First Paper Assignment
Philosophy and Film
Write three pages paper (double-spaced) on one of the following, using the following
template for the filename: 1123LastName11.docx.
A good interpretation of a movie, for this course, should do three things: Make sense of
what is happening in the movie; shed some light on the problems or dilemmas of our time,
contemporary American, or modern society; and relate it to some of the philosophical
issues raised by the readings. The Matrix weaves these things together.
There are some key scenes which might be useful to consider:
Neo’s initial meeting with Morpheus
His waking up in the pod and flushing out of the machinery of the Matrix
Morpheus showing him what the Matrix is and the “desert of the real”
The interrogation of Morpheus by Agent Smith
Neo’s visit to the Oracle
The scene in which Cypher betrays his comrades over a steak dinner
Write a single paper in which you say what the philosophical meaning of the movie is—not
necessarily what you think the Wachowski brothers want to say, but what you think the
movie shows, intentionally or not. Try to relate either Plato or Descartes (or both) to this.
You are free to follow you own interpretation here, but here are some avenues you might
1. How The Matrix reflects inherent contradictions, existential dilemmas, or insoluble
paradoxes in the modern world, predicated on a Cartesian universe, radically
separating subjective and objective, the realm of meaning and purpose and the
realm of physical reality, mind and matter.
2. How The Matrix highlights the problem of modern alienation and utopianism bred
by the closed world of market society or high technology.
3. How it explores the ways in which Virtual Reality (digitally generated “reality” such
as in the video-game world), to the degree it takes over culture with its immersive
power, actually serves to disintegrate it into chaos.
4. How The Matrix assumes a closed world (a world without “Platonic” transcendence,
or reference to a divinity outside and beyond it) and how that very closure entails
the split between appearance and reality, the Matrix (within the movie) and the
“desert of the real.”
5. The character and type of Neo, and the ambiguity of whether Neo is actually waking
up or dreaming, whether it is a fantasy of heroism in which he casts himself as the
6. How it probes the relation of two classic science fiction themes in The Matrix: the
notions that reality might be a total illusion constructed behind the scenes by some
malevolent force, and that of the conflict of man and intelligent machines.
7. The “Marxist” and utopian elements of the movie.
8. Its view of human freedom—freedom versus slavery and choice versus
9. Any combination of these themes, or others not mentioned.
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