In the movie The Matrix, two realities or types of knowledge are presented. One being a false world projected into the minds of human beings by the machines. Humans are made to believe they are in a peaceful world where things are as they should be. However, in truth they are prisoners in the real world, where the machines farm, utilize, and consume them. In this real world, a militia formed of renegade fighters struggles to find a way to save humanity. One of these fighters, Cypher, has grown tired of the fight, and longs for false reality, the simpler life of ignorance. Through the eyes of three philosophers, Plato, Epictetus, and Mill, I will evaluate and give my interpretation of their responses to Cypher’s choice.
After studying Plato then watching The Matrix again, it was not hard to find similarities between the movies and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Understanding Plato’s thoughts and response to Cypher’s choice starts by comparing the two. The matrix in the movie is the same prison as the cave from the Allegory. Where the prisoners within are satisfied and happy with their level of reality and knowledge. Plato, being a man who believed that knowledge is the key to enlightenment would argue that this blissful ignorance is the ultimate form of suffering. Now the comparison between Cypher and the person led from the cave can be made. Both are bestowed with a greater knowledge, an understanding of what they thought they knew and what is real, and the possibilities that come with knowledge and the new reality.
Plato again being a man who values nothing more than knowledge would have a sympathetic mind set for the prisoners of the cave or the matrix. In his Allegory of the Cave Plato says, “To them, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of images.” In other words, people who do not seek
truth and knowledge, who are satisfied with only worldly possessions, and live a life of ignorance know nothing but false realities and happiness. Plato would see pre-traitor Cypher as a man of potential, a man who has been lifted from the darkness and false realities, a man who can now pursue the path of enlightenment through knowledge unhindered by the machines.
After coming into reality, free from the matrix or the cave, the importance of life becomes learning for that is the key to happiness. With the newly found freedom and level of reality comes the duty to guide and set free others. Later in the Allegory Plato says, “they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not.” Plato is talking about the people of the “upper world” the people who have been made free, who have been converted to a new way of thinking, and who are pursuing happiness by way of knowledge. It is these “Cyphers” that understand actual reality who hold power, and it is their duty to share this to whomever they can. Now as Cypher grows tired of the real world and longs for the matrix, is when Plato would lose faith and condemn Cypher’s choice.
Cypher’s final decision is to give up his freedom in a world that is not so perfect, to live imprisoned but in a false reality full of riches and luxuries. Cypher makes a deal to be plugged back into the matrix, throw back into the cave, turning a cold shoulder to knowledge, while embracing ignorance with open arms. “Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner.” Plato says this concerning the same situation Cypher has placed himself. Plato believes that it would be better to be no one, the slave of a no one, but able to acquire knowledge, than to suffer the ignorance of knowing nothing but the shadows on the walls or the computer generated reality of the matrix.