Matrix Review in the New Yorker

A rather well written movie review by Adam Gopnik interestingly trying to enumerate the more or less plausible philosophical references alluded to by the Wachowski bros. in the two first volumes of their magnum opus.
Along with an entertaining and mostly negative critic of the sequel, is the attempt to go over the first episode once again and dig a much decomposed corpse from a grave where it is high time to let it rest: “Philosophy and the Matrix”. In one single column, Adam Gopnik manages to cram references to no less than: Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, French philosopher Jean Beaudrillard, the Cathar religion (with some glaring mistakes and inaccuracies, by the way), Plato, Daniel Dennett, Robert Nozick, Hilary Putnam and Princeton philosopher James Pryor, along with a host of other writers and the predictable -yawn- tribute to sci-fi grand pubah Philip K. Dick…

So, beside letting us know in lengths that he is a highly refined, well-read, educated man who knows his classics and beyond, Mr Gopnik nonetheless listed an interesting point made by James Pryor and worth rehashing a bit more:

[…] the Princeton philosopher James Pryor posed the question “What’s so bad about living in the Matrix?,” and, after sorting through some possible answers, he concluded that the real problem probably has to do with freedom, or the lack of it. “If your ambitions in the Matrix are relatively small-scale, like opening a restaurant or becoming a famous actor, then you may very well be able to achieve them,” Pryor says. “But if your ambitions are larger —e.g., introducing some long-term social change— then whatever progress you make toward that goal will be wiped out when the simulation gets reset”…

Quite a good point imho, “what is so bad about living in the Matrix?”, well, absolutely nothing in most cases. It is even a good deal if you praise the stability of the overall system and inner limitations put on any social interferences.

So, if you are quite satisfied with the system -and who isn’t?- who cares if it is not the original system designed for you. What difference does it make? The essential is that it works, and that it works for you in particular…
Opening that restaurant, becoming that famous actor or getting that job promotion… all these are more likely to happen soon in a well-ordered, Matrix-style system than in the chaos which could only replace it. Right?
Better yet, your dream to gather the entire collection of Matrix action figures or the ultimate website repository of matrix’ links: where do you think you stand better chance to achieve it? within the Matrix… Or outside in the wild ?
Of course, the system has its flaws, not everybody get their fair share of happiness and it even seems like only a handful of people do… but what if that’s the only way for you to get what you consider your well-deserved fair share of happiness?

By now I hope you understand that this is not only about the metaphoric Matrix concept such as exposed in the movie, it’s much more generally the idea of a “thought system”, more or less efficient, unconsciously adopted by the majority, thus redefining for the masses what is “real” and what is not… it can be religious, political or even much deeper down in the psyche of civilizations…

Anyway, just thought it was somewhat amusing that most fans of the movie and overall the type of people who kept nodding their head and mumbling “I knew it” while exiting the theater, when given the choice, would typically prefer to remain within “the matrix”…

Nobody waited for Warner Bros to devise ways of controlling people’s minds or to wonder about how much credit we can give to our senses
Religious and political systems have been quite successful at the former, and still are nowadays, to the best of my knowledge. Like a perfectly designed Matrix, they usually ensure that you are assimilated or disposed of.
It is also essential that nobody sees what’s on the other side of the wall, look at the USSR or the USA of the 50’s ? How much accurate information did each one know of each other ? For either one, the other side was about as real as a propaganda cartoon on national TV… still is to this day, except the sphere of influence of one matrix has eventually overcome and practically erased the other.

As it has been pointed out way too many times already: yes, we live in the “Matrix”… but does anyone really want to get out of it?
I doubt it.

Ok, time to go to catch Fox news.

Leave a Reply