Epicurus was a modest man, and was big on one’s self-gratification. He believed that man should obtain pleasure and as much of it as possible but to an extent, as long as him trying to get pleasure doesn’t harm other individuals in the process. To me he was about living in the now, and he really didn’t bother with studying the universe or the Gods. He believed that “death should not concern us, for it takes away the craving for immortality.”
When it comes to Cyphers choice in selling out his friends to live a life full of pleasure and self-gratification, I believe that Epicurus would disagree more with Cypher than he would agree. Now Epicurus would agree in Cypher wanting pleasure. He believes that it is okay to want or to have desires. But he believed that there are two kinds of desires. There are natural desires and vain desires. Natural desires are desires for clothes or food or a necessary desire. Vain desire is a desire that is insignificant, or not important, for instance, in Cyphers choice to be famous or rich or beautiful, is a vain desire. That is just one of the reasons I think that Epicurus would not agree with Cyphers choice in wanting to live in the matrix. He craves all the wrong pleasures in life. Cypher wants to live in vain no matter who he hurts to get it, which brings me to my next point.
Epicurus is all about ones self-gratification as we know, but not when it comes to harming other people to get it. And that is exactly what Cypher is doing, too get certain luxuries he desires, and he knows it. Epicurus does not believe that one should harm others to obtain pleasures. So he would definitely disagree with Cyphers decision here, not only is he trying to get the wrong pleasure in life, but he is hurting his fellow man to do so. Epicurus thinks that one should live a pleasant life not only by luxuries but also through reasoning. Epicurus says “ It is not continuous drinking’s and revealing, nor the satisfaction of lusts, not the enjoyment of fish and other luxuries of the wealthy table, which produce a pleasant life, but sober reasoning, searching out the motives for all choice and avoidance, and banishing mere opinions, to which are due the greatest disturbance of the spirit”.(611)
Last he states that not having pleasure is also a bad thing. “No pleasure is a bad thing in itself: but the means which produce some pleasures bring with them disturbances many times greater than the pleasures”. (613) to me this is the most valuable point in Epicurus argument. For what Cypher is doing is wrong on certain levels in my mind. The way Cypher wants all the pleasures and to live a life in vain will only bring him pain and suffering in the end, more over than the pleasure that he will gain. Which is ultimately what ends up happening to Cypher. He loses his life.
Epictetus was a man who believed in fate. He believed that all events and actions are just matters of fate. He believed that the world is made and consumed by fire. There is no such thing as free choice. All of our actions we make in this life we had already made in the previous life and the next life’s to come, for we are “ merely actors in a play, and casting is a business of others.”(523) His Ontology is that there is no freedom, everything happens by fate and that when you die there is no immortality of the soul.
How would Epictetus view Cypher’s decision on wanting to go to the matrix? At first he would not think badly of Cypher betraying his friends to go to the matrix because Epictetus believes that we do not have a duty to others. All we have is a duty to one’s self to find the truth. But when it comes to the reasons why Cypher wants to go to the matrix, Epictetus would not agree with him. Epictetus believes that emotions and passions are un-natural. “It is the sign of a weak mind to spend too much time on things having to do with the body.” For example Cypher wanting to be rich, wear nice clothes, and eat steak, all of those are not what Epictetus believes in. All your attention should be concentrated on your mind. He says that you should not want external things that you should live according to nature. That the goal of life is happiness and you will be happy if you live within your means.
When he says to live according to Nature, he means that it is okay to pursue wealth but if it is done for good ends, and that you do not get attached to wealth, or external objects. And you do not rely on them for happiness. These are all the things that Cypher wants to go to the matrix for. Cypher believes that he will be happier if he has all the nicest possessions. Epictetus believes that you ought to conduct yourself as you would at a banquet. If something is being passed around reaches you, you should take it politely. But if it is passing by you, you shouldn’t reach for it like you have to possess it. You should not crave for it. This is how he thinks we should behave on all aspects of our life, towards women, jobs, children, and also riches. As for Cypher, he thinks the opposite. He feels that he would rather live in a fake world with all the luxuries, than in the real world without them.
Another reason why I believe that Epictetus would disagree with Cypher is because Cypher is reacting to his real life situation. That is why Cypher wants to go to the matrix, to live a life of ignorance rather than to suffer in the real world. But as we know, Epictetus doesn’t believe in fate what we do in this life we have already done before. Epictetus doesn’t believe in evil acts, if someone kills someone then it’s not bad because it is part of the plan, part of fate taking its course. So when it comes to Cypher, Epictetus believes that “not to seek for things to happen as you wish, but wish for things to happen as they do and you will get on well.”(521) Which means that Cypher should not complain about his life, or how he lives, or what happens to him. He should embrace it and say I want to live this way, and I want this to happen. Because in Epictetus eye’s if you own something and it breaks don’t be upset because “It is not the things that upset people, but rather ideas about things.”(520) Like in Cyphers case he is upset with the idea of nasty food, or ugly clothes or not having all the riches in the world.
Last I think Epictetus would not agree with Cypher because of how Cypher let the agent get into his head by bribing him with external objects and an illusion of happiness. Because in Epictetus’s view, our mind is the only thing that is free. Our body and our actions are not.
As for me, how would I respond to Cypher’s choice? I might be sympathetic of his choice to want to live in the matrix, just a little bit, just because of the life he lives now. The food he has to eat and that he has to live under ground and it seems like every day is a battle in the real world. So in a way I understand him wanting to leave and enjoy a more peaceful way of life that has no violence or death, and you are not always being hunted by machines. Even if it is not a real life and it’s all in his head, because as human we do succumb to un-natural desires and we do get greedy and have a tendency to always want bigger and better things. That’s just what makes a person human, to give into our temptations. And especially in Cypher’s choice because when you look at the matrix and see just how simple and how peaceful it is, then you can enjoy all the luxuries of it. This makes it hard to want to settle in the real world, or the world he has to come home to every night. And if our mind says something is real, how is our body going to know the difference.
Now here is why I would not agree with Cypher’s decision to go into the matrix? First, is that he is going for material possessions. He wants to be rich and famous and have nice clothes and drive nice cars and eat five star meals every night. This is on the same level as what Epicurus was talking about. That sometimes when you want something so bad and you want all the external things, and to get as much pleasure as you can, it can in fact bring you more pain and suffering than pleasure in the end. Which is what ends up happing to Cypher in the end. He ends up losing his life to try to obtain pleasure when in fact life is the ultimate pleasure. Epicurus believes that death should not concern us, that this is the only life you get so live it well, and obtain pleasure as much as you can as long as he/she does not do harm to others.
This is my main reason why I do not agree with Cypher. For me there is no pleasure great enough to get that in doing so I would harm a fellow human, or put a person in harm’s way to get it. This is what Cypher did, he betrayed his friends to go to the matrix. He deliberately put them in harm’s way and put their life on the line so he can live his life peacefully. When in the end he is the one who loses his life for nothing. Cypher did not get the pleasure that he wanted, and he will be remembered by the people for the rest of time as a traitor. To me, that is exactly what is meant when Epicurus says that trying to get too much pleasure can cause more harm than good. Cypher is the best example of this.
To betray your friends like that and to put them directly in harm’s way is, to me, the most cowardice thing a man can do. Not only does he sell them out, but he himself kills a few of them just because he has lost sight of what is important, or the moral thing to do.
The only thing that I don’t agree with from both of these philosophers we talked about is Epicurus’s view on pleasure and that we should obtain as much as we can. I know he says that there is natural desires, and vain desires, and to not harm a person while trying to get desire. But to me it kind of contradicts itself, because after all we are human and man will bend any rule, or law to justify his action to get what he desires. So to me by telling a person that he or she should live to obtain pleasure I can see how it could cause a problem. All we are are what we desire.
To me it seems that if you believe that all men and women should obtain pleasure, and as much of it as one can, then I don’t believe that anybody can get hurt in the process. Man has shown us that we will hurt anybody we have to, to get what we want. To me there is no perfect boundary between obtaining pleasure in life, and to do so without putting someone in harm’s way.
Epicurus Hedonism: The Extant Remains,
Epictetus, Enchiridion/ The Stoic Catechism.