the Matrix. Following Martin Heidegger in suggesting that our human nature lies in our capacity to redefine ournature and thereby open up new worlds, they conclude that this capacity for radical creation seems unavailable tothose locked within the pre
programmed confines of the Matrix.
Richard Hanley, author of the best
selling book The Metaphysics of Star Trek and a philosophy professor at the
University of Delaware, again explores the intersection of philosophy and science fiction with his entertaining and
provoking piece "Never the Twain Shall Meet: Reflections on The First Matrix." In it he argues that TheMatrix may have lessons to teach us regarding the coherence of our values. In particular, he makes the case that,given a traditional Christian notion of an afterlife, Heaven turns out to be rather like a Matrix! Even more surprisingis a corollary to this thesis: Jean
Paul ("Hell is other people") Sartre was close to the truth after all
Heaven is best
understood as a Matrix
like simulation in which contact with other real human beings is eliminated.
Iakovos Vasiliou, a philosopher at Brooklyn College who specializes in Plato, Aristotle, and Wittgenstein, offers a
penetrating investigation into the differences (and surprising similarities) between the scenario described in The
Matrix and our own everyday situation in his essay "Reality, What Matters, and The Matrix." Pointing out that morethan we might expect hinges on the moral backdrop of The Matrix plot line, he asks readers to instead envisage a"benevolently generated Matrix." Given the possibility of such a Matrix and the actuality of a horrible situation onEarth, he argues that we will agree that entering into it offers not a denial of what we most value but instead achance to better realize those values.
Changing gears a bit we then have an essay from the notable (and some would say notorious) cybernetics
pioneer Kevin Warwick. He is known internationally for his robotics research and in particular for a series of
procedures in which he was implanted with sensors that connected him to computers and the internet. Less well
publicized is the fact that several years before The Matrix came out he published a non
fiction book that predicted
the ultimate takeover of mankind by a race of super
intelligent robots. In his contribution here ("The Matrix
Future?") he draws on his years of research to muse on the plausibility (and desirability) of the scenario described
in The Matrix, concluding that a real
life Matrix need not be feared if we prepare ourselves adequately. How? Bybecoming part machine ourselves
Warwick argues that transforming ourselves into Cyborgs will allow us to "plugin" confident that we will fully benefit from all that such a future offers.
Rounding out our collection is an essay entitled "Wake Up! Gnosticism & Buddhism in The Matrix" from twoprofessors of religion: Frances Flannery
Dailey and Rachel Wagner. Flannery
Dailey's research speciality is
ancient dreams, apocalypticism and early
Jewish mysticism, while Wagner's research focuses on biblical studies
and the relationship between religion & culture. Their essay offers a comprehensive treatment of the Gnostic andBuddhist themes that appear in the film. While pointing out the many differences between these two traditions andthe eclectic manner in which both are referenced throughout the film, Flannery
Dailey and Wagner make it clear
that common to Gnosticism, Buddhism, and The Matrix is the idea that what we take to be reality is in fact a kindof illusion or dream from which we ought best to "wake up." Only then can enlightenment, be it spiritual orotherwise, occur.
We hope you enjoy this first batch of essays. Check back for future contributions from the renowned philosopher
of mind David Chalmers (Arizona), moral philosopher Julia Driver (Dartmouth), and epistemologist James Pryor
(Princeton), among others.
A. Dream Skepticism
by Christopher Grau
he Matrix1 raises many familiar philosophical problems in such fascinating new ways that , in a surprisingreversal, students all over the country are assigning it to their philosophy professors. Having done our homework,we'd like to explore two questions raised in Christopher Grau's three essays on the film. Grau points out that TheMatrix dramatizes Ren
Descartes' worry that, since all we ever experience is our own inner mental states, wemight , for all we could tell, be living in an illusion created by a malicious demon. In that case most of our beliefsabout reality would be false. That leads Grau to question the rationality of Cypher's choice to live in an illusoryworld of pleasant private experiences, rather than facing painful reality.
We think that The Matrix 's account of our situation is even more disturbing than these options suggest. The Matrixis a vivid illustration of Descartes' additional mind blowing claim that we could never be in direct touch with thereal world (if there is one) because we are, in fact, all brains in vats. So in choosing to return from the "real world"to the Matrix world, Cypher is just choosing between two systematic sets of appearances. To counter thesedisturbing ideas we have to rethink what we mean by experience, illusion, and our contact with the real world. Onlythen will we be in a position to take up Grau's question as to why we feel it is somehow morally better to face the