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The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999) - Six post-viewing prompts

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  • The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999) - Six post-viewing prompts

    1. Cypher, having been freed from the matrix and allowed to live in the truth, nevertheless determines that he would prefer to be reinserted into to the matrix by the intelligent machines who created it and have his memories of the truth erased. He seems to be cast by the film as a villain. Is he? Are the arguments he offers in favor of his choice to betray the other escapees from the matrix at all compelling? Might there be a way to view Cypher as a hero rather than as a villain? Note that there are billions of lives in the balance (those inside as well as outside the matrix), not just that of the handful of characters we get to know.

    2. Morpheus assures Neo that the experienced reality he awakens into after taking the red pill is in fact the “true” reality. Is there anything in that experience that backs up Morpheus’ claims? Is there any reason Neo should believe him? How does he, if he in fact can, know that the red pill isn’t actually the source of another illusion? Is the film positing a conception of truth and knowledge (in opposition to ignorance and illusion) that is untenable even within the context of the film? Would not Descartes’ argument for skepticism from dreams, in his Meditations on First Philosophy, not also apply after Neo takes the pill?

    3. Many interpreters of The Matrix, including Mark T. Conard in his essay, “The Matrix, The Cave, and the Cogito”, hold that the film references the famous cave allegory described by Socrates in Plato’s dialog Republic. According to that allegory, we resemble people who are being held in bondage at the back of a cave, who are unaware of their bondage and mistake a deliberately crafted illusion for true reality. Presuming it is fair to regard the film as also allegorical, how are we meant to resemble the human beings in the film? What about our situation does the film suggest is like theirs? Do you find insight in the proposed resemblance?

    4. If the ending of the film is understood to indicate the eventual triumph of the humans freed from the matrix over the intelligent machines created by humans, what are the apparent prospects of the humans upon such a triumph? What do we imagine they will do with themselves once they have defeated the machines? Since they presumably will have access to the technology needed to create the matrix, and in light of the environmental devastation that will surround them, might they not be tempted to just recreate a matrix to live in? If so, what is the point of defeating the machines in the first place?

    5. In addition to its referencing Plato’s cave allegory, Descartes’ Meditations, and arguably Marx’s theory of ideology as a kind of false consciousness that mystifies the reality that many humans are reduced to the status of mere objects or things, the film also seems to reference Christianity, presenting Neo not only as heroic, but also as a kind of messianic figure. Does this reference work? Does Christianity advance a view of humanity as living in a kind of "ignorance" to be dispelled and ushered into the "truth" by a preordained savior? If so, does such a specifically epistemological version of Christian salvation leave out the moral dimension of that larger belief system? Is Neo presented as any kind of exemplar of a superior virtue?

    6. In the film, Agent Smith explains to Morpheus that the matrix they are familiar with is actually the second version of the program that the machines created. The first, they made to manifest a perfected reality for humans, one presumably without crime, poverty, disease, and all the other problems that afflict human beings in reality. He explains that humans, due to their corrupted nature, rejected that reality, however, and they were forced to create a reality that we (the viewers) recognize as pretty much like the one we presently inhabit. What, if we were to take that idea seriously, does it suggest about the imperative we at least claim to embrace to work to overcome such problems? Is it just human nature to need to confront problems? In as much as we solve them, we would only need to find others with which to occupy ourselves? What would it suggest about the possibilities for any kind of salvation, either in the film or out of it? Would the world the humans create for themselves, once freed from the matrix, be pretty much like the one that had preceded the war, the one realized virtually by the matrix? What would it mean for human conceptions of heaven, paradise, etc. outside of the film?
    Last edited by Steven Brence; 01-13-2016, 02:47 PM.