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Many Vongse
Professor Jane Drexler
PHIL 1000-015
3 May 2016
Cyphers Choice
This case study is based off of the movie The Matrix, if you havent seen the movie, our
protagonist is Keanu Reeves as Neo. Neo is going about his daily life believing that he is living a
reality. When he begins receiving strange messages about this thing called the matrix. Not
quite sure what the matrix is he goes and searches for this answer. Long story short he meets a
man named Morpheus who claims he can give Neo the answers to the question of what is the
matrix. Morpheus gives Neo a choice between a red pill and a blue pill. If Neo takes the red pill
he wakes up and will be able to witness the real reality, but if he decides to take the blue pill he
will forget all about the matrix and all the events that led up to him meeting Morpheus and stays
in this false reality.
Neo being curious about what Morpheus means by the real reality and wanting to know
the truth and about the matrix he takes the red pill. Instantly after he wakes up in this machine
with these tubes connected all over his body. Morpheus and his team finds Neo and retrieves him
from this machine. They explain to Neo that the true reality isnt a pleasant one; that is because
of the machine he was in was deceiving him with this false reality his entire life, up until he took
the red pill. This machine is similar to Robert Nozicks experience machine from the section
The Experience Machine from the book Does Life Have Meaning? Nozick describes this
machine as something that could stimulate your brain so you would think and feel certain
experiences without having to actually go through them.

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In Morpheuss team there is a man named Cypher who wasnt all too happy about
knowing the true reality of the world. A world where they are constantly on the run from the
machines, where they dont have decent food to eat, and where they dont have much to look
forward to in general. Cypher then made a choice to help set up Morpheus so that the machines
could capture him, only if they would erase his memories of the true reality and make him rich
and a person of importance in the false reality. So the question being asked, is ignorance bliss? If
so, why or why not?
The movie itself seems to resemble Platos story The Allegory really closely. In The
Allegory Plato says, Better to be the poor servant of a poor master. (Plato 207). From this we
can tell that Plato believes that knowing the truth, no matter how hard things may be by knowing
the truth, is better than living in ignorantly. He goes on to talk about how he believes that life
isnt about the physical aspects but the non-physical aspects. Near the end of The Allegory
Plato claimed that people who were truly rich were not rich in gold or silver but in wisdom in
virtue. So the fact that those who had their eyes open to the truth, these people were considered
wiser to Plato.
From Platos standpoint you can see that he would not choose blissful ignorance like
Cypher. Rather he would endure the hardships and use his knowledge of the truth to try and help
people who have not yet had their eyes opened to the truth. To Plato the people who know of the
truth have an obligation to the others that dont. So the selfishness of Cyphers choice is another
reason why Plato would disagree with him.
On the other hand there are some people who seem to support Cypher in his choice. In
Epicuruss philosophy he believed that the main goal of life is pleasure. To put yourself in a calm
state where any sort of pain was absent. Unlike Plato, Epicurus does not believe that people have

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any obligations to others; in this aspect Cyphers choice is reasonable because in the eyes of
Epicurus a person need not worry about others but only themselves.
Though there are some things with Cyphers choice that dont follow Epicuruss
philosophy. True, Cypher did want to be free from the pain and suffering from the true reality but
what he wanted in exchange for that was to be rich and be of great importance in the false reality.
Epicuruss ethical philosophy doesnt go well with this part of Cyphers choice because in the
section Hedonism in the book Does Life Have Meaning? He says, When, therefore, we
maintain that pleasure is the end, we do not mean the pleasures of the profligates and those that
consist in sensuality but freedom from pain in the body and from trouble in the mind.
(Epicurus 611). Here Epicurus explains that what a person needs are simpler things, that a person
doesnt need the most luxurious things of life because those things would bring pain to the body
and trouble in the mind. So in a way Cyphers choice didnt actually follow Epicuruss
philosophy either.
Another person who seems like they would disagree with Cyphers choice is Epictetus
and his concept of Stoicism. In Stoicism you take what is given to you. If you were given a
rough life you wouldnt pursue it to make it better you would just endure it to the end. I think
this because of the fact that Epictetus says in The Enchiridion, Dont seek for things to
happen as you wish, but wish for things to happen as they do, and you will get on well.
(Epictetus 521). Here you can tell that Epictetus no matter what he wouldnt choose to go back to
the false reality created by the machines. He would endure the challenging life of the true reality
and not let it have an effect on his mind because he isnt the writer of his script he is just an actor
playing the role.

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Another philosopher, Charles L. Griswold, Jr., wouldnt go with Cyphers choice either.
Griswold list three defects that are wrong with Cyphers choice in Happiness and Cyphers
Choice: Is Ignorance Bliss? These three things are: what you dont know can hurt you, these
false happinesss are often cut short, and these happinesss are not a product of your being. The
first one is pretty straight forward, what you dont know can hurt you. Say in the false world
youre eating a juicy delicious steak but in reality you arent eating anything; so in the true
reality you are actually starving instead of getting the nutrients needed from the steak. In the
second defect with this false happiness is that it is often cut short, this meaning that the false
reality doesnt measure up to the real thing; thinking of eating a juicy steak isnt as satisfying as
actually eating the steak. Griswolds third defect is pretty similar to the second because since you
arent actually partaking in the activity it isnt part of you, its almost like youve never even
truly experienced it. For example when Neo came out of the machine; he believed he was
walking around and doing normal daily activities in the false reality but in the true reality since
he didnt actually engage in those activities his muscles were so atrophied that he struggled
moving around when was first brought out of the machine.
A majority of the philosophers we have studied in class seem to disagree with Cyphers
choice except for Aristotle. He believed that the main goal of life was about the physical aspects
and reaching a persons telos. A person telos is their final form, or the reason why they were
created. To be able to tell if someone was on the right path to reach his/her telos you would try to
check to see if they were in the state of Eudaimonia. Meaning seeing if they were happy, virtuous
and in a sense functioning well. This is why I think that Aristotle would agree with Cyphers
choice because since he isnt happy he is trying to change and become in that state of
Eudaimonia by going into the false reality.

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In my own opinion I think that Cyphers choice is wrong. Like Plato, I think it is better to
know the truth, to be wise and virtuous rather than rich in materials. I also like what Griswold
says about what you dont know can hurt you. True, you do have to take into account your own
happiness but I dont believe ignorance to be bliss. Ignorance brings a sort of temporary
happiness, but in the long run it can hurt you severely. To me life isnt all about the physical
things so sometimes you need to be like the stoics and endure the hardships. However, unlike the
stoics I believe you should strive for better things because truly good things in life dont come
easy, you have to work for it. To me Cyphers choice seemed like an easy way out because things
didnt turn out to be what he had hoped from when he took the red pill.