Book Review: The Matrix And Philosophy: Welcome To The Desert Of The Real

The Matrix And Philosophy:  Welcome To The Desert Of The Real, edited by William Irwin

As someone who is a pretty regular reader of the pop culture and philosophy series of books [1], I have in mind a certain standard of excellence or at least amusement in the series.  But every series has to start somewhere, and this book is certainly evidence that at the beginning of the series the various authors were not yet fully aware of the sort of writing that would be necessary to both bring at least some honor and glory to themselves as philosophers while simultaneously appealing to a mass audience of readers.  This book manages to fall into the uncanny valley of writing, both too wonky to appeal to widespread readers and not sufficiently glorious to benefit the c.v. of the vast majority of the writers here.  In general, what one tends to find here is rambling essays that go on for way too long and people who can’t stay on topic, as well as the usual biases in the approach of the authors and conflicting positions held by different people about the same topics of study.  Unfortunately, this book doesn’t provide much to enjoy, and its subtitle is definitely all too accurate.

The contents of this book are a bit over 250 pages divided into twenty essays that deal with only the first of the Matrix movies.  These essays are divided thematically into five “scenes.”  The first four essays look at questions of epistemology and how it is that anything can be known in the Matrix, along with some tie-ins to Socrates and other philosophers.  The second part of the book examines the desert of the real and looks at questions of metaphysics, the Matrix’s philosophy of mind, materialism, and issues of fate and free will.  The third part of the book looks at the question of ethics and religion in the Matrix, pointing out Buddhist and pluralist elements as well as the question of whether ignorance is bliss and Kantian approaches to ethics.  The fourth part of the book looks at questions of nihilism and authenticity and the problematic nature of real response to fiction and the genre complexity of the Matrix story.  The fifth and final section of the book subjects the Matrix to various types of deconstructionism, comparing the Matrix to a forgotten film released around the same time that one of the essayists prefers for its far more adventuresome and unconventional handling of sexuality, looking at a Marxian view of the Matrix, and wrestling with questions of postmodernism and perversion.

Overall, this book does not hit its mark.  Even more than usual, the authors show a great deal of bias that makes this a much less enjoyable book to read than most of the books are in the series.  For one, the book has too little of a context to deal with, as all of these essays draw their commentary on a small set of quotes and incidents in one movie.  Later books in the series would have a larger scope to deal with, which made their books less monotonous and repetitive, even if not necessarily more true.  The hype that came from the first movie was not supported by the sequels to the film, and that makes this book a bit too quick off the mark, and not of lasting enough value.  This book neither has the style nor the substance to make it a truly worthwhile volume, and it was good that the editors of the series learned some lessons from the failure of this book to make better and more enjoyable books later in the series.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/09/book-review-batman-and-philosophy/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/06/05/book-review-dungeons-dragons-and-philosophy/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/11/book-review-final-fantasy-and-philosophy-the-ultimate-walkthrough/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/12/book-review-the-legend-of-zelda-and-philosophy-i-link-therefore-i-am/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/07/05/book-review-the-ultimate-harry-potter-philosophy/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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