The Matrix movies present an interesting metaphor for reality. In the Matrix, there is an artificial world of illusionary mental states. If you seek out and are saved by Morpheus, then you go back to the “real” world, which unfortunately is a world at war. Metaphorically speaking, the world of humans and machines is at war because determinism has taken over society and spirit has died. Human had treated machines as soul-less robots, and now the machines use humans as batteries and live in the dark confines of meaningless world. The Matrix is required to keep most humans from realizing that they are just batteries. The machines don’t think that the humans have souls or individual rights, they just find that they get more productive batteries if the humans think that they are living in world pre-collapse.
Is this theory of the world inconsistent with the facts of this world? Not really, but I think that the Matrix movies are a great starting point for understanding Plato’s parable of the cave or Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia (sometimes translated as happiness and sometimes as flourishing.) As Aristotle put it, you don’t even know what you really want. You think you want a new car, a powerful job, or lots of sex. But according to him, what you really want is eudaimonia. The problem is that most of us don’t know what eudaimonia really is. In the movie, Morpheus and Neo realize that there is a Matrix and have figured out how to escape from it. To me, the Matrix we live in today is the philosophy of consumerism, utilitarianism, pluralism, and determinism. It is the “air we breathe” in the U.S. and in Europe. We are constantly bombarded with ads for products telling us that the goal of life is to be happy and that we should satisfy our desires/wants/cravings because satisfying those desires/wants/cravings is what’s actually good for us.
One of the problems we face today is that there’s a disconnect between those things that brings us pleasure and those things that brings us growth. Pleasure and growth are not the same, and the amount of overlap between the two is quickly shrinking. Tens of thousands of years ago, what brought us pleasure was the nearly the same as what brought us growth, and it is growth that we should be ultimately are aiming for. Thousands of years ago, eating and having reproductive sex actually helped grow societies. Now we can can’t say the same. So for Aristotle, the problem is first how to recognize good pleasures from bad pleasures, and then ultimately figure out how to make bad pleasures undesirable. Aristotle thought that this could be done through the use of reason and through the help of a mentor/coach who had already learned or had already been taught how to make the bad (i.e. what does not lead to growth) unpleasant. The other problem of our age (also discussed throughout the Matrix) is the lack of spirit in a world of empiricism, determinism and cultural relativism. In the first movie, Neo had to overcome the problem of pleasure vs. eudaimonia (i.e. escape the Matrix in order to help the rebel society flourish), but then he had to go beyond that. In the later movies, he had to bring spirit to a world of machines and determinism.
The goal of this blog has been to supply rational answers to the following questions: (1) why does pleasure not always equate with growth? (2) why is the world not deterministic? (3) what is the purpose of life? The goal of this post is to try to put the nail in the coffin in the theory of determinism and reductionism.