that there is anything true or false in these words that come forward, just general wonderings and theories ;)
1. Free Choice and Determinism
These are pretty much the essence of the original trilogy as we all know. The paradox here is that we normally see them as two separate things. But are they? Can they exist together? The Matrix normally doesn’t give you direct answers or a statement – they just make you think on your own about it.
In The Matrix and overall in the world people tend to believe that they have free choice because they like the idea of having control over their own life. But also we tend to believe that there is something predestined about our lives. Is it faith, karma, a defined path that we need to take? If we have a free choice but also we are defined by our reality, is this choice actually free? Or is it a combination of every belief that we have, our character, temperament and our emotions? Are they our own or yet again – determined by our upbringing, society, religion, politics, etc? If we don’t know for sure, then are free choice and determinism both living together in harmony?
Here comes hope and the original trilogy plays around with the choice vs. causality. But hope is paralleled with the choice, which gives us positivity, and determinism is paralleled with cynicism. Here are two videos below explaining a bit more about the topics of Free Choice/Will vs Determinism:
The Oracle represents in a way these two concepts, but yet again – no answers there and it makes you wonder. As Morpheus says “Try not to think of it as right or wrong, she [The Oracle] is a guide. She can help you define the path”. But does she guide Neo or does she have hope (she seems to have both and none at the same time, if you look at the trilogy movies).
In The Matrix 4 these topics are a bit moved to the side – you don’t need to choose between pills, Trinity does not have to take a pill at all, etc. The symbolism of the choice represented by the pills and many things from the original trilogy are moved to the side, making it more “real” in terms of that your behaviour (at least in my opinion). Your unconscious mind and consciousness afterwards speak volumes, while on the move, it happens within you, no need to stop and go through the “ritual” of taking a pill. At least to me it does. Like Neo’s choice to create the Modal and the unconscious choice to create Morpheus within it based on Neo’s memories (“visions”). Although the original conscious idea for the Modal is to train agents in the game with this program within the program (but Neo uses the old Matrix code for this, which is again – strange or profoundly right).
I don’t believe that the movie is making a political statement (as other viewers believe and wrote about). I believe in the philosophy about it and making us think.
2. Reality & How We Determine It
You all remember the spoon scene and the quote “it is you that bends”. We shape our reality based on our mind. Whatever the mind feels it’s true, then this is the truth and it becomes our reality. This is yet again on the main topics covered in the original trilogy but continues in The Matrix 4. When you think about it, with our media exposure, TV, social media – what we see shapes our reality if we look at it long enough. So who has the power to shape our reality right now and most importantly – to whom we chose to give that power? Are we being programmed by a capitalist (or many others for that matter) culture? Can we say that The Matrix is much more “real” now than it was in 1999? It definitely feels like it. It is quite a simple idea and The Matrix, IMO, is not about these overall.
The Oracle’s seemingly controversial statements – that Neo is not The One (but he is waiting for something, maybe another life ;)), that Trinity will fall in love with The One, and that Morpheus will find The One – create a reality for all our main characters. As explained in the next video, The Oracle plays around with these statements, calculates the variabilities and probabilities towards future events she thinks will unravel to reach the wanted goal (what her goal is, is up to interpretation… as everything else :)).
We will be mentioning and jumping around the topic of reality with many other points below, since it is a main topic of the movies and also – one of the most philosophical questions still out there. A true head scratcher, isn’t it? There is an actual theory that scientists are working on to try to prove or reject it – if we are living in a simulation right now – The Simulation Hypothesis.
But, as explained in The Matrix, we don’t want perfection, we need to feel that we not only live a happy life, but we also are closer to the truth, even though it can sometimes be harder than the none-truth option. Yet again, why did 99% of the people choose The Matrix when they were given the choice? Or were they… And how do we confirm or deny that the world outside of The Matrix isn’t just another layer of simulation?
3. Brain vs AI; Binary & Evolution; Clairvoyance vs Calculation
We are going to tackle reality again.
The reality described by Morpheous in the original trilogy is just “electrical signals interpreted by your brain”. Kant wrote, and it was picked up from other philosophers, that reality as we perceive it is not purely objective – it is at least partly subjective. Does this mean that each of us lives in different realities? Scientists say that each of our human brains remembers different things for every situation we are in (thus many arguments with your significant other may occur) and because of that for each one of us reality is different. The Social Dilemma movie explained that due to social media, we do live in different realities, created by our own “algorithm” (more by the algorithm that uses our likes, dislikes, inclinations, beliefs, etc.).
But let’s get back to Morpheus’ words – if our brain creates our reality, then a computer that is essentially a brain itself can recreate a reality as well. What is the difference between these? Many people believe their feelings and we will cover this, but what are feelings? If an AI is able to recreate the electromagnetic impulses that define our emotions, it is going to be indistinguishable from a human brain and thus – a real human being? Some say it is spirituality that (will) separates us from the machines, that we have a soul, but does spirituality happen in the reality we know?
Neo’s game company is called Binary. We will be talking about balance but The Matrix covers the topic of binary, everything is divided by 0 and 1, there comes the balance but also here comes the differences and also potentially – conflict. Can different creatures, species, worlds live together in peace and harmony? The Matrix 4 gives us this option – they show us that humans and machines together can live a better life, combining the 0 and the 1, the calculations and emotions. Is this evolution? If yes – where will it lead us? Have we found balance or have we just created another problem that we still don’t know of? Is this inevitable – to combine the machine world and the human world? There is also a theory that maybe The Architect is a mix between a human and an AI. The brain in the vat scenario where a brain is connected to a computer may be called our natural evolution? I normally wonder if we are able to unlock our full brain potential without technology or if this is the only way…
Elon’s basis is that we, as a civilization, need to advance in order to continue to exist, and advancing (for him) means AI, simulations, and overall technological improvement. And also that we may already be in one. This is what I get from what he says. How do you feel about this?
Here is another video covering the topic by looking at The Matrix of today but also different religions and what they say about the illusion of reality, in short:
One of the most discussed scenes in the movies and yet I just found a video that explains it in a very interesting way that I haven’t seen before. It covers the topics of Brain vs AI and Evolution, but also – what is Clairvoyance? Magic? Mystery? It is just something that we can’t explain yet. But can Clairvoyance and Calculation be the same thing? If we already know everything about every single action and decision one’s made, then can we calculate the future. So can we use our words as suggestions and guide somebody to a possible path? If yes, then is there a choice or free will or everything is predefined because of all our past? Or maybe, and this is what I like to believe, that there are paths that are predefined but you have the choice which path to take. Although the paths can seem different in terms of scenarios but they, in their essence, bring you the same lesson learnt/result overall speaking. Anyway, check out the video about The Oracle that represents this concept and we can continue further with one of my favourite topics:
4. The Divine Mania vs Ignorance is Bliss
This will be a long one…
My favorite teacher in high school was my literature teacher. Literature was never my favorite subject but he made us think and he was diving us deep into very interesting philosophical problems and thoughts that fascinated me. I remember very clearly when he was telling us about “The Divine Mania”. He said it was coming from Nietzsche, but in the video below they explain that it originates from Sokrates. The Divine Mania, he said, was that there are people who seem crazy but they tell the divine truth (following the white rabbit, the knowledge, going down the rabbit whole… maybe of their unconsciousness or another “reality”). They have seen it and have gone deeper into their unconscious mind… or they have found God (The Divine). But because they seem crazy to others, nobody believes them. He told us that you can see the concept in many famous literary pieces like Hamlet (he pretends to be crazy), Don Quixote, a famous Bulgarian novel “Under the Yoke” (“Под игото”) where there is a crazy character named Muncho. All of them “speak the truth” in a way, in these pieces. And this is how The Matrix 4 starts: with Neo being “crazy” in The Matrix, drugged and manipulated in order to stay “sane” or otherwise – under control and submissive. But his unconscious mind is trying to tell him something, even making a “Modal” (a small program within the program) in his game that unravels pretty much everything that happens in the movie afterwards.
Nietzsche becomes crazy – he writes about it. Young writes about similar things. He explains that with his “trips into the unconscious mind” he had to stay “sane” somehow and the real life of family and knowledge kept him on track. He had a wife, 5 kids and patients. On the other hand Nietzsche didn’t have а family of his own (he had а mother and а sister taking care of him, maybe other family members, but he didn’t have a family of his own). We can hypothesize that this is why he stayed in his unconscious mind. During this time he wrote “What is unpleasant and jeopardizes my modesty is that, fundamentally, I am every name in history”. Does that mean that he understood, or even – saw, the maxim that “we are all one”, “we are all connected”? As we know – The Matrix (if we are in it) is all around us and we are all connected with it. If The Architect is God, then there is the “visual explanation” (The Matrix code) of the saying that “God is all around us, that we are all one, connected”. Is this why Trinity and Neo are much stronger together because they are essentially one and meant to be? (Btw how they try to touch hands reminds me of the “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo. What do you think?) But they are also able to change The Matrix code thus in actuality they are connected with everything around them. Or was Nietzsche talking about rebirth? Or was he just… crazy? And what does “crazy” even mean?
Here is an interesting video about this topic and about both Young and Nietzsche.
The Matrix covers Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – where if you only have lived in a cave, imprisoned, and you set yourself free, if you go back to tell the others in the cave about the world outside, they would not believe you. As Morpheus says in the first movie ”[You were] born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.” and also “Unfortunately no one can be told what The Matrix is. You will have to see it for yourself”. But in Plato’s allegory the world is nicer outside, while in The Matrix the world is dark and painful. At least it’s real… or is it?
When we look at The Matrix 4 – Neo is pretty much alone and lonely while Trinity has a husband and kids. If we make a parallel to Nietzsche and Young, we can say that Trinity is like Young and thus more connected to “her reality (her fake family)”, meaning it is more difficult for her to unplug from The Matrix. While Neo is disconnected all along from his “reality” (The Matrix) thus he finds the truth faster and easier this time?
We may wonder :)
“Ignorance is bliss” is a thing we tackled in the first original trilogy. In the conversation with The Architect he explained (or at least – the theory is, since it was quite open to interpretation and not easy to digest) that the successful version of The Matrix is where (supposably The Oracle gave the idea) they give people the choice, but yet again 99% of people chose The Matrix over the real world and “salvation”. Does this express our innate desire to “sleep”? Is it that we as humans prefer to seem mentally stable when we go through our routine lives instead of challenging the reality of it all and thus seem insane to many? We will talk about our motivators later on in this article.
A close friend of mine went on a long spiritual journey and told me that when she was going through a rough place in her life, she was very happy and grateful that she had people around her. They didn’t let her be distracted but rather allowed her to experience her emotions and the situation to the fullest in order to transform and heal. We as (modern) society are very inclined to distract ourselves and to superficially try to feel better faster, rather than go the whole way. You have heard the saying “If you are going through hell, just keep going”… I interpret it as “don’t run, just deal with it, you need to”. But no. We get drunk, turn on the TV, put the volume of the music up, try to replace what we lost, eat or satisfy some other sense in order to feel something else or numb ourselves to feel nothing.
It is though kinda true – you will have an easier life in our society if you are perceived ignorant rather than crazy, don’t you think?
Here is a video that explains more about these talks in the movies: