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The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (Popular Culture and Philosophy) Paperback – August 28, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"This collection of essays has something for nearly everyone interested in the intersection between philosophy and pop culture." -- Utopian Studies Book Review, September, 2004 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Popular Culture and Philosophy (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court; 1st edition (August 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081269502X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812695021
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Irwin is Herve A. LeBlanc Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of Philosophy at King's College, Pennsylvania. Irwin's latest book is The Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism without Consumerism (2015). Irwin's first book, Intentionalist Interpretation: A Philosophical Explanation and Defense (1999), was nominated for the American Philosophical Association Young Scholar's Book Prize. Irwin is best known for having originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy (1999), The Simpsons and Philosophy (2001), and The Matrix and Philosophy (2002). He was editor of these books and then General Editor of the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series through Open Court Publishing. In 2006, Irwin left Open Court to become the General Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, which includes Metallica and Philosophy (2007)and Black Sabbath and Philosophy (2012), among other volumes. Irwin first theorized the philosophy and pop culture genre in his article "Philosophy as/and/of Popular Culture" in Irwin and Gracia eds. Philosophy and the Interpretation of Popular Culture (2006).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I use this book in the Introduction to Philosophy course that I teach. This book provides me with an "in" that I can use in order to discuss very important philosophical issues. It is often difficult to make the material "come to life", especially when teaching a required course. By using this book, it is possible to make the process much more enjoyable for students who would otherwise be disinterested. This book can be used on its own or, being that it is relatively inexpensive, it can be used as a companion piece along with a textbook. For the most part, the writing is lively and engaging. It is both accessible to Intro. students and interesting to graduate students. Anyone who has had an even cursory acquaintance with philosophical writing knows how rare that is. I believe this to be the best book in the series. I am most likely biased; I have what some might call an unhealthy obsession with the film. The other two books, Seinfeld and Philosophy and Simpsons and Philosophy, are excellent, but this book is much better for use in an intro. course for on simple reason: To understand most of the essays in the other two books, the reader will have to be familiar with the series. Seeing a few episodes will not do. With The Matrix, you can watch a two hour movie and be able to understand the references that are made in the book. A few highlights:
Ch.1: Computers, Caves, and Oracles: Neo and Socrates- Compares Plato's allegory of the cave to Neo's journey. An excellent discussion of what it means to lead an examined life and seek the truth. Excellent segue into the red pill/blue pill debate.
Ch.6: The Machine-Made Ghost: Or, The Philosophy of Mind, Matrix Style- Discusses Artificial Intelligence and the nature of the mind.
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Format: Paperback
You know, I never took a single philosophy course in college, and this book still swept me right up. The thinking man has already pondered many of the issues this book brings up, but it examines them in a more analytical way that helps to focus your thinking.
The book is essentially a collection of essays connecting "The Matrix" (and occasionally other films) to the modern school of thinking. As such, it could have used some editing -- the analogy to Descarte's demon allegory is certainly pertinent, but we don't need it explained to us 18 times.
The essays generally fall into two categories -- those which use "The Matrix" as a starting point for serious philosophical debate and those which attempt to apply schools of thought that the filmmakers almost certainly never intended (virtually the entire final segment of the book is like this). The former work very well, the latter do not.
For fans of "The Matrix" who want to examine it as more than just a film but as a question that doesn't really have an answer, this is a great place to start.
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Format: Paperback
This book contains 20 essays by 20 philosophers covering various parts of the film The Matrix and how they relate to philosophy. The 20 essays are divided into 5 categories. The first group of essays deal with the possibility of the Matrix or some other deceitful reality, the second section includes essays covering implications of The Matrix, the third covers how The Matrix relates to religion and ethics, the fourth section includes the essays covering philosophical themes of The Matrix, and the final section includes essays in which the film is analyzed from different perspectives, including feminism, Marxism, and postmodernism.
While almost all of the essays are good, my two favorite essays were #8: "Fate, Freedom, and Foreknowledge" by Theodore Shick, Jr. and #19: "The Matrix Simulation and the Postmodern Age" by David Weberman. Both were interesting and thought-provoking.
At least two of the essays, though, contain serious flaws. Essay #7: "Neo-Materialism and the Death of the Subject" by Daniel Barwick is seriously flawed in its critique of reductive materialism. The author quotes a passage from Michael Tye noting the difference between experiencing different colors and merely learning what it's like to experience different colors. This passage and the subsequent discussion of it are relevant neither to reductive materialism or to The Matrix. A more relevant situation would be one in which 2 people perceive what they think is a real tree, but only one of them is actually perceiving a real tree while the other is only receiving computer generated electrical signals that give the false perception of a tree, as what differentiates one's perceptions in reality and The Matrix is not the perceptions themselves, but rather the source of those perceptions.
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Format: Paperback
I would say this is a must read for those interested in learning more about philosophy or even self taught scholars who are openminded to present day applications of basic theories. Although I do not completely agree with all the analyses and comparisons offered in this book, I cannot argue against the fact that like its predecessors (The Simpsons and Philosophy and Seinfeld and Philosophy) this collection of essays offers a unique opportunity to explain sometimes complex theories of philosophy in a palpable and comprehensible manner that I think anyone can appreciate. I admit that although some of the analysis require time to digest and at times may be a slow read, this book is well worth it if you are interested in learning more about philosophy and do not feel like buying "An idiots guide to philosophy". I have used the theories that I have found in this book to concentrate on specific philosophers and avenues of thought. Also, it is just more interesting as it makes you think and gives you tangible examples that parallel with your own life experiences. Of course these life experiences may not include the gravity defying martial arts but stranger things have been true so I leave it to you to decide. Which pill will you choose?
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