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Simulacra and Simulation (Simulacres et Simulation in French), published in 1981, is a philosophical treatise by Jean Baudrillard.

The Matrix makes many connections to Simulacra and Simulation. Neo, is seen with a copy of Simulacra and Simulation at the beginning of the story. He uses the hollowed book as a hiding place for cash and his important computer files, however, Neo's hollowed copy of the book has the chapter "On Nihilism" in the middle, not at the end of the book, where it is in reality. Morpheus refers to the real world outside the Matrix as the "desert of the real", a reference to Baudrillard's work. In the original script, Morpheus specifically referred to Baudrillard's book, however, in an interview, Baudrillard said "The Matrix" has nothing to do with his work. [1] The hacker Tiera in the comic "A Life Less Empty" is also seen to have a copy of the book (mistitled "Simulacra and Simulations") on her shelf along with three other titles: Memoreaze, Interfazed and Byte Me, with a copy ofHackers Bible lying on her chest of drawers. Simulacra and Simulation is known for discussions of images and Signs, and how they relate to our contemporary society, wherein we have replaced reality and meaning with symbols and signs; what we know as reality actually is a simulation of reality. The simulacra to which Baudrillard refers are the signs of culture and communications media that create the reality we perceive: a world saturated with imagery, infused with communications media, sound, and commercial advertising. These simulacra of the real surpass the real world and thus become hyperreal, a world that is more-real-than-real; presupposing and preceding the real. In this world apathy and melancholy permeate human perception and begin eroding Nietzsche's feeling of ressentiment. A specific analogy that Baudrillard uses is a fable derived from the work of Jorge Luis Borges. In it, a great Empire created a map that was so detailed it was as large as the Empire itself. The actual map grew and decayed as the Empire itself conquered or lost territory. When the Empire crumbled, all that was left was the map. In Baudrillard's rendition, it is the map that we are living in, the simulation of reality, and it is reality that is crumbling away from disuse.

The Matrix and Jean Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulations"*

The Matrix makes explicit reference to the work of Baudrillard, especially the 1983 essay "Simulacra and Simulations". Baudrillard assumes the proliferation of images in advanced capitalism, with the expansion of commodities and the relentless advance of technologies of visualization and simulation. In the essay, Baudrillard describes a movement from "representation" (of something real) to "simulation" (with no secure reference to reality). This movement from representation to simulation changes the relation between sign and referent, so that we lose the connection, once presumed to exist, between sign or image and the reality to which both were thought to refer. To develop this argument Baudrillard asks us to think about situations where the simulating sign or image usurps the priority of the reality it is supposed to "serve": 1: the perfect map as that which duplicates the extent and every detail of the territory of an "empire" (in a Borges parable): as the empire decays, the fragments of the map shows bits of its former grandeur 2: the patient who simulates symptoms of madness so well he/she is declared to be mad 3: the infantile simulation of reality and history that is Disneyland: it secures the (comparative) "reality' of Los Angeles 4: the simulation of a hostage drama turns real when a hostage dies of a heart attack and the police shoot 5: the image is supposed to help believers worship God; but they come to rely upon these images so much that they become the true object of worship; therefore iconoclasts (in the Byzantine Empire) attack the images as an usurpation of the priority of the true God Here are several key passages of Baudrillard's argument:

''Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation evelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum. These would be the successive phases of the image: 1 It is the refleciton of a basic reality. 2 It masks and perverts a basic reality. 3 It masks the absence of a basic reality. 4 It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrucm. In the first case, the image is a good appearance: the represenation is of the order of sacrament. In the seond, it is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice. In the third, it plays at beaing an appearance: it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation. "(170)

"Thus perhaps at stake has always been the murderous capacity of images: murderers of the real; murderers of their own model as the Byzantine icons could murder the divine identity. To this murderous capacity is opposed the dialectical capacit of represenations as a visible and intelligible mediation of the real. All of Western faith and good faith was engaged in this wager on represenation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could exchange for meaning and that something could guarantee this excahnge--God, of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say,

reduced to the signs which atttest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weighteless; it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum: not unreal, but a simulacrum, never again exchanging for what is real, but exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference. (170)

When the simulation wins a new kind of autonomy, the territory disappears behind the map: "The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory--precession of simulacra--it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the teriotry whose shreds are slowly rotting across the mapy. it is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of th Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself." (166)

But perhaps the whole fable of map and territory is now useless. "No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept; no more imaginary coextensivity: rather, genetic miniaturization is the dimension of simulation. The real is produced from miniaturized units, from matices, memory banks and command models--and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite numbers of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. it is nothing more than operational. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is a hyperreal: the produce of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in hyperspace without atmosphere."(167) *All quotes are from the 1983 text, Simulacra and Simulations from Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, (Ed. Mark Poster, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988)

Questions for considering the conjuction of Baudrillard and The Matrix 1: How does The Matrix develop the idea that the apparently real is nothing more than a simulation (images with no reference in the real)? 2: Does the film re-instate an idea of a grounding reality behind the hyperreal simulation? or does it finally undermine any stable idea of reality? is there a third alternative? 3) What is the role of film as an illusionistic medium for visualizing the opposition simulation/ reality?

The Matrix and S&S

The documentary films of Michael Moore. Nevertheless. the original source of all such “false consciousness” arguments. Morpheus introduces Neo to the real world by welcoming him to “the desert of the real. but the working class’s exploitation is only possible because it does not perceive itself as being exploited. the entire concept of the Matrix films can be interpreted as a criticism of the unreal consumer culture we live in. including that of the Matrix trilogy. Marx argued that the working class is exploited by the ruling classes. (According to Baudrillard. Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation One of the most overt philosophical references occurs near the beginning of The Matrix when Neo stashes his illegal software inside a hollowed-out copy of a book by French postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard entitled Simulacra and Simulation. but the point still holds. Friedrich Engels. replete with special shoes. objects that look as if they represent something else but have really created the reality they seem to refer to.” For example.) Marx’s partner. Although the films are meant to stand on their own and create their own set of philosophical questions. religion. consumer culture is what misleads us. The films refer to all four of these at various points. is Marx. To take another example. and ideologies such as nationalism and patriotism. Of course. terms such as “jogging” and “health food” show that the book is somewhat dated. the argument that average people are ignorant of their own best interests and exploited by rulers who create and capitalize on that ignorance is still common today. and the Matrix trilogy is riddled with specific references to philosophers who have entertained this idea. a culture that may be distracting us from the reality that we are being exploited by someone or something. In such a situation. Socrates’ visit to the Oracle of Delphi. the Wachowskis pay homage to these precedents through both obvious and subtle references. Originally published in 1981. a condition he describes as the “hyper-real. clothes.) Baudrillard argues that consumer culture has evolved from a state in which we are surrounded by representations or imitations of things that really exist. and reality itself erodes to the point that it becomes a desert. we no longer live in communities where food is produced locally and whole grains are a necessary dietary staple. walking and running are not nearly as important as they were in premodern societies.Philosophical Influences Many precedents exist for the idea that the real world is an illusion. and while the Matrix films do not refer to Marx explicitly. but jogging is a recreational pastime. and other gear. toward a state in which our lives are filled with simulations. for example. (Admittedly. Baudrillard’s book argues that late-twentieth-century consumer culture is a world in which simulations or imitations of reality have become more real than reality itself. Thus.” a phrase taken from the first page of Simulacra and Simulation. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave . Baudrillard’s greatest philosophical influence is Karl Marx. but we have health food that enables us to replicate the experience of a peasant’s diet. have sought to demonstrate that politicians and the news media exploit Americans’ fears of violence and terrorism to distract us from our true economic and political best interests. The working class misunderstands its own position because it is confused and distracted by social messages that give workers a distorted explanation of how they fit into the world—for example. Plato’s allegory of the cave. just as the machines exploit the humans in the Matrix for bioelectricity. the world of simulations increasingly takes on a life of its own. books. coined the term false consciousness to describe the working class’s ignorance. Four of the most striking philosophical precedents for the Matrix trilogy are Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. and the work of Descartes. the fact that the inhabitants of the Matrix are exploited by means of an illusion that they all inhabit renders the films closer in spirit to Marx than to any other philosopher. school.

By claiming to know nothing. but he eventually discovered her ironic meaning. He concludes that he cannot rely on his senses. These people are bound in such a way that they can look only straight ahead. the humans who are plugged into the Matrix have no idea that their sensations are false. One day. The experience of this prisoner is a metaphor for the process by which rare human beings free themselves from the world of appearances and. Everything he thought was real is only an illusion—much like the shadows on the cave walls and the statues that made the shadows were only copies of things in the real world. when he sees the real world for the first time. too. Neo eventually knows to take nothing at face value. and the Oracle replied that he was the wisest man on earth. Plato insists that those who free themselves and come to perceive reality have a duty to return and teach others. and sees the actual world for the first time. he decides. perceive the world truly. not the shadows. Because these images are all they’ve ever seen. Like Descartes. Plato imagines a cave in which people have been kept prisoner since birth. This Oracle’s prophecies were always cryptic. suggesting that true wisdom lies in recognizing one’s own ignorance. as Neo takes it upon himself to save humanity from widespread ignorance and acceptance of a false reality. with the help of philosophy. Descartes’ evil demon is vividly realized in the Matrix films as the artificial intelligence that forces a virtual reality on humans. Fully aware of true reality. is willing to admit to his own ignorance. He has a difficult time adjusting his eyes to the bright light of the sun. and this holds true in the Matrix films as well. Descartes poses the question of how he can know with certainty that the world he experiences is not an illusion being forced upon him by an evil demon. and to question the existence of even those things. Neo is pulled from a kind of cave in the first Matrix film. The Work of René Descartes Yet another philosophical precedent for theMatrix films is the work of René Descartes. Socrates truly was the wisest because all others were under the false impression that they knew more than they actually knew. The phrase “Know Thyself” was inscribed on the walls of the Oracle’s temple. not behind them or to the side. When Socrates visited the Oracle. such as chairs. in the Temple of Apollo. which free people create with statues and the light from a fire. Neo. created artificially instead of arising from actual experiences. and that for all he knows. and animals. He reasons since he believes in what he sees and feels while dreaming. therefore I am. Socrates’ Visit to the Oracle of Delphi Ancient Greeks considered Delphi to be the center of the world and revered the wisdom of the Oracle who resided there. On the wall in front of them. he claimed that he knew nothing. His senses cannot provide him with proof that the world even exists. Just as Descartes realized that the sensations in his dreams were vivid enough to convince him the dreams were real. he and the rest of the world might all be under the control of an evil demon. Then he is freed from the cave altogether. he must return to the cave and try to teach others what he knows.Plato explores the idea that the real world is an illusion in the allegory of the cave in The Republic. that seem most real. a prisoner escapes his bonds. are actually the real world. . has no idea that his life is a virtual reality. they believe these images constitute the real world. but eventually he does. Socrates disagreed. he. The statues. and the Oracle in the Matrix films maintains her confidence in him and his abilities despite his often visible confusion and doubt. trees. like Socrates. they can see flickering shadows in the shape of people. Until Neo is yanked from the Matrix. He looks behind him and sees that what he thought was the real world is actually an elaborate set of shadows. he cannot trust his senses to tell him that he is not still dreaming. the man responsible for Cartesian coordinates and the phrase “I think.” In his 1641book Meditations on First Philosophy.

and Simulacra in The Matrix by Doug Mann & Heidi Hochenedel Introduction The question "what is the Matrix?" is the mantra repeated both within and without the film. In this paper we shall consider the answers to the mantra and interpret the film's postmodern critique of culture by examining three philosophical and spiritual themes explored within it. Saviors. or touch.The Matrix is everywhere. to be a messiah. the ads that promote it). but which calls into question the value of redemption and deconstructs the categories of salvation and terrorism. and to perform miracles. 1). Answer 1: The Matrix is a twisted version of the story of a savior come to redeem lost souls from the programmed semi-reality of the modern military-industrial -entertainment complex.. In this section we argue that the question we should be asking ourselves is not so much "What is the Matrix?. but hides the fact that there is none" (1995a. even in this room. to have free will. or on your television. simulations of the real. It is also a deeply philosophical and spiritual film that addresses what it means to be real. There are least three answers to this question that dialectically interface with each other and which live and breathe in a network of simulated theoretical consciousness that thinks intensely about the modern metaphysics of culture. . or go to church or pay your taxes. The Matrix Evil Demons. in an ascending order of the extent to which each cuts closest to the hermeneutical core of the film. was born into bondage. Answer 2: The Matrix is a re-telling of Descartes' dream of the evil demon come to trick him into believing that everything he senses and thinks is false Answer 3: The Matrix is a story about simulacra. in its text. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. A prison for your mind.." but "What is the cipher?" that acts as the key to the Matrix. it's all around us. like everyone else. You feel it when you go t work. You can see it out your window. Neo. the images that dominate and permeate every aspect of our being. here. sub-text. which Jean Baudrillard describes as "that which never hides the truth. That you. What truth? That you are a slave. taste. This movie explores the relationship between reality and simulacra.e. and super-text (i.kept inside a prison that you cannot smell.

that The Matrix actively deconstructs the categories of redemption and terrorism. rather. Read Mercer Schuchardt writes: It is not without coincidence that The Matrix was released on the last Easter weekend of the dying 20th Century. they are fed intravenously into the living." Humans are a renewable resource for the AIs: even when they die. "Morpheus" was the god of dreams in Greek mythology. Morpheus. human beings are not born. They have superhuman strength and speed. His name connotes the ability to change. sunlight. In the age of the Matrix. The humans thought they could destroy the AIs by cutting off their energy source. where they live out their lives in a simulated reality of late twentieth-century earth. near the earth's core. It has been foretold by the Oracle that another such ONE will come again to save the world (note that Neo's name is an anagram of the word "one"). although we learn that he has been wrong before. of course. there was a man who could change the Matrix.Part I. saturated with biblical significance. Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) explains this to Neo (Keanu Reeves) after he is reborn into "reality. The Matrix is a new testament for a new millennium. The Matrix is a simulation. they are grown and tended by machines in huge fields of biopods. calling into question the foundations of our Western binary moral code. The Matrix is policed by "agents. The agents' goal is therefore to attain the codes that allow entry into Zion's mainframe computer to destroy it. He explains to Neo that sometime in the late twentieth-first century there was a conflict between human beings and the artificial intelligence machines they had engineered. Morpheus tells Neo that early in the history of AI domination. liberating many people from it. (From his web page: http://www. We do not learn until well into the film that the Matrix is simply digital data that creates a dreamworld for its prisoners. This film is multifaceted and cannot be reduced to a simple dramatization of the struggle between good and evil. indicating that the simulated reality of the Matrix is just or even more authentic than the "desert of the real" to which Morpheus and his followers would subject the inhabitants of the Matrix in their redemptive crusade. the sun was blackened. it blurs this distinction. created by artificial intelligence (AI). the leader of a group resisting the Matrix's VR world. the so-called "height of human civilization. and are able to bend and break some of the rules of the Matrix's code. but the minds that inhabit it are "real. The computers survived the catastrophe by enslaving humans and using them as living batteries. Babies are plugged into the Matrix. where it is still warm. It is a parable of the original Judeo-Christian world-view of entrapment in a world gone wrong. there is a colony of humans in Zion. But one can advance a radically different interpretation. being able to break many of its supposed physical laws. Redemption or Terrorism? Two Descriptions of the Hyperreal Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11). the last human city.cleave. The name Zion is.everything is simulation. believes that Neo is this one. because our Morpheus has considerable control over the dreamworld of the Matrix." There is much evidence in the film to support such a reading. it is the heavenly city where the righteous will be saved after the destruction of the world. which is fitting." AIs living a simulated reality as FBI-type lawmen. a religious parable of mankind's messiah in an age that needs salvation as desperately as any ever has. The children of Zion represent a threat to AI and the Matrix. . with no hope of survival or salvation short of something miraculous. Nothing in the world of the film is "real" . Although most human beings really "live" in the fields (mentally in the Matrix). and the earth became a wasteland. A war ensued. The most obvious reading of this film is to chalk it up as being yet another Christian redemption story.

Morpheus functions as both God and the father to the group (which anyone familiar with Freud's psychology of religion will not find too surprising). he says: "Man. In the next scene. in the hope of destroying it and awakening its captives. Morpheus and his crew are searching for meaning in the dreamworld of the Matrix. a hacker who is guilty of every computer crime in the book. the holy spirit. as "his next target. hacking periodically into the virtual reality of the Matrix. free of artificial intelligence. Trinity and the others on their ship. Neo starts up from his bed. She is part of a holy trinity composed of Morpheus the father. He offers Neo two pills. remembering the harrowing experience as "just a dream. Moreover. are faith and love. and Trinity the holy spirit. It means "young. to "save" them from their delusions and redeem them into the desert of the real (a wasteland worthy of Old Testament prophets' wanderings). Neo chooses the red pill. and the Light. (Screenplay) Morpheus' role is both redemptive and terroristic since his project is to end life as billions now know it. They are guided by an Oracle." and a blue pill that would let him wake up in his bed and remember everything as a dream. where he meets Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) for the first time. The significance of Trinity's name is so obvious that it hardly merits comment. Awakening the dreamers to witness the reality of Jehovah is a quintessentially Christian project: Awake thou that sleepest." They speak of Morpheus as a terrorist. The only way to break the spell is to kill the witch. He is considered by many authorities to be the most dangerous man alive. presumably to monitor his contact with Morpheus.The agents have identified Neo. Like "Morpheus. Like all terrorist groups. which turns out to be a tracer so that he can reconnect with his "real" body in the growing fields and rejoin Morpheus." As already noted. he says: Agent Smith: We know that you have been contacted by a certain individual." the name Neo is significant." "new" or "recent. Seeing a tatoo of a white rabbit on a woman's arm. Neo the son. he accompanies her and her friends to a dance club. A man who calls himself Morpheus. When his friend comes to his door early in the film to buy some illegal clips. and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:14). you are my lord and savior. the Nebuchadnezzar." Neo is the hope of the Nebuchadnezzar's motley crew for the new world." But he soon discovers that he was not dreaming when Morpheus telephones him. the Truth. Terrorism is the only effective way to resist the hegemony of a technologically created hyperreality. a red pill which would allow him to see the world as it "really is. When Agent Smith (played with admirable sang froid by Hugo Weaving) interrogates Neo after he has been apprehended. He is a high-tech redeemer and the new Christ." thus foreshadowing Neo's role in this film. a hybrid electronic-organic "bug" is released onto his belly and burrows its way into his body through his navel. Morpheus and his cohorts are religious fanatics. Trinity brings Neo to see Morpheus in a dank and depressing Escher-style building. Significantly. who periodically "targets" inhabitants of the Matrix to join their resistance movement. We discover later that the essential characteristics of Trinity. In horror film fashion reminiscent of the parasites in Cronenberg's Shivers (1975). Thus they "bug" him. The agents have identified Neo as a trouble-maker and a potential "target" of Morpheus. AKA Thomas Anderson. it is an anagram for the word "one. like Morpheus. telling him to "follow the white rabbit" (one of several Lewis Carroll references in the film). and arise from the dead. a sort of submarine/hovercraft pirate ship that sails beneath the surface of the devastated real world. Nebuchadnezzar was a biblical Babylonian king who searched for meaning in his dreams. but those under her spell will suffer greatly after it is broken." but can also signify "new world. quite ready to die in suicide missions. Neo is clearly a messianic figure. and they have faith that "the One" will come again to redeem humanity from the illusory world created by the Matrix so that all will see the Way. . Whatever you think you know about this man is irrelevant to the fact that he is wanted for acts of terrorism in more countries than any other man in the world. he is a terrorist (at least in the virtual sense).

As with any terrorist group. The latter explains that he can't even see the code anymore: he reads it as a blond. Neo's body must be hooked up to electrodes and pierced with acupuncture needles because his real muscles have never been used and are thus severely atrophied.Once Neo is reconnected to his body. emerging from his biopod covered in blood and goo. and baptizes Him." Read Mercer Schuchardt makes some interesting observations regarding the steak scene in his web essay on The Matrix: It is immensely significant that Cypher's deal-making meal with the agents centers around steak. Morpheus asks: "How can you know the difference between a dream-world and reality?" This question is crux of the entire film.e. meat is a metaphor that cyberspace inhabitants use to describe the real world: meat space is the term they use to describe the non-virtual world. is based on rules. like reality. the Wachowskis' hidden prophecy that we are inescapably committed to living out our lives in a hyperreal culture. soldiers must be trained to defeat the enemy. Neo is incredulous that Cypher can de-cipher it." This sentence is obviously metaphoric for the Christian message: Verily verily I say unto thee." It's a line you could almost pass over if it wasn't so clearly earmarked as the speech of a fool. But meat is also the metaphor that . i. He concludes.e. Needless to say. betraying Morpheus (the only person with access to the codes for Zion's computer mainframe) to the agents over a meal of succulent steak (the film's equivalent of Judas' pieces of silver). or a red-head. justifying his foolishness. First. Cypher also plays the Judas figure in this film. For the first time in his life. "Ignorance is bliss. he who recognizes the ONE.i. which is always "the system. the earth's surface ravaged. except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)." Not surprisingly. as we shall soon see. it sure seems like it. Our heroes must hope that the drowning Egyptians don't learn how to walk on water too before the waves consume them. Sometime later. Neo's body is connected physically to his mind." yet revels in its taste all the same. Cypher says that even though he knows the steak isn't real. where people can only live near the earth's core. but also to win converts to the cause. His body is never involved in the training. He says to Agent Smith "I know this steak doesn't exist. This in fact can be viewed as the "cipher" of the entire film. Neo and Cypher (Joe Pantaliano) look at the code that flashes across the screen. miracles are pretty effective terrorist tactics not only to physically overpower the enemy. Once aboard the Nebuchadnezzar." he may be seen as a John the Baptist. his training begins. It is a world in which the sun is blackened. Essentially he is learning to "walk on water" . He asks Morpheus "why do my eyes hurt?" Morpheus replies: "because you have never used them before. Unfortunately. Cypher's job on the ship is to read the computer code or the "secret writing. The word "cipher" can mean "the number 0" or "a person who has little or no value." taken in some sense of this word. The stupidity and superficiality of choosing blissful ignorance is revealed when Cypher says that when he is reinserted into the Matrix. a metaphor that clearly shows their preference for the virtual realm. He becomes proficient in Kung Fu and other martial arts. Hyperreality. which Neo absorbs through his mind. The purpose of Neo's training in the martial arts is to learn how to bend and break these rules in order to manipulate the Matrix and defeat the agents. the kingdom of God is not a particularly pleasant place. the simulacra that the code represents. hinting at Descartes' meditations." More importantly." Later. Neo is so impressed by the simulacrum. Neo is hooked up to a mini-Matrix operated from the ship's bridge: Tank loads combat programs onto the ship's computer. a brunette. to perform miracles. "Cypher" is a meaningful name. He awakens from his dream and sees the world as it really is. it can mean "a system of secret writing based on a set of symbols" or "a message in such a system. he is literally reborn. This rebirth is clearly symbolic of a baptism. Finally he "fights" Morpheus in a simulated Zen-like gymnasium where they are both "plugged into" a computer simulation program. like an actor. we see that he is the messenger of an important truth: That the war between humans and AIs is over and that the AIs have won. he wants to be rich and "somebody important. he cannot believe it is not real. Like all other monikers in the film. At this point. Life in the real world is bleak. Since Morpheus provides the opportunity for Neo to be "born again.

The Matrix itself is designed. a much more pleasant place to live than "reality. She goes on to say that being the ONE is like being in love. whom he portrays as a kind of slave-driver. just as the behavior of electrons changes when they are observed using light photons. charming black woman. The film makes this point perfectly clear. From Cypher's standpoint. Everyone on the ship except Tank enters the Matrix." If Morpheus's desert of the real is the kingdom of god. Neo dies and is resurrected by the faith and love of the holy spirit . From Cypher's perspective. The act of prediction influences the course of events. had the same sort of project in mind. because the Matrix is.. She says: "You got the gift. or ignorant: it is pragmatic. the Oracle plays with the concepts of free will and fate. no mere pawn in the AIs' game. Morpheus and his crew are a group of terrorists. Moreover. "Sorry kid. to oppress you not through totalitarian force. an old woman who has functioned as a prophetess since the beginning of the resistance. at which point Neo trips and knocks it over. the difference is that in the Matrix he at least has the illusion of being free and the experience of a pleasant life. When Cypher and Neo share a drink together he says: "I bet you're saying to yourself. but through totalitarian pleasure. but you're waiting for something." "So I'm not the One?" Neo asks. Most of us would never forsake our hyperreal world for the desert of the real. to not be "born again. he can keep it." To him Morpheus's entire project of redemption is deluded and misguided. and as such effectively deconstructs the categories of salvation and terrorism." To this the Oracle replies "Know thyself. from what is he redeeming the world? Where is the evil in the Matrix? How is it fundamentally different from the world in which we live today?" The answer to the last question is that there is no difference. In this scene. one just knows. In both situations he is working to benefit others. We think we have choices. maybe in another life. (4) While we certainly agree with Schuchart's allusion to McLuhan. but we don't. Cypher is no more free on the ship than he was in the Matrix." Reality is extremely bleak and uncomfortable on the Nebuchadnezzar." Later that day. there can be no point to "saving" people from the Matrix. and he is leaving them to rejoin legitimate society. The Oracle asks Neo: "What do you think?". he is not the One. Any freedom that might be experienced on the Nebuchadnezzar is as illusory as the freedom one feels in the Matrix. in the film's audience) have no desire to be "redeemed. while on the ship he feels oppressed. by any measure. Human beings are never free. There's no question about it. As he puts it. why didn't I take the blue pill? That's what I've been asking myself since I got here. Morpheus decides that the time is right to take him to see the Oracle. foolish. Even if we are not entirely happy. This position is not superficial. Most of us in the Western world are corporate slaves. He is clearly extremely angry with and oppressed by Morpheus. come to replace our comforts and conveniences with his unattractive version of reality. faceless corporations." the inscription over the ancient Temple of Delphi wherein a more venerable oracle gave her prophecies to all and theorist Marshall McLuhan uses to describe the tricky distinction between a medium's content and form. "The content of a medium is like a juicy piece of meat that the burglar throws to distract the watchdog of the mind. Our bodies are batteries that provide the energy for the work of nameless. Moreover.. one would imagine. Since Neo does not know it (yet). like Huxley's brave new world. Neo answers "I don't know." . We think we are free. we are for the most part unwilling to make meaningful changes in our lives. but we aren't. she tells him not to mind the vase. If someone like Morpheus were to come along to "liberate" us. We are living in a world saturated by simulacra controlled by mega-powers beyond our ken. complete with a new set of dictates on how we must now live our lives (media castigate Ted Kaczynski. which he hoped to accomplish by postal terrorism). After Neo's training. the vast majority of the people in the Matrix (both in the film and. His betrayal is particularly interesting because his motives are so rational. self-righteous and fanatical terrorist. at least according to her. Most of us would prefer to stay asleep and blind. Cypher is no simple fool. When Neo finally meets this middle-aged. we would see him as an arrogant. AKA the Unabomber." Cypher forces the audience to ask a serious question: "If Neo is the ONE.

Neo is at once fated and free. It has to end. Cypher: Oh. Switch screams." Ultimately the Oracle does foretell the future. (Screenplay) A cipher is a "secret message.) Welcome to the real world. They are specifically interested in Morpheus because he has the codes to Zion's mainframe computer. both the One and not the One. the miracle worker who can stop bullets. Trinity says that she does. the real truth is that the war is over. now and forever. and that our concept of the real is a utopia that no longer exists. as Schuchardt argues. a scream caught in his throat. Trinity: The Matrix isn't real. Trinity: Goddamn you Cypher! Cypher: Don't hate me Trinity. his hands reaching for nothing. to explain his motives: Cypher: You see the truth. all I do is pull a plug here. and then falls dead. And right now I'm going to prove that the message is true. During this process he calls Trinity.) Trinity: Oh my God. He becomes the one. You gave them Morpheus for the access codes to Zion. who are now hot on their trail. More of this madness. As such. Cypher: Pay for it? I'm not even going to remember it. I disagree Trinity. some way. having become fully aware that the Matrix is not really "there. twists it and yanks it out. The film then is not (just) a story about good defeating evil. (He grabs hold of the cable in Apoc's neck. It's been over for a long time. (Apoc seems to go blind for an instant. bragging that "If he's the One. And guess what? We lost! Did you hear that? We lost the war! Trinity: What about Zion? Cypher: Zion? Zion is a part of this delusion.(Trinity) and becomes the ONE. (She suddenly sees the entire dark plan. Cypher then asks Trinity if she believes that Neo is the ONE. I think the Matrix is more real than this world. with whom he has been in love for many years. At this point. Cypher: You see Trinity. it is a multifaceted description of our own hyppereal culture. it's in the Matrix. Cypher laughs at this. The tree falling in the forest. right? Trinity: Somehow. where he subsequently shoots Tank and begins the process of unplugging the others' bodies on the ship (thus murdering them). we humans here have a place in the future. I'm just the messenger. Cypher has betrayed the group to the agents. . But it's not here. a miracle does occur. and a "resurrected" Tank kills Cypher before he is able to unplug Trinity and Neo. But there you watch a man die. It doesn't make a sound. That's why this has to be done. an assessment that the war has already been won by the controllers of technology.) You tell me which is more real. you're going to pay for this. Cypher asks for an exit and rejoins his body on the ship." As it turns out. this is about Zion. instead. and is probably the final position held by Larry and Andy Wachowski. We shall see in the third part of this paper that Cypher's perspective on hyperreality is quite Baudrillardesque. I mean." and in this passage Cypher represents himself as a messenger. but in another life. there's gonna hafta be a miracle to stop me. It'll be like it never happened.

Agent Smith explains that this Matrix is not the original one. A world where anything is possible. He says: "Are you afraid of change? I didn't come to tell you the future." Part II. Also. Trinity. at the start of this groundbreaking short work. (Descartes 1968. Back on the ship. Morpheus proves surprisingly resistant to their efforts. incarnated with a princess charming kiss on his real lips. he is invincible and able to really "see" the Matrix for what it is .we lost the war. "You see. Thus Neo dies to redeem Morpheus as well as the children of Zion. Neo temporarily gets the upper hand. I have learned from or through the senses. he will be able to defeat the agents. so the agents begin playing mind games to wear him down. This story echos the Genesis story of original sin and the fall from grace. The cipher is the message spoken by Cypher. a world without boundaries and controls. they begin the process of "hacking into his mind" to obtain the codes. free of pain and suffering. They enter the Matrix and liberate Morpheus (after blasting their way through walls of security guards and swat teams). more powerful even than Neo's new abilities to halt bullets in mid-flight. he asks whether his entire life is no more than a dream. the truths of arithmetic . During an important exchange.streams of code. because she has fallen head over heals in love with him. insists on coming along. her faith in him and her love. Just as he is about to exit. as Neo's commanding officer. a perfect world. in fact. If he is truly the One. Although she knows that Neo is dead. a Herculean demigod. Back on the ship. She now realizes that Neo is the One. the message of the film can be understood to say just the opposite of Neo's closing words. his old nemesis. Ghosts in the Machine: The Matrix as the Cartesian Evil Demon Another way to interpret the world of The Matrix is to see it as a high-tech simulation of René Descartes' experiment with extreme doubt in his Meditations. and it is prudent never to trust entirely those who have once deceived us. Trinity and Neo realize that Morpheus is vulnerable to the agents' interrogation. Now he can stop bullets and perform other sundry miracles. but is eventually killed. As a result. as we shall see in the third part of this essay. Part of the reason for this campaign of doubt is the fact that his senses have in the past so often played him false: Everything I have accepted up to now as being absolutely true and assured. 96) Indeed. I'm going to show them a world without you [the AIs. even though all the previous prophets have failed (and thus proven themselves false). At the end of the movie Neo makes a phone call to the audience. that Zion is in danger. But I have sometimes found that these senses played me false.When the agents finally have Morpheus in their grasp. presumably]. Once resurrected. he is dreaming as he writes his first Meditation. as the Oracle foretold. however.(1) The obvious spiritual message is that faith is love and that love is stronger than death. Morpheus and Trinity exit successfully in a subway phone booth. And guess what? We lost! Did you hear that . But reality intrudes: even the sirens and satyrs of his dreamworld must be constructed from elements of real things. For the philosophically uninitiated. Descartes proposes to doubt all of his previous opinions in order to get at a body of knowledge he knows to be absolutely true. are just what the doctor ordered to resurrect our hero. a second Matrix had to be constructed. Several minutes of acrobatic hand to hand combat ensue. having resolved to dive back into the data pool of the Matrix to rescue Morpheus. He has become a divine being. Neo stops them. In this case. Trinity has become VERY FAITHFUL." Ironically. wondering whether. It's been over for a long time. The human minds could not accept such a world because they define their existence by suffering. as a result. the truth. The first Matrix attempted to simulate a garden of Eden. and. leaving Neo behind. the real truth is that the war is over. he is confronted by Agent Smith. the AIs are God. Faith and Love are the ultimate strength. Tank and Trinity decide that the only thing to do is pull the plug on Morpheus to save Zion.

finding that it extends much deeper than he ever could have imagined. for the most part. a doubt reinforced by Morpheus's cryptic questions. although they can always rewrite a virtual report of the results of any battle by infesting the consciousness of yet another hapless denizen of the Matrix.. and the persuasion that they do exist other than as I see them? (98) . hmmm? Neo: You could say that. no heaven. no magnitude. however. The Matrix is made up of a series of code to which some fairly rigid rules apply. as Descartes observed. has faith that a divine being is the author of the universe.which he soon does. that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world? (From the film) Of course. to defeat the AIs and ultimately to liberate the captive dreamers.and geometry are true in all possible worlds. no figure. In The Matrix we see a parallel process unfolding. Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. they have the power to re-simulate themselves in other virtual bodies. as is the case for the dreamers in the Matrix). But he asks: . Indeed. Neo. you cannot tell the difference (assuming there is nothing with which to compare the dreamworld in terms of internal coherence.. They are effectively immortal until Neo gains the ability to decode and reshape the Matrix to conform to his own will.who can give me the assurance that this God has not arranged that there should be no earth. consistency. Neo doubts the reliability of his senses. by taking the red pill. you're feeling a bit like Alice. tumbling down the rabbit hole. or place. The agents in the Matrix. like the crew on the Nebuchadnezzar. he asks him: Have you ever had a dream. no extended body. Even when small changes are made (in one case. Like Descartes. In short. Morpheus compares Neo's waking dream to the adventures of Lewis Carroll's light-hearted heroine. But Neo discovers that truth is stranger than fiction as he tumbles down the rabbit hole. Of course. etc. and that nevertheless I should have the perception of all these things. In the same exchange. The point of Neo's simulated trainingisto learn to bend and break these laws while in it. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. the illusion of the Matrix would be broken if the AI machines were able to change it whenever they fancied. the cats announce upcoming bad luck for our protagonists and show us the "black magic" of the AIs.. Alice. (From the film) . Morpheus: I imagine that. Descartes. since they are pure computer code. brilliance. Its inhabitants are. right now.we see the intervention heralded by a "glitch" in the VR program. When Morpheus is preparing Neo for his first exit from the Matrix. clarity. like the skipping of a record needle: Neo witnesses two identical black cats walk by a doorway. even the agents cannot (usually) defy the rules of their own code.. usually follow the rough and ready rules of physics: Trinity is able to shoot one point-blank in the head and at least temporarily dispose of him. who can change the structure of the Matrix at will.. to surround a virtual building where our heroes are hiding out with brick walls). required to follow the basic laws of physics. Needlessto say.

In this case. Neo's gaze is distracted by the passing of a pretty woman in red (a creation of Mouse. although it's not immediately clear what that plaything is. He only worries that his descriptions do not correspond to the essence of reality. and an agent sneaks up behind him and pulls a pistol. shapes. a sort of anti-God. "I think. in short. I will suppose that the heavens. He has. colors. They are literally "cloaked" in streams of data and inserted into each others' dreams. who is the sovereign source of truth. The evil demon has a plaything. the AI machines that constructed the Matrix to make its dwellers happy with their role as human batteries. we see Descartes' doubt experiment at work writ large. very realistic conglomerations of electrical signals sent to Neo's cortex. But unlike Descartes. are the evil demons who haunt Descartes' imagination. Descartes invents an evil demon. but some evil demon. that there is. as a sort of Bodhisattva to the unenlightened. a Delphic-like priestess whose pronouncements are no clearer than the original conundrums of the Pythian Prophetess. into a 17th century version of virtual reality. Descartes' fantasy. mathematics. who has used all his artifice to deceive me. where nothing his senses tell him is true. When Neo takes the red pill that awakens him from his dreamworld into the less seductive reality of the post-eco-holocaust Earth. not a true God. the air. whether or not his thoughts accurately reflect the nature of external reality. he takes this on absolute faith. no less cunning and deceiving than powerful. then the puppet-masters who created this world. whose diabolical goal is to deceive him about everything he has ever believed: I shall suppose. the inhabitants of the Matrix walk about like the automata Descartes imagines lurking outside his window. or whether the world around him is really there (however clearly and distinctly he seems to sense it). the ship's programmer). But there is one thing of which Descartes feels he can be sure: there is something or someone being deceived. and lastly. therefore. But it's not entirely clear just what "he" is. In another Cartesian metaphor. enter what appears to be the Matrix itself. After stripping away the reality of his body. (100) We find out that this demon plagues him with doubt not only about the reports of the senses. therefore I am. like the Matrix. The proposition that "I exist as a thinking thing" must be true even if the objects of my thought are fundamental misrepresentations of the way things really are. Like Descartes' oar in the water. via a thought experiment. never questions whether or not reality has an essence to which his descriptions can correspond. the earth. inserted himself into a Matrix of illusion. external bodies. like the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar. which appears crooked although he reasons that it must be straight. Mind you. supposes that reality has an essence and that his descriptions of it are completely wrong because of the deception of an evil demon. but about the established conclusions of philosophy. other people are indeed automata. he goes on in his second Meditation to conclude that there can be no doubt that he is thinking. (2) We get a startling sense of this when Neo and Morpheus. later to save his mentor Morpheus.To guide (or misguide) him on his way to certain knowledge. and even of certain elements of the thinking process itself. first to visit the Oracle. Neo has to return to the dreamworld of the evil demons. providing him with the illusion of other living beings. there is an evil demon in Neo's world. And as in Descartes' doubt experiment. the AI machines that established and maintain the Matrix. Morpheus pauses the program and everyone in the crowded street freezes except the two of them." The same can be said of Neo: he obviously thinks. after his second rebirth. sounds and all external things that we see. are only illusions and deceptions which he uses to take me in. If the film shows us the Cartesian dreamworld of hyperbolic doubt. he. He thus provides pop philosophy one of its most popular cliches. after Neo's training is apparently complete. . and therefore is. and even common sense. Descartes has voluntarily put himself. who has been caught by the Matrix's virtual Gestapo. Neo's world streams into his consciousness full of splinters and unauthentic fragments of data that stick in his craw.

in the Matrix. he divulges that he feels himself becoming corrupted by the simulated sensory overload of the Matrix. in so far as we can imagine perfection. the characters can will anything they like.The quest for perfection represents another Cartesian element in The Matrix. they are closely related and form a single whole. here we see the ontological argument in reverse: how could imperfect human minds have created such sublime beings? Smith apparently never considers this question. quite literally. us). The whole concept of virtual reality is premised on Cartesian dualism: the body is shut down. He tells Morpheus that the initial Matrix created by the AIs gave its human prisoners a perfect life. also makes the case for freewill. I feel saturated by it. whatever you want to call it. He says no. The last major Cartesian theme in The Matrix is that of mind/body dualism. but it can still construct itself as a free. godlike. that perfection cannot be the product of imperfection. I fear that I've somehow been infected by it. I can't stand it any longer. It's the smell. a freeing of mind from the corruptions of the body. "No one would accept the program. who are. unique entity. notably. In The Matrix. We can see the intermingling in the mind/body relationship in phenomena like the phantom pain in non-existent legs experienced by amputees. Therefore God exists. we find a reference to the creation of such perfection when Agent Smith interrogates a bound and helpless Morpheus. while the mind is . whereby an imperfect species too much in love with corporeal reality (i. the thinking things must sever their links with this corporeal realm to move forward toward a purer transcendence. just as we are bound by the laws of physics. He contends that nothingness cannot be the cause of anything. This reality. that the more perfect has greater "reality" than the less perfect. treating evolution as a haphazard process. the ontological argument. The liberation that the coming of Neo as "the One" promises. if there is such a thing." He can will anything. Descartes brings to the fore the classic medieval proof of god's existence." The Cartesian rational ego may be totally deluded. Yet he explains how the replacement of human dominance on the planet by the rule of the AIs is a necessary evolutionary step. for he doesn't like the idea of not being in control of his life. Of course. (Screenplay) His crystalline consciousness seems to be drawn down into the corporeal realm (despite the fact he has no real body): his perfection is in danger of fragmenting. like Neo. and how this construct was a disaster. and this perfection cannot be the product of our feeble minds. In a private soliloquy to Morpheus (Smith takes out his earpiece.e. Similarly. as Trinity tells Neo while driving to the Oracle: "The Matrix cannot tell you who you are." She also asks him if he believes in fate (as Morpheus asked him earlier in the film). But. free of pain and suffering. but they are bound by its rules. Entire crops were lost. We are imperfect creatures as compared to the AIs. Neo is at least potentially free to break the chains of the Matrix that held him prisoner for most of his life. which we can take as symbolic of his disconnection from the Borg-like commonality of the world of the AIs). on one level we can see the theme of mind/body dualism as the meta-theme of The Matrix. as its prisoners rejected the illusions it created en masse. which become masters of the planet. Then she puts forward the riddle to Neo: "What's really going to bake your noodle later on is. The classical philosophical problem of freewill and fate as represented in the film also echoes Cartesian themes. When Neo goes to visit the Oracle. is based on this premise of metaphysical free will. This prison. and that on one level we can see the mind as a sort of pilot in the ship of the body. Descartes took the position that although mind and body are composed of different substances. (3) Descartes. which Neo proceeds to do when he whirls around in confusion. but the limitations of his body and of the external world prevent him from carrying out these projects. the stench (he sniffs Morpheus's sweat to make his point): Agent Smith: I hate this place. This zoo. I can taste your stink and every time I do. she tells him not to worry about breaking a vase. In his third Meditation. saying that he is conscious of "possessing a will so ample and extended as not to be enclosed in any limits. In Agent Smith's account of evolution. us) accidentally brings into being its own successors. full of fits and starts. would you still have broken it if I hadn't said anything. and further. There must be greater perfection and reality in the cause of the universe than its effects (for example." Smith speculates that there is something about the human mind that cannot live with such perfection. Paradoxically.

. The "Empire" is the Matrix." It pushes the mind/body problem to its theoretical limits while exploring free will and determinism in the artificial world created by the Wachowski brothers' thought experiment cum film. consciously exploiting the ideas of cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard to illustrate an important point about the Matrix of our culture in which we find ourselves in 2000. physical drives. The desert of the real itself. The hyperreal world of the Matrix is the .plugged into an alternative reality controlled by computer programs. mind and body are separate yet closely related. Its domain is now the simulacra. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. and troublesome emotions). Nevertheless." thereby reversing Descartes' concerns about the mind being too dependent on the body (with its unreliable sensory reports. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory . sweat. or the concept. The territory no longer precedes the map. the Wachowski brothers did not end their philosophical explorations in the seventeenth century. Neo asks. Today abstraction is no longer that of the map. We see visible evidence of this dependence on the bodies of those plugged into the Matrix when suffering virtual pain or bodily abuse: shaking. The Matrix as a Simulacrum of the Desert of the Real For those who still believe in authorial intention. Simulation is no longer that of a territory.. bloody noses." to which Morpheus replies: "The body cannot live without the mind. is now a barren. Thus The Matrix can be understood in terms of a modern version of the Cartesian dreamworld created by an evil demon. the map. but which. It is the real. not the map. In this film. Morpheus invites him to watch a 60s-era color console TV. such weighty philosophical matters are more than what most Hollywood films ever hope to address. Morpheus. and that interpreting art and literature should involve assessing evidence and forming hypotheses about what the author meant to say. More specifically. All that remains of it is a barren and forsaken desert. etc. paradoxically. Part III. for instance. the Wackowskis argue along with Baudrillard that there is no longer a reality to which we can return because the map of the landscape (the simulacra) has replaced most of the original territory. In the Construct. How this idea is paralleled in The Matrix is easy enough to sort out. and they do not seek to dominate it. (Baudrillard 1995a. lifeless desert.the precession of simulacra . "If you are killed in the Matrix. before Neo begins his training. By any account. the mirror. do you die here. a referential being or a substance. because reality either no longer exists or has become so dry and apostatized that it is of interest to almost no one. There is much evidence in the film and screenplay to support the priority of such an interpretation. the post-holocaust Earth. leads to the certain knowledge that: "I think therefore I am.that engenders the territory. nor does it survive it. whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire. unclaimed by the Empire. In both the Cartesian and Wachowskian universes. The "desert of the real" is a classic Baudrillardesque metaphor. but ours. On it we see representations of street life in our own day. 1) Baudrillard uses this metaphor to suggest that what was once the real territory that the map simulated. announces this shift to Neo with the following pronouncement: Welcome to the desert of the real. with great ceremony. then. there is a sense of mind/body intermingling in a dialogue between Morpheus and Neo just prior to Neo's reinsertion into the Matrix. suggesting a nostalgia for an earlier era of technology. The "real" world is of no interest to them. created by the AIs. They plunge headlong into a cutting-edge postmodern critique of culture. a jarring switch to dark and devastated cities. the double. it can hardly be doubted that the theoretical source par excellence for The Matrix is Jean Baudrillard's theory that modern culture is a desert of the real in which hyperreal simulacra saturate and dominate human consciousness.

and other forms of media. it is an evil appearance .only "territory" worth defending. not the territory." The original no longer precedes the copy. it has no relationship to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum. that of models and codes." which represents something more real or authentic than itself. paintings or sculptures had to be reproduced by hand. Baudrillard and his work are referenced both in the film and in the original screenplay. Hyperreal simulacra include images and products like Madonna. His book of essays Simulacra and Simulation. Here Baudrillard argues that the relationship between the real and their simulacra have changed over is of the order of sorcery." because there is no reality left to map or counterfeit. inside the map. Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar believe that the Matrix (a metaphor for our own technological and hyperreal world) masks and denatures a profound reality. becoming not only real. which first masks the fact that there is no reality left to simulate and whose simulations bear no resemblance to any reality whatsoever.Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is . that of mass production. and Nike that are reproduced by the millions and which are imprinted onto our consciousness via is of the order of maleficence. 6) The last two phases represent the third order of simulacra. We are currently living in the third order of simulacra. In the third it plays at being an appearance . film. The three orders of simulacra have emerged in four phases: Such would be the successive phases of the image: it is the reflection of a profound reality. postmodernity has rejected the very notion of a "true copy. For Baudrillard. or "hyperreal. but of simulation. real objects (such as toys. "On Nihilism. one copy is not more authentic than the other. Once there was a reality that could be represented by copies or simulacra. it masks and denatures a profound reality. Also. but which is a hollowedout hiding place for illegal computer disks (and thus a book-simulacrum) that he gives to some shady-looking characters who have come to his door. or books) are mass produced. the image is a good appearance . We are at a point in history where simulacra are more real (and having a greater impact) than the original code from which they were created. In the second. (Baudrillard 1995a. the idea of a map as a simulacrum of a territory that no longer exists. is taken from the first page of Baudrillard's essay. There is no original to which the copies can or cannot be fully "true.representation is of the sacramental order. who aim to destroy it." are featured in the film when Neo retrieves what appears to be a copy of the book. for example. and the simulacrum phony or counterfeit. and bear no resemblance to any reality whatsoever. and specifically its last essay. In the fourth it is no longer in the order of appearances. "The Precession of Simulacra. which they do at all costs against the realist terrorists aboard the Nebuchadnezzar. This is Chicago as it exists today. In the first case. Simulacra are formed from code." As we have seen."a primary source for many of the ideas in this film. from which "the dreamers" must be redeemed. but more than real. Reality preceded its mapping or representation. cars. Original manuscripts. Here the simulacra precede what they represent. The original object was real. In the second order of simulacra. Coca Cola. it masks the absence of a profound reality. in the original screenplay Morpheus tells Neo in the Construct: "You have been living inside Baudrillard's vision.

hyperreality is controlled by the AIs.. Morpheus."and that there is no longer a God to distinguish between the true and the false.e. but a dream. is what Morpheus objects to: Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. Neo. According to him. or you turn on your television. in the year 2000. and therefore the minds that inhabit it are not free. This is Baudrillard's chief criticism of our hyperreal culture: we are controlled by a system of binary regulation. The first reflects a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notion of ideology still belongs). We can map the distinction between the Matrix and the "real" world of those who have escaped from it onto a similar differentiation in our own world. by a Matrix. yet he argues that the Matrix is not real. more real than reality. (From the film) Here we catch Morpheus in a contradiction. or in any computer simulation program. Ironically. it is real. describing reality as a set of electrical signals interpreted by the brain.. what you can smell.. in which there is no longer a God to recognize his own. Cypher disagrees. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. (Baudrillard 1995a. Reality. along with Baudrillard. The unstated conclusion seems to be that life in the Matrix is not unreal but hyperreal ." dark and devoid of life. most people live in cities. when you go to church. struggles with the distinction between reality and hyperreality. You can see it when you look out your window. They are the power supply of the industrial-military-entertainment complex. Their world is . Baudrillard writes: The transition from signs which dissimulate something to signs that dissimulate that there is nothing marks a decisive turning point. the fact that most human beings are plugged into the dreamworld of the Matrix suggests that they. arguing. You can feel it when you go to work. and not its illusory nature. if the mind believes it. The difference between reality and hyperreality is not that one is more "authentic" than the other. The second inaugurates the era of simulacra and of simulation. because the body and mind are inextricably co-dependent. on the other hand. In the Construct he asks Neo: What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about what you feel. the real from its artificial resurrection. even now in this very room.our salvation nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11). The desert of the real itself. but all of which remains on posteco-holocaust earth are "vestiges that persist here and there in the deserts that no longer are those of the Empire. Neo: What truth? Morpheus: That you are a slave. rather. too. live in a desert of the real. then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by the brain. by a code. On the one hand. which is to say an oasis of the hyperreal. that there is no reality left to simulate. In a second sense." According to Cyper. Nevertheless. as everything is already dead and resurrected in advance.. this desert must be abandoned in favor of the oasis of the hyperreal. the real is quite literally a "desert. that the simulacra (of the Matrix) are more real than "the desert of the real. One of the interesting elements of this film is that this premiss is called into question. it is quite possible to die in the Matrix. A prison for your mind. depending on corporations for their livelihood and a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. you were born into bondage. allows the mind to think for itself (in theory at least). It is very unclear that there is more freedom in "the desert of the real" than there is in the Matrix. Like everyone else. There is also a third sense in which the film is about the desert of the real. 6) The Matrix simulates and resurrects a reality that once existed. like Cypher.. what you taste and see.i. no longer a Last Judgment to separate the false from the true. (From the film) In the film the "desert of the real" is meant in at least two ways: in the context of Neo and Morpheus's visit to the devastated surface of the planet. the control exercised over it by the AIs. Nevertheless. it is all around us. when you pay your taxes.

and the only way to combat the merchants of the hyperreal. if there is such a victory. then I am a terrorist and nihilist in theory as the others are with their weapons. like the Unabomber Ted it would be nice to be a terrorist. this radical trait of derision and violence. which permeate their lives and determine the scope of their choices. having spurned technology. because the system itself is nihilistic. to the unbearable limit of hegemonic systems.(4) Conclusion . They are acts of nihilist terrorism. however. In this system. who believe that there is no basis for knowledge or values accepted by mainstream culture. the "illusion" (if it can be called that) of freedom is so convincing that the AIs have encountered almost no resistance to it. But such a sentiment is utopian. into indifference. too. could only come about by utterly destroying it as a physical system . there is a small faction of people who.. would like to be a nihilist. It should be noted. not truth. they literally think that the denizens of mainstream culture (i. is the only resource left to us. Like Baudrillard. of the other terrorism. but they are constructed by those in control of the master codes and means of production of our civilization. Such people remain "uninfected" by hyperreal culture. including that of the terrorist still had meaning. that in preindustrial societies. those living in the Matrix) are living in a dreamworld. free of the hegemonic control exercised by modern forms of media. computers. these Luddites argue that in the era of models and codes. But it is at this point where things become insoluble. this challenge that the system is summoned to answer through its own death. Neo and Trinity's rampages are in fact not just blood and guts action. the more indifferent the system's reaction to it. Nihilism is a concept inextricably associated with terrorism. and other forms of technology. As such. The system is itself nihilistic. It seems as if there are differences and choices: Pepsi or Coke. Like all terrorists. Nike or Addidas etc. In the Matrix. embracing it while erasing the value of human life. which is why he chooses the world of succulent steak over that of thin gruel. accompanying them into the most secret recesses of their homes. They live off the land in isolation. Mass media invades their most intimate moments. (Baudrillard 1995c. especially political opposition.dominated by mass media and advertising from every imaginable source. the nihilism of neutralization. agreeing with those who would oppose it that there is no basis for truth or knowledge. raising the question: "Is one more free in a society undominated by media?" Cypher doesn't think so. It is the denial of any basis for knowledge or truth and a rejection of customary beliefs. On the other hand. the meat designed to distract the "watch dog of the mind. and claim to see reality as it "really" is. that of the system. if death. Theoretical violence. which multiply themselves and control the world by a system of binary regulation. are nihilist-terrorists. Because it would be beautiful to be a nihilist. Baudrillard. especially television. is carrying out.And this is the victory of the other nihilism. Morpheus and his crew. The more insistent the resistance." as Schuchardt argues. The only way to dispute the rule exercised by a system that appears to offer unlimited freedom is by nihilistic terrorism. It is also the fanatic conviction that existing institutions must be destroyed to make way for a new and more meaningful order. to resist the hegemonic order. In this way the system reduces differences and opposition to itself. it is no longer possible to resist the system terroristically. including what denies it. (Baudrillard 1995c. if there were still a radicality.. to fight the power: If being a nihilist. 163) This is the why Neo's victory over the Matrix. it incorporates terrorist resistance to itself. in the sense that it has the power to pour everything. there are no such choices. Their project is to awaken the slumbering masses by offering up terrorist resistance to hyperreality. death itself shines by virtue of its absence. It is no coincidence that Baudrillard's essay "On Nihilism" is featured in the film. the system opposes its own. Democrat or Republican.e. 163) However. Because to this active nihilism of annihilating the technological structure supporting the hyperreality of the Matrix. have "escaped" from this culture. at least from the point of view of the AIs.

Whether we take seriously Neo's closing message that "anything is possible" depends on whether we believe that the map of the hyperreal has entirely eclipsed the territory of contemporary culture. But he is not outside the system. Like Don Quixote who believes that he lives in an earlier era of knights and damsels. to fight the Matrix one has to leave the hyperreal far behind. If there were still a reality left to represent. an ancient legend. the truth.hypermart. Neo is both a freedom fighter and a terrorist. noble and ridiculous. that can only be dreamt as one would dream of a lost object. Welcome to the terrordome. good and evil. Baudrillard. choose to fight the power by the most effective means available.. And paradoxically. we can. Significantly. If it has.we lost the war." Since there is no reality left to simulate.but a utopia that is no longer in the realm of the possible. he would have to be described as a terrorism.. to rigorously think oneself outside it. it is the real that has become the alibi of the model. doesn't seem to think that this is remotely possible.txt .. in the original screenplay conclusion to the film. the real truth is that the war is over.. we see Neo flying away like Superman as a disbelieving child asks his mother whether people can really fly. Neo is not a fake .. something of a pessimist.. From the point of view of Baudrillard's bleak nihilism. If not. like the Wachowskis. worthy of comic book characters. the true prophet would be Cypher. he is embraced and engulfed by it because the reality he is fighting for no longer exists . and enjoy the ride. it is the real that has become our true utopia.. never move alone But. in a world controlled by the principle of simulation. Written and Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski... then we would be well advised to order a big juicy steak. intellectual Vietnam Move as a team.Baudrillard.even silly. Raw. Today. This is is a utopia. like Neo. "You see. Attempts to transcend the hyperreal are puerile. lyrical terrorist/Public Enemy on Fear of a Black Planet Bibliography The Matrix (1999). It's been over for a long time.nothing about him is original or true. find the terrorist resistance to the system both noble and hopeless . Chuck D. Neo can be seen as a simulacrum of Jesus Christ and Superman .he is as hyperreal as the hyperreality he opposes. a phony. Screenplay of The Matrix: http://netshopnow. and then find a way to physically destroy it. metaphysically bold Never followed a code Still droppin' a load Droppin' a bomb. and a false prophet. of honor and courtly love.. Warner Brothers. (Baudrillard 1995b. Brain game. And guess what? We lost! Did you hear that. 122-123) In short. who bears the "secret message" of the film. a fantasy for children. At the same time the possibility of such a transcendence inspires us with awe and a renewed hope for the existence of something solid behind the images. The imaginary was the alibi of the real in a world dominated by the reality principle.

In the fight between Smith and Neo in the subway station toward the end of the film. Sheila Faria Glaser. Descartes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. the theme of fate and free will arises yet again when Smith.cleave. Answering his own Baudrillard. he says "That is the sound of inevitability. There is another scene in the original screenplay that makes this point clear. They "watch from the window as the cops silently. Again. E. 4. Trans. and the cops arrive to do so.html . In the conclusion of the original screenplay. Neo is successful. climb into their van. Don't think about what they're doing or why. he even ascends into heaven. Computer tells 'em what to do and they do it. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 2." 3." http://home. so he leaps in the air and does a back flip off the tracks. Automatons. robotically. asks Neo if he knows what that "The Precession of the Simulacra. Jean (1994b). Sutcliffe." Simulacra and Simulation. Endnotes 1. Trans. this is a conclusion similar to that reached by Kaczynski in his manifesto "Industrial Society and its Future. Neo is an advocate of free will." Simulacra and Simulation. Jean (1994a). F. "Simulacra and Science Fiction. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press." Anthony remarking. Baudrillard. Baudrillard. The Meditations. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Trans. thus exchanging his own dire fate with Smith's more palatable one. Trans." Simulacra and Simulation. It is the sound of your death. Jean (1994c). superman style. "On Nihilism. hearing the rapidly approaching train. "Look at 'em." Fortunately for him. Sheila Faria Glaser. In Discourse on Method and The Mercer Schuchardt's webpage: http://www. When Neo's friend Anthony comes to ask him to do some hacking to release his car from a Denver boot installed by the police (in the film he comes over to buy illegal clips). René (1968). Sheila Faria Glaser.

So a natural point of inquiry has been whether or not this is true. It is pointless to laboriously interpret these films by their artificial resurrection in systems of signs. anyway. The following would be a fairly typical assessment: Philosophy is hard enough to read. What do you get if you cross a post-modernist with a Mafioso? . and in many non-philosophy departments inside it. self-important bunk. one answering “the former” and the other “the latter. negativity and crisis. But then what is the non-literal meaning? There’s even a joke about it. a more radical political exigency. With the death of the real. Numerous sources report Baudrillard saying that the movie “stemmed mostly from misunderstandings” of his work. and my focus is entirely upon what to make of Baudrillard and his connection to The Matrix. hyper-reality both emerges and is already always reproducing itself. the book that appears in the movie.1 In this article I will point out some further interpretations. that has rather inexplicably taken hold in many philosophy departments outside the English-speaking world. I. or rather with its (re)surrection. Formerly the discourse of crisis. An analytic take on post-modernism But first. I am no fan of either Baudrillard or postmodernism. and (eventually) argue for one of them. but analytic writers strive to be clear. So the Principle of Charity (interpret others so that what they say has the best chance of being both true and interesting) suggests that we take them non-literally. let me lay my cards on the table. And just to make things worse. from the analytic point of view.” and both apparently assuming the disjunction is Richard Hanley from WhatIsTheMatrix Website There is nothing new under the sun. or obviously false. S&S). taken literally it’s either trivially true. Jean Baudrillard “The Precession of Simulacra” Philosophers can get pretty excited about The Matrix. precisely more than the living which are yet alive. Yeffeth (2002) contains two essays both entitled “The Matrix: Paradigm of post-modernism or intellectual poseur?”. when an exponent of Po-Mo occasionally makes a reasonably clear statement. I think there’s a consensus amongst analytic philosophers that post-modernism is largely selfindulgent. the author of Simulacra and Simulation (henceforth. An apparent exception is Jean Baudrillard. God himself has only ever been his own simulacrum. whereas post-modernists seem to strive to be as obscure as possible.2 I am an analytic philosopher. his own Disneyland… To begin with it is no ''objective'' difference: the same type of demand. The dead are already dead.

But what are we really comparing the fiction to? Isn’t it the way we think the real world is? And that’s just another representation of the real world. on one very common view. A start towards understanding their view is to consider our ordinary use of fiction. Moreover. so that language (and thought) is literally cut off from the real world. and predicates often apply to real properties.) Now this pursuit . What post-modernists are doing is not really philosophy at all. But the touchstone in all the analytic views on this subject is that representation . only ever refer or apply to other representations. then whither philosophy? Well. a view inherited from structuralism in linguistics. so it can’t be true that postmodernists are just not doing philosophy. or whatever) can provoke all manner of thoughts in us. and what we can learn from it. anyway.has its limits. and part of our normal interest is in how closely it resembles the real world. an undergraduate in a philosophy program inhabited by post-modernists can get a perfectly decent education in logic and the history of’s more like the unedited guff circulating on the internet. and present dangerous falsehoods to the general public. perhaps tinged with some professional jealousy. the more influential and celebrated its perpetrator. The more egregious the offense against clarity and good sense. The fiction represents a (part of a) world. but it’s a matter of studying the representations and the relations between them . a mental story “about” it. some think that all our observations of the real world are “theory-laden. they have a very different conception of what is possible for contemporary philosophy. Others think we have more direct access to the real world. as we analytics would often have it. since post-modernists tend to radically expand the domain of things that count as representations (e. And if Baudrillard can’t be understood.Someone who’ll make you an offer you can’t understand! But aimed at the real world: for instance. For instance. So in post-modernist circles there is a shift toward what I would call aesthetic aspects of representation. and there is an ongoing debate over what it and related considerations might show. not the real world itself. though. where any nut with a theory can hold forth. or semiology . Post-modernists tend to have a fundamentally different view of language and other representation. there’s still the possibility of objective inquiry. take jobs that could and should go to more sensible folks. But many of the “must-read” essays in Po-Mo circles would earn even an undergraduate a poor grade in an analytic school . names often refer to real individuals. say . Rather. with an almost religious devotion to their writings. . either. A novel (or movie.g.” A sign is made up of a “signifier” and a “signified”: e. some even suggest that semiotics is not objective. Analytic philosophers are well aware of this potential regression in representation. real horses.g. it’s no laughing matter. popstar status. you can’t do it. whether or not it was realistic. to include all artifacts). and they give the discipline a bad name amongst other academics. and signifies the concept horse (and never. I confess to some sympathy with this line. Representations. they say. No matter how hard you try to refer to the non-representational. then he can’t be misunderstood.the system of “signs. On the other hand. and we often ask what it means.language. though it’s not as limited as you might think. They are elevated to cultish.” and debate whether or not this is a bad thing. Truth is a matter of the predicates used applying to the individuals referred to.semiotics. If this is correct. the word “horse” is a signifier.

but ours. metaphors. in a post-modernist’s hands. and to be neither more. rational rather than otherwise.” on the other hand. The point becomes to be playful. modernist throwbacks that we are. where presentation is as important (maybe more so) than representation. and not the map. . the double. The desert of the real itself. scare-quotes. We analytics. nor less. With its viral. as in Kripke’s metaphor of the “contagion of meaning. to the question. fractal quality.the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass. Sir Geoffrey Warnock. Simulation is no longer that of a territory. whose vestiges subsist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire. the mirror or the concept. “What does philosophy mean to you?”: To be clear-headed rather than the most beautiful allegory of simulation. a referential being. and if one must return to the fable. The territory no longer precedes the map. irony.precession of simulacra . II. that’s the essence of the thing! It’s not a question of ideas – there are already too many ideas!” This quote is from Philosophers. capitalizations. and it seems clear these words are chosen for some effect other than their actual. Today abstraction is no longer that of the map. For instance. to fill one’s writings with doublemeanings. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyper-real.that engenders the territory. The simulacrum is true. sure of things than is justifiable by argument or evidence. perhaps. should bear this in mind when we examine Baudrillard’s writings. and so on. puns. and fall into ruins. or a substance. little by little. Look up “synchronous” and “fractal” in dictionary. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory .”) Philosophers also contains the answer from an analytic philosopher. and particularly since we usually are reading in translation. Language has to be synchronous with the fragmentary nature of reality. and instead asked one of his English-speaking commentators to provide a suitable quote from his writings. accompanied by each philosopher’s answer to the question: “What does philosophy mean to you?” Baudrillard did not answer the question directly. at least makes sense as a metaphor applied to language. this fable has now come full circle for us. lucid rather than obscure. “The Precession of Simulacra” begins: The simulacrum is never what hides the truth . nor survives it. Ecclesiastes If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map. the first sentence of this paragraph might be: If this is “correct. or even metaphorical. meanings. and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra. a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) . Only the allegory of the Empire. That is worth trying for. Post-modernists reject this sort of answer as a quaint artifact from the “modernist” past. (“Viral. a demand for clarity and objectivity that cannot (now) be had. today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. In fact. even inverted.Philosophy becomes after all an art-form. though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts . a book of photo-portraits by Steve Pyke. returning to the substance of the soil.” then w(h)ither Philosophy? Baudrillard is entirely typical in this regard: "The form of my language is almost more important than what I have to say within is truth that hides the fact that there is none. Borge’s fable is unusable. Simulacra and Simulation The first chapter of S&S. It is the real.

” where reality has disappeared altogether. it has no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum. the magic of the concept and the charm of the real. Baudrillard apparently asserts that the post-modern condition is one of “simulation. all of the real. In the second. produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere. the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials . He writes (p6): These would be the successive phases of the image: 1.representation is of the sacramental order [i. no longer at all specular or discursive.and it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times from these. models of control . In fact. in that it lends itself to all systems of equivalences. but of simulation. and memory is of the order of sorcery. nor duplication. The real is produced from miniaturized cells. because it is no longer measures itself against either and ideal or negative instance.worse: with their artificial resurrection in the systems of signs. through the production and reproduction of images. Marxist thought. which simultaneously culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographer's mad project of the ideal coextensivity of map and territory. leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and for the simulated generation of differences. and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary. But it is no longer a question of either maps or territories. perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. No more mirror of being and appearances. it is the reflection of a profound reality 2. it is no longer real the real. to all binary oppositions. it is no longer in the order of appearances. it masks and denatures a profound reality 3. It no longer needs to be rational. By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real. the image is a good appearance .e. Because it is difference that constitutes the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real. coincide with their models of simulation. This imaginary of representation. This historical process has been one of “precession of simulacra”: representation gives way to is of the order of maleficence. A hyper-real henceforth sheltered from the imaginary. amongst other things. it masks the absence of a profound reality 4. In the fourth. Marx’s historical materialism postulated the necessity of the overthrow of the bourgouisie by the . Never again will the real have the chance to produce itself . It is all of metaphysics that is lost. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference. or rather of anticipated resurrection. No more imaginary co-extensivity: it is genetic miniaturization that is the dimension of simulation. a programmatic. it is an evil appearance . In the first case.remains. In the third. a material more malleable than meaning. between one and the other. to all combinatory algebra. not a simulacrum]. metastable. that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double. Note that Baudrillard is here reacting to. of the real and its concept. that no longer even gives the event of death a chance. nor that of truth. nor even parody. from matrices.such is the vital function of the model in a system of death. because no imaginary envelopes it anymore. disappears in the simulation whose operation is nuclear and genetic. It is no longer anything but operational. It is no longer a question of imitation. it plays at being an appearance . It is a hyper-real. that constituted the charm of the abstraction. Because it is with this same imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real.

So at first blush. Again. but here human beings are the “ground.” Finally. then they became false representations. perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes.” and the name “Cypher” has amongst its meanings.that we in some meaningful sense have lost touch with reality. It used to be that our images were more or less true representations of reality. Moreover. Post-modernists are not the only ones interested in the notion of simulation. not least the question of whether or not The Matrix is a simulation of the sort envisaged. Even the electricity of human bodies turns up. The historical nature of these processes suggests that it is only in the post-modernist world from the late twentieth century on . he might not really mean what he says. but the mode of reproduction. In any case. very roughly the process of exposing metaphysical problems. The Matrix is based heavily upon Baudrillard’s work. in theoretical language. it’s pretty radical stuff.” absorbing the “energy” of images. . Baudrillard writes that the masses are post-modernist. understanding that all consciousness is “false. Symbolic exchange is the key notion for Baudrillard. and it is common in logic to denote truth by the numeral “1. “zero. Baudrillard is very taken with the miniaturization of code by means of the binary language of the computer chip. If we understand “contradiction” in a loose sense. it is the assertion of both what is true and what is false. in binary computer code.) In Baudrillard’s terms. or only that our images bear no relation to it). However you take this (for instance. and seems relatively faithful to it.” So perhaps we are to think that the Matrix necessarily contains the seeds of its own de(con)struction? After all. whether he’s saying that there’s no reality. all those ones and zeroes. So perhaps it’s better to take him as presenting a cautionary tale of some sort . the exchange is equal (say. it seems there once was a real world to be investigated. conceived entirely in computer code. Baudrillard claims instead that a different historical process is playing out . which has some important applications in analytic philosophy. First. and especially contradictions. The connections become more obvious when we consider Baudrillard’s update of Marx’s theory of exchange value.” even sounds like the Matrix. I’ll mention just two. A common post-modernist theme is deconstruction. mass-produced chairs which are only copies of each other). metastable. were not conceived in this way).proletariat. S&S has a short disquisition (“On Nihilism”) on the necessity for terrorism and violence. In the next order of simulacra. There is an unequal symbolic exchange when one object is a mere copy of an original (say a reproduction of a Queen Anne chair). and ties in with the precession of simulacra. (This might explain why post-modernists don’t depart radically from analytic philosophers on the topic of the history of philosophy. whereas Marx claimed that the masses suffered from false consciousness. But let’s not leap to a conclusion. in Baudrillard’s In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities. the obvious question to ask is why we should believe a word of it. But then. Moreover.and the crucial factor is not the mode of production. and this may provide a justification of sorts for the mayhem that occurs in the movie. Of course.” falsehood by the numeral “0. Neo is “the One. all the obscure prose seems just unnecessary. In the current order (simulation). objects are conceived in terms of equal-exchange reproducibility (chairs.that truth and objectivity is impossible. If we interpret him literally. there seem to be many connections between Baudrillard’s work and The Matrix. by analogy. The Matrix looks like a simulation. A “programmatic.” and hungrily consuming one “false” image after another. then finally (in the condition of simulation) they no longer even appear to be representations. then they became the false appearances of representation. of course. we want to know when to attribute intentionality to other individuals.

since there seems to be a profound reality outside the Matrix. (Searle argues against Turing’s claim that a digital computer that successfully simulates intelligence thereby counts as intelligent. Misunderstandings? So it seems that Baudrillard has some grounds for his complaint noted above. These people take the hypothesis of the virtual as a fact and carry it over to visible realms. of course. about the simulation of intelligence. there’s a famous debate involving Alan Turing. and drives us towards non-literal interpretations. I am in the Turing camp. if I was making a movie instead of writing this article. an observation that raises a host of well-known philosophical bugbears. not the territory.-which flatly contradicts the claim that we can’t. III. holding roughly that the best explanation of the ability of a computer to simulate the linguistic output of a normal human would be that the computer is intelligent. Of course. From an analytic point of view. the “desert of the real” remark is one that Baudrillard immediately disavows. Baudrillard’s criticism seems to presuppose that we can conceptualize and communicate the difference between mere simulation and reality else could the movie could not give this impression . At one point the script required Morpheus to tell Neo “You have been living inside Baulliaurd's [sic. After all.) There is a reflexive paradox here. but relied on a relatively superficial reading of S&S. this alone shows Baudrillard (when taken literally) to be as mistaken as it’s possible to be.the first two paragraphs of S&S are actually pretty clear.For instance. It seems better to interpret him as saying that simulation is not simulated reality.] vision. global simulation of the sort we see in THE MATRIX seems to be a logical. But the primary characteristic of this universe lies precisely in the inability to use categories of the real to speak about it. because it doesn’t even have the appearance of reality. and the horrid misspelling tends to undermine any claim of serious scholarship. . John Searle and others. THE MATRIX still has it that humans in or out of the Matrix can conceptualize the distinction between reality and mere simulation. and the folks in the Matrix falsely take their simulated condition to be reality. I simply wouldn’t bother. Baudrillard descends into murky prose that.3 Can we interpret Baudrillard as saying the same thing about reality: that simulated reality is real reality? Hardly.) Second.4 Baudrillard has recently expanded his criticism in this direction: What we have here is essentially the same misunderstanding as with the simulation artists in New York in the 80s. We might say that simulated intelligence can be real intelligence. because it embraces the “impossible” conceptualization. The Wachowskis are easily forgiven for such an oversight . On the first issue. One possibility is that the Wachowski brothers were trying to be faithful to Baudrillard. but that’s not the point. physical and epistemic possibility.” (draft dated April 8. but from then on. The Matrix is more faithful to traditional philosophical puzzles concerning global simulation. it might turn out when the trilogy is completed that even this appearance of reality is itself a simulation. if I may be permitted a complaint. 1996) This again ignores Baudrillard’s disavowal. inside the map. has taken me weeks of my life to try to sort out. (Reported translation from an interview in Le Nouvel Observateur. Frankly.

Mouse." The Wachowski brothers are here playfully evoking the old saw that in our world chicken tastes like everything. in part because there are just so many things that might come out of a typical human being’s mouth. once again. to judge from the plethora of Baudrillard pages on the World Wide Web. this seems more in line with analytic concerns than with Baudrillard’s. however.g. Indeed. as Switch points out. But on the other hand. I presumed that Baudrillard was trying to give a concrete example of simulation. again presupposing that we can conceptualize the difference. An early. Moreover. Curiously. and a few minute’s investigation confirmed my suspicion that the attribution was false. the linguistic output of post-modernists likewise seems relatively easy to simulate. Maybe they couldn’t figure out what to make chicken taste like. More on this presently. Tastee Wheat and chicken no longer exist. so “the taste of Tastee Wheat” in the Matrix condition might for all anyone knows be entirely invented by the machines. many of Baudrillard’s readers seem either to be fooled by the false attribution. for example. I smelled a rat. prompting us to wonder about the possibility of all this being a global simulation. it seems a remarkably poor attempt at simulation . atypical linguistic outputs that are much easier to simulate. the subjective “what it’s like” of a certain taste). consider the real import of the chicken remark. even if the Matrix produces in a human being a mental state that plays the complete functional role of the taste of Tastee Wheat. which is why chicken tastes like everything. Mouse says: "Take chicken. What makes the debate over “simulated intelligence” particularly interesting is that it’s possible in principle for a digital computer. Then as I read on. And maybe that’s Baudrillard’s point: that to the “masses. When I first opened S&S and saw the epigraph attributed to Ecclesiastes. which seems to consist largely in repeating the same clichés over and over. But I remain puzzled.” Ecclesiastes is no more and no less than the author of the epigraph. Tastee Wheat and chicken) seem in one sense to support Baudrillard’s view of the post-modern condition. (Rogerians take a passive approach. with 20/20 hindsight. to simulate the linguistic output of a typical human being. and turning it into a question. Steak. The whole sequence also evokes the very analytic debate over how phenomenal content of a mental state (e. since it presupposes the conceptual line between the real and the merely one even remotely familiar with Ecclesiastes would be taken in by it. eerily real-sounding program was Weizenbaum’s ELIZA. For . that fact does not guarantee that the state has the appropriate phenomenal content. which simulated a Rogerian psychotherapist.The wonderful sequences involving the taste of food (Cypher and steak.) Another domain of discourse which seems ripe for simulation is professional sports-talk. Paradigm of post-modernism and intellectual poseur? There is a real irony in Baudrillard’s focus on simulation. is to be specified. But. which mostly involves taking what the patient has just said. with reasonably successful actual attempts by both human beings and computers. the humans raised in the Matrix never did taste the real thing. suitably programmed. IV. There are. But in practice it’s very difficult. On the one hand. According to some views at least. or else not to care one way or the other.

” to the journal Social Text.the post-modern parts. The editors admitted to not understanding a good deal of the article . The diagnosis. and the implication is that he knows he wrote a parody because he intended it as such. then that’s one of its many meanings. and the second is an excerpt from a computer simulation of Baudrillard.) The same can be said of the many amusing computer simulations to be found on the World Wide Web.political grounds. The first paragraph is my own attempted parody (for fun I included bits of the real Ecclesiastes). as post-modernism would see to require? Baudrillard. But perhaps the editors conceded error too readily. has been that the editors inappropriately included the article on grounds unconnected to its actual content .and to being underwhelmed by most of what they did understand . But post-modernists needn’t go to this extreme.8 Now I don’t claim either is a good simulation. by a massive coincidence.5 Analytic philosophers and their sympathizers reacted with glee. So a natural post-modernist response to Sokal is that he inadvertently produced a serious work. most of the commentary on the Sokal affair focused. I bet they would fool a lot of people. a simulation cannot be a parody.the science and math parts . but as with Baudrillard’s “Ecclesiastes” ruse.suppose it turned out that Of Mice and Men was. Consider an accidental “work” of fiction . as analogous to his own “Ecclesiastes” effort. in high dudgeon. then. because parody is impossible. Speaking of simulating the post-modern.instance. and particularly the fact that Sokal was an established scientist. and the more post-modern you are. chosen only because it mentions films. The fact that editors are unmoved by a view is by itself no reason not to publish it. for one. the less distinction you see between fiction and non-fiction. holding that if a text can be read a certain way. In a follow-up article. But the mere fact that it’s generated “randomly” doesn’t by itself settle whether or not it can be read meaningfully. This might diminish it in some ways. NYU physicist Alan Sokal submitted a parody of post-modernist writing entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.modern edited collections (and the relevant issue of Social Text was a themed collection) often contain articles chosen because they present a certain point of view.6 Sokal explains why and how he wrote the parodying article. (One needn’t claim that it’s a good serious work.7 Clicking on the link just footnoted will produce a new “post-modern” essay in a matter of seconds. of course. The key question here is why modernists like Sokal think the success of the simulation is damaging to post-modernism. Moreover. But (literal) post-modernists have a ready response: Sokal’s reasoning commits the intentional fallacy of supposing that a text means just what its author intended it to mean. on the nature of the editors’ error. but the text could still be engaged with meaningfully. And analytic philosophy is hardly free from political constraints . for Baudrillard. Once the dust had settled a bit. it’s time for a confession: the epigraph at the head of this essay is not to be found in the works of Baudrillard. only to have it published in their Spring 96 issue. But this line of defense assumes modernist standards of evaluation. . post-modernists tend to reject the notion of a privileged interpretation. can embrace Sokal’s simulation positively. it doesn’t seem unreasonable for non-technical journal to assume that an expert in science and math would take care to maintain accuracy in that respect. rather than on sheer philosophical merit. After all. Even analytic philosophers tend to accept that works of fiction can and do differ in meaning from that intended by the author. actually produced by an army of monkeys typing away. Why not just reject them outright. Indeed.

I don’t expect that to concern him. say “fetishize.intellectual poseurs. it might not mean anything at all. it’s obvious: there is a very limited range of possible outputs. than as post-modernist ones. V. and so should we. Here’s the test: try to simulate an analytic philosopher. and is its own pure simulacrum.” Despite my efforts. I don’t know what this term means. and not a paradigm of postmodernism. A third interpretation is that The Matrix is solidly modernist . without resorting to: a. Take your pick. or else it has no relation to any reality whatever. in Baudrillard’s sense: either it masks the absence of a profound reality. a hiding place for contraband software. modernist. how should we modernists interpret The Matrix? As a more or less faithful homage to Baudrillard. paraphrase in terms equally obscure c. analytic ones. “On Nihilism” has only the first page. that’s enough. So perhaps it’s true that The Matrix is a paradigm of post-modernism.not a paradigm of postmodernism. I suggest that we get the rest of the explanation by agreeing with the post-modernist. The irony. not in this respect) an intellectual poseur. Instead. The meaning of The Matrix To return to the question with which we began. But what then are we to make of the apparent references to Baudrillard and his work? I suggest that they are playful.What should a modernist make of this? We needn’t press the point about authorial intentions applied to non-fiction. But not because it has more content . or as a misguided homage? Or neither? I have already argued that the philosophical issues The Matrix plays with are better interpreted as traditional. But that can’t fully explain the post-modern case. ironic references. But even if I’m wrong about that. In real life. then. and explain what the term in question means. we ought to conclude that post-modernism is (in large part) a simulacrum.9 But. in the movie it is rather thick. and also true that The Matrix is an intellectual poseur. armed with the modernist distinction between mere simulated philosophy and real philosophy. it has less content than in real life. The postmodernist ought to regard simulated post-modernism as real post-modernism. and the rest of the book is hollowed out. S&S is a slim volume. and not (at least. and not an intellectual poseur. it clearly can be interpreted that way.if anything. we should ask. I propose a sort of test-in-reverse. But in case any post-modernists are concerned. what is the best explanation of relative ease of simulation of linguistic output? In the Rogerian psychotherapist and professional sports cases. and if Sokal and others are right. Take a term or expression that appears frequently in post-modernist writing. quotation b. The last chapter. . non-literal language The failure of the test for a decent number of post-modern expressions would provide some evidence of post-modernists being mere simulators of philosophy . is that the most promising exemplar of Baudrillard’s literal claims about the post-modern condition is post-modernism itself! Of course. and by post-modernist lights.

6. Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix (Dallas: Benbella Books. Glenn Yeffeth (ed).g. http://www. See Sokal’s website: http://www. so we could escape from the post-modernist condition of simulation. 5. that the real S&S is a simulation. S&S represents the post-modern condition. or.evolutionzone. There’s no doubt that post-modernists vary in the extent to which the criticisms to follow can be leveled at them. borders on cruelty.And what is the purpose of the software? It is an opiate for the masses.elsewhere. this is likely not what the Wachowski brothers intended. This seems so. and a large collection of responses and commentaries. If it 2003) 2. at a deeper layer of subtlety. http://www.txt 9. (b) calling something a simulation only means that some of the features it appears to have are not really had. and (c) if the computer really is intelligent. for the article. in preparation for the role. The message is either that S&S is only good for hiding stuff in.rescued from the whole business by waking up to cold. in reality only containing brain-numbing escapism. even were it our present lot. in an infinite regress. entirely expendable. Neo really escapes .e. then its intelligence is not simulated. To the extent that the Matrix corresponds to Baudrillard’s vision of our condition. if somehow there is only layer upon layer of simulations.html 7. even if in fact it’s simulation “all the way down”: say.physics. 3. as far as the rest of us are reality. The Turing camp would say that a computer can demonstrate real intelligence by simulating a human being. . An analytic philosopher will say (a) that any simulation is as real as anything else (i. But there’s also no doubt that Baudrillard is representative of what we analytics regard as the worst of it. there are post-modernists and post-modernists.baudrillard. Again. Footnotes 1. And that’s nice to know. The Matrix rejects the pessimistic notion that the real has no chance. otherwise it would not do as a The denizens of the Matrix still seem able to conceptualize that which is not a simulation. if it exists. a condition only post-modernists themselves are trapped in. The language of the debate is apt to mislead here. http://www.nyu. a condition where everyone is a drone or an addict (where’s that red pill when you need it?). 8. Of course. Taking the Red Pill: Science. The reluctance to really bite the bullet over the Sokal affair suggests to me that at least a lot of American proponents are really more modernist than they like to let on. then their reported insistence that Keanu Reeves read S&S. but real. E. and. 4. it exists). Every simulation captures some features of the thing simulated. Just as escape from the Matrix is possible.writing/cgw.

. Baudrillard begins by discussing a fable written by Jorge Borges where cartographers draw a map in such detail that it ends up exactly covering the real territory of the empire. In The Matrix." such as it is.. By contrast. or the concept. the mirror. The culture industry blurs the lines between facts and information." Instead. But an exact copy exists in the form of a computer program. People are living life in a simulacra. life on earth is only possible beneath the surface. but the manufacturing of the image. all become dictated by their ideal models presented through the media. relationships. The map frays as the empire declines. cynical). between entertainment and politics. the map "precedes the territory. He has written an essay "Simulacra and Simulation" which is referenced in the movie The Matrix. not simply music. fashion. The masses get bombarded by these images (simulations) and signs (simulacra) which encourage them to buy." This is the hyperreal. vote. Homes. VH1 recently featured "Bubblegum Babylon" which explores the manufacturing of teen music.. In the hyperreal. music. and that models have taken "precedence over things.Simulacra and Simulation The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard is one of the major players in discussions about postmodernism. but eventually they become apathetic (i. What is paramount in bubble gum pop is not the music. but an identity. Baudrillard sees a "real without origin or reality" being generated "by models. an image that is constructed by the company. Nike doesn't sell sneakers. cities are charred and empty. Kurt Cobain a simulation of marginality.e. a referential being. This creates a world of hyperreality where the distinctions between real and unreal are blurred. we end up confusing the model for reality. art. the double. Britney Spears is a simulation of pop sex idol. In his essay. Simulacra: a copy without an original. That world no longer exists." No longer is there simulation of a "territory. work. there is a computer program called "the matrix" which is a simulation of the world at the end of the 20th century. and reality implodes (breaks down). today that pairing has disappeared. According to Baudrillard. a copy which is its own reality. (referring again to the Borges fable). Ronald Reagan becomes a simulation of politics. The model becomes the determinant of our perception of reality. or a substance." And this map becomes a simulacra. The reality and the abstraction (map) decline together. which "engenders the territory. The point Baudrillard is trying to make is that simulations have devoured reality. The real world is a nuclear wasteland. or simulation. Abstractions are no longer "the map. Britney Spears is about an image. Simulation: a model of the real or the creation of the real through conceptual or "mythological" models which have no connection or origin in reality. play. the boundary between the image." Too much reality has resulted in saturation . between information and entertainment.

and explosion. When we watch the news. The simulacrum is true. The Real World? How are these simulations of reality? Baudrillard uses the concepts of simulacra--a copy without an original--and simulation to display how perceptions of ‘reality’ are altered bases on cultural stigma. For instance. We have never seen the real societies and thus the simulacra of these cultures is what becomes real to us about these cultures. The Fifth Wheel. So there is an odd chain reaction. we would rather be entertained than informed. The public prefer spectacles to reality. The simulation is real to us not the real place. we are looking at an implosion -. whereby simulations have taken over for reality. and that the effectiveness of simulation is greater than the potency of reality.” Baudrillard points out very clearly how our modern culture is contrived of images and other stimulus from media sources and simulations rather than what is considered real and how it becomes what is real to us by perception. to promote products. sometimes of nonreal visuals and events. This "fall" into simulations is exacerbated by the masses and media. Baudrillard clearly defines how various things like Disney. “The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth--it is the truth which conceals that there is none. multi-media advertising and many other sources have replaced the stimulus of the real for us and how our media culture has become our reality. We see people and places on TV that we have never been to yet we know them visually as if we had. . How real is reality TV? Survivor. We would rather go to Disneyworld than to work. we are all familiar with various commercials and other forms of advertising that are creations. The consequence of this preference is that reality loses its status. Another and maybe even better example would be how we relate to ancient cultures.reality and meaning are melting into a nebulous mass of self-reproducing simulation. Archeologists dig them up and create simulations of their cultures in museums that we see. Now. but now generate nothing but more simulations.