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This essay focuses on the first Matrix film and its use of theory, and of philosophy in particular. Against the background of increased interest in the philosophical interpretation of film, the discussion looks at some of the ways philosophical themes can be seen to play a role in the film, and at the relationship between film and philosophy more generally. The Matrix not only draws explicitly on philosophical themes such as Cartesian scepticism in connection with Neo’s imprisonment in the Matrix. It philosophises, drawing the viewer into a process of becoming critical of appearances. In addition it extends this critique to technologically produced forms of artificial reality. But if the Matrix draws on and makes use of philosophical themes, we can also in turn make use of The Matrix to illustrate and critically reflect on philosophical themes. In particular, Neo’s return to the Matrix illuminates further themes such as the Cartesian (and also Platonic and Christian) desire to “escape the flesh;” which also reappears in contemporary visions of technologically assisted transcendence. This can now become the object of critique, a Nietzschean critique in fact, which in turn has implications for the kind of picture presented in The Matrix. Overall, it is argued, there is a complex interplay between The Matrix and philosophy.

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