The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real
by William Irwin
The many faces of Keanu Reeves as hero Neo-Christ, Buddha, Socrates-are explored in these essays on the philosophical implications of the sci-fi martial arts blockbuster The Matrix, collected by the editor of Seinfeld and Philosophy and The Simpsons and Philosophy.
According to the academics assembled here, when messianic hacker Neo kick-boxes the Matrix's virtual-reality dream-prison, he is really struggling with some of mankind's biggest conundrums: the nature of truth and reality, the possibility of free will, the mind-body problem and the alienation of labor in late-capitalist society.
The tacit goal here is to make philosophy fun for the general reader by orienting it to pop-culture reference points, so while some articles contain rather dense philosophical jargon, most are pitched at the level of a freshman intro course. But only a few chapters delve into the movie's aesthetics; the rest seem to use The Matrix as a peg on which to hang a canned philosophy lecture. The results are occasionally engaging, as with David Mitsuo Nixon's nifty refutation of the "reality is just an illusion" conceit, but they're too often dryly academic and liable to elicit no more than a drowsy "whoa" from the movie's legions of fans.